Tuesday, January 31, 2012

YOUNG HEROES IN LOVE #14 - July 1998

Revenge of the Lame-o Plot Device
Credits: Dan Raspler (writer), Dev Madan (penciler), Keith Champagne (inker), Bill Oakley (letterer), Noelle Giddings (colorist)

Thunderhead discovers a manga Young Heroes comic, which amuses every member of team except Junior, who’s left out of the book. Later, after a group of autistic adults and a day care center mysteriously disappear, the Young Heroes speak to an elementary school to calm their fears. Except for Junior, who’s kind of forgotten by the rest of the team. Junior briefly ponders if “with little power comes little responsibility” but thinks better of it. Taking matters into his own hands, Junior teams up with his policeman friend Roger Wong to aid the official investigation. They soon learn the culprit identifies himself as the Birthday Boy, and discern his M.O. is to abduct people who can’t identify him. Junior correctly predicts his next target -- the local school for the blind.

Monstergirl is hiding her ability to fly around as a bird from her teammates. The motivation behind her secrecy is yet to be revealed.

Off-Ramp visits an old angler and has a conversation about fishing that apparently parallels his views on adventuring. Maybe. There’s no obvious reason for this scene, to be honest.

Junior, aside from having his ego bruised by the Young Heroes’ manga, unfortunately learns that…

Zip-Kid accepted her boyfriend’s proposal. The obnoxious jerk is going to get the girl over the shy, nice guy. That never happens in real life. Zip-Kid, after announcing her engagement, asks to speak to Thunderhead in private, but we’re not privy to their conversation this issue.

Frostbite meets evil child genius Ricky Renquist, who’s court-ordered to attend a normal school, for the first time. He isn’t impressed.

And, for some reason, A Mysterious Dog wanders around until it reaches the outside of the Young Heroes’ headquarters.

This is one of the strongest issues yet, and it’s perhaps the first to balance evenly the personal subplots with the action-adventure storyline. The opening manga scene might seem like a gratuitous use of the first four pages, but it works because it’s genuinely funny and sets up the inferiority complex that motivates Junior for the rest of the issue. (And, seriously, the fake manga is great. My favorite strip is the hilarious “Crisis OK” -- perhaps the best Crisis parody ever in three panels.) The introduction of Birthday Boy is another inspired choice by Raspler and Madan. At this point, we only know that he’s kidnapping people and returning them with strapped-on party hats, but he has potential to be the Silver Age Batman villain that time forgot. His design also predates the debut of that creepy Burger King mascot by a good five years.

Monday, January 30, 2012

CHRONOS #7 - September 1998

The Killing Rain
Credits: John Francis Moore (writer), Paul Guinan (penciler), Denis Rodier & Steve Leialoha (inks), Ken Bruzenak (letters), Mike Danza (colors)

2113: Chronos and Alex attempt to travel back to the 1970s to investigate David Clinton’s connection to Chronos’ parents, but a vague “temporal interference” separates the duo. Chronos lands in 2113’s Seattle, a dingy shadow of the city that’s owned by a telecom corporation (yeah, that’s spot-on soothsaying). Seattle lives in fear of the Justice League Killer, a shapechanger who only kills when taking the form of the Justice League. As luck would have it, Chronos stumbles across him shortly after arriving in the city. His time-traveling powers and temporal displacement suit aren’t working, so he’s forced to run away from the killer. Clearly, Chronos is still far away from attaining “hero” status.

Chronos is sent to a homeless shelter by two transit officers who are too lazy to fill out any paperwork on a mystery man with no DNA on file. The homeless are given “infotainment vidsets” at the shelter, which Chronos describes as “A little video candy to keep the downtrodden pacified. The Romans did it with bread and circuses.” While watching the type of newscast you normally find in a Paul Verhoeven movie, Chronos discovers that Fiorella Della Ravenna, the socialite he met in the Renaissance, is alive and well in this era.

After repairing his costume, Chronos tracks down Fiorella at an art gallery opening, but only learns that she’s in “a long and painful melodrama” and is also stuck in this era. In a yet another wild coincidence, a police officer at the art exhibit they’re attending just happens to be the Justice League Killer in disguise. Morphing into Green Arrow, he nearly kills Chronos again, but this time he’s saved by Fiorella. The police arrest the killer and we discover that his true name is Hayden Glass, with a DNA copyright belonging to Cadmus. He claims that his father was a superhero who abandoned his mother while she was still pregnant. By posing as the Justice League, he claims that he’s exposing heroes for what they are.

Now, I can’t totally dismiss this issue as time killer, as it formally introduces Hayden Glass, the shape-changing villain from the first issue, and leads Chronos and Fiorella a little closer towards their inevitable romance. But…it’s hard not to view this issue as a diversion that largely exists as an excuse to get the Justice League on the cover. And Paul Guinan certainly has a unique take on the Justice League -- I can’t imagine him trying to draw the characters in Howard Porter’s style -- but even that’s a thin excuse for the shapeshifter plot.

Since I’m not overly familiar with DC continuity, I don’t know if the name “Hayden Glass” is supposed to be significant, and nothing in the issue indicates why exactly he’s chosen the twentieth century version of the Justice League to imitate. I do know that Cadmus has a connection to cloning, so perhaps the idea is that the killer has been cloned repeatedly over the past century, but some confirmation in the actual story would be nice. As for the setting of the issue, Moore’s take on the future isn’t particularly novel, either. Essentially, it’s 1984 with an evil corporation instead of an evil government. I suppose the setting alone isn’t enough to hurt the story, but the sheer coincidence of Chronos running into the killer twice is inexcusable, and as the title’s lead, he’s remarkably ineffective throughout the entire issue.

Friday, January 27, 2012

X-MAN #50 - April 1999

War of the Mutants Part Two: New Blood
Credits: Terry Kavanagh (writer), Luke Ross (penciler), Bud LaRosa (inker), Mike Thomas (colors), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (letters)

Summary: X-Man confronts Emma, who promises to lead him to Dark Beast if he helps her rescue Generation X. She telepathically traces the team to the New York sewers, where they’re soon confronted by Dark Beast’s new band of villains. Emma slips out of the battle to face Dark Beast, as X-Man and Gaia free Generation X. Gaia discovers a Brood egg, spoiling Dark Beast’s scheme to infect Gen X with the aliens. Dark Beast is revealed as a hologram and disappears. Emma telepathically feeds X-Man information scanned from his monitors, which she says will lead him to Dark Beast. Madelyne Pryor arrives and teleports X-Man away to Ireland, unaware that the Gauntlet is hiding outside of their inn.

Continuity Notes:
  • Madelyne is apparently trying to kill Ness, according to a brief subplot scene (check out the original art from this page here).
  • Gaia is suddenly wearing her Generation X uniform, even though the previous installment ended with her in normal clothes.
  • Dark Beast remarks that Emma performed “work” on his head when he arrived confused and disoriented on this world.That doesn’t make sense, given that they met in Generation X #-1, set ten years ago when Emma was sixteen.Dark Beast actually arrived in this world twenty years ago, according to X-Men Omega.
  • X-Man seems to believe Fever Pitch is our reality’s version of Holocaust/Nemesis.(If that’s the case, who was the Holocaust Stryfe wrote of in Stryfe’s Strike File?)
  • As for the rest of Dark Beast’s squad, the new members introduced this issue include Wynter (who’s being mentally controlled by Dark Beast), Obsidian the Dark, Integer, and Iron Maiden.

“Huh?” Moment: Emma tracks Dark Beast -- who, again, is mentally controlling one of his flunkies -- to his hidden lair with his psi-print. The same Dark Beast that’s revealed as a hologram just ten pages later. The story dismisses Emma’s ability to grab him by explaining that this is a “hard light” hologram…but how could hard light create thought patterns?

I Love the '90s: Emma instructs a nosey human student at the school to go watch The X-Files.

Review: This was the “War of the Mutants”?!? Wow...
So, after reviving the Emma Frost/Dark Beast mystery as the thread to tie this crossover together, what do we learn? That Emma helped repair Dark Beast’s mind after he arrived on this earth. (Never mind that the timeline doesn’t work, and none of the other AoA refugees were shown as severely mentally damaged following their arrival on this reality.) That’s the big reveal? Actually, is this even a reveal at all? Wasn’t this covered by the Generation X Flashback issue? If nothing new was supposed to be revealed, what was the point of this?

It certainly wasn’t to tease the idea of X-Man joining Generation X, since no character in the story ever seems to take the prospect seriously. It wasn’t to have X-Man team up with Generation X, since they barely appear in this issue, and are comatose for most of their brief appearance. If the story was supposed to be about the Dark Beast infecting Generation X with the Brood, that idea’s dismissed in the course of two panels. So, what’s left…the introduction of a new team for Dark Beast (who, perhaps, are still supposed to be called Gene Nation, even though the name never appears in the story)? That’s doubtful…Kavanagh doesn’t even seem slightly interested in the new characters. Even the revelation that Fever Pitch is potentially the once-popular AoA character Holocaust is treated as an afterthought. What we’re left with is a pointless crossover with a melodramatic, yet slightly generic, title that should’ve been saved for a higher-profile event. Or maybe a video game.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

CABLE ‘99 - April 1999

Something Sinister This Way Comes
Credits: Michael Higgins & Karl Bollers (writers), German Garcia w/Alitha Martinez (pencilers), Matt Ryan w/Candelario & Koblish (inkers), Mike Rockwitz (colors), BenchMark (letters)

Summary: Mr. Sinister visits Cable’s hideout, revealing to him that he engineered Cable’s creation to use him as the ultimate weapon against Apocalypse. Cable refuses Sinister’s partnership offer, even after he’s warned of Apocalypse’s approaching emissaries. Soon, a local nightclub is attacked by mutants claiming to be Apocalypse’s servants. One of them erases Cable’s powers, triggering his techno-organic virus. Sinister rescues Cable, curing the virus and restoring his telepathic powers. Cable returns home and rescues Irene and Blaquesmith from the emissaries. He reveals to Sinister that he knows they’re actually his Marauders in disguise. Cable demands to know all of Sinister’s secrets, but he revives Cable’s virus and uses the opportunity to escape.

Continuity Notes: A flashback scene reveals that Sinister created the techno-organic virus in the early 1900s in the hopes that it could kill Apocalypse. Instead, it only made him stronger. Apocalypse allowed Sinister to flee, but promised to kill him in the future. Just a few months after this comic was published, another flashback in Uncanny X-Men #376 shows that Apocalypse and Sinister were allies again during the early days of the X-Men, behind-the-scenes of the Living Pharaoh storyline. As for the Marauders, none of them has the ability to erase another mutant’s power, although Scrambler can…yes, scramble his opponent’s powers and make them go haywire.

Review: It’s easy to dismiss this as annual filler, but the creators have worked out a plot that ties in to the regular series’ ongoing storylines, and establishes a few continuity points as well. I’m not sure if anyone was actually looking for important continuity to be established in a Cable annual by this point, but it’s there if you’re interested. The ongoing Cable series has never really known what to do with Mr. Sinister, perhaps because the character’s traditionally a behind-the-scenes schemer and rarely someone who takes an active role in supervillain plots. Yet, his entire gimmick centers around Summers’ DNA, and the precious offspring that will be created by Cyclops and Phoenix. Well, here he is. And he’s had an ongoing series since 1993. Why don’t you care, Sinister? Jeph Loeb tried to write around this by having Sinister hint that he’s been more involved with Cable’s life than he could ever realize, but that hint, of course, went nowhere.

So, the premise moves the book slightly past the “generic” marker, but unfortunately the execution is a disappointment. The art is clearly a rush job, making even the normally excellent German Garcia unrecognizable on many pages. Cable versus the Marauders should be a fantastic fight scene, one that’s been in the works since “Inferno,” but it’s pretty lifeless here. The story attempts to build a thematic link between Apocalypse and Sinister, but the conclusion we’re expected to reach -- Sinister’s no better than Apocalypse because he wants to save humanity for his own experimentation -- isn’t much of a revelation. Cable’s also supposed to learn some grand lesson about appreciating humanity instead of agonizing over his heavy responsibilities, but that’s an idea that Joe Casey's used more effectively in the monthly title. There are a few amusing lines, though, and the script is easier to read than Higgins & Boller’s effort in the previous annual. So, it’s not as terrible as you might expect a late ‘90s Cable annual to be; it’s just regular bad.

Monday, January 23, 2012

GENERATION X #50 - April 1999

War of the Mutants Part One: Divided We Fall
Credits: Jay Faerber (writer), Terry Dodson (penciler), Rachel Dodson (inker), John Kalisz (colors), Comicraft (letters)

Summary: As the school is opened to human students, Dark Beast and his minions spy on Gen X. When Emma Frost sees footage of X-Man on television, she telepathically reaches out to him. He senses her presence and discerns that Emma has a past with the Dark Beast. Meanwhile, Banshee sees surveillance footage of a helicopter abducting a student and races after him. In town, Gen X is attacked by the Dark Beast’s men. Gaia reaches Emma for help, but they’re suddenly interrupted by X-Man. Finally, Banshee tracks the helicopter to Vermont, where he's attacked by a large man.

Continuity Notes: The Dark Beast comments that he’s hidden in the sewers for decades to avoid being mistaken for this reality’s Hank McCoy. That’s irreconcilable with his earlier appearances, which audaciously claimed that he never even considered this reality had a Hank McCoy.

Emma’s sister Adrienne remarks that it’s good the school has changed its name back to “The Massachusetts Academy” given the public’s mistrust of Professor Xavier following the Onslaught event. That implies that the general public is aware that Xavier was Onslaught, which doesn’t work with continuity. At this point, even his identity as a mutant was still a secret.

Banshee is on the phone with a mystery man (?) who he’s recruiting as the school’s new gym teacher.

Dark Beast’s flunkies consist of new characters Membrain and Fever Pitch, along with a few leftover Gene Nation members, Hemingway and Vessel (whose names don’t seem to appear in this issue, which is annoying given how obscure these villains are).

Review: Generation X #1 and X-Man #1 didn’t debut in the same month, but due to the “Age of Apocalypse” storyline suspending Generation X for four months and X-Man continuing after the AoA stunt ended, they’ve run concurrent issue numbers since #5. No one thought to unite them for their twenty-fifth issues, but aren’t we lucky that someone’s decided to do a crossover during their fiftieth issues. (Of course, just two years later, they’ll reach cancellation together with their seventy-fifth issues. And the world is saved from gratuitous X-spinoffs forever…)

There is one obvious connection between X-Man and Generation X that hasn’t been explored yet, and that’s the teen angle. If Generation X is supposed to be training the next generation of mutants, and X-Man is a teenage mutant, the most powerful in the world, it makes sense to exploit that for one story. Another link would be Emma Frost’s past with X-Man’s arch-nemesis (whenever he bothers to remember X-Man), the Dark Beast. The exact nature of their relationship hasn’t been revealed at this point, even though Scott Lobdell hinted at their shared past early in Generation X’s run, and James Robinson detailed their first meeting in Generation X #-1.

I’m not sure if Jay Faerber was eager to participate in a crossover so early in his run, but he still works in a few decent ideas. Integrating the school with a new human student body opens the door to numerous story possibilities, making me wonder a) why no one’s done it before and b) why the concept was dismissed so quickly after Faerber’s exit. I’ll never understand the attitude that the X-teams shouldn’t be interacting with normal people. Isn’t this the entire point -- to train mutants to use their powers responsibly and be able to enter mainstream society? These titles have to be grounded in reality in order to work, so making the school a literal school and giving the team dozens of potential supporting cast members to interact with makes perfect sense.

Unfortunately, there’s no room to flesh out any of the new students this issue, but Faerber does find the space to split the team up into small groups and work in some characterization scenes. Husk is still angry at Chamber for brushing her off. Chamber doesn’t want to share the school with humans. Skin isn’t willing to believe all humans are bigots. M wants a tattoo to symbolize her ownership of her body. Synch is apparently the object of affection for M, Gaia, and Jubilee. Thankfully, the crossover material is simply used to justify the fight scenes, making this read like a standard Generation X issue that just happens to be concluded in X-Man.

Friday, January 20, 2012

MUTANT X #6 - March 1999

The Trial of the Brute!
Credits: Howard Mackie (writer), Cary Nord (penciler), Andrew Pepoy (inker), Gina Going-Raney (colors), Chris Eliopoulos (letters)

Summary: The Brute stands trial for the murders of Man-Spider and the Green Goblin. Matt Murdock’s surprise witness is none other than Man-Spider himself, who claims his clone was the true victim. Suddenly, the courtroom is attacked by Hand ninjas and Bullseye, giving Madelyne and the Fallen an opportunity to lock the Brute in an empty room. When he emerges, the Brute dismisses his lawyer, pleads guilty, and asks for the death penalty.

“That’s Crazy Because They’re Different”: Gwen Stacy is a television reporter in this reality. Matt Murdock (presumably his first name is Matt, at least) is a trial lawyer, but no mention is made of Daredevil. Bullseye is essentially the same character, although he has a new costume.

Better Than X-Factor?: Yes, and it’s an improvement over the previous issue. Mackie’s main focus seems to be playing up the Madelyne Summers/Goblin Queen subplot; so much so that the Hand and Bullseye fight scenes are only given a few pages at the end of the issue. An unknown force is manipulating Madelyne into transforming into the Goblin Queen, and while the Fallen is in on her secret, that doesn’t stop her from horribly torturing him off-panel when he steps out of line. These scenes work pretty well, although Mackie seems to have forgotten about them just a few pages later, since the Fallen is still associating with Madelyne without any apparent resentment. Regardless, the Goblin Queen mystery is one of the more promising subplots in the series, so hopefully the payoff will be worth the wait.

Meanwhile, the Brute is on trial, which may or may not be a reference to the Beast’s trial from the first season of the X-Men cartoon. The courtroom scenes are slightly repetitive, but Cary Nord does a great job on the closing fight sequence. Unfortunately, as nice as the fight looks, it feels tacked on. This is the most interesting thing Nord’s been asked to draw in the issue, and it’s rushed through on the final five pages for some reason. At least a few of the numerous pages of Havok thinking to himself or escorting little Scotty around could’ve been cut, easily.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

MAGNETO REX #3 - July 1999

Once We Were Kings
Credits: Joe Pruett (writer), Brandon Peterson (penciler), Batt (inker), Richard Isanove & Monica Kubina (colors), Jon Babcock (letters)

Summary: Magneto defeats Zealot by wrapping him in metal and shooting him into space. Amelia Voght takes Quicksilver to the Mutate camp for Legacy Virus victims, convincing him to stay and attempt to influence Magneto’s actions. Magneto formally takes control of Genosha, expelling most of the remaining humans. The Avengers are stunned to see news reports naming Quicksilver as a member of Magneto’s cabinet. Finally, Magneto thanks Amelia in private for pushing Quicksilver into staying.

Continuity Notes: Zealot’s mutant ability is revealed as the power to control the earth, making his claim of being “one with Genosha” a very literal one. Apocalypse makes a one-page cameo, just to remind us that he’s the star of the next big mutant event.

Review: Actual dialogue from this issue: “I will never embrace your perverted ideologies and become as corrupted in spirit and soul as you have! You have become so twisted in your thinking, so far removed from humanity that Ferris -- a thing of metal and of your own construction, is the only thing in which you place your trust -- while Amelia, who has stood by you for what she perceives to be the right reasons, has not even garnered a glance of affection -- even as she risked her life for your cause.” Yikes. And this isn’t an isolated example used to make the comic seem worse than it is -- the issue is essentially twenty-two pages of turgid nonsense.

So, what’s accomplished by the conclusion of Magneto Rex? We don’t learn any more about Zealot, aside from another claim that he’s Philip Moreau’s brother. No more information than this is given, and apparently we’re supposed to take the retcon at face value. The idea that the Gengineer would callously transform his firstborn son into a Mutate doesn’t exactly match what I remember of his original characterization, considering that Claremont at least tried to make him a sympathetic figure. Now, was there ever a point in tying Zealot and Philip Moreau together? Apparently not. Then again, was there a point in dragging Rogue into this mini? Her previous pairings with Magneto worked very well, so it’s understandable that the creators would want to use her in this series, but she clearly has no impact on the plot.

Let’s see…did Pipeline’s conversion to the other side serve a purpose? Nope, although Magneto did need a teleporter for one scene, so apparently that’s reason enough to justify his presence. How about Fabian Cortez -- did he engage in any of his famous deal making and backstabbing? Did Magneto punish him for trying to kill him, usurping the Acolytes, and kidnapping his granddaughter? Of course not. In fact, he’s gone back to using Cortez as a power battery, even though he should know by now what an idiotic idea this is. What of Alda Huxley, the mysterious new character introduced to facilitate Magneto’s rule of Genosha? Sure, she was just a plot convenience in the original “Magneto War” crossover, but surely she wouldn’t have been brought into the miniseries without some plan for her character. Eh…you know the answer to that by now.

This is Magneto Rex. A flagrant cash grab that coasted on the back of a high-profile crossover and a famous lead character. The story offers absolutely no insight into Magneto’s character, other than the repeated claims that he’s even nastier than ever before. Marvel already tried that angle earlier in the ‘90s and didn’t exactly succeed, but there was at the very least an acknowledgement of the inherit tragedy of the character in most of those stories. And even the worst of those comics, like Uncanny X-Men #304, didn’t give Magneto such horrendous dialogue, or force him to star in stories that clearly had no point outside of existing as product. The only contribution to the ongoing continuity, which would have to be the major appeal to any reader who stuck around after the first issue, is the addition of Quicksilver to Magneto’s cabinet. And, to the creators’ credit, the use of Amelia Voght as a sleeper agent luring him to Magneto’s side actually works as a surprise. But was a three-issue miniseries required to execute this idea? It honestly couldn’t have worked as a few subplot scenes, or an X-Men Unlimited issue? The audience had to pay almost eight dollars to reach this point? I can’t say that I’m shocked that an X-spinoff miniseries is this bad, but I’m genuinely surprised that a limited series that was clearly supposed to be important in many ways could be so appalling.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

WOLVERINE #139 - June 1999

The Freaks Come Out at Night
Credits: Erik Larsen (writer), Lenil Francis Yu (penciler), Dexter Vines (inker), Joe Rosas (colors), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (letters)

Summary: Cable checks in on Wolverine, who’s drinking in a bar owned by his friend Hardcase. Suddenly, the mercenary Longbow crashes into the bar. She’s returned from Madripoor, investigating the disappearances of several people. Wolverine and Cable look outside and discover a man mutated into a lobster. They follow him, and are soon assaulted by more genetic anomalies. They’re lead by Arnim Zola, who quickly kicks Wolverine and Cable out of his ship. Two of his creations also fall to the ground, but Cable neutralizes them with the control device he snatched from Zola. Unbeknownst to Wolverine, Zola has another captive -- his wife, Viper.

Continuity Notes: Hardcase first appeared in Wolverine #5, while the full team of his Harriers debuted in Uncanny X-Men #261. Although nothing in his initial appearance indicated this, Chris Claremont apparently decided by his second appearance in UXM #261 that Hardcase and Wolverine were old friends. The fate of most of the Harriers is disclosed by Hardcase to Wolverine this issue: Blindside “mostly works solo these days,” Warhawk and Deacon are married and living in Bermuda, while Timebomb “got into a bigger spot than he could handle.”

Three of Arnim Zola’s genetic anomalies are given names: Monkey-Boy is a man with two ape heads growing out of his chest, Doughboy is the organic ship Zola uses for transport, and Primus…doesn’t seem to do anything, but he looks like the Silver Surfer. The lobster man is never named, nor is the freak with a giant mouth growing out of his stomach. After their fight, Wolverine comments that his healing factor hasn’t repaired his wounds yet, which is apparently supposed to be significant.

Creative Differences: The debut of the lobster man was intended by Larsen to be a silent splash page. The published page is narrated with thirty-two words.

Review: I’d like to say that the return of Lenil Francis Yu marks an upturn in the book’s quality…but I can’t. This is still an awkward, slightly frustrating read. I know that Larsen wanted to use Yu’s skills for photorealism on utterly freaky comic book designs, and not real life items like motorcycles and handguns, but the result is patchy at best. I’m assuming that this is one of the issues Yu had to draw in a hurry, because for every convincing lobster man he draws, there are numerous figures that just look half-finished. When two of Zola’s freaks fall to the ground with Cable and Wolverine, for example, one of them is so sparsely rendered it’s almost impossible to tell who he’s supposed to be. The storytelling is also disappointing, as a couple of important story points are conveyed in extremely tiny panels that are easy to skip.

Not that he’s given a fantastic story to begin with, of course. The basic idea of pitting Wolverine against Arnim Zola and an army of his freaks is fine, but this never exceeds the quality of a generic Marvel Comics Presents serial. Larsen’s trying to convey the idea that Wolverine’s horribly discouraged following Aria’s death in the previous issue, but he doesn’t seem capable of giving Wolverine a believable personality. He’s just Tough Guy Wolverine and he’s feeling a little down this issue. Perhaps some of this pedestrian scripting can be blamed on overactive editors, but regardless of the culprit, this is bland stuff. Whoever is responsible for having Cable shout “Wa-hoo!” while fighting the bad guys should really be ashamed of himself.

Larsen does try to add some humor to the story, but he’s a little off. I remember Larsen justified bringing Hardcase into the cast because he thought it would be interesting to see one of Wolverine’s numerous “old friends” actually stick around instead of disappearing after one issue. Unfortunately, he also dismissed Hardcase as a Cable knock-off in that interview. He works that idea into the issue by having Hardcase and Cable stare face-to-identical-face and comment on their similarity. Not a bad meta-joke; except Hardcase isn’t a Cable knock-off. He debuted in Wolverine #5, which was released a year before Cable’s first appearance. So even the continuity shout-outs to fans don’t exactly work in this comic.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

X-FORCE #87 - February 1999

Armageddon Now Part One - Family Matters
Credits: John Francis Moore (writer), Jim Cheung (penciler), Mark Morales (inker), Marie Javins (colors), Comicraft’s Dave Lanphear (letters)

Summary: Proudstar receives a message from Tarot warning him that the team will soon be betrayed. Later, Meltdown’s father visits, introducing his new wife and offering Meltdown a chance to join him as a member of the Triune Understanding. She angrily rejects him, and is insulted again when she realizes Sunspot followed her. As Moonstar tries to understand her new cosmic powers, Domino and Jesse Aaronson follow a lead on his missing brother. They discover Christopher Aaronson in Santa Lucia, California. He now leads the New Hellions -- Magma, Paradigm, Tarot, and Switch.

Continuity Notes: As Proudstar points out, Tarot should’ve been dead following the events of Uncanny X-Men #281-282. A flashback to five years ago reveals Tarot and Christopher Aaronson were once in a relationship. He rejected Emma Frost’s offer to join the Hellions at the time, using his powers to block her psychic influence. Christopher divulges that he was identified as a mutant at age six, but escaped government custody at thirteen, using his psionic disruption powers to drive his captors mad.

Meltdown’s father had a vague death scene in X-Force #49 (his trailer exploded). This issue establishes that he survived the explosion and later reevaluated his life, leading him to the Triune Understanding. The Triunes are a cult, allegedly inspired by Scientology, from the concurrent issues of Avengers.

Review: This begins the “Armageddon Now” storyline, which resolves the mystery of the missing Bedlam brother and introduces a new team of Hellions. I don’t think anyone’s surprised at this point that Moore wants to revive the Hellions, but they can serve a purpose outside of nostalgia. It’s not hard to cast them as a legitimate threat to X-Force, who don’t have enough opposing teams to fight, and Moore deserves some credit for acknowledging their horrid death scene and trying to do something with it. Plus, adding Magma to the roster is a nice “Wait a minute!” moment.

I also like the way Moore is integrating Christopher Aaronson into past X-continuity as a “behind-the-scenes” character. This can too often be a cheat, but the foundation of the Hellions is a vague area of backstory with plenty of room to fill, and his presence isn’t being done to undermine past continuity. Pairing him in a relationship with Tarot also humanizes her character a bit. The Hellions actually didn’t appear in too many comics during the New Mutants years, so many of them never moved past the cipher stage. I vaguely recall Tarot receiving some character work in the ‘80s, but it couldn’t have been an extensive amount. She feels like a better defined character this issue, and her connection to Jesse’s brother adds some intrigue to the storyline.

Friday, January 13, 2012

MAGNETO REX #2 - June 1999

Into Darkness

Credits: Joe Pruett (writer), Brandon Peterson (penciler), Matt Banning (inker), Richard Isanove (colors), Jon Babcock (letters)

Summary: Magneto destroys the satellites and UN planes spying on Genosha. Meanwhile, Amelia Voght convinces Rogue to seek Magneto’s help before rescuing Quicksilver from Zealot. Magneto, however, disavows his son. Rogue and Amelia rescue Quicksilver without his aid, but Zealot soon finds them. As he proclaims himself the true ruler of Genosha, Magneto arrives.

Continuity Notes: Rogue kisses Magneto, hoping to learn the source of his hostile attitude. Magneto is totally unfazed by the kiss (which is either a continuity error or an intentional plot point), and Rogue is left with the sense that “there’s somethin’ else -- somethin’ sinister…sometin’ even you’ve blocked from our mind…” Bolding “sinister” might be a hint that Mr. Sinister has some connection to Magneto’s increasingly cold demeanor, but nothing came from this.

Production Note: No credits are given this issue. The next issue apologizes and runs these credits.

Review: The first issue of this series was dull, but I gave it credit for at least establishing the premise and setting the plot into motion. This issue is unforgivably boring. The plot is bare bones, numerous conversation scenes advance nothing, and the characters have the personality of dishwater. I can’t imagine what aspect of this story the creative team assumed the readers would find interesting by this point. All we know about Zealot is that he’s a sadist who’s somehow amassed a following, virtually all of the cast has interchangeable dialogue (which is unforgivable when you consider that Quicksilver, Rogue, and Amelia Voght have the bulk of the lines...and yes, Rogue has an exaggerated accent, but if you add back the dropped "g"s her speech pattern is no different than anyone else's), and Magneto spends most of his time sitting in meetings, when he isn’t busy irrationally provoking the UN.

I never agreed with the decision to revert Magneto to villainy, but there was at least some intensity to the character during most of his ‘90s appearances. Here, he’s heartless and violent, but the script does nothing to give him a credible personality. He isn’t crazy, he isn’t particularly angry, he isn’t conflicted, he isn’t remorseful…he’s just a generic villain with a horrific “regal” speech pattern. Magneto refusing to rescue his son ought to feel like a big deal, but instead the scene is just as flat and onerous to read as the rest of the comic. Magneto should be a fantastically interesting protagonist for a series. Even if you refuse to go the “shades of gray” route, Magneto has a rich backstory and numerous connections with various corners of the Marvel Universe. It’s shocking to me that someone thought material this tedious suited the character.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

CABLE #69 - July 1999

Millennium Storm Warning
Credits: Joe Casey (writer), Jose Ladronn (penciler), Juan Vlasco & Walden Wong (inks), Gloria Vasquez (colors), Comicraft’s Saida Temofonte (letters)

Summary: Cable is snatched from death by the Chronologists, a group that monitors various timelines. They take him to their mysterious dimension, where Sanctity is being held captive in “the Maximum Secret.” Cable is forced to duel with one of their scientists, Jacob Sutton, to save Sanctity. She is released and promptly disappears. The Chronologists return Cable to his home, where he finds Stacey, Irene, and Blaquesmith waiting for him. Meanwhile, a mystery man leaves a bloody trail to New York.

Continuity Notes: While in the Maximum Secret, Cable suddenly realizes that Rachel Summers implanted the names of the Twelve into his mind weeks earlier.

Creative Differences: The Bullpen Bulletins description of this issue reads: “After the cataclysmic events of ‘Sign of the End Times,’ CABLE is presumed dead. With APOCALYPSE’s hideous scheme just begun, BLAQUESMITH reaches out to the one man left alive who has the most experience with the world’s first mutant: ARCHANGEL!”

Review: Uh, yeah. Cable needed more vague time travel continuity attached to him, right? This issue is (I'm assuming, it's impossible to find info about these characters online) the debut of the Chronologists, a group that exists in-between dimensions and monitors the non-linear lines of reality. How exactly they’re different from the Time Variance Authority, I’m not sure, but Casey’s premise is that Cable’s occasional trips through time are an annoyance to the group. Yet, he also establishes that they’re exaggerating Sanctity’s threat to reality, so they’re not a reliable source of information. Why exactly they’re keeping Sanctity captive, and why they’re engaging Cable in a duel is never revealed. Casey was presumably going somewhere with this, but he’s only a handful of issues away from quitting in protest after Ladronn is booted to make way for Rob Liefeld. So, we’re left with more mystery characters with mystery motives that never amount to anything. At least Ladronn is able to showcase his European sci-fi influences with the designs, though.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

GAMBIT #2 - March 1999

Credits: Fabian Nicieza & Steve Skroce (story & art), Rob Hunter (inker), Shannon Blanchard (colors), Comicraft (letters)

Summary: Gambit and Storm visit Moira MacTaggert on Muir Island. Gambit creates a power blackout in order to cover his secret mission, inadvertently releasing a failsafe that will destroy all of Moira’s mutant research. He saves the data from destruction, but also makes a copy for New Son. Later, Storm reveals to Gambit that she framed his family for one of their jobs during their days as thieves. She explains she did the wrong thing for the right reason, relating it to Gambit’s past with Mr. Sinister. Meanwhile, X-Cutioner recruits a team and Fontanelle invades Tante Mattie’s dreams.

Continuity Notes: Tante Mattie’s dream has her as a little girl in 1891. Gambit arrives to save her from a mob, leading Fontanelle to question if Gambit is older than he appears or a time traveler. The Mengo Brothers, next issue's villains, also debut in a one-page, extremely vague, subplot scene (they’re killing people in Chicago and apparently deleting information from a computer).

Gimmicks: In an effort to lessen falling sales for second issues, Marvel released a variant cover for every #2 issue during this era. This issue’s variant cover is by Adam Kubert.

Review: I’m not sure why Gambit’s friendship with Storm was downplayed after Claremont left the titles, but it’s nice to see Nicieza reviving it for one issue. Taking in all of Gambit’s accumulated backstory, Nicieza’s decided to play up the angle that Gambit’s historically used the ends to justify the means. Nicieza will go on to explore just how far Gambit’s willing to take this, and if he can hold on to this attitude while remaining an X-Man. He also uses the theme as a backdoor way out of Uncanny X-Men #350’s absurd ending, as Storm declares that Gambit was wrong for his past actions, but admits so were the X-Men for leaving him in the Antarctic. They both felt justified in their actions at the time, and realize now that they’re wrong. No hard feelings, right?

The ongoing narration does an effective job of conveying Gambit’s guilt over this theft while also providing some justification for his actions. This is actually a nice example of why arbitrary rules like “No More Captions” are absurd. Yes, many people abused the privilege with outlandishly boring prose, but some writers can use those little boxes of text well. Skroce does a great job of conveying the action sequences, but the prose fleshes out Gambit’s character and suggests ideas that couldn’t be translated by a silent action scene.

The idea that Moira’s rigged her research to be shot into the sky in a rocket and explode following a sixty-second blackout is a little hard to swallow, but the setup plays to Skroce’s strengths (elaborate character movement, explosions, debris) and it kind of works within the context of a superhero universe. Moira doesn’t want Bastion or anyone else to steal her info, but she’s humane enough to at least shoot it into the sky before it explodes. That’s awfully considerate of her.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

MUTANT X #5 - February 1999

Goblins in the Night
Credits: Howard Mackie (writer), Tom Raney (penciler), Andrew Pepoy (inker), Gina Going (colors), Chris Eliopoulos (letters)

Summary: The Six team up with Man-Spider to stop the Green Goblin and his army of cloned goblins. The Green Goblin is cornered by the Fallen and Madelyne, whose Goblin Queen persona has emerged. Man-Spider arrives and is shocked by their behavior. With the Fallen’s help, Madelyne kills Man-Spider and Green Goblin. The Brute witnesses the event, but is silenced when the Fallen threatens to kill his parents. The murders are pinned on the Brute, who is taken into custody.

“That’s Crazy Because They’re Different”: This reality’s Spider-Man goes by Man-Spider, presumably because he has six arms (a callback to the storyline in Amazing Spider-Man #100-102). Also, this reality has a President Starr, which may or may not be a reference to an existing Marvel Universe character.

Better Than X-Factor?: This isn’t much of an improvement, to be honest. At the time, Howard Mackie was the sole in-continuity Spider-Man writer, a responsibility that I don’t think any writer had been given since the spin-offs began, so perhaps he’s playing off the reputation Marvel tried to build for him as the “Spider-Guy” with this issue. Of course, the critical consensus was that Mackie was unsuited to be the Spider-Guy, and the material produced during his stint turned out to be even worse than many were expecting, so this issue isn’t off to a great start. Mackie tries to throw in some clone-related meta-humor, but it feels awkward and a little forced. Plus, his Green Goblin isn’t any different from the standard Green Goblin of the era, right up to the nonsensical “world domination” schemes that were grafted on to Norman Osborn in the late ‘90s, so that’s another letdown.

Revealing that Madelyne and the Fallen are so evil they’ll casually kill their opponents and frame a teammate does up the stakes for this universe, however. We haven’t seen just how nasty Havok’s teammates can be in this reality, perhaps because the creative team was still trying to work out just how far to take the idea, so at the very least some new revelations are being made. Unfortunately, much of the action in this issue is hard to follow, and almost every page is drowning in unnecessary text. There’s also an awkward scene at the end that reveals that the Brute had an off-panel confrontation with the police after leaving the murder scene. I honestly can’t think of a single reason why this scene occurred in-between pages, especially when the Goblin fight dragged on forever. There should’ve been plenty of pages to work that scene in. For the most part, this book hasn’t felt as sloppy as X-Factor could be, but this is not an encouraging sign.

Monday, January 9, 2012

MAGNETO REX #1 - May 1999

Credits: Joe Pruett (writer), Brandon Peterson (penciler), Matt Banning (inker), Richard Isanove & Liquid! (colors), Jon Babcock (letters)

Summary: Humans flee Genosha as Magneto takes the throne. A Mutate leads him to his first council meeting, which introduces Magneto to Phillip Moreau, Jenny Ransome, Alda Huxley, and Pipeline, a former Magistrate. Phillip informs him that a rebel Mutate, “the Zealot,” is building a resistance against him. Later, Magneto and Pipeline recruit Fabian Cortez to join the council. Meanwhile, Amelia Voght takes Quicksilver to Genosha to see his father. Soon, he’s tricked by Zealot’s followers and kidnapped. Rogue, who’s arrived in Genosha to check on Magneto, witnesses Zealot’s gathering of rebel Mutates.

Continuity Notes: Much to Phillip Moreau’s surprise, Zealot is somehow his long-lost brother. Alda Huxley, the UN representative largely responsible for giving Genosha to Magneto, claims she’s a native Genoshan who only wants the best for her country. The sole explanation for Pipeline turning against the Magistrates is that he finally realized the horror they’ve unleashed. Fabian Cortez is recruited presumably because Magneto’s still recovering from the events of “Magneto War” and needs his amplification powers. (Although he should know by now that Cortez’s powers leave you weaker in the long run.) The Amelia Voght/Quicksilver scenes are another holdover from “Magneto War,” as she was sent to spy on him in an early chapter and not seen again during the crossover.

Production Note: The cover lists this as a May 1999 issue, but the indicia has the date as April 1999.

Review: As much as people seemed to dislike the “Magneto War” crossover, it did at the very least spur some discussion. Magneto Rex, on the other hand, was largely ignored by online fandom, aside from a handful of reviews that dismissed it as dull. You would think that a limited series spinning out of the latest X-over, one that actually did impact the status quo in a meaningful way, would’ve garnered more attention, but the minis had already acquired the nasty label of “Filler” by this point. Once again, I’ll point to the early ‘90s X-miniseries that everyone seemed to buy -- even ones starring obscure characters like Deadpool. If anything, the addition of Brandon Peterson, an artist Marvel once tapped for X-Men before losing him to Rob Liefeld, should’ve given this mini some kind of a boost. Yet, I barely recall anyone even noticing his return.

Joe Pruett was a small-press indie creator the X-office began hiring during this era, giving him this assignment and the scripting duties on Rob Liefeld’s brief return to Cable. Sometimes I wonder how the comics world would be different if this was the indie guy Marvel fell in love with instead of Brian Michael Bendis. I actually have no insight into the style of storytelling Pruett subscribes to, given that this is a fairly generic regurgitation of editorially mandated ideas; I just find it amusing that Marvel was perhaps grooming a small press writer for superstardom a full year before Bendis showed up.

I wish I could’ve found a more descriptive word than “generic” to describe Pruett’s work here, but I can’t. A typical sample of his dialogue reads like this: “This man is so much like his father in terms of stature and strength, and yet so completely different in his deeds and thoughts. Pietro is a reflection of the man that his father once was and should have been -- if he hadn’t given in to the hate and anguish which eventually corrupted his soul.” (That’s Amelia Voght’s inner thoughts, by the way, not a third-person narrative caption.) I will say to his credit that he isn’t padding the first issue and only giving a tiny slice of the story. The backstory of Genosha and Magneto is set up for any potential new readers, a new status quo for the island is established, a large number of characters are brought into the story, and the villain of the piece makes his first move against Magneto. Things do happen, even if the characters are severely lacking in personality.

Friday, January 6, 2012

JLX UNLEASHED! #1 - June 1997

The Unextinguishable Flame!
Credits: Christopher Priest (writer), Oscar Jimenez (penciler), Hannibal & Rodriguez (inks), Patricia Mulvihill (colors), Ken Lopez (letters)

Summary: The fire-dragon Fing Fang Flame, reanimated by the Hellfire League of Injustice, causes mayhem across the planet. Amazon, against the wishes of her JLA teammates, seeks the help of Mr. X and the imprisoned JLX. Mr. X takes the unstable metamutant Chaos out of suspended animation and travels with the JLX to Tokyo. Chaos is believed dead in battle, inspiring his brother Apollo to snap out his comatose state and absorb the magic fueling Fing Fang Flame. As the authorities arrive, Amazon decides to join the team.

Continuity Notes: The Hellfire League of Injustice merges the Hellfire Club and Injustice League. Chaos is an amalgam of Havok and Spitfire. Only one year later, the name Chaos (or "Xaos") will be used for another Havok amalgam, this one belonging to Cerebro’s team of X-Men.

Review: Just looking at the credits makes it obvious this was one of DC’s contributions to the Amalgam event (although Priest would be back at Marvel by the next year, ending a solid ten-year break with the company). That doesn’t stop JLX from leaning heavily towards the Marvel side, though. Priest has the speech patterns of the X-titles down cold, making this almost indistinguishable from something Scott Lobdell or Fabian Nicieza might’ve written in the ‘90s. The team’s recovering from the government’s latest android attack, Chaos hates Mr. X, Apollo is comatose, Iceberg is desperate to prove herself, Runaway is pining for her missing boyfriend, and Nightcreeper can’t stop cracking jokes. All the team needs is one or two alleged traitors. Actually, I guess they’ve already been betrayed, as Firebird is now the Hellfire member Dark Firebird.

I remember rumors that Priest was considered for the Uncanny X-Men job that went to Joe Casey…I wonder if anyone making that call had ever read this comic? Would this material pull the decision in his favor, or was this the kind of X-comic “New Marvel” was desperate to get away from? Regardless, it’s a shame he didn’t get the assignment. Aside from the fact that it’s hard to imagine anyone not named Chuck Austen doing a worse job than Casey did, it’s obvious Priest knows how to handle this material. The previous JLX one-shot suffered from what seemed to be a snide dismissal of the source material; Priest is able to bring some humor to the concept without mocking the elements that made the X-titles so popular in the first place. There are a few storytelling problems with the issue (Chaos apparently dies twice during the story, but neither scene is very clear), but this is by far one of the better X-related Amalgam comics.

Thursday, January 5, 2012


Born Again!
Credits: Tom Peyer (writer), Barry Kitson (penciler), Dan Panosian (inker), Matt Webb & Digital Chameleon (colors), Comicraft (letters)

Summary: Having realized his Magnetic Men have attained sentience, Magneto orders Mister Mastermind to create human disguises for them. Reluctantly, the Magnetic Men enter civilian life, as Magneto plots a final confrontation with his brother Will Magnus. Before he can reach Magnus, however, he must rescue the Magnetic Men from the Sinister Society. When he realizes that the Sinister Society are also victims of Will Magnus, Magneto invites them to join his cause. Unfortunately, by the time the team reaches Magnus’ base on Krakoa, all traces of his existence are gone.

Continuity Notes: New amalgams introduced this issue include: Mister Mastermind (Mastermind and Mister Mind), Soniklaw (Klaw and Sonar), Kultron (Ultron and Kobra), Vance Cosmic (Vance Astro and Cosmic Boy), Deathborg (Deathlok and Cyborg), Black Vulture (Vulture and Black Condor, plus perhaps Hawkman), Quasimodox (Quasimodo and Vril Dox), Chemodam (MODOK and Chemo), and Krakoa, the Living Dinosaur Island (Krakoa and Dinosaur Island).

Review: Aside from introducing a new group of amalgamated villains, there isn’t much here the previous Magnetic Men comic didn’t cover. Perhaps the hook is supposed to be that the team has taken on human personas, but this idea goes absolutely nowhere. Before they’re abducted by the Sinister Society, all the team gets to do is stand on a street corner in London for less than one page. Literally, the set up for this idea lasts longer than the execution. (The civilian identities of the Magnetic Men are also elaborate amalgams, but I’m too tired to go through them. It’s not as if the story gets any mileage out of the jokes anyway.) Looking past the odd execution of the human identity concept, we’re left with the team fighting another group of merged villains. And, while the action is competently delivered by Barry Kitson, this just isn’t very exciting. If a sequel to the original Magnetic Men one-shot had to be produced, I wish someone could’ve developed a worthier concept. This easily could’ve been a filler issue of Magnetic Men Unlimited.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

EXCITING X-PATROL #1 - June 1997

The Curse of Brother Brood!
Credits: Barbara Kesel (writer), Bryan Hitch (penciler), Paul Neary (inker), Joe Andreani & Digital Chameleon (colors), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (letters)

Summary: Shatterstarfire reluctantly leaves Niles Cable behind during a battle with Brother Brood, returning to the X-Patrol’s base for help. The team leaves on a rescue mission with their mysterious new member, Jericho. Landing on Zenosha, X-Patrol soon faces the Brood-infected Niles and Terra-X the Destroyer. While battling Niles, Jericho’s rocky disguise is destroyed, revealing Jericho as Niles’ younger self. Niles decides to let his techno-organic virus consume his body and kill the Brood infection. Near death, Niles is saved by the spirit of Raveniya the Healer. Inspired by his younger self, Niles vows to continue fighting.

Continuity Notes: The island of Zenosha is presumably an amalgam, yet plain ol’ Genosha was shown to exist in the Amalgam world in the previous year’s Magneto and the Magnetic Men. This reality’s version of Jericho is a combination of DC’s Jericho, the Thing, and X-Man. Brother Brood is Brother Blood infected by the Brood Queen. Terra-X the Destroyer is an amalgam of the Teen Titan’s bucktoothed traitor Terra and Galactus’ herald Terrax the Destroyer. Raveniya the Healer merges Raven with Mother Askani.

Review: Oh, another Bryan Hitch comic that isn’t marred by excessive detail lines and “realistic” faces. That’s like finding an old Greg Land comic without any traced porn. I’m sure someone at the time thought using “eXciting” on the cover was a cute parody, unaware that Marvel was a mere four years away from using a gratuitous X-dash in the actual title of a comic. Anyway, eXciting X-Patrol is the sequel to the previous year’s X-Patrol, the title that was nominally a merger of the Doom Patrol and various X-spinoffs. Apparently, someone just liked the name, because the Doom Patrol did not play a large role in the amalgams. This year’s special makes it even more obvious that the creators want to do a Teen Titans/X-Force mash-up -- which is fine, but why is this even called X-Patrol? Wouldn’t “X-Titans” or “Titans-X” work just as well?

I’m only familiar with the Titans from a few trade paperbacks, a handful of cartoon episodes, and the relentless Jericho hate online, but I think I’ve caught most of the jokes in this one. It’s hard to deny that Terra-X the Destroyer is a great gag. The Marvel characters chosen to be amalgamated surprised me, but as much as I dislike the Askani and X-Man in the mainstream continuity, Barbara Kesel works them into this story in surprising and funny ways. Her dialogue is a fairly accurate representation of ‘90s era X-team interactions, without crossing the line into snarky condescension. This is a dense read, packed with characters and action, but there’s enough humor to keep fans of either franchise entertained. I can’t imagine what someone unfamiliar with the material being referenced would think of this, though.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

DR. STRANGEFATE #1 - April 1996

The Decrees of Fate
Credits: Ron Marz (writer), Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez (penciler), Kevin Nowlan (inker), Matt Hollingsworth (colors), Chris Eliopoulos (letters)

Summary: Dr. Strangefate summons his three agents, Skulk, Jade Nova, and White Witch to find Access, who is presently on the run from Abominite in the sewers. After Skulk and Jade Nova fail, White Witch uses her sorcery to bring Access to Dr. Strangefate. Strangefate knows that Access held the keys to the two realities that form the Amalgam Universe, but is unable to force their location from him. Access escapes, leaving Dr. Strangefate fearful for his world’s survival. He removes his helmet to reveal his true identity, Charles Xavier.

Continuity Notes: Dr. Strangefate is an amalgam of Dr. Strange, Dr. Fate, and Professor Xavier, of course. His servant Myx merges Wong with Mister Mxyzptlk. Skulk (Bruce Banner) is the Hulk and Solomon Grundy. Jade Nova (Frankie Rayner) is somehow a combination of the Frankie Raye Nova, the Green Lantern Jade (perhaps married to Kyle Rayner, based on the last name), DC's Fire, and…John Constantine (?), or perhaps the ‘90s Starman, I guess. White Witch (Wanda Zatara) is Scarlet Witch and Zantana. The Abominite is an amalgam of the Abomination and Hellgrammite.

Review: This is the only Amalgam comic I’ve ever read that even tried to tie in with the main Marvel vs. DC storyline that spawned the event. I probably shouldn’t be surprised, given that Ron Marz co-wrote the miniseries, but I was under the impression that the Amalgam one-shots were written as standalone stories that didn’t require any knowledge of the main event. This story assumes you know something about Access and how he’s involved with the merging of two worlds. I don’t. I’m also not sure why this world’s Charles Xavier has taken this particular identity, and why he’s so protective of the Amalgam Universe, assuming that there’s more to his defensiveness than a simple survival instinct.

I do like some of the specific amalgamations Marz has made, particularly the Hulk/Solomon Grundy mash-up, but most of these characters are pretty light on personality, with the exception of White Witch, who has the empowering character trait of severe horniness. (When Strangefate turns her down, she decides his manservant Myx is good enough. Girl power!) The real highlight of the comic is the pairing of Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez and Kevin Nowlan, making this the nicest looking comic of the entire Amalgam stunt. The facial expressions are perfect, the scenery is beautiful, and the layouts are innovative while remaining easy to follow. Given Garcia-Lopez’s reluctance to ever do Marvel work, I wish he could’ve been assigned a more Marvel-centric title, but I’m certainly not complaining about the interpretations of the characters he’s been asked to draw.
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