Monday, December 31, 2012

12 Days of X-Mas: The Search for Cyclops (2000)

Let's make this one a Comics-on-the-Bubble too...

Ugh. I could fill a couple pages just recapping where the X-Men are at this point in their history. The quick version: Apocalypse’s “seed” is living in Cyclops after the X-Men defeated the bad guy in a big storyline. Now Cyclops is on the run and battling the influence of Apocalypse on his psyche. 

The problem here is pacing, and the ease of the conclusion. This is a four-issue series, with one whole issue spent on Cyclops in the Middle East as an amnesiac. After that, things pick up a tad when Phoenix and Cable get on the trail, but even then, the biggest obstruction is just finding Cyclops. The rogue’s gallery is pretty pathetic; you’ve got Gauntlet, Caliban/Pestilence, and Anais, a new cat-lady. (That is, she turns into a cat, not that she has lots of pet cats). There is a nice confrontation in issue three, but when the story has to end, it just… ends. Seriously, Phoenix just rips Apocalypse right out of Cyclops, Cable stabs him with his pscimitar, and that’s it! All set, folks! 

Joseph Harris wrote some good stuff in this era at Marvel, but this is not one of his better books. The entire comic is filled with narrative boxes that describe what’s happening. Did Harris not know industry vet Tom Raney could handle the story? The prose gets decidedly purple at numerous points, most especially during recaps at the open of each issue.

Raney does a nice job with the 2000-era costume. Phoenix has that neat little chest piece, and I like Cyclops’ visor worked into Cable’s uniform. Cyclops’ transformation can look either silly (like when his eyes connect to form a Cyclops-like face) or cool (when he gets those weird Apocalypse blue lines on his otherwise normal face). Raney has one page in issue three that makes it clear how this is just a chase book; it’s a segment of tunnels that all the main character pass through right in order. It’s a neat looking set-piece, but that’s the gist of the whole book.


Search for Cyclops 1-4: SELL

Sunday, December 30, 2012

12 Days of X-Mas: Pryde & Wisdom (1996)

I’m not sure why college-Timbotron picked this up. I must have just bought everything with an X on it back in 1996. I’m not a fan of either Shadowcat or Pete Wisdom, so a limited series focusing on the two of them would always be a hard sell. I remember loving the art back in the day, but now that I’ve seen Terry Dodson’s more impressive modern work, I can’t get too worked up over this. 

This is typical Warren Ellis, full of crazy ideas like skeletons used as alchemical stones, England’s Charles Xavier, and more. My issue is that there are simply too many characters running around in this thing. This is a three-issue limited series. We meet a whole new British police department, Wisdom’s family, a murderer, a slumming reporter, her father, and a mutant expert. That’s a lot of people! They all have names and witty personalities! Perhaps Ellis was setting up an ongoing series. 

I never liked Kitty and Wisdom as a couple, either. The transient nature of their relationship makes this even harder to connect to. Kitty has gone back to Colossus as her true love, and is now dating Iceman, so I can’t get into the playful flirting, either. Wisdom always did feel too old for her! 

Can anyone tell me exactly what “hot knives” are? Is that just a new sci-fi type mutant power Ellis thought up, or is it based on something? 

This is probably a better fit for a big Ellis fan, or someone who wants to compare Dodson’s early work to his masterful present. Its fine for what it is, but I don’t think I loved the book in 1996 and I still don’t now. 


Saturday, December 29, 2012

12 Days of X-Mas: Storm (1996)

On the fifth day of X-Mas: Storm! 

Wow, I had forgotten how convoluted X-history was during the 1990’s. In this one, X-Force is living in the mansion under the leadership of Cable. The X-Men are still based there too, and the groups mingle a bit in their off time. 

Warren Ellis has an interesting concept; an attraction between Cable and Storm that leads Cable to be the main protagonist in the “regular” Marvel U while Storm weathers her treatment in an alternate dimension. 

That alternate dimension is the home of Gene Nation, the survivors of a Morlock massacre. Marrow was originally one of these guys, and boy, she’s a lot less attractive in these early appearances than she was later. And while Mikhail Rasputin is supposedly the main villain, he’s basically a flunky doing Apocalypse’s work. The indirect baddie shows up at the close of the mini. It’s Black Beast (now called Dark Beast) and this was all his plan to build an army of super-mutants. Weird.

Storm is a lot more proactive than usual in this one. I love the way Ellis writes her powers as a total sense of the environment, and casting electrical bolts from each finger is a nice play on her long-time lightning powers. Her first costume in the series is pretty close to her “classic” one, but the new look she adopts at the end is very anime-based. Very strange wardrobe choices here.

Terry Dodson provides the art, and while the seeds of his future greatness are present, the art is uneven. Faces are lumpy and oddly morphed, and sometimes the perspective seems off in the action shots. Storm is sporting some odd cat-eyes too, was that a thing? All that said, the covers are wonderful and Storm always looks great. In fact, the “stars” in each panel always look great, even if the background characters aren’t quite as realized.


Friday, December 28, 2012

12 Days of X-Mas: Wolverine: The Jungle Adventure (1990)

On the fourth day of X-Mas, I got you Wolverine by Mike Mignola!

Remember when these prestige bookshelf books were a big deal? I’m sure I didn’t give this one the attention it deserved. I think I already liked Walt Simonson’s writing in 1990, but I don’t think I had the proper reverence for Mike Mignola’s artwork. 

The story is pretty simple. Wolvie travels to the Savage Land to track down the makers of a cyborg that tried to kill him. (Wolvie had a lot more free time back when he was only on the X-Men.) After beating up a local chieftain, Wolvie makes a grand discovery. His prowess in battle and gregarious attitude has won him the affection of that chief; when she unmasks, it turns out Gahck is a zaftig redhead who doesn’t wear a top. 

So Wolvie just chills in the Savage Land for months playing house with this gal, and only gets back on mission after he kills an enormous cyborg tyrannosaur. What a vacation! 

It turns out that Apocalypse had a rogue robot operating in the Savage Land and he wanted it taken out, so he tempted Wolvie up to the jungle with the attack back in the civilized world. Apocalypse’s logic seems unnecessarily complicated, and the villain is almost goofier than I think he should be, but this is still an early appearance.

More interestingly, the final panel shows Gahck holding a baby Wolvie. Has this little fella shown up in anything over the past few years? With Daken dead, I think it’s time to meet this kid again! 

Mike Mignola’s art is tremendous, as always, and he gets to channel some great pulp vibes in this one. Wolverine’s tribe is populated by hulking ape men and stocky human women in bikinis. This is John Carter and Conan wrapped into one. Mignola’s Apocalypse is more impressive in looks than in dialogue, and the blue shading on his armor is unique and impressive. The art alone makes this well worth revisiting. 


Thursday, December 27, 2012

12 Days of X-Mas: Nightcrawler (1985)

The third day of X-Mas features 1985's Nightcrawler limited series!

Woof. I don’t even know where to begin on this one. Dave Cockrum is a fantastic artist, his X-Men designs are some of the best in comics history. And the art in this story is fantastic. Nightcrawler looks RIGHT, and seeing him in the classic costume just makes me miss the character. Back in the day, the swashbuckler version of the fuzzy elf was so infectious, I think he had to be everyone’s favorite. The 80’s stylings aren’t too obvious here, but Kitty Pryde has some really good 80’s hair and makeup, and Magik is rocking a Michael Jackson shirt. Fantastic. 

So the art? Wonderful. Fun. Zany. But the story? Ouch.

I’m not sure if Cockrum thought this was funny, but it’s really a sort of strange take off on Wizard of Oz maybe? John Carter? Nightcrawler is trapped in another dimension, rescuing princesses and fighting off shark-man sorcerers. But everything is so… silly. The slang is weird. The “plays” on words like L’n D’n Tw’n, why bother? I honestly can’t figure out what the goal was with this one! 

Surely Nightcrawler had some kind of rogues’ gallery that he could have been featured in a better debut mini than this? What an odd choice.

Not to belittle Cockrum, who is a legend, but I can see why this one hasn't been collected.