Age of X-Man was a very interesting event, which played with dystopia in a manner that the X-Books hadn’t really done before. However, leading into it and running parallel to it was Uncanny X-Men Volume 5 which, frankly, was something of a slog.

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One of the first X-men comics I read was a collection of the first few issues of Age of Apocalypse, back when I was in middle school. While I have still yet to read the entire story, the bits I’ve read left something of an impression on me. When the Age of X-Man event began, I was interested in seeing X-Men writers take on a dystopia that’s different from many of the standard “Pile of Skulls” X-Men dystopia.

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There is running theory in stories with romances that the chase is better than the catch – that once characters in a romance get together, there is no motivation to continue the story. These are people who never watched Hart to Hart nor are familiar with Nick & Nora Charles. In the X-Books, probably the biggest of these romances, almost as much if not more so than Scott Summers and Jean Grey, was Gambit and Rogue. However, during the planned wedding of Kitty Pryde and Piotr Rasputin, things ended up not happening, leading to Rogue and Gambit basically deciding to take advantage of the opportunity and the two X-Men who could never tie the other down decided to get hitched.

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Laura Kinney, cropped from the cover of X-23 #1

This past year, when Marvel comics brought back Logan, someone else had already taken on the mantle of Wolverine – Laura Kinney, formerly known as X-23, complete with having her own book branded as All-New Wolverine. Marvel editorial decided that rather than letting Laura keep the code name (as they’ve done with the multiple Hawkeyes), Laura would renounce the code-name, and her book would re-launch and re-brand. Unfortunately, it causes this book to be something of a step back from All-New Wolverine in multiple respects.

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Top portion of the cover to Savage Sword of Conan #4

There aren’t a lot of fantasy comics out there, and the ones we get in the US are generally licensed from another property, whether Games like D&D or Pathfinder, or literary works like Game of Thrones, Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser, or Conan the Barbarian. So, when Marvel got the license to Conan comics again, I was interested, and when they re-launched their classic Conan titles – Conan the Barbarian and Savage Sword of Conan, I added those books to my pull list.

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Excerpt from the cover of House of X #1, with Cyclops, Jean Grey, Magneto, Wolverine, and an unknown 5th X-Man

Recently Marvel announced that, as part of Jonathan Hickman’s upcoming run on the X-Men books, the X-Line would be contracted to just two books – House of X and Powers of X, each with a 6-issue run. According to an interview with ComicBook.com, the decision was pitched by Hickman essentially to create a jumping on point for the line for new readers.

The argument makes sense – two books are cheaper than 10 and require less effort to keep track of a story across those books. However, the fundamental idea of the Mutant Metaphor – of Mutants being representative of multiple discriminated minority populations – requires representation not only in the form of the characters on the page but also in the form of the people writing stories with those characters.

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With the release of Deadpool 2 this past year, a whole new range of audiences were introduced to Wade Wilson’s grumpy-Gus soldier from the future buddy, Nathan Christopher Askani Summers, aka Cable. Consequently, Marvel also put out a new Cable book, with a mid-volume shift in the numbering to line up with Cable Vol. 1’s numbering. However, what it was not was a buddy-book with Deadpool, Cable was at the fore of this story. So, the question is, what kind of story does the book tell?

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While Marvel’s X-Line has generally revolved around some iteration of the Xavier Institute of Higher Learning and the various Mutant super-teams based out of it, what it normally hasn’t done is spent some time on the actual students attending the school, with some exceptions (like with part of Grant Morrison’s run back in the 2000s). Generation X by Christina Strain puts the focus back on the school side of things, instead of the adventuring super-team side of things – but without going into “Saved By The Bell” with superpowers. (more…)

One of the plot elements to come out of Brian Michael Bendis’ last X-Men run was the revelation that Bobby “Iceman” Drake was gay, and firmly in the closet – this revelation coming in connection with the time-displaced Original 5 X-Men coming into the present. This lead to plenty of story opportunities with Bobby The Younger adjusting to the present day, when being gay is (relatively) more socially acceptable than it was in the past he came from. The older Iceman, on the other hand, by all accounts didn’t have that much time to get into that aspect of the story – especially with the major crossover events that came after, leading up to the death of Cyclops. (more…)

Over the course of late 2017 and into this year, Jean Grey, for the first time, got her first solo ongoing, not in the form of her adult self (who was, until recently, deceased), but in the form of her time-displaced teenage self, brought into the present day (it’s complicated) – which lead into the return of Adult Jean Grey. As the series recently wrapped up, I figured I might as well give my thoughts. (more…)

Get Ultimate Spider-Man: Carnage at Amazon.com

So, it’s now time to review the Ultimate Universe’s take on the member of Spider-Man’s rogue’s gallery I hate the most. I’m going to say this right now. I hate Carnage. The character is completely unoriginal. He was created to be a darker-and-edgier version of Venom, who was in turn meant to be a darker and edgier version of Spider-Man. The character has essentially no depth. He kills people for no reason. That’s it. He breaks out of where he’s held, kills people until he’s stopped, and wash, rinse, repeat.

Thus, when I picked up this volume, I had my doubts about how they could make this story interesting. Thus, I was pleasantly surprised by how they did succeed. Basically, they managed to pull it off by not directly attaching the character to Venom, but instead to Curt Connors, aka The Lizard. Connors has been, in my opinion, one of the better members of Spider-Man’s supporting cast. This is, for a large part, because he’s a tragic figure. He experiments on himself  in an attempt to develop a way for amputees to re-grow limbs, and ends up turning himself into a lizard-man. Everything the character does is meant with the best intentions, as opposed to villainous figures like Doc Ock and the Green Goblin. (more…)

Punisher: War Zone movie poster.
Get The Punisher: War Zone from Amazon.com

I have a love-hate relationship with Frank Castle. As someone who got into the pulps, especially characters like The Shadow, before he really got into comics, I never really had a problem with a comic book character who killed criminals. Thus, the Punisher appealed to me a little, as the character had a lot in common with characters like The Shadow, in terms of being a grim or mostly silent vigilante who gunned down gangsters. While I recognized that he had to coexist with various Marvel Super Heroes, I’d kind of figured out the sort of “rule of tiers” that the Marvel U operated on, and I figured that Spidey was generally more occupied with the more dangerous super-villains that Frank couldn’t go up against.

The hate part of the relationship comes from the writer whose currently in charge of writing the Punisher in the Marvel Max books-which is when they’re keeping the character at his street-level feel (sort of). I’m referring to Garth Ennis. Garth Ennis writing style feels like he goes for the shock value too often, and he goes for the low brow too often. His writing style also gives me the impression that he hates super heroes. No work shows this better than his run on The Punisher before he went to the Marvel Max version. After the first arc of the Punisher (Welcome Back Frank, which I almost liked), he proceeded to take a dump on every Marvel character he could get away with. He had Frank use Spider-Man as a human shield for The Resurrected Russian when Spidey could have pretty easily taken him. Frank blew Wolverine’s face off and ran him over with a bulldozer. (more…)

Movie Poster for Iron Man 2Superhero movies tend to do better on the second installment than on the first installment. The Dark Knight was better than Batman Begins. X-Men 2 was better than the first X-Men movie. Part of this is because the writer no longer is saddled with having to set up the hero’s origin story, while also setting up the origin story for the villain as well, and laying down the rules of the setting, and establishing all the characters you’re introducing. Come movie number two, and you (and the audience) already know what the rules are and the hero’s origin. Now you just have to establish a new villain, possibly involving his origin (though, as The Dark Knight showed, not always), and plot the character growth for the returning cast.

I’m not saying it’s easy. I am saying it’s not necessarily as hard as the first outing. (more…)

The Cover art for Issue 1 of Ultimate Six
Get Ultimate Six from Amazon.com

I’ve been catching up on my Ultimate Spider-Man, for reasons various and sundry. The volumes that haven’t been reviewed at Bureau42, I’ve reviewed here. However, this storyline – the introduction of the Ultimate Universe’s version of the Sinister Six, has been reviewed there. Thus, I’m taking my review of this storyline to my blog here, so I can kind of review it in my own little way, with a bit of an aside about the state of your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. This review contains some spoilers.

First off, I enjoy the Ultimate Spider-Man part of the Ultimate Universe, but it’s the only part of the Ultimate Universe that I like. Mark Millar’s work rubs me wrong in almost every respect. Ultimate X-Men turned me off the moment they decided that Ultimate Cable was future Wolverine (as if Wolverine wasn’t over-used enough). However, Ultimate Spider-Man has managed to balance Peter Parker’s angst with the more light-hearted face that Peter puts forward as Spider-Man in a way that the comics in the main Marvel U haven’t, for reasons that I can best tell are related to Editorial fiat. (more…)