Friday, December 29, 2006

Uncanny X-Periment # 81: "Internal Struggle"

X-Men # 71-72, Uncanny X-Men # 351-355

In the aftermath of OZT and despite the troubles brewing within the team, Scott and Jean decide to head off to Alaska for some very extended leave. Despite doubts from the both of them, the pair decide to head off after learning that the Avengers and the Fantastic Four are very much alive and back from Rob Liefeld and Jim Lee's wild ride.

Logan, concerned about Marrow's place on the team and in the mansion, confronts her in the Danger Room. A wild brawl follows, concluding with Wolverine nearly killing her. Marrow rushes off, very uncertain as to what she is doing.

Afterwards, Cecilia Reyes decides to go back to work. It's there she faces down racism, a Legacy Virus-ravaged Pyro, anti-Mutant sentiment, and a shot Daredevil. In the end, she heads back to the mansion after being fired.

In the air and on their way to Alaska, Jean and Scott encounter some strange creature on the plane. AIM is after it, but the pair secretly fight them off. The day is saved.

Back at the mansion, Rogue is not doing so well. She's all messed up after the Gambit situation and is struggling more than ever with the temptation to use her powers. After learning that a Doctor Agee has developed a way to surpress Mutant genes, she decides to head off to investigate this claim. Joseph, however, is quite upset with Doctor Agee, but passes out. Meanwhile, a state investigator from the Department of Education pops by to check out the school and firmly decides it is not a very good facility.

Before Rogue has the chance to leave, she stumbles across a power drained Wolverine. She touches Wolverine, but then runs off again.

It's revealed that the one who intiated the original power drain was Sauron, but Rogue gets the blame and she leaves. Sauron attacks the other X-Men, but they handle him. As Wolverine waits with Sauron for SHIELD to haul him away, Alpha Flight shows up, thinking that Wolverine is responsible for a murder up north. A throw-down follows with the X-Men, but the truth is revealed.

Back up in Alaska, Jean walks into her and Scott's living room . . . dressed in the Phoenix costume!

Plus: Bishop is lost in space with Deathbird!

All in all, a good bunch, if not a little slow. It reminds me a lot of the post-"Fall of the Mutants" time peroid when the team was comprised of both older members (Storm, Rogue, Wolverine, etc.) and newer, untested members (Marrow, Maggot, Reyes, etc.) It makes from some good drama and great interaction. Storm finally gets some spotlight time after being underdeveloped for far too long. Rogue's power issues is nice, as it kinda brings her back to her roots. Reyes return to the hospital is very well done, really bringing us a splash of old school anti-Mutant sentiment. The Department of Education's investigator appearance makes for a nice dose of reality.

Unfortunately, besides a really great Marrow/Wolverine fight, there's not a whole lot of action present. The conflicts with AIM, Sauron, Pyro, and Alpha Flight are average at best. This is lucky overshadowed by the nice character development.

The art remains on high with work from Carlos Pacheco and Chris Bachalo topping off the best.


Sunday, December 17, 2006

Uncanny X-Periment # 80: "New Beginnings"

X-Force # 70, Uncanny X-Men # 347-350, X-Men # 70

In the aftermath of "Operation: Zero Tolerance," the X-Teams pull back. X-Force pick up Domino, then meet up with Cable. Cable offers them a chance to start over with brand new identities. Domino, Rictor, and Shatterstar all leave. Sunspot, Meltdown, Syrin, Moonstar (she's back), and Warpath (eventually) reject Cable's plans and decide that they're strong enough to chose their own fates. Cable then leaves them.

Now, down in Antartica, the other X-Men team (Gambit, Rogue, Joseph, Beast, and Trish) all awaken in what at first appears to be an alien world, but turns out to be a massive series of underground tunnels. Gambit is captured by bounty hunters (and former friends) Spat and Grovel, who want Remy to pay for his past crimes. They meet up with Rogue and Joe, and then they are ALL captured by Nanny and her cohorts (remember Nanny?). Joseph is taken to a special cell, where he learns about OZT (which is running parallel with this story) and he starts to get pissed.

Meanwhile, powers shut off, Rogue starts to have memories of Gambit's past float up to the surface of her mind. Uncertain and full of doubts, Gambit tells her to push them away. He then tells her that they have one night that could be their first and last.

They make love.

The next morning, Gambit is full of angst. Sooner or later, Joesph is able get freed and meets up with them. Gambit, Rogue, Spat and Grovel then break loose and when it comes time to face Nanny, Trish and Beast pop by and take her out. Gambit then turns himself over to his former pals and current bounty hunters so that he can finally face down his terrible secret.

Meanwhile, in NYC, the mysterious Mutant named Maggot is on the trail of Joseph. Psylocke, sensing a darkness within him, goes to investigate him. Archangel gets involved from there. Eventually, they end up teleported down into a massive structure in Antartica.

Rogue and co. go searching for Gambit, but soon, all end up in a massive citadel. It's there Gambit is put on trail by Erik the Red, a cover name once more. Then, the truth is revealed. Mr. Sinister hired Gambit (during a peroid of despression) to not only assemble to Marauders, but also to lead them into the Morlock Tunnels to wipe them out. This stuns all those there. However, in revealing this truth, Erik the Red forced Rogue to kiss Gambit. This allowed her to gain his powers and free Maggot and the X-Men. The place crumbling around them, Psylocke gets everyone but Gambit and Rogue out of there. Instead, Rogue rescues Gambit . . . only to drop him off right outside - abandoning him. With the X-Men gone and Erik the Red on his way out, Erik the Red changes into his real attire . . . that of Magneto!

WHA - ?! But what about Joseph?!? What the -- ?!

Anyways, Iceman, Reyes, and Marrow arrive at the mansion . . . stunned to find it stripped bare. It's then that the other team of X-Men (Cyclops, Phoenix, Wolverine, Cannonball, and Storm) show up with Scott, who has a nanite-assembling bomb in his belly. Doctor Reyes soon leaps into action, trying her best to save Scott. However, things get complicated as tensions are high with Marrow hanging around, giving Storm trouble. Things get even more worse when the Juggernaut shows up with a lawyer, trying to claim the mansion as his own.

Luckily, the rest of the X-Men (sans Psylocke and Archangel) show up, with newcomer Maggot. There's a brief skirmish, but Juggy and his lawyer depart, laughing at the poor luck the X-Men are having. With the help of Marrow's bones, Reyes gets the bomb out just as it's ready to denonate. They give it to Maggot, who has one of his maggots eat it. The X-Men breathe a sigh of relief as Scott lives, but problems are around them. Scott, though, remains optimistic.

Oh, and Bishop is lost in space.

Hands down, one of my favorite X-Men stories. Lobdell has left the building, which isn't great because he did a pretty good job, all things considered. But it's nice to have some fresh air in the X-House - and with Joe Kelly and Steve Seagle, it's a good air.

The whole Gambit/Rogue subplot takes another step forward and it's very nicely done. The "sex scene" (which is kinda subtle and sad) is nice, and all the angst that Gambit carries with him is well done. His involvement in such a big event is nice addition, really making his actions resonate with the history of the X-Men.

I love seeing the characters interact, from the oldies like Iceman and Beast to fresher charcters like Reyes and Marrow. Splendid work from all involved. Good character development and it's nice to see some new changes taking place in the X-Men's (and X-Force's) world.

Below the surface, there's a nice story here. The X-Men, despite going through all the crap of the Onslaught, the Creed assassination, OZT, Gambit's trial and the bomb scare, are pulling themselves out of that tunnel of darkness. Just like they always do.

And that's one of the reasons I just love the X-Men.


Uncanny X-Periment # 79: "Operation: Zero Tolerance"

X-Men # 65, Uncanny X-Men # 346, X-Men # 66, Generation X # 29, Wolverine # 115, Generation X # 30-31, X-Force # 68, Cable # 45-47, X-Man # 30, X-Force # 69, X-Men # 67, Wolverine # 116, X-Men # 68, Wolverine # 117, X-Men # 69, Wolverine # 118

The story kicks off with an attack on the X-Men. Over Colorado, the X-Men (Cyclops, Phoenix, Wolverine, Storm, and Cannonball) are attacked by the Prime Sentinels (new and improved man-sized Sentinels). They are subsequently captured, with the attack broadcasted across the US (and slanted to make it seem like the X-Men attacked OZT). As this unfolds, the Prime Sentinels and some OZT forces take control of the mansion.

In NYC, Callisto and Marrow attack Henry Peter Gyrich because of his involvement with OZT. Spider-Man intervines and quite soon, they have to deal with Prime Sentinels. Action ensues, but Gyrich has the police take down the Sentinels, as they are a greater threat to the general public than the Mutants are. Meanwhile, Bastian confronts J. Jonah Jameson over his search from the truth behind OZT and the X-Men. Jameson rejects all the information that Bastian has to offer regarding the X-Men, as he believes Bastian killed one of his reporters (and he did).

At a Bronx hospital, self-loathing Mutant Doctor Cecilia Reyes is attacked by Prime Sentinels. This reveals her power to create force fields to her staff, who all hate Mutants for some reason. Iceman comes to her rescue and the pair go off to find help.

Over in LA, Generation X meets up with Skin's cousin Gil and they crash at his place. It's then that the Mutant gang leader (and Skin's ex-girlfriend who thought he was dead) shows up with her posse and sells them out. Prime Sentinels rain upon them and Torres, some thugs, Generation X, and Gil make a run for it.

At the Hulkbuster Base (now the OZT headquarters), the X-Men are taken to their prison cells. Bastian shows this to Jubilee, but she believes it's just another illusion. However, seeing the subtle details of the images (Logan's hand on Jean's), she soon realizes it isn't an illusion. The X-Men are carted away and Wolverine is taken down to the furance to be fried. He comes to and frees his fellow X-Men. The X-Men then bust their way out of the base with the help of Jubilee (who they don't know is in there -- nor do they know that Xavier is down there too).

In Flordia, at one of Emma Frost's safehouses, Emplate makes a deal with Banshee and Emma to help find Generation X in exchange for Penance. Emma wants to take it, but Sean throws a big fit. She tries to force Penance into doing it, but Sean punches her out and he and Penny run for it.

Meanwhile, Generation X has taken safety in a car museum. There, they confront the aspect of dying. Husk comes up with a plan and when the Prime Sentinels arrive, Gil blows the place up. Torres and co. and Generation X survive, with Synch finding twin girls instead of M!

During an undercover mission, X-Force and whatever is left of the MLF are ambushed by Prime Sentinels. One of the Prime Sentinels (a woman once named Ekatarina Gryaznova) manages to capture Domino for revenge for an accident Domino caused. Also captured are Meltdown, Shatterstar, and Rictor. X-Force retreats to regroup.

Cable, tipped off by G.W. Bridge, heads to the mansion to retrieve valuable information before OZT gets their mits on it. He busts in, breaks Caliban free, gets Caliban to safety, the takes control of the War Room, where he then downloads all of the valuable information. Bastian pops by and the two wrestle. Eventually, Cable takes telepathic control of the OZT soldiers and erases their memories of even being a member of OZT and sends them on their way. He passes out from the stress and when he awakens, the mansion is completely stripped down.

Cable, while he was downloading the information, contacts Nate Grey the X-Man and sends him to go protect the Greys - including their cousins, Joey and Gailyn. A fight with the Prime Sentinels later and all is good.

Domino then wakes up, shaved and with something in her neck. As she tries to make sense of it, X-Force takes down their opponents and frees their teammates.

Back with Reyes and Iceman, the pair break into Warren and Betsy's apartment to try and get some help. Calls to X-Factor and Excalibur go unanswered, but after being attacked by a Prime Sentinel, Charlotte Jones come to the rescue and takes them down to the Police station for protection. Unfortunately, things aren't looking good there either. With many of the Police officers really being Prime Sentinels, Iceman and Reyes have got a problem. But luckily Marrow is hiding in the basement.

In the Desert, the X-Men stumble across a small shanty town of hanicapped people. Turns out these people have all been helped by a clinic. This clinic is, in truth, an OZT cover operation to make Prime Sentinels.

Iceman and Reyes get their butts saved by Marrow. After they take down some Prime Sentinels, they team up with the Israeli Mutant super-hero Sabra - who has secret information regarding Bastian. They then find out that Charlotte Jones was blackmailed into helping OZT because her son (Timothy) was kidnapped.

The X-Men, in the Desert, deal with some Prime Sentinels and then decide to destroy the clinic. Once there, Wolverine catches the scent of Jubilee, who was freed with the help of Daria. Wolverine and Jubilee then reunite with Mustang and the rest of the X-Men and bust into the clinic. Just then, Mustang turns into a Prime Sentinel!

All this while, Senator Kelly is looking to shut down Operation: Zero Tolerance.

With Sabra's help, Reyes, Iceman, and Marrow all head to New England, where Timothy is being held by Bastian and some old lady. They break in, Iceman pulls Bastian out and lectures him. A lot. Just as the Prime Sentinels are about to blast the four Mutants out of existence, SHIELD appears suddenly! They order Bastian to stand down and take him into custody.

At the clinic, the X-Men destroy everything and Wolverine manages to get Mustang back to normal. With SHIELD taking down all of OZT, one final blast is fired at Cyclops. Suddenly, a bomb is beginning to grow in his abdomen!



Okay. So let's talk about this.

First and foremost, the good. There's some good stuff in this crossover. Character development is on high, with special focus on Iceman, Marrow, Jubilee, Cable, and Domino. While Wolverine, Storm, Cyclops, Phoenix, Reyes, Generation X and Nate Grey get their moments, those characters right up there get the spotlight. Iceman really grows up, getting a lot of characterization and action since, well, Uncanny X-Men # 17-18.

Nate's saving of his extended family, Generation X (Synch and M esspecially) dealing with the possibility of death, and Cable struggles within the mansion are all very well done. James Robinson, who handled Cable and Generation X, does a great job on both titles.

Another thing to like about this is the way it was done. I really enjoyed the fact that we saw various parts of the X-Men attacked - just not all as one unit, but as factions (save X-Factor and Excalibur). Having the stories (at least the main ones - the X-Men) converge onto the same plot point is very well done.

Plus, Bastian feels like a real menance. He's a very dark character. Very threatening. And very powerful.

And that, I think, is the where the story falls apart.

Operation: Zero Tolerance has been building up for a while - since right before Onslaught. We've seen appearances by Bastian all over the place. So, when this story came along, there was a lot of potential for it to be really good. All of the questions and mysteries about Bastian were going to be answered. A war was going to break out between the X-Men and the humans.

But at the end of the day, none of that happened. Everyone that was captured by OZT escaped - except for Professor X. We never had any answers regarding Bastian's origins. There were no big battles besides the usual fights we're used to. OZT came out, put out a single, and then vanished. One of the best non-Mutants villians the X-Men have ever dealt with and they're gone in a flash with very little fanfare.

What bothers me to is why Bastian was taken into custody? I'm thinking it was because he kidnapped that boy, but what was with that woman he gave him to and how did she play a role in his creation (I know the answer, but I'm just putting it out there)? Who was the real power behind OZT and why didn't they stop Kelly and Gyrich from shutting it down? Why did the Mossad have information on Bastian that no one else did? What information did they have? What happened to it?

Plus, the crossover is almost inaccessible due to all the threads going in and out of it. You need to know why Professor X and Jubilee have been captured. You need to know why X-Force are doing what they're doing. Etc, etc.

Coordination-wise, it's good. Quality of writing is good, though the outcome of the story is way too disappointing. The appearances of Spider-Man and Jameson are nice nods, and I talked about how I liked stuff like that in the last entry. The art is very good too.

I also really liked Marrow and Reyes in this story. Reyes is the best thing to come out of OZT.

Disappointing ending plus great characterization plus good coordination plus lack of answers equals "meh, it's all right. No AoA or Mutant Massacre, but it's kinda okay."


Sunday, December 10, 2006

Uncanny X-Periment # 78: "Countdown"

Generation X # 27-28, X-Men # 62-64

Jubilee, captured by Bastian, is basically tortured for information regarding the X-Men by being shown "evidence" that they are in fact dead. Jubilee defies all this and eventually befriends one of the Operation: Zero Tolerance aides, Daria.

Meanwhile, Generation X is rescued by a being named Glorian, shaper of dreams. His goal is to make their every desire come true. But Skin proves difficult and in the end, they are teleported to his home neighborhood in LA. In the meantime, Sean, Emma, and Penance on out on the hunt.

The X-Men (Cyclops, Wolverine, Phoenix, Storm, and Cannonball) all arrive in Hong Kong and meet up with Shang-Chi, master of the Kung-Fu. As it turns out, there's a battle going on between the Kingpin and Sebastian Shaw in regards to the mystical Elixer Vitale (which was used by Shang-Chi's father) -- mostly in the case of its effects on the Legacy Virus. Shang-Chi and the X-Men get into the middle of it and in the end, Storm makes the difficult choice of destroying the Elixer Vitale. The X-Men then head on home . . . only to be stopped by Operation: Zero Tolerance forces!

A short little batch, but good all around. Scott Lobdell pulls out some good ones. Jubilee really shines out as a great character. The X-Men themselves are portrayed quite nicely, the smaller cast allowing for a deeper look at the characters themselves. And kudos on bringing in non-Mutant villian, the Kingpin.

The art is esspeically good. Bachelo brings his usual goodness, but the X-Men are now joined by Carlos Pacheco, one of my all-time favorite artists.


Friday, December 08, 2006

Uncanny X-Periment # 77: "Askani"

X-Men: Phoenix # 1-3, Uncanny X-Men # -1, Askani's Son # 1-4, The Further Adventures of Cyclops and Phoenix # 1-4, X-Man # 25, Cable # 42-44, Hulk # 455-457

What we have here are four tales, each one taking place in three basic time periods.

Kicking it off is Rachel Summers and the story her arrival into the future after trading places with Captain Britain. She arrives and immediately begins a rebellion against Apocalypse. However, Apocalypse is in regenerative sleep, so she deals with the power-vampire lady Nero. Nero seeks the Phoenix power from Rachel, but when she gets it, it blows her mind. The Phoenix then departs from Rachel. Rachel then forms the Askani and vows to use the powers that the Phoenix left her to bring her baby brother into the future to help out. She also meets a teenaged telepath named Sancity.

The two, at some point, travel back to before the X-Men have been founded. There, it's revealed that Sancity is the daughter of Bolivar Trask, creator of Master Mold and the Sentinals. Rachel yanks her back, but not before information regarding the "12" is dumped into Master Mold's memory banks.

Further along in the future, a now abandoned Nathan Dayspring and his buddy Tetherblood encounter the Yoda-like Balquesmith. Blaquesmith has Nathan head to the mysterious Ebonshire to seek out the Askani - which is now being run by Madame Sancity. Leader of the New Cannite government (which has swept into place in the aftermath of Apocalypse's death), Tribune Haight sends a woman named Umbridge to find the Askani as well. Stryfe, Ch'Varye, and Zero also seek Ebonshire. Dayspring gets there and meets up with a woman named Aliya. He is also regarded as a great hero! But then all heck breaks lose as everyone kinda arrives at first. Umbridge dies, Stryfe and Sancity run off together, and Haight goes back to the US. Dayspring, Tetherblood, and Aliya form the Clan Chosen.

Now, let's zoom back to 1859, where Sancity plops the present day Scott and Jean to bare witness to Mr. Sinister's creation. Sinister was once known as Nathaniel Essex, who was looked upon like a nut by the scientific community. He believed that humans would soon evolve into incredible beings - Mutants! He's so nutty about this that he experimented on his late son's corpse. This breaks the heart of his pregnant wife Rebecca. It only gets worse when he recruits a gang he calls the Marauders to round up all the freaks to his mansion. This attrachts the attention of the recently woken Apocalypse. As Scott and Jean try and find each other, Apocalypse and Essex hang out with the Hellfire Club. Eventually, Rebecca dies, declaring his husband to be sinister! Thus, that's the name that Essex choses for himself as he is remolded into an agent of Apocalypse. When Apocalypse makes an attempt on the British royal family's life, Scott and Jean intervine (they were captured for a bit). Apocalypse, who has the help of the Hellfire Club and has Mr. Sinister make him a plaque, is suddenly weakened. It turns out that Sinister had the plaque work against Apocalypse (the Techno-Organic Virus), as he wished to see the world bare evolutionary fruit rather than be destroyed. Apocalypse then returns to his cryogenic sleep. Sanctiy sends Scott and Jean home, revealing that it was their presence that pushed Essex into becoming Sinister - for without Sinister, there would be no Cable and therefore, no one chosen to destroy Apocalypse.

In the present day, Sancity recruits Jean to figure out the heck is going with Maddie being back. A confrontation between Jean, Maddie, and Nate Grey reveals that Maddie came into being as a result of his desire to have some to care about him like Jean would have in the AoA.

Storm and Cable then stop a returned from the dead Marrow (thanks to a second heart!?) and Calisto from blowing up a Lila Cheny concert. Cable then confronts a Mutant-hating mob that reminds of a time in his past. Maddie then goes after Cable, trying to convince him to join her.

At the mansion, Wolverine shows up with the Hulk. A battle with the X-Men and the Hulk follows, the X-Men trying to help him (with Cable and Forge by their side). Hulk is then eventually teleported away by Apocalypse. Apocalypse seeks to make him into the Horsemen War and tests him by manipulating the organization One New World into sending Absorbing Man and Juggernaut against ol' Purple Pants. The Hulk (as War) trounces Creel and Juggy, but then breaks Rick Jones spine, which sends him back to normal and out of Apocalypse's grasp. Apocalypse then blows up the One New World.

So, what does all this mean to me?

"X-Men: Phoenix" is probably among the Top Ten worst X-Men stories ever. It contradicts various other elements of the mythos. It's poorly written, for the most part. I don't care about any of the characters except for Rachel and while her struggle with the Phoenix is nice, it doesn't make up for anything else that is wrong with this crappy comic. The art is particularly bad.

"Uncanny X-Men" # -1 is good, but it over-complicates things with Rachel and Sancity.

"Askani'Son" is okay, if not a little anticlimatic and boring. Gene Ha does a great job at picking up the slacky writiing. It's neat, also, to see Nathan grow from the baby we saw in X-Factor, the kid we saw in Adventures, and now the young man found here. Great job.

Likewise, "The Further Adventures of Cyclops and Phoenix" is great. I think it would have been stronger had Jean and Scott not been in there, but the perfect blend of Peter Milligan's creepy story and John Paul Leon's dark art style makes it a keeper. Plus - we find out why he calls himself Mr. Sinister!

The whole Maddie thing has always bothered me. From Day One, when she first showed up, I groaned. Even as an enthralled 12-14 year old, I groaned loudly at this. And the relationship between Maddie and Nate? Eeeeew! I wouldn't make out/have sex with my Mom's clone, alternate reality or not.

I'll give props to make Maddie an interesting character again, but this whole thing wasn't necessary and should have been dealt with in "X-Man" # 25 in finality.

The "Cable" issues are a bore, with Callisto acting way out of character. It's also revealed an younger Ch'Varye was sent back in time to create as Askani cult and . . . to give even me a headache! Ugh . . .

The "Hulk" issues are a highlight. With these being the only heroes left (save Spider-Man, Silver Surfer, Dr. Strange, and Daredevil), it's neat to see them interact in each other's corner of the universe. Apocalypse's testing of Hulk is esspecially well done, as it was written by Peter David and drawn by Adam Kubery. Drool!

Overall, I don't care for the needless clutter added to the already complicated Summers/Apocalypse/Askani situation. It makes for bad comics and smacks of unoriginality. While there are gems - "Further Adventures" and "Hulk," for one, everything else around these make for some bad to mediocre reading.


Saturday, December 02, 2006

Uncanny X-Periment # 76: "The Phalanx/Shi'ar Conflict"

One of the funny little things I’ve encountered in regards to this blog are the occasional “crossovers” into real time events. Me reading Banshee’s first appearance right around his death is a good example. Reading the revelations in “Deadly Genesis” as I’m reading Giant-Sized X-Men # 1. Reading “Onslaught” the same month as “Onslaught Reborn” comes out. And so on. Unfortunately, this latest coincidence is of a far less enjoyable note – Dave Cockrum, a visionary of the X-Men, passed away last weekend.

And yet, as I read through this patch of comics, they featured the Shi’ar. In my opinion, besides the X-Men redesigns, the Shi’ar rank up there with some of the best additions the pallet of the X-Men’s universe that wouldn’t have been as perfect if done by anyone else. Back during his initial run and his later arcs, Cockrum made the Shi’ar very strange and very alien, but at the same time still making them human enough for us Earthers to see a bit of ourselves in this strange world.

Beyond the Shi’ar, the new X-Men’s initial costumes still remain among their best (save Wolverine’s, but it still looks cool). In fact, that Storm costume is my favorite of all time, beating out all of the others. Same with Nightcrawler and Colossus.

So, thank you Dave Cockrum, for adding the perfect texture to Claremont’s words. The X-Men wouldn’t have been the same without you. Thank you.


Uncanny X-Men # 341-345, Generation X # 26

Joseph, Beast, Bishop, Gambit, Rogue, Trish, and Cannonball are in NYC on Christmas Eve, out for a night on the town. However, they all end up breaking off and doing their own thing. Trish and Beast go off for dinner. Bishop goes off to spend some time alone. As does Gambit. Joseph takes Rogue to the top of the WTC, where he shows her the Z’Nox Chamber (how it got there and then how it left is beyond me). He then uses said chamber to temporarily negate her powers. He gives her a tender smooch on the forehead.

Meanwhile, Cannonball is attacked by Gladiator, who (after a bit of a battle with Cannonball) teleports the X-Men (save Cannonball) to a starship and to save the Shi’ar in his stead (because the Imperial Guard are remaining on Earth to help out with the other heroes are “dead”). This team of X-Men arrives at a massive shipping hub, but they find it decimated and the crew all gone – expect for Deathbird.

The X-Men then discover who this foe is. Their old pals, the Phalanx. The Phalanx have torn through Shi’ar space. The gang play possum, teleport onto the homeworld, free Lilandria, protect the royal babies, and destroy the invading Phalanx by separating their organic from inorganic parts somehow.

They celebrate the success and decide to head back to Earth with Deathbird as their escort. On their way home, though, they are caught in massive ships wake and then get caught in the destruction of the stargate back to Earth.

Back on this green and blue orb, Jubilee is at the mercy of Operation: Zero Tolerance. She attempts to escape, but after accidentally injuring someone, she stays and help said person. Her last minute escape is then thwarted by Bastian.

Also on Earth, a creature searching for Joseph hunts down Sister Maria. Maria is then saved by the mysterious Maggot, who then asks the same question . . . just nicer.

Meanwhile, Generation X is stuck floating the middle of the ocean with no way to safety . . .

Overall, pretty good. Joe Mad and fill-in Melvin Rubi do a good job of capturing some of Cockrum’s style when it comes to the Shi’ar. Not to mention making the Phalanx about ten times cooler looking than their “Phalanx Covenant” appearance.

The story itself is a little shakey and while Lobdell does a great of focusing on the characters, the action/adventure side suffers. The ending is a dues ex machina that any Shi’ar scientist should have thought of. Good moments for a lot of the characters including: an about to be assimilated Rogue telling Gambit she loves him; Joseph having holocaust flashbacks; the Rogue/Joseph kiss; Cannonball’s battle with Gladiator; the Trish/Hank relationship; and Lilandria and Gambit’s respective angst. But are these great points worth the price of crappy moments, such as the big spaceship, the defeat of the Phalanx, and the unnecessary battle with Gladiator (cool looking, though)? Maybe.

It’s good to see the Shi’ar again, too. Always a great story with these guys, it seems.

Oh, and Generation X was good.

Plus Maggot! I love that guy!


Saturday, November 25, 2006

Uncanny X-Periment # 75: "The Creed Assassination"

X-Men # 58, Uncanny X-Men # 339, X-Men # 59, Uncanny X-Men # 340, X-Factor # 130, X-Men # 60-61, X-Men Unlimited # 14, Generation X # 25

Joseph is obsessed with helping Rogue. Getting into the Z'Nox Chamber, he plays around with the equipment and hopes that by adjusting her bio-electrical field, she can touch people. However, as Joseph approachs Rogue at night, Gambit misreads this as him peepin' at her. A throw-down follows, with Rogue getting pissed at both of them. Meanwhile, J. Jonah Jameson gets some information about Presidential Canidate Graydon Creed and heads off to France to retrieve it.

Spider-Man tells this to the X-Men and the follow in secret. A board the plane, Havok attacks and he and Cyclops battle it out in a freefall. Havok reveals that he's no longer living in his brother's shadow and that he's not under anyone's control - he's evil now! He then teleports away and Storm rescues Cyclops. Over in France, Bastian kills Jameson's source.

As Scott deals with everything by seeing "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" with Jean. It's cute. Also, Hercules shows up at the mansion and promptly tosses Bishop threw a wall. He approaches Beast about forming a new team of Avengers, but Beast declines. Quicksilver joins Hercules in departing after an angry confrontation with Joseph.

Now, Iceman and Cannonball have hidden themselves in the Creed campagin, taking the names Drake Roberts and Samson Guthry. However, during a live television interview in front of an audience, Bobby's bigot father stands up and goes off on a tyrat to Creed about how Mutants are just people and whatnot. Creed finds out this is "Drake Roberts" father and has his father beaten. Bobby pulls out of the operation, but Sam remains in. Bobby also takes a leave of absence to take care of his Dad, who have both finally made amends.

X-Factor is then called in to protect Creed as Election Day Eve comes around. Mystique, however, has other plans. During a final speech, she approaches her son with what appears to be a weapon. X-Factor takes her into custody and Val Cooper drives away with her, leaving X-Factor behind. On their way to X-Factor base of Fall's Edge, Mystique rants about how it wasn't a weapon she was brandishing and that there are many hidden levels of government that Val doesn't know about.

Back at the rally, X-Factor takes down Pyro. Right afterwards, unfortunately, someone blasts Creed. He is vaporized into dust. It turns out that Mystique is right - the device she had was a force field generator. She was trying to protect Creed.

As Sam deals with his failure to protect Creed, Storm and the External Mutant Candra battle it out with the Shadow King in regards to Storm's ever-changing jewel.

Beast, Storm, Gambit, Leech, Artie, and Franklin Richards then head to Hank McCoy's parents house for some down-time. Franklin is still depressed about the loss of his parents and has decided to blame it on Joseph. As a druken lynch mob attacks the gang, Franklin teleports Joseph to the farm and seeks to punish him for the death of the Fantastic Four. After the lynch mob is dealt with by the police, the others rush in to help calm Franklin down.

Except things aren't exactly all better for lil' Franklin. After returning to the Xavier's School, it is attacked by Black Tom Cassidy, who has taken Generation X captive with the help of the now revealed traitor Mondo. Jubilee, on her way to get help, is intercepted by Bastian, who then kills Mondo and takes her captive. Franklin, Leech, Artie, an alien named Tana Nile, are rescued from Black Tom by Howard the Duck and his girlfriend, Beverly. With the help of Man-Thing, the gang teleports away. Banshee then wakes up in a lair Black Tom constructed for himself and forces Sean to kill or be killed by the mind-controlled Emma Frost. If not, then the kids die. Emma forces Sean to scream at her, knocking her out. Black Tom then reveals that the Generation X kids before him are in fact husks and that the real kids aren't there. Then, as Black Tom prepares to kill Sean, there's one he didn't account for - Peneance. She tears into Tom and he's gone. With all that out of the way, the Generation X kids wake up in the middle of the ocean.

It's really hit and miss here. I enjoyed the Generation X issue a lot. Scott Lobdell does a great job of creating a nightmare situation for Emma and Sean, with Chris Bachelo picking up the fantastic art chores. Brillant work on both their parts.

The Franklin story is quite good too. Terry Kavanaugh does a good job of portraying Franklin's depression and need to to restore his family and general status quo. The art lacks, but it's an enjoyable story.

Other small things are good about these issues too. Scott and Jean's movie-going is a nice break and allows for some character and relationship building for this couple. I enjoyed the Gambit/Joesph fight. Hercules and Spider-Man showing up are pleasent treats.

But despite all that, there's a lot of bad to go around. I found the entire Graydon Creed presidential campagin underdeveloped and very unrealistic. I mean, who was this guy? He was able to keep his parents a secret, which is pretty impossible to do during any sort of campagin in general. He was member AND founder of a hate-group. His entire campagin was about hating Mutants . . . but what did he plan for them? Sure, he hates Mutants, but what was he planning on doing once he got into office? Sentinels? Surely, after the way they tore up NYC, they would not be good public symbols of the future.

Not to mention that Creed seems to have nothing more to say than "hey! I hate Mutants!" What was his stance on abortion? Gay rights? Flag burning? Church and state? Was he Democrat or Republican? Independant? None of these questions were ever even bothered to be addressed. Besides "I hate Mutants" and keeping his family secrets a secret, Graydon Creed was nothing more than a idiotic blip on the RADAR.

And let's talk about just how crappily the whole story of his assassination was handled. Sure, we got a fairly entertaining X-Factor story out of it (which is saying a lot seeing as how bad X-Factor was in those days), but what did they do about it? Obviously, not a whole lot as we didn't get to see who the assassin was for another five years. And let's face it - a story could and should have been done right then and there. Heck, how about a team-up with the X-Men to help solve the mystery? We had two very craptastic issues of X-Men that could have very easily been shoved out of the way (and into X-Men Unlimited or something) to make room for a four-part X-Men/X-Factor adventure. How much better would that have been? We could have Havok pop up to go "I'm evil!" and had Scott and Lorna get all angsty.

While, I'm ranting, I need to speak briefly about the whole Bobby/Father subplot. As good as that issue was when Bobby and his Dad make amends, I felt a little gyped. We know Bobby's Dad's an asshole, so what made him decide to play hero? Love for his son, I guess. But I remember just before that issue came out, reading an article that had Scott Lobdell saying that we would see Bobby's Dad having a long talk with Hank's Dad. Both fathers are great characters and it would have been great to see them interact.


To sum up. Creed stuff? Bad. Small moments? Good. Generation X and Franklin? Good. Overall? Not that great.


Monday, November 20, 2006

Uncanny X-Periment # 74: "Onslaught Aftermath"

Cable # 36, Uncanny X-Men # 337, X-Men # 57, Uncanny X-Men # 338, Generation X # 20, Onslaught Epilogue

Onslaught (and Mark Waid's X-Men career) maybe over, but there's still trouble still afoot as the teams scramble to recover from the war.

Cable, laid out in the derelict Four Freedoms Plaza, is being examined by Nathaniel Richards with Caliban, Storm, Cannonball, Franklin, and Domino looking on. As the Techno-Organic Virus rages out of control, threatening to kil him, Cable has a vision of Jenskot and Tyler and being able to say good bye to them both. On the brink of death, Cable's control returns . . . though by Franklin's strength or his own will is unknown.

Back at the remains of the mansion, Wolverine confronts Professor X on his guilt over Onslaught. However, he's unable to get him to breakfast with the rest of the X-Men at the boathouse.

This guilt then causes Charles to leave the X-Men, taken into custody by Val Cooper under the premise of helping to understand and prevent Onslaught from attacking again.

In New York, Archangel is confronted by Ozymadias and suddenly, his wings shatter, revealing the feathered ones below. He is then drawn to a church, where Pyro is trying his best to make peace as the Legacy Virus slowly kills him. The X-Men meet up with them, but Pyro goes spazzy and then Avalanche takes him away. Archangel really has no idea how he got his wings back.

Over in Generation X, there's trouble afoot. But mainly, the gang decompresses in the aftermath of Onslaught. Franklin Richards joins the cast and Chamber and Skin are hitchiking and run afoul of Howard the Duck. PUN!

We then flip over to Charles Xavier, who is being held captive by Operation: Zero Tolerance in regards to his connection with Onslaught. His powers still removed, there's a lot of debate (Gyrich vs. Bastian) regarding just how dangerous he is. Xavier makes contact with an extremely powerful little girl (a class of creature all her own, though) by the name of Nina. Professor X recruits the help of his therapist (Dr. Ingrid Thysson) and the Mutant Hunter named Daryll Smith (who is really a Mutant) to get Nina out of there. They do this elaborate ruse and Nina is freed.

Overall, we get a nice breather after the insanity that was "Onslaught." It's nice to see the fresh scars and wounds of the battle, both emotional and physical. The Cable story is nice, if not a little too hooky. Archangel finally gets some development! Can you imagine that?

Xavier's leaving of the X-Men is good (even though it's not the first time), because it allows his character to basically take a leave from the team and allows characters like Cyclops to really stand even taller as a leader (we'll go more in-depth with this later down the road). His adventures with Bastian and Nina leave something to be desired, but suit their purpose, I suppose.

Franklin's transfer to Generation X is nice move, definetly the logical choice. Really the perfect environment for the guy.

The highlight, though, is the "breakfast" issue. It's among my favorite X-Men stories as it not only takes into account recent events, but also serves as a great focus on different X-Men characters. Scott and Bobby's goofing off with Hank makes for a fun scene considering all that "Dark Beast" stuff that was going on. Jean has a tender moment with Quicksilver which is almost heartbreaking. Gambit's attitude about Joseph is great. The entire meal itself - where the various X-Men gather around Scott and Jean's table while it's pouring outside the mansion is partially destroyed - is priceless. It really gives the X-Men the feel that no matter what kind of crap they can have sholved against them, they can still hold together.


Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Uncanny X-Periment # 73: "Onslaught"

NOTE: Biggest blog entry EVER!

Cable # 33; Avengers # 400; X-Men # 53; Uncanny X-Men # 334; X-Men # 54; Onslaught: X-Men; Uncanny X-Men # 335 (pages 28-29); X-Factor # 125 (pages 1-12); Uncanny X-Men # 335 (rest of issue); X-Factor # 125; Cable # 34; Hulk # 444; Avengers # 401; Fantastic Four # 415; X-Factor # 126; Excalibur # 100; X-Man # 18; X-Force # 57; Wolverine # 104; Generation X # 18-19; X-Men # 55 (page # 1-17); Amazing Spider-Man # 415; Spider-Man # 72; X-Men # 55 (rest of issue); Uncanny X-Men # 336; Cable # 35; X-Force # 58; Punisher # 11; X-Men Unlimited # 12; Hulk 445; X-Man # 19; Iron Man # 332; Avengers # 402; Fantastic Four # 416; Wolverine # 105; X-Men # 56; Onslaught: Marvel Universe

A little over ten years ago, on the Saturday after school got out, I went out to my LCS and picked up “Onslaught: X-Men” along with Avengers # 400, Uncanny X-Men # 335 and Cable # 34. I was already jazzed about Onslaught, having glossed over the lead-in issues time and time again. I had been floored by the revelations in Cable # 33, X-Men # 53-54, and Uncanny X-Men # 334. I remember vividly staying up late that night, reading each of these issues listed above at a suspenseful pace, eagerly awaiting the next page, the next scene, the next issue!

Unfortunately, by the time the final issue of the crossover – “Onslaught: Marvel Universe” – came out, I didn’t have the entire story. I was missing bits and pieces of the crossover. This weighed on me for a long time. At comic book conventions from then on out, I sought after those few missing issues. It took me two full years, but when I left the Chicago Comic Con in 1998, I now had the entire Onslaught crossover. All I needed was time. Time to sit down and read the entire crossover in one fell swoop.

But I was entering into my sophomore year of high school at that point and time was something I just didn’t have. Too wrapped up in English, Biology, and the other comics of the day, I just never found the time to sit down and tackle them. High school ended and my on-and-off relationship with college began, but that still didn’t grant me the time – or even the strong desire – to sit down and read through it.

And then the X-Periment began. I knew that if I were to get the time and opportunity to read Onslaught, it would be with that. Thus, here we are, some ten years later. I completed “Onslaught: Marvel Universe” this morning after a full reading.

Despite what it says, Onslaught is best taken in four phases. Phase one is the opening salvo, Onslaught’s initial attack on the X-Men. Phase two is the missions and quests that bring the X-Men, the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, and X-Force together. Phase three is Onslaught’s attack on New York City. Phase four is the efforts of the X-Men, Avengers, and the Fantastic Four to end the threat of Onslaught.

Let’s break it down . . .

Phase One

Cable, his Techno-Organic Virus going bonkers, learns that his mentor Blaquesmith has gone missing. He goes to investigate, encounters Post and is beaten within an inch of his life. This is right before he figures out who Onslaught is. Post spares his life, as Cable saved his own many years earlier.

That same day, Jean Grey is going shopping and finding it hard to block out the hypocrisy of the residents of Salem Center. She is then suddenly pulled onto the Astral Plane by Onslaught, who wants her to join him. Not only that, but he also shows her his disgust with human hypocrisy; exposes Xavier’s repressed dark side; and his general evil-ness. She declines harshly and Onslaught lets her go. Over in Colorado, the shadow that was haunting Psylocke and Archangel appears in full form as Juggernaut, back from his jaunt in that place I’m not going to talk about.

Jean heads on home, terrified. At this moment, the Juggernaut appears to her, claiming to have information about Onslaught all trapped up in his mind, but inaccessible to him. Gambit and Bishop rally up the X-Men to find Juggernaut on the grounds while Cyclops goes off to have a chat with Professor X. Cyclops is now deeply concerned, as his mental rapport has been cut due to Jean and Juggy’s use of the ol’ Z’Nox Chamber. Professor X has Cyclops shut down the defenses down to lure the Juggernaut into the mansion (not knowing that he’s actually there and downstairs). Jean then uncovers who Onslaught and has Juggernaut get the flip outta there. Juggernaut goes running, but bumps into Onslaught in Xavier’s study.

And that’s when we find out that Onslaught and Professor X are one in the same.

Onslaught disposes of Juggernaut, then summons his X-Men to him. The X-Men arrive, including Dark Beast posing as Beast. Professor X transforms into Onslaught before their eyes and demands their allegiance. The X-Men decline and Onslaught departs for a bit.

Onslaught then goes to Four Freedoms Plaza and posing as Franklin Richardses invisible friend “Charlie,” continues to build some trust with him. Meanwhile, over at Avengers Mansion, Nate Grey has arrived, ranting that Professor X has gone nuts. The Avengers decide to investigate his claims.

Back at the mansion, Onslaught takes out the X-Men while they were trying to delete some files and disconnect Cerebro. Dark Beast shows himself and forms an alliance with Onslaught. The pair then take Jean, seeking to discover how her mind was able to serve as the template for the Phoenix. Jean fights back, escapes to the Z’Nox Chamber and sends out a legendary emergency transmission to the other X-teams. Onslaught arrives, almost killing her, but the X-Men intervene and strike hard. Onslaught makes them think he’s dead, but then materialized behind them. Bishop, this being the moment he’s been waiting for since he came back from the future, steps into the way of the beam and saves the X-Men. Onslaught then departs with Dark Beast.

(The transmission is received by all parties, but not necessarily seen. Generation X is away from their headquarters, but it’s possible saw it and that’s what made her do what she did – explain later. X-Force saw it en route from a mission. Excalibur saw it, but they had something more immediate happen. As for X-Factor . . .)

Dark Beast presents his soldiers to Onslaught – the teleporting assassin Fatale; the brainwashed Havok; and Random, who has infiltrated X-Factor. Onslaught then summons X-Factor’s training Sentinel, which causes X-Factor to miss out on Jean’s transmission.

X-Factor (whose roster is now Forge, Polaris, Wild Child, Mystique, Shard, Sabretooth, and Random [kinda]) follows a tracking signal to the abandoned Brand Corporation, where there are Sentinels are being held in stand-by. A battle with Post, Havok, Fatale, and Random follows. Polaris gets all weepy and angsty fighting Havok, but defeats him in the end. Meanwhile Dark Beast captures Sabretooth, Mystique and Forge and the Sentinels are taken away from the Brand Corporation.

Back in Westchester, the Avengers and Nate Grey arrive at the mansion, where the gang plays a game of catch-up. Professor X is Onslaught, but seems to also have ties to Magneto. Onslaught is after both Nate Grey and Franklin Richards. Cable is missing. Moira MacTaggert claims to have the secret to defeating Xavier/Onslaught at Muir Island.

And, unknown to all of them, Apocalypse has returned and has joined the Watcher in observing the Onslaught conflict as it unfolds.

They divide into teams.

Phase Two

Storm goes off to retrieve Cable. Unfortunately, Onslaught has sent the Hulk to take care of him. I’m not sure when he was to mind control the Hulk, but he did and now the Hulk is after Cable, whose T.O. Virus is outta control! Cable and Storm both to their best to take down the Green Giant, tearing through his smart self, his mobster self and then getting into savage self. Hulk then runs off with Cable, Storm in pursuit. The trio battle across Baltimore, eventually ending with a combination of lightning and telepathic attacks that nearly kills Banner. Cable then pulls Banner/Hulk out from Onslaught’s mind control and the trio sent off to take Onslaught down.

In New York, the Gambit and the Avengers (now that’s an odd fit) head to Norfolk, Va. where they believe they’ve found Magneto. In fact, they have found Magneto, but de-aged, amnesic, and hanging out with Rogue. Quicksilver immediately overreacts to his father and a conflict ensues. Joseph takes down Captain America, Iron Man, and Quicksilver. He eventually goes after Scarlet Witch, which reminds her of her demeaning time in the Brotherhood. However, after he releases her, she realizes he’s not the man that once lorded over her and Quicksilver. She, Rogue, and Gambit calm everyone down and they head off with Joseph in tow.

Back in NYC, a team of Avengers (Black Widow, Hawkeye, and Crystal) and Iceman and Bishop head to Four Freedoms Plaza. They get there right in time, as Onslaught attacks and takes down Nathaniel Richards, the Skrull Lyja, and Ant-Man. The group battles it out, but are unable to stop Onslaught from taking Franklin.

Back at the Brand Corporation, Forge, Sabretooth, and Mystique escape and find out that the real Beast in captive below. They grab Wild Child and head on back into Dark Beast’s lair to save him. Havok and Random both manage to escape, with Random dying (I guess) and Havok hurting Polaris on his way out. The rest of X-Factor rescues Beast and capture both Dark Beast and Fatale.

Cyclops, Archangel, Psylocke, Phoenix, and Cannonball arrive at Muir Island and find out about the Xavier Protocols. Brainwave keys encrypt the Xavier Protocols and the combination of those keys unlocks the secrets as to how to disable or even kill each and every X-Person. Cyclops, Phoenix, and Moira reveals how to create a Psi-Armor that would protect them from Xavier’s telepathy. This is good news that quickly turns bad as the other X-Men enter and they accidentally download how to kill and disable other X-Men. They then head on home.

Back at the mansion, X-Force is busy keeping Nate Grey protected. Mr. Sinister shows up to recover Nate Grey. Various battles with X-Force later and Sinister is able to use Nate’s power against his own protectors and himself. Sinister then leaves with Nate Grey as his captive, hoping to use him against Apocalypse and to keep him away from Onslaught.

Up north, Wolverine has arrived at Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters (the Generation X one), where he hopes to get information from Gateway, considering Gateway’s connection with Onslaught. With Elektra’s help, they coax some information outta him. As it turns out, when Xavier wiped out Magneto’s mind up on Avalon, part of Magneto’s personality merged with Xavier’s dark side. The merging created an entity called Onslaught.

Meanwhile, Emma Frost dumps Banshee out in the middle of nowhere and takes Generation X up to her Canadian safehouse. There, Generation X is forced by Emma to be happy, but then do battle with Toad. Toad, as usual, turns out to be a zero threat. Banshee then arrives with the help of Sasquatch from the defunct Alpha Flight.

Phase Three

As the various teams converge at Four Freedoms (the X-Men save the team that went to Muir Island; the Avengers; and the Fantastic Four), the Sentinels rain down upon New York City. Within seventeen minutes, they cut off all of Manhattan from the outside world. The heroes take to the streets, including Spider-Man and his, uh, clone Peter Parker (yep, G.D. Clone Saga).

With Franklin Richards now within him, Onslaught uses his powers to create his citadel in Central Park. Immediately after that, Onslaught unleashes a massive Electro-Magnetic Pulse that wipes everyone out and shuts down anything electric.

Within Onslaught, Franklin finds Professor X and wakes him up. Xavier, appalled by this monster he had created, comforts Franklin best he can. Onslaught transforms into a larger monster and is confronted by a team of X-Men and Avengers, along with the Invisible Woman. Cyclops hits Onslaught with full blast, Invisible Woman open the crack in the armor and Thor slams through, grabbing hold of Xavier and tearing him from Onslaught himself. Thinking that this will do it, Onslaught reveals that he and Xavier are now two separate entities. He then unleashes a massive psi-storm that keeps them away from the citadel.

Cable and Invisible Woman then brave the psi-storm in an effort to save Franklin. Apocalypse joins in to help them out and Cable is stunned to find ol’ Poccy alive and kickin.’ Cable and Apocalypse head off to Onslaught’s citadel, where Apocalypse is planning on actually killing Franklin. Cable and Invisible Woman stop him, and Apocalypse leaves, all p.o.’d. Franklin now has hope, though.

Whatever there was of Xavier left in Onslaught goes off and helps save X-Force from certain death.

SHIELD then shows up, but Sentinels blast the hellicarrier out of the sky. As scavengers go to raid it, the Punisher arrives on the scene and helps Contessa, Dugan, and GW Bridge evacuate it and blow it the heck up.

Back at the mansion, Dr. Strange goes to investigate the abandoned Gem of Cyttorak. There’s all sorts of trials and tribulations with the god Cyttorak, and Gomurr and Tar help Cain get the power back and . . . stuff.

Phase Four

Hulk wants to go against Onslaught. Captain America doesn’t. Hulk, Vision, Falcon, Crystal, and Hawkeye go underground beneath the citadel to bust Onslaught up. They hit the psi-storm and Hulk is caught up in a fantasy that shows their team being wiped out. Their fragile trust in the Hulk is shattered and they head it on back.

Nate Grey, at the mercy on Mr. Sinister, is stuck at Mr. S’s base. As Sinister tries to talk Nate into helping him against Apocalypse, Onslaught seeks to capture Nate. He does this using a projection of Franklin. Onslaught eventually grabs hold of Nate after a heated argument between he and Sinister.

In New York, Quicksilver, Iron Man, and Giant-Man head to the Wakandian Consulate to get the materials to construct the Psi-Armors. While Quicksilver and Giant-Man struggle with Sentinels, Black Panther and Iron Man build the Psi-Armors. They then head to Times Square.

There, the rest of the Avengers meet up with them. Captain America is shaken as the citizens of New York have lost all hope in the face of this crisis. As he and the other Avengers get a hold of the Psi-Armors, Holocaust and Post arrive to take them. The Avengers face off against the pair, having some difficulty. Captain America struggles with what to do, as the Avengers seem outmatched by these two whackos. Cap then tricks Holocaust into attack a cloaked Post, then the Avengers manage to take down Holocaust themselves. This rallies up the spirit of a nearby mob.

At Four Freedoms, the Fantastic Four are welcoming any and all who are willing to help. As this is occurring, Franklin attempts to get a message out to his parents. Onslaught tampers with this message, causing the message to instead be manifestations of the Fantastic Four’s enemies. The Fantastic Four deal with them while also having Puppet Master, Alicia, She-Hulk, Namor, Black Panther, Fantastic Force (?!), the Inhumans, and Doctor Doom join up. Also, Beast is back. They are able to block the transmission and gather everyone up for the final assault.

Over in the Bronx, Wolverine rescues a child from a fire. After this, he goes after the man known as Stick, who talks Wolverine into continuing his pursuit of his humanity. Wolverine is then summoned by the Human Torch into coming back to Four Freedoms to prepare for the final battle.

After being mocked by Doctor Doom, Joseph is looking for answers. At first, he talks to Captain America, but Cap can’t offer an solace. Xavier and Joseph then speak, with Xavier telling him that he has an opportunity to start a new, while the now powerless Xavier must deal with the guilt. Xavier then secretly heads to the citadel. Jean catches wind of this telepathically and tells Scott. Scott orders the X-Men be rounded up in secret. Back at the citadel, Onslaught tears into Nate’s mind, searching for more information about the Age of Apocalypse. When he learns that the AoA Magneto sought to destroy the world, he realizes that Mutants are just as bad as humans and seeks to just totally destroy the world. He tosses Nate inside of him with Franklin. Xavier then shows up to deal with Onslaught.

Onslaught, about to kill Xavier, is struck hard by the arriving Cable and the X-Men. Unfortunately, Onslaught hands their asses to them. Lucky for them, that’s when the Avengers, Fantastic Four, Hulk, Namor, She-Hulk, and Doctor Doom show up. Onslaught creates a second sun to destroy the Earth and erects a force field around him.

The super-heroes contend with the shield and with the combined might of Vision and Rogue, are able to do some damage to him, but Onslaught somehow ends up able to be charged by this attack. Hulk then leaps in and asks Phoenix to release the Banner side of him, unleashing the savage and uncontrollable Hulk upon Onslaught. As the two battle and battle, Cable, Joseph, and Xavier plan on a way to bring Franklin and Nate out of Onslaught by linking the Xavier and Joseph.

Onslaught makes Hulk madder and madder, which comes to a head when Hulk lands a massive punch against Onslaught. His armors break up, reality twists. Suddenly, Hulk and Banner are two people and Onslaught has evolved into a being of pure energy, unstoppable now. The only way to stop him is for Onslaught to have a host. In an ever-heroic move, Thor roars forth and slams into Onslaught’s body. It kills Thor, but also does serious damage to Onslaught as well. Human Torch and Thing follow up, as do the Avengers. When it comes down to the end, it’s Mr. Fantastic and Invisible Woman. They have the X-Men fire upon Onslaught once they all go in, thus blasting him out of existence.

They do so and as the last super-heroes sacrifice themselves, the X-Men strike as one. With Cable’s help, Xavier and Joseph pull Franklin and Nate Grey out of Onslaught’s exploding energy body. Onslaught is then obliterated, just as Banner enters.

And it’s done. However, the entire world just saw the X-Men fire upon the super-heroes when they were in the middle of an energy field. Apocalypse declares that this is the beginning of his era. But there is still hope that the heroes may have survived . . .


It’s hard for me to judge Onslaught. As a whole, I think Onslaught is on the lines of a big summer blockbuster movie. It’s a little predictable, a lot of flashy special efforts, some drama, some humor, some cool characters with awesome lines, and – if you think about it too much, the whole thing falls apart.

Put into simplest terms, what is Onslaught all about? Onslaught is the story of a terrible creature born out of a moment of desperation when the darkness of two enemies (Xavier and Magneto) merged. This creature, Onslaught, manifested itself from the dark recesses of Professor Xavier, gathering together various agents, each one having a past with Xavier’s students. Onslaught to have Mutants dominate the globe as humans were full of spite and hypocrisy. He sought the power Franklin Richards and Nathan Grey to fulfill these tasks. And when he glimpsed upon the world that Nathan Grey hailed from, he learned that both humanity and Mutantkind were corrupt and weak. He decided to destroy the Earth, but with the sacrifice of a number of super-heroes – mostly human, at that – Onslaught was defeated. Inadvertently, this sacrifice painted Mutants as even more vicious and hated than ever before. Put this way, it sounds almost epic, doesn’t it? Well, it’s not. At least, not in a fantastic way.

Don’t get me wrong. Onslaught is a great read, but it suffers from more than a few problems. First, among all things, Onslaught himself is a very flat villain. He makes long-winded speeches, unleashes devastating attacks, and is evil purely for the sake of being evil. He hates humans because Magneto hates humans. He later hates Mutants because he thought they were stupid in some alternate reality. There’s nothing to him. At times, it does seem like the writers want to flesh him out, to make him more interesting. But these times are few and far in between. He goes from being a real threat, really coming out and kicking ass to being a plot device for “Heroes Reborn” in a matter of issues. Even the concept of Onslaught’s creation is shaky. Sure, he seems cool, but the moment you really start to think of how silly it is, the more you begin to question why Onslaught even exists.

Secondly, some of the issues drag on and on endlessly and needlessly. Issues of Fantastic Four never end, each one serving to be too long and too complex for their own good.

The constant use of illusions gets old fast. There are cliches galore, especially in terms of dialogue. Plus, the whole story gets very predictable when the foreshadowing grows out of control.

But there is some good in all of this. While I know that Avengers and Fantastic Four fans roll their eyes at this story, it serves well as a development for the X-Men. It gives humans yet another reason to hate Mutants. It allows for various subplots – Rogue/Gambit, for one – to take another turn as the story begins to coalesce. Bishop’s quest to stop the traitor, the aforementioned Rogue/Gambit relationship, the Dark Beast’s plans, Cable/Apocalypse, X-Man/Sinister . . . a good couple more all get some time in the sun.

Also, Captain America shines through as a true leader and super-hero. He’s written very well, I feel. His doubts during the Post and Holocaust battle take him onto a more human level, while his abilities and very attitude on both the field and among the other heroes makes him larger-than-life. A great scene is during the final battle with Onslaught when Cap kinda takes a second to look around and be honored to work alongside such great heroes.

Then there’s Thor, who really embodies the Thor I’ve really pictured. A hero, a warrior, more than willing to throw himself into the maw of danger and destruction. In fact, most of the big Thor moments in Onslaught are actually the best all-in-all, including his freeing of Xavier from Onslaught and his being the first sacrifice.

The sacrifice scene in it of itself is well done, allowing each of the various characters a moment to shine before they go off to be drawn by Rob Liefeld, Jim Lee, and Whilce Portatio. Hank and Jan share a moment, as do Reed and Sue. Quicksilver yelling for Crystal when she enters Onslaught is particularly heart wrenching, despite how crappy their marriage was. Even Teen Iron Man gets a nice exit, grabbing Doctor Doom and zooming right him right into Onslaught with him.

There are also terrible characters. While the X-Men, the majority of the Avengers, and the Fantastic Four are all well written, Doctor Doom comes off as uber-lame. He’s the total exaggeration of what and who his character is and puts even the kookiest villains to shame during his appearances. On top of that, Quicksilver comes off just as badly. He is written like a cliché.

The writing various from issue to issue, of course, and while most of it is mostly, there are some parts that are worse than others. The Punisher, Generation X, X-Force, and the two Spider-Man books all suffer from lagging stories and/or stories that are very much unnecessary.

I’ll also be honest when I say that as a geeky X-Fan, I really wanted to see X-Factor, X-Force, Excalibur, and Generation X jump in with the X-Men and help them against Onslaught. If only for a few pages . . . [sigh]

On the art front, we’ve got mostly all winners. Carlos Pacheco on Fantastic Four, Ian Churchill on Cable, Joe Mad on Uncanny, Andy Kubert on X-Men, Andy Kubert on the Onslaught one-shots, Steve Skorce on X-Man, and Chris Bachelo on Generation X. Where can you go wrong? Well, Steve Epting on Avengers, Angel Medina on Hulk, Joe Bennet on Iron Man, Val Semeiks on Wolverine, and Castrillo on X-Force. These artists, whether or not they’re good now and whether or not they’re guest pencilling, are pretty bad in terms of creating dynamic and interesting forms of art.

And this is definitely a case when you can see just how much a good colorist and inker can make or break the art. Andy Kubert’s art can off as rather flat thanks to poor inking. Plus, the colors on Avengers and Iron Man are horrendous. Why in the world are these two books not colored in the same way that X-Men and Avengers are? The quality – or lack there of – is terrible. At least one full panel and a number of characters and objects in the Avengers aren’t colored at all.

The overall design of Onslaught is pretty cool, I’ll give them that. It’s a pet peeve that his mid-crossover transformation is half-ignored, but I guess I can blame that on a memo or e-mail just making the rounds.

So, where do I stand on Onslaught? I’d have to say that for all the good things about, there’s an equal amount of bad. I can’t help but be swept up in the excitement of the story, but I also can’t help but be bothered by the flaws of it. I think it had potential to be something better and indeed, it may have been planned to be. But at the end of the day, it quickly became a vehicle for “Heroes Reborn.” (A quick note of “Heroes Reborn” – it was the darkness before the dawn. Sure, it was crap, but at least Jim Lee’s art was pretty. And the aftermath brought that amazing Busiek/Perez run on Avengers)

There is a deep thought in Onslaught, but you have to be eagle-eyed to catch it. At times, it comes off as a “twilight of the gods,” as it were. The heroes are made to parallel the ancient gods of old, now fading into the annals of history . . . until the next year, when they come back, better than ever.

Final thoughts on Onslaught? It was a fun ride, if not convoluted and disappointing at times. It had some great moments, but some crappy ones too. Out of ten (one being “The Draco” and Ten being “The Dark Phoenix Saga”), I’d say it’s a firm 5.


Saturday, November 11, 2006

Uncanny X-Periment # 72: "Rising Darkness"

X-Man # 15-17, Wolverine # 97-100, Uncanny X-Men # 332, Wolverine # 101, Cable # 32, Uncanny X-Men # 333, X-Force # 33, X-Men # 51-52, X-Men Unlimited # 10

In the aftermath of his battle with Cable, Nate Grey and Threnody head to a small Greek island to relax. However, this gets disrupted when Holocaust is recruited by Onslaught and goes off to bring Nate to him. A wild battle follows, one that Nate eventually wins. Threnody then suggests that Nate goes off and gets help. But Nate hates all those that "wear the colors of Xavier," so she recommends the Avengers!

Wolverine, then, um, goes on a really strange interdimensional trip provided by the Madripoor law offices of Ladau, Luckman, and Lake. This eventually lands him in the hands of Cable's mad son, Tyler aka. Genesis. Genesis plans on giving Logan his Adamantium back, then making him the newest Horsemen of Apocalypse - Death. It turns out that Genesis has somehow recovered Apocalypse's body and put it in a tomb within his citadel. Cannonball shows up and helps Logan out. However, the Adamantium bonding process gets rejected and Logan transforms into something more animal than man. He then kills Genesis while Cannonball discovers that the tomb Apocalypse was placed in is now empty!

The X-Men head to Egypt to find the uber-feral Wolverine and find that he is hanging out the pure-stone chronciler Ozymadias. Remember him? Anywhoo, some battle or another follows. Ozymadias goes into hiding.

Cable, reeling from the death of his son, heads to Camp Hayden, where the Sentinals were stolen with the word "Onslaught" the only clue. Unforunately, as opposed to last time, the angst-ridden Cable and Domino run into trouble. They escape with no new evidence of who or what Onslaught is. What they don't know is that Post was following them around.

The X-Men then conduct a secret observation of a meeting between various world powers regarding the Mutant problem. They discover a man named Bastian, who is planning on activating a military Mutant battilon called "Operation: Zero Tolerance." Bastian also knows a fair amount about Onslaught and is able to pick out Gambit and Phoenix out of the crowd on military brass. The pair of X-Men are then rescued by Onslaught, who tells Jean it's a gift.

Meanwhile, Cyclops was meeting with Senator Kelly, who warned Scott of, well, Operation: Zero Tolerance. This is then followed by an explosion that takes both Scott and the Senator out. Scott is taken captive, but is then rescued by Cable and X-Force.

The X-Men then learn of a massive genetic spike aboard of runaway train. Bishop, Gambit and Dark Beast in Beast's clothing head to check it out. Gambit and Bishop do a great, crazy stunt to stop the train. Dark Beast then discovers that all of the passengers have mutated, but only for a limited time. The trio are then captured by Sinister, who plays with Bishop's memories, confirming that the AoA does indeed exist. Dark Beast, freaked out by Sinister, encourages Gambit to flip out. Gambit does and tricks Sinister. Sinister gets beaten temporarily and runs off. The X-Men head on home.

Also, Graydon Creed throws in his bid for President. And Psylocke and Archangel encounter a strange shadow being at Warren Colorado home, where the two are recovering.

Joseph, the younger and amnesic Magneto, ends up joining a hate group called Humanity's Last Stand, which is sponsered by Bastian and Operation: Zero Tolerance. Humanity's Last Stand captured Rogue, which makes it clear to Joseph that he's fallen with the wrong crowd. He and Rogue take out their base, tossle with some of the stragglers. Rogue, not quite sure what to think of Joseph, decides to drive him up Xavier's.

While reading this batch, I kept thinking about a scene from an old issue where Magneto warns Banshee that a war is coming between humans and Mutants. Here, it's so very clear. We've got the mysterious uber-Mutant Onslaught out gathering Mutants like Holocaust, Post, plus Blob, Mimic, and a bunch of Sentinals. On the other side, there's Bastian, Operation: Zero Tolerance, Graydon Creed, and Humanity's Last Stand. Not to mention the implied returned of Apocalypse. It really feels like that long-predicted war is becoming a reality.

Great job to all parties with rise in tension. You can feel the worry and concern over these two rising enemies throughout this group. There's good character building, but most of it on Wolverine and Cable. It's taken a bit of a backseat, but that's all right.

A nice batch with some great planting of the seeds. Exciting stuff.


Thursday, November 09, 2006

Uncanny X-Periment # 71: "Omnious"

X-Man # 12, Excalibur # 95, X-Men # 48-50, X-Force # 52, Cable # 29, X-Man # 13, Cable # 30, X-Man # 14, Cable # 31, X-Men Unlimited # 10, Uncanny X-Men # 331

Nate Grey heads to Muir Island after bumping into Rogue. There, he meets Moira and Excalibur (whose ranks now include Wolfsbane, Colossus, and newcomer Pete Wisdom). Moira examines Nate and realizes that his power is slowly killing him and that he won't make to age 21. Nate overhears this, learns of her connections with Xavier (who he hates, because Xavier snuck around him), and goes postal. Excalibur intervines and eventually, with the knowledge that his life is running out, Nate takes off.

Over in NYC, Bishop has words with Scott and Jean regarding his newly acquired memories of the AoA. They give him some helpful advice. Meanwhile, Dark Beast and Surgar Man have a meeting in which they decide to off Bishop. Dark Beast sends his assassin-under-cover Fatale off to kill him. Bishop resists and Dark Beast calls it off when he spots the real Beast hanging out with Bishop!

After all this, Storm, Wolverine, Cyclops, and Iceman are abducted by a being known as Post. Post, as it turns out, is a herald of the mysterious Onslaught. The foursome take down Post after some nasty fighting, then are teleported back to the mansion. As it turns out, Gateway was the one responsible for zipping them all over the place. Onslaught and Post then warn the X-Men that trouble is still a brewin.'

Back over at Camp Hayden (remember that?), Syrin, Meltdown, and Domino go to check out the Nimrod and Sentinal programs . . . only to find the base abandoned, the Sentinals gone, the word "ONSLAUGHT" written along the side of a wall, and an uber-powerful Blob. The girls face down the Blob, with Meltdown going a little too far at one point. Blob is then extracted by Mimic.

Back, Blaquesmith has gathered Cable, Moira, Cyclops, Phoenix, Storm, and Professor X for a meeting about Nate Grey. They discuss and Blaquesmith eventually tells them that Nate Grey should not exist. Cable heads on out to find him and take him down. As they're having this mission, Nate bumps into Threnody, who has abandoned Sinister and is being chased by the Maraudars. Nate takes them down and he and Threnody head to where Nate landed - the Swiss Alps. There, they come upon one of Cable's safehouses.

Cable meets up with them, but there's some telepathic feedback when they get close. Cable tries to talk to Nate, but Nate rejects him. This awakens the regenerating Exodus (who we find out was an ancient agent of Apocalypse). Nate eventually tosses Exodus in some ice and freezes him.

(SPECIAL NOTE: He wakes up in 2099, fights a future X-Team called X-Nation, then travels back to the present. Neat, huh?)

Cable and Nate have a throw-down, eventually resulting in Nate burning out his own powers. Cable repairs his mind at the cost of losing control of his own techno-organic virus. They part ways and we learn that Onslaught has dispatched Post to keep an eye on Nate (regarding their "history").

At this time, Dark Beast begins to learn about his 616 counter-part. He meets with an old principle, whom he murders. He sees Hank's old girlfriend, and kills her. He blows up Hank's former priest. Eventually, he meets with Hank's parents, but can't bring himself to killing them.

Later, he taunts and then captures our Beast and takes his place within the X-Men. Not good. As soon as he gets there, he blows up his own lab.

Also, Iceman confronts Emma about the use and potential of his powers. It's neat, but lame at the same time.

So with fake Beast taking the place of real Beast and rumors of Onslaught going around, people are getting paranoid. Add in the whole Nate Grey mystery and it's a tough time for the X-Men and they barely even know it.

Nate Grey serves as a vital player is this era and I'll admit that his character is pretty neat. However, at many times, he's written just a little too rebellous for my tastes. So rebellous, it borders on cliched. His parallels with Cable are cool, with them both pretty much dying. I'll grant that his whole in overall Cable/Apocalypse mythology is far more important than I had originally thought. I'll shed some more light on that when the comes. Plus, the throwdown with Excalibur was really cool.

As for Onslaught, it's cool to have such a massive mystery lingering about. The X-Men have been just too darn busy with the Legacy Virus, Gene Nation, the fall of Avalon, Nate Grey, Sabretooth, Psylocke, and whatnot to really think that whoever tossed around Juggernaut is going to be much of a threat. Not anymore.

So, good job new writer Mark Waid and veterns Scott Lobdell, Jeph Loeb, Warren Ellis, and John Ostrander for an exciting, yet dark period for the X-Men. While their writing is not the best comic writing I've seen, they've managed to create some very good coordinated chaos into the X-Men's little world. And to be honest, we haven't seen much of that lately. The AoA was cool as shit, but what lasting effects did it have directly on the X-Men? Plus, other than Blink dying, only good things came out of the Phalanx Convenant (Generation X). With all this nastiness and just plain bad times for the X-Men, it's a energentic and exciting.

Plus, amazing art. Joe Mad on Uncanny, Andy Kubert on X-Men, Steve Skorce on X-Man, Carlos Pacheco on Excalibur, Ian Churchill on Cable . . . what great eye candy!


Sunday, November 05, 2006

Uncanny X-Periment # 70: "Creed"

Uncanny X-Men # 328, Sabretooth: Red Zone, X-Force # 51, Uncanny X-Men # 329-330

Uh, so yeah, Fabian's last issue is in this batch. Not the last. Whoops!

Anyways . . .

So, Sabretooth shows everyone that he's smart again. This basically pisses off Boomer and has Professor X deciding that there's nothing he can do for Creed anymore and plans to have Val Cooper haul his ass outta there with some SHIELD guys. However, before hand, Boomer goes off to have some words with Creed. Creed, however, just eggs her on until Boomer decides to blow him up . . . only in succeeding in blowing up his restraints. Luckily, Psylocke steps in to fight him. Unfortunately for her, it ain't like last time. While Betsy gets in some good blows, he pretty hands her ass to her. By the time the other X-Men are there, Psylocke's down . . . and pretty much dead.

So, Creed's on the run. Caliban makes a swipe at him as he's rushing though the adjoining Morlock tunnels, but Sabretooth takes him down. Various teams are deployed, with the orignal X-Men crew heading to NYC. The chase him around, the entire time, the complete and utter disaster of having him live there hanging above their heads. Sabretooth eventually takes a huge chunk of Archangel's wing out. Finally, as Jean is holding him, he busts loose and falls to the ground (and this is after a big throw-down with Beast and Cyclops). Beaten and broken, he takes one final pot-shot at the X-Men by spitting blood on Cyclops' cool-ass "X."

As one would expect, Boomer doesn't take any of this business well. So what does that mean? Why, a wild crazy 90's-style angsty MAKE-OVER!!!! Belly shirt, push-up bra (I'm assuming), hip huggers, risque zipper, short hair-cut, and a new code-name: Meltdown! (she's actually hotter this way)

To save Psylocke's life, Wolverine and Archangel embark on a quest in Chinatown for the Crimson Dawn. They enlist the help of Dr. Strange and Gomurr the Ancient and face down various "Inu-Yasha" rejects before at last confronting a being named Tar. He allows Psylocke to gain the power of the Crimson Dawn, which is a mystical force (as if her life couldn't get more complicated).

A good patch. The Meltdown issue is kinda dumb, but damn it, I love that sexy cover. And it's good to see Creed has had an effect on her. The Crimson Dawn story is pretty good, although a little too Anime-esque for my tastes. It's fun to see Wolverine and Archangel team-up, considering all their history.

The two Sabretooth stories themselves and brillant. The fundamental feeling of failure is palpable. The idea that Professor X has really screwed this up sends ripples throughout the team. The fact that Professor X failed is great, bringing to the table a lot of questions regarding the X-Men's career. The whole affair is, in some ways, akin to the Dark Phoenix Saga. However, where it was Jean's humanity that saved them all, it was Sabretooth's viciousness that damned them. Despite lossing some of its impact some ten years later now, this story is great and should be held in higher regard.

Joe Mad's art is pure awesome, too. Plus, little things like having the original X-Men hunt down the person who practically tore them apart is a shining gem in this story. Hands off to Fabian for that.


Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Uncanny X-Periment # 69: "Confrontations"

X-Force # 45-46, Cable # 22-25, Uncanny X-Men # 326, X-Force # 50, X-Man # 10, X-Men 46-47, Uncanny X-Men # 327

I should note that now, Fabian Niciezia has left the X-Building. Overall, it's tough to judge the kind of work he did with the X-Men. While he handled some stories and arcs quite well - Fatal Attractions, the Sabretooth subplot, Rogue/Gambit, and basically all of his Cable/X-Force work - he also failed in some regards. Many of his stories were too complicated for their own good and sometimes, he just wouldn't wrap something up, leaving it out there for too long. But he was better than Richard Drake.

Upwards and onwards . . .

X-Force is still adjusting to their new lives at the mansion. Caliban goes after Sabretooth, much to the dismay of Boomer, who has grown an affection for Sabretooth. Turns out that Creeds basically a whole lot of nothing upstairs as a result of Wolverine popping his third claw into Creed's brain. She brings him milk every day, which upsets Cable, Xavier, Cannonball, and Wolverine. So, when Caliban lays into him, she goes a little nutty. Cable steps in, though, and has Caliban back off.

Cable then ships X-Force into Siberia to check on a weather station that has gone dead. It seems that the four members of the weather station were associates of Professor X and suddenly, three of them are dead. When X-Force arrives, they get the shock of the lifetime (meh) when none other than Mimic is found there. Turns out he's been living at the weather station for a good long while, as his power doesn't work around normal humans. Unfortunately, around X-Force, his powers go hey-wire. But something happens during the inevitable confrontation and Mimic vanishes.

In an effort to track down Tyler, Cable goes to his fellow time traveling mentor, Blaquesmith. Blaquesmith tells Cable to go to Tyler's old base. It's there Cable finds his dead lady-love, Aliya. Turns out she's come back to bring Cable to the future to save his young self from some sort of psi-attack. It's a bit of a pre-destination paradox. He arrives and helps out his feverish younger self and drags Domino with him, who had an encouter with former teammate Grizzly, who is under the influence of Tyler.

Meanwhile, Gambit (still reeling from the Rogue rejection) confronts Creed about his past crimes. It doesn't faze Sabretooth, seeing as he has the intelligence of a kitty-cat. As this is occuring, Professor X and Beast address the World Health Organization, getting the word across about the Legacy Virus and dispelling some of those nasty rumors.

Back to X-Force, the team has been captured and brainwashed by the new Hellfire Club - this time consisting of a returned Sebastian Shaw, the mysterious Tessa (heh), and the fully restored Holocaust. They send them after Cable, but Cable mind-blasts them and rattles them free of the mind-control.

Blaquesmith then goes to Professor X, asking him to check out Nate Grey. Professor X does so, but Nate detects his presence and rips the Prof's psi-self out from the Astral Plane into the real world. The two then battle, with Nate rejecting everything Xavier has to say. Xavier then lets Nate think he killed him.

Then, Gambit, Bishop, Phoenix, and Iceman head out on the town . . . only to end up face-to-face with the X-Babies. The X-Babies are being hunted by Gog and Magog, who wish to erase their existence to help ensure that Mojo's legacy is wiped out. Silliness abounds, which is then followed by a surprisingly not pregnant Dazzler. I don't know what the deal is there, but she takes the X-Babies back to Mojoverse with her.

Finally, Magneto (or is it?) awakens in Brazil, and is amnesic. He's taken in by a kind nun and helps out at her orphanage. However, when the locals want Magneto - or, as he is renamed, "Joseph" - he lashes out and scares the crap outta those kids. He then packs up and leaves.

Fairly "meh" group of comics here, though there are some diamonds in the rough. Caliban versus Sabretooth. The reappearance of Mimic and Dazzler. The Nate Grey/Professor X fight. Gambit and Bishop at a club, trying to sort things out between them (Bishop still doesn't trust Remy, but they work incredibly good together). The new Hellfire Club. Even the whole "Boomer likes Sabretooth" subplot is a nice turn.

But there's some boring stuff here. Xavier's Leacy Virus angst is overdone. Nate Grey comes off a little cliched at times. The Cable/Aliya/Dayspring story too convulted. Gambit's confrontation with Creed about past kills is silly. And unfortunately, these negative aspects overshadow the postive ones.


Thursday, October 26, 2006

Uncanny X-Periment # 68: "Back to Normal"

. . . or "Fall of Avalon, Rise of Gene Nation"

X-Men: Prime, X-Man # 5, Uncanny X-Men # 322, X-Men # 42-44, X-Force # 44, Generation X # 5-6, Uncanny X-Men # 323-324, Wolverine # 93, Uncanny X-Men # 325, X-Men # 45

Flashback: 1995

My Dad turned to me after a trip to the local comic book shop. In my hands were the last issues of the "Age of Apocalypse." He smiles amusingly and says "So, what happens when this is all over? Everything just goes back to normal and they look around go 'What was that?' and go on their way?"

Yes, Dad, they do.

Yep, the AoA is over. And despite having been an alternate reality, the ramifications into the real world ripple out from the event. Bishop retains some memories of the AoA. Nathan Summers (now going as "Grey") smashes onto Earth, causing massive telepathic shockwaves that devestate the Astral Plane for all telepaths. Holocaust appears to Avalon in a large hunk o' ice. Dark Beast, as it turns out, has been hanging out the Morlock tunnels for twenty years. Likewise with Surgar Man and Genosha.

However, events are in motion that change the X-Men. The various creators take this post-AoA time to enject some shake-up to the Mutant populace. Trish Tibly, betraying Beast, reveals to the public that humans are able to be infected by the Legacy Virus. Arcade blows up X-Force's base, prompting them to head to the mansion at Xavier's request. Excalibur is doing some stuff in Genosha. Havok loses control of his powers. Gambit's in a coma due to Rogue's kiss and Rogue and Iceman have hit the road to escape their troubles. Wolverine is back at the mansion, but refuses to come in since Sabretooth is in there, hangin' out. Sabretooth, might I add, is pretty harmless Wolverine popped a claw into his brain right before the AoA started.

And a young Mutant is lynched and killed by mob while trying to make it to Xavier's. This is all in X-Men: Prime, by the way.

So yeah, Nate Grey has crashed landed on Earth 616 and is so totally dazed and confused. He eventually is helped by some Swidish guy and falls asleep on his couch. Not long afterwards, a woman walks in and wakes him up. Who is it? Holy crap! It's Madelyne Pryor!

Meanwhile, in Hoboken, NJ, Pyslocke, Beast, and Bishop are stunned when the Juggernaut slams into the ground. Juggernaut wakes up and starts jibber-jabbering about being hit all the way from Canada and remarks on how it can't be a coincidence that he landed near some X-Men. The trio subdue him, which is strange considering how strong he should be. Juggernaut falls and tells them that a being called Onslaught slugged him there. He then goes catatonic. As this is unfolding, Archangel and ex-girlfriend Charlottle Jones check out a mass murder caused by mysterious Mutants. It's so disturbing, even Archangel is stunned.

Up on board Avalon, the Acolytes make a massive mistake by listening to crazy ol' Exodus and awakening the frozen Holocaust (note to Exodus: if he's not wearing red, white, and blue OR Brenden Fraser, it ain't safe to unthaw a person -- if you get that reference, pat yourself on the back). Holocaust promptly wipes out most of the Acolytes (including poor Rusty), while Colossus snags Magneto and gets him to an escape pod. Vought heads to Earth and grabs Cyclops and Phoenix just as they are pulling into Xavier's driving. With Holocaust and Exodus tearing apart Avalon fighting each other, Cyclops grabs the remaining Acolytes (Unuscione, the Klienstocks, Cargill, and Scanner) and helps them to the surface. Jean, in the meantime, makes to the Earth with Skids. Holocaust and Exodus just kinda crash. Vought meets up Xavier, they rehash some feelings, and she heads off. Cyclops and the rest of the Acolytes end up in Australia and wander to the X-Men's old town base, and subsequently contact the X-Men and have 'em pick their asses up.

Back at the mansion, Xavier asks Cable to have X-Force live at the mansion for a while. They do so, get new uniforms, Richtor takes off, and Caliban joins. Cannonball then becomes a full-fledged member of the X-Men! W00t!

In New York, some of the Generation X kids encounter a Mutant terrorist group called Gene Nation. They escape with Leech and Artie, who were captured by Gene Nation. Not long afterwards, Storm, Wolverine, and Cannonball encounter more of Gene Nation, where it's revealed they were the ones that were responsible for the mass murder that shook Archangel.

Then Juggernaut wakes up and takes off for the mansion. He bumps into Wolverine and Cannonball at a local bar, but decides not to duke it out and instead just takes off . . . only to end up caught in a dimensional rift (which takes him over to the Ultraverse, though I'm not sure if we're allowed to talk about that).

The X-Men and Generation X then have a baseball game. This is interrupted by the arrival of Colossus and Calisto, as Calisto rescued Peter after his escape pod crash landed in Antartica (with no sign of Magneto). They rally some X-Men together, revealing that Mikhail teleported some of the Morlocks to an alternate dimension where time runs differently. A girl named Marrow (who power is to make her bones into her own personal weapons) leads this team of vengeful young Morlocks called Gene Nation. And today, on the anniversary of the Mutant Massacre, they have captured and plan to as many humans as Mutants were killed. The X-Men rush down to stop them and Storm comes face-to-face with Marrow. Marrow has placed a sensor on her heart - if she dies, the bombs on the humans won't go off. But if Storm doesn't kill her in time "BOOM!" Storm is then forced to kill Marrow, which is quite devastating.

Then, Gambit goes after Rogue, who is in Seattle (where Gambit did some shitty things, I guess). There's an emotional confrontation, where it's revealed that Rogue is scared of the fact that Gambit is scared of the secrets he has and Rogue might know. Rogue rejects Gambit's offer to learn the truth and rushes off, leaving the X-Men AND Gambit. Iceman flies back to mansion while Gambit is confronted by Sinister, who is cryptic.

My fingers hurt.

Now, I know that I've been pretty light-hearted with all this stuff above, but I'll be honest when I say it's pretty good. There's some nice characterization all around for various members of the Mutant team. Some of the art teams take a well-deserved break, allowing for Bryan Hitch and Pascul Ferry to pop by and do some spectacular work. When Joe Mad and Andy Kubert come back, they're at the top of their game again.

I'll admit that I don't care for the interlacing and weaving subplots. Too many of these issues depend on other books to pick up on the subplots. It works, but it's a cheap ploy that really comes off as a bit . . . cheap.

But overall, this is a pretty neat period of X-Men history. We see the beginnings of another Marvel crossover here (Onslaught), as well as new and developing storylines and character arcs.


Tuesday, October 24, 2006

UXP # 67: Age of Apocalypse # 6: "Finale"

Astonishing X-Men # 4, Factor-X # 2, X-Man # 2-4 (until page 18), Factor-X # 3, X-Man # 4 (rest of issue), Factor- X # 4, Gambit and the X-Ternals # 4, Amazing X-Men # 4, Weapon X # 3, X-Universe # 1, Weapon X # 4, X-Universe # 2, X-Men: Omega (with Blink # 4)

And thus ends the Age of Apocalypse. I'll be doing a complete overview of the entire crossover in a bit, but first, let's get down to business people . . .

First, between Indianapolis, the X-Men encounter Holocaust and his genetic slushy factory. An awesome battle ensues, resulting in the freeing of the humans, the end of the cullings in Chicago and Indianapolis, and Holocaust barely escaping. Iceman then catches up with the X-Men (with a barely recovering Sabretooth by his side) and informs the team that Apocalypse has taken Magneto and Bishop captive.

Back in New York City, someone is letting prisoners out of the Pens (where humans and low-grade Mutants are held for experimentation and whatnot). One such Mutant - Lorna Dane aka. Polaris - is released by Cyclops. Cyclops gets caught by members of the EMF (Elite Mutant Force, remember?) Northstar and Aruora. Cyclops takes them down and get Lorna to Val Cooper, who is working with the Human High Council. Havok spies his brother doing this and vows vengenace.

In the mid-west, Nate Summers is pressured into using his powers by the ever-mysterious and untrustworthy man named Essex. This includes the destruction of a massive genetics plant that nearly gets Forge's little resistance cell killed. It also catches the attention of Caliban, Domino, and Grizzly (who have just killed Omega Red), who are hunting down Nate. Nate and the group takes them down, but they lose Mastermind and Toad in the process. Essex then kills Brute and Forge, before revealing himself to be Mr. Sinister! Gasp! Apocalypse then reveals Nate's origins to him - that he was the result of the bonding of Scott and Jean's genes, creating the ultimate living weapon against Apocalypse. Nate gets pizzed and blasts Sinister, then heads off to face his destiny. Sinister then dies.

At the same time, back NYC, Jean Grey arrives from Europe, out to warn whomever she can and to free the Pens. She is unfortunately captured and taken to the Dark Beast (McCoy). Havok then summons Scott to see her, with the evidence that he helped Lorna Dane just the night before. Scott is subdued, but with Jean's help, the pair escape and vow to free the Pens. When he learns this, Apocalypse orders the newly-promoted Havok to wipe out the Pens. As Scott and Jean slink around Apocalypse's base, they bump into Nate, who is off to kill Apocalypse. They part ways, Jean's power having been unleashed thanks to being around Nate, with whom they all felt a connection with.

The Bedlam Brothers (Jesse and Aaron) don't care for the idea of wiping out the Pens and join with Jean and Scott in freeing them. Dark Beast gets a taste of his medicine, the Bedlams take out the Guthries, and Scott punches Alex out (finally!). The survivors of the Pens then evacuate the base.

Not too far away, Gambit, Lila, Guido, and Jubilee arrive from the Shi'ar with M'Kraan Crystal. They then find little baby Charles, who is grabbed by Guido. After a confrotation with Richtor, it's revealed that Guido is a traitor and he takes both Charles and the crystal to Apocalypse. Richtor is subsequently executed for mucking up. Gambit, Lila, and Jubilee bump into Dazzler and Exodus, who take them back to the mansion, where they meet up with the just-arriving Rogue and her team of X-Men, plus Colossus, Shadowcat, Illyana, Nightcrawler, and Destiny. Rogue is non-too-pleased to hear about Charles' kidnapping on top of her husbands.

Quicksilver then arrives with Storm and Bishop. During his time rescuing Bishop, Banshee sacrifaced himself to kill Abyss (and, in turn, facing his own fears of death) and the heart of the Madri (Apocalypse's priests) is revealed to be Jamie Madrox, from which all of the Madri are duplicates of. Madrox kills himself and all of the Madri perish.

Across the pond, in Europe, things are a brewin' too. The Human High Council has moved their nuclear fleet over to the remains of Paris, but the navigation is still out. So Logan heads over to Wundagore Mountain to retrieve Gateway, who has basically absorbed as much human history as possible. He meets up with Carol Danvers, but the two of them are unable to convince Gateway to help. Pierce then shows up again and Carol sacrifaces herself to take him out. This is enough to push Gateway into at least listening to the Human High Council's plot.

Over in London, the Fourth Horsemen arrives, Mikhail. Mikhail has come to intiate a peace process with the humans and take some of them . . . for a reason that isn't really mentioned. The Human High Council's Chief of Security Victor VonDoom agrees to go, along with Clint Batron, Tony Stark, Ben Grim, Sue Storm, Gwen Stacy, Donald Blake, and Dr. Banner (who is secretly the traitorous Hulk). The humans emotions are being manipulated into trusting Mikhail by Empath (one of the few surviving Hellions in the regular universe), who is being controlled the mysterious Murdock. As it turns out, the humans are going to enhanced into killer cyborgs, but Tony Stark saw something like this coming and strikes out against Mikhail. With the rest of the group, they save the humans (led out of Mikhail's ship by a man named Bullseye) and seek to highjack the ship. Not everyone makes it, including Ben. VonDoom and Blake help take down Mikhail. The Hulk, who at this point has long since been revealed a traitor to the cause, is then betrayed when Apocalypse sets his Atlantic Defense Perimeter on the move to wipe out Europe and Asia once and for all. Banner, Gwen, Stark, Clint and VonDoom then charge forward, with Mikhail's ship leading the way to America to nuke the crap outta it.

But how will they get there? In Paris, the convoy comes under attack from Pierce and then now-cyborged Carol Danvers. Also, Brian Braddock is being controled by Pierce, but manages to break away from the mind-control long enough to save Emma Frost and the convoy. Pierce then kills Carol, who was also breaking away, and Logan slices up Pierce with his hidden claws in his stub. Gateway then opens a portal to America for the nuclear convoy to enter, just as the Atlantic Defense Grid strikes against the humans.

And now we come to it.

The X-Men attack Apocalype's base to rescue Magneto, Charles, and the M'Kraan Crystal. When they arrive, they're stunned to find that part of the base has been destroyed already (by Jean, Scott, and probably the Bedlam brothers) and the Pens emptied. After Angel (strapped with a bunch of explosions) slams into a force field generator, the X-Men enter into the base and soon find themselves facing down the M'Kraan. It's then Destiny reveals what is happening and confirms what Bishop has said. Bishop, Destiny, and Illyana must enter the M'Kraan to correct things. At that moment, Nate shows up to fight Apocalypse, but is distracted by Holocaust.

Upon learning that she isn't alive in the old timeline, Magneto must talk Illyana into helping them. She agrees. Meanwhile, across the city, Scott and Jean continue to help the humans evacuate into New Jersey. When the bombs start to fall all over the US, Jean flips out and holds the bombs in place from hitting New York and New Jersey. Logan arrives, but is too late. Havok kills her, then Scott. The bombs are ready to fall. Logan then kills Alex and mourns over Jean's body.

Back at Apocalype's HQ, Bishop flies back in time to Israel and manages to stop Legion from killing either Magneto or Professor X. He and Legion then fade away in a fury of temporal energy and the X-Men in that era vanish. It's as if Legion and the X-Men weren't even there at all.

In the present, the X-Men fight desperately, but there numbers have gone to shit as tragedy forms. Surgar Man leaps from Colossus' boot and goes into the M'Kraan, heading after Illyana. Colossus flips out, accidently kills Iceman, then Shadowcat. With such grief and pain, Gambit kills Colossus in response. Quicksilver manages to save Illyana, having also lost a sibling.

Rogue rescues Charles from Guido as Magneto battles it out with Apocalypse. He is then joined by Nathan and they both have Apocalypse on the ropes. Unfortunately, Holocaust steps up and engages Nate in battle. Nate shoves a shard of the M'Kraan Crystal in Holocaust and the pair vanish. Magneto then rips Apocalypse in half in what is probably one of the best X-Men scenes ever. As the Age of Apocalypse comes to an end, Blink vanishes and finds herself in a desert with a girl in her underwear.

Finally, with the bombs a droppin' and the timeline restorin', Magneto joins his wife and son as the Age of Apocalypse fades away . . .


That's that.

Let's take a look at the Age of Apocalypse as a whole, shall we?

For the most part, this is a fantastic epic that is (for the most part) able to stand on its own two feet and really seperate itself from the rest of the X-Men's big stories as being unique and creative. There are flaws, of course, but in the grand scheme of things, those can be overlooked.

Art-wise, I've said it before, is all top-notch. Fantastic new costumes and designs that really reflect the darkness that is the Age of Apocalypse. The settings are something incredible, too, bringing us terrible visions of places that are utterly familair - from the real-life London, Paris, Chicago, and New York to the fictional Xavier's mansion and Wakanda. If there is any high-point with the massive story, it's the art. Only once did I really think it was terrible, and that was with the fourth issue of Amazing X-Men, where Apocalypse also stole Andy Kubert's talent along with Magneto and Bishop.

In terms of art, this is most likely among the high-points of the X-Men long history, standing tall with Jim Lee's amazing run on Uncanny during the late 260s and up until early X-Men and Bryne and Adam's respective runs.

Writing-wise, with the exception of most of the "history" books, it good too. I'll admit that sometimes X-Calibre relies too much on cliches and Niecizia's dialogue comes off really corny at times, but for the most part, all is well-done. The new versions of these characters are good, for the most part, allowing for new personas and new coverings for old characters.

The weakest portions of the Age of Apocalypse would probably have to be the Marvel populated X-Universe, which seemed to be difficult to both place into the overall story and had trouble making sense of itself.

As a whole, the Age of Apocalypse is something to be proud of for that era. It's bold and epic, showing us everything that can possibly go wrong with the X-Men's world, while still maintaining hope and struggle against such terrible darkness. Indeed, it's not Apocalypse that defines the Age of Apocalypse, but the X-Men themselves. It's the X-Men that stand against such massive opposition. It's showing that no matter how terrible or shitty the world can be, the X-Men stand strong and tall against such awful offensives.

There are some great character moments, though too many to name here. There are also a number of "oh yeah, sweet!" moments that are just plain cool. Among these is the aforementioned Apocalypse/Magneto final battle.

At the end of the day, what does the Age of Apocalypse mean to the overall X-Men world and mythos? Well, it centainly has a profound effect on the X-Men, though not nearly as much as other events (Dark Phoenix Saga, for example). A number of character manage to survive - Nate Summers, Holocaust, Dark Beast, Surgar Man, Blink, and Sabretooth, to name a few. Bishop also retains memories of the AoA.

The Age of Apocalypse proudly stands among the very best X-Men stories I've read. Not the best, but most definetly among them.