Marvel comics


Collects X-Men #214-228, Annual #10-11, Fantastic Four vs. the X-Men #1-4

Writer: Chris Claremont
Artists: Barry Windsor-Smith, Bob Wiacek, Alan Davis, Dan Green, Jackson Guice, Mark Sylvester, Bret Belvins, Arthur Adams, Jon Bogdanove

The previous collection ended with Marauders murdering many Morlocks, mutants who live in New York’s sewers, and wounding three X-Men critically (Colossus, Shadowcat, and Nightcrawler).

This collection starts with Dazzler. The marauder Malice has taken over the mutant singer and she’s using her powers openly. The X-Men (Storm, Wolverine, Rogue, Psylocke) arrive to warn Dazzler about their recent enemies and about the growing human hatred towards mutants. However, Malice prompts Dazzler to attack the team. Malice is an energy based mutant who can unleash a person’s worst side and so persuade them to attack others.

In the next issue the team splits up so FF vs X-Men seems to happen before the rest of the collection. Most of the team is headed to Muir island but Storm and Wolverine stay in the New York state. At the end of the previous collection, the Marauders attacked Morlocks, killed many of them and wounded three X-Men grievously. Shadowcat, Colossus, and Nightcrawler are in such a bad state that they’re going to the Muir island hospital. The new group of Psylocke, Rogue, Longshot, and Dazzler are both guarding them and also learning to work as a team with Banshee training them. Meanwhile, Storm and Wolverine encounter three new super beings, former soldiers who have taken it upon themselves to cleanse their country of criminals whom the justice system ignores for one reason or another. Unfortunately for them, they mistake Storm for a criminal. Issue 216 is quite a philosophical one: The old solders think that they are fully justified in taking “scum” of humanity and hunting them in the woods. This time their prey is Storm and a young woman who seems at first quite helpless but is actually a rich girl who sells drugs for fun and doesn’t shy away from killing. Storm thinks about her own values while evading the super soldiers.

In the next two issues, the new X-Men fight Juggernaut. First Dazzler confronts him alone because she wants to prove that she can and then they fight him as a team. Before Rogue turned into a hero, she attacked Dazzler and Daz accuses her of that, so they have some internal, personal grievances, too.

In the next issue, two old X-Men return: Havok and Polaris. Havok has gone to Xavier’s but returns with just nightmares. When he goes back to the mansion, to his horror he finds quite a different X-Men… and Magneto. However, after the initial misunderstanding, Havok rejoins the team. Meanwhile, the Marauders attack Havok’s girlfriend Polaris. She has magnetic powers and puts up a fight but in the end, the energy being Malice takes over.

Then, the next long storyline kicks into high gear: Storm goes to meet Forge to beg her powers back. However, Forge is gone, leaving behind just holograms of Storm and his own time in Vietnam, where he fought demons by using demons. Forge’s teacher, Naze, confronts Storm and tells her that Forge is a shaman who has been trained to fight the forces of Chaos but Forge has become evil. Naze needs Storm’s help against Forge and she agrees.

The next issues are intertwined with X-Men and Storm’s quest. She battles demons with Naze and we also find out that Naze is actually the bad guy and is training Storm to take out Forge. Meanwhile, the X-Men battle Marauders and Freedom Force while coming to grips with their internal strife. In issue 225, Storm finds Forge and tries to kill him, realizing too late that he was trying to keep Chaos at bay. However, they are whisked into another world where they stay for about a year. Storm gets her powers back and they decide to return to Earth and face Chaos with the X-Men. In the penultimate issue (for this collection) the X-Men and Madelyne Pryor make the ultimate sacrifice and die fighting Chaos.

The final issue (228) is a reminiscent story where where Dazzler writes a letter to her old friend, a bounty hunter, remembering their previous adventure together. Alison has a hunch that her friend is in trouble and leaves the team to help him. Wolverine follows. It turns out that the bounty hunter is in quite a deep trouble indeed and both Dazzler and Wolverine help him.

In Annual 10, Longshot makes his first appearance. The X-Men and Magneto are training in the Danger Room. Colossus, Shadowcat, and Nightcrawler are in good shape so the story is set before this collection. Mojo sends Longshot to the Danger Room along with mystical goop which transforms the X-Men and Magneto gradually to children. The New Mutants want to investigate their condition but the X-Men run away to Mojo first. The New Mutants take up their individual uniforms and try to follow them. Instead, they’re forced to fight against the mind controlled X-Men.

I don’t have annual 11; it wasn’t published here in Finland.

In Fantastic Four vs. X-Men the little Franklin Richards sees a disturbing dream where his father finds his old diary which leads to the FF and X-Men fighting and killing each other. Then Reed kills his wife and turns into Dr. Doom. In the real world Susan finds’ Reed diary and finds out that Reed had known about the cosmic rays and that they would transform the four. This makes her, of course, really angry with Reed. He protests that he couldn’t have written that but starts to doubt himself; what if he subconsciously had known about the problem? Magneto ask Reed for help with Kitty’s problem: she’s stuck into intangible state and her atoms are starting to drift apart. Reed has built a machine which could save Kitty but his doubts grow and he in the end he refuses to help, fearing that he will kill Kitty. The Dr. Doom offers his own help. The X-Men have deep reservations, but agree. I don’t really think that Reed was in character here. His confidence is taken away awfully easily.

Once again, I really enjoyed most of these stories. The artwork is quite variable and I don’t like Silvestri’s art as much as John Romita Jr’s but I really enjoyed Jackson Guice and Arthur Adams. The characters are the highlight, as usual. The only thing which really bothered me was Storm’s and Forge’s quick romance which suddenly grew into death defying love. I would have wanted them to at least spend some more time together before it developed. I mean they spent grand total of what three issues? four issues? together and during that time Storm was extremely depressed because her powers were gone.

Also, I felt extremely sorry for Polaris and Havok. Their happy life was disrupted and an extremely nasty villain took over Polaris. IIRC, they never recovered from it. Poor Madelyne Pryor is also hunted by Marauders and then have to tag along with the X-Men in order to survive. She also “dies” along with them.

I was also a bit surprised that Rogue is still considered such a rookie. She has a lot more experience than any of the others in the team. But I guess she was still stubborn and acted on impulse a lot. Like, um, 80% of heroes ever.

Overall, a great read.

Collects the Illuminati miniseries 1-5 of of 5.

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis, Brian Reed
Artists: Jim Cheung, Mark Morales, John Dell, David Meikes

The mini series starts Reed Richards, Black Bolt, Namor, Iron Man, Professor X, and Stephen Stange who are, apparently, the most powerful heroes on Earth. In the series they tackle some of the biggest threats against Earth and the series ends with a lead in to the Secret Invasion. The group are said to be a secret cabal, affecting events from the shadows without telling about them to anyone else, even their families.

The first issue is set right after the Kree/Skrull war. Our intrepid heroes go to the Skrull homeworld and warn them against any further attempt on Earth. They might have made an excellent impression, if they had managed to get away. Unfortunately, the skrulls capture them and do some scientific experiments – in other words torture. After a while, Tony is able to get the upper hand and help the others to escape. The skrulls had dismissed him as “just human” and concentrated their efforts to the others.

The second issue is set after the heroes tackle the Infinity Gauntlet for the second time. Reed was one of the heroes who was simply disintegrated and he doesn’t want it to happen again. So, he revels to the others that he has the Gauntlet and three of the Gems. The others are horrified but agree to find the rest of the gems.

The third issue deals with the Beyonder. Xavier and Reed have come back from the Secret Wars and Xavier has concentrated on finding the Beyonder and solving the question of who he really is. The Beyonder’s identity is retconned here. (No, I’m not gonna spoil it here but it’s in the Wiki entry.) Xavier also traces the Beyonder to the moon Ceres and the group flies there and confronts the Beyonder.

In the fourth issue the group gathers because of Noh-Varr, a young Kree warrior who has declared war on Earth but has been imprisoned. There, the group tries to talk him into following in the footsteps of the first Captain Marvel, Mar-Vell). Also, Namor hits him a lot.

In the final issue, the group is again confronted with the skrulls. The issue is set after Civil War leads directly into Secret Invasion. Tony gathers the group after he finds out that a skrull has been impersonating Elektra (as seen in New Avengers issues) and he also thinks that the Illuminati are responsible because they went to the skrull home world and got imprisoned and experimented on. The group don’t trust each other, in fact Strange is now part of a new Avengers group which opposes Tony. One of the Illuminati reveals himself to be a skrull, further driving a wedge between the others and leaving them wondering if that man is still alive.

Each of the men go their own way in the end.

This was a great idea and I enjoyed most of the issues. However, I do have a big problem with these eggheds deciding things behind everyone else’s back. Also, the fourth issue started with, essentially, the men whining about their women or lack of women. Maybe this was Bendis’ idea of humor or maybe he wanted to make the characters more human but they actually appeared to me pretty pathetic. Except for Namor who really told Reed off.

Namor and Black Bolt are both monarchs who are apparently used to deciding things on behalf of everyone else and Strange is mostly a loner, but Tony, Xavier, and Reed are all supposedly part of groups of people they love and trust. Sadly, this sort of secretive behavior isn’t unknown for any of them, so they are in character, all right.

Enjoyable but not a must-have comic.

Collects Ms Marvel vol 2 issues 47-50. The final collection for this volume.

Writer: Brian Reed
Artists: Mike McKone, Rob Disalvo, Derec Donovan, Sana Takeda, Ben Olivier, Veronica Gandini
Publisher: Marvel

Issue 47 is a light-hearted change of pace after the long and serious Karla plotline. Carol and Spider-Man go out on a date. As you might guess, things don’t go smoothly.

Next up is the final series. Carol is still on the run from Osborn’s H.A.M.M.E.R. organization when she hears that one of the Church of Hala priests have been hurt. She finds out that someone masquerading as Captain Marvel has been attacking the Churchs for several weeks now. Of course, she has to investigate. She comes to the conclusion that only one person can be behind it: Mystique.

I enjoyed Mystique in these issues and also the start where Carol had to briefly go undercover and use her head a little. However, this collection didn’t really rise above an average superhero slug fest.
Overall, I wasn’t too happy with this series but I enjoyed it enough to stick with it to the end. Some of Carol’s new supporting cast had potential but they were dropped off suddenly and never seen again, such as Wonder Man and the Operation Lighting Storm team which I had expected (when I first read the series) to help Carol during Dark Reign and War of the Marvels (or possibly oppose Carol…). My initial fascination with Carol actually came through Rogue who has been one of my favorite Marvel characters since the long Claremont/John Romita Jr. X-Men run and I don’t quite see this book’s Carol as the same confident spy who occasionally took control of Rogue.

Next, Carol will become Captain Marvel; a series where I enjoyed the writing more than here but not the art. Ah, the joys of reading comics. :)

Collects Ms. Marvel vol. 2 #42-46

Writer: Brian Reed
Artists: Sana Takeda, Sergio Arino, Philippe Briones

This is the culmination of the past three collections. Obviously, you should read them before this one.

Carol is supposedly dead, but nobody really believes that. The strange energy women combine into Ms. Marvel but she acts strange; her power levels fluctuate and she doesn’t seem to actually think about anything, instead she just charges into situations. Karl and Osborn try to imprison her.

However, we soon see that a Carol-look-a-like, Catherine Donovan, is a very successful writer in LA. But she also feels uncomfortable in her own life, like she isn’t Catherine Donovan after all. And we readers of course know that she’s an alias Carol made up for herself. Catherine travels to New York in order to find out what’s going on.

Most of the collection is devoted to Karla Sofen and her identity struggles, though. We get to go into her head and find out her big traumas. Meanwhile, Carol and Karla are fighting for the right to use the Ms Marvel name. Osborn and the New Avengers guest star.

To me it felt that the real star of this collection was Karla, Moonstone. That felt a little weird because she hasn’t been in the comic earlier. Storywise this is one of the better collections, though. In the final issue Carol really shines.

Unfortunately, I felt that the art actually detracted from the story. Takeda’s art is very pretty, manga influenced, but it makes the women look very young and some of the poses are very exploitative. The other two artists’ styles are very different from Takeda’s so there’s no unified style.

Collects Ms. Marvel vol. 2 #35-40.

Writer: Brian Reed
Artists: Patrick Olliffe, Serge LePointe, Kris Justice, Rebekah Isaacs, Sana Takeda, Luke Ross, Rob Schwager

Dark Reign continues right from the previous collection. Carol is still on the run from the Osborn-led Avengers with her two friends, Rossi and Mason. The first three issues are titled “The Death of Ms. Marvel 1-3” and events do escalate towards that point. This is not a stand-alone collection but relies heavily on storylines from the previous collection and also from other titles. I haven’t read Dark Reign.

In the first issue, Carol finds out about a mass suicide in a Church of Hala, who apparently worship the original kree Captain Marvel. When a new Captain Marvel joins the Avengers, these worshipers killed themselves in protest. Carol investigates and runs into the new CM. Neither is happy about it.

In the next two issues, Carol continues her hunt of Ghazi who is selling some doomsday weapon and also tortured her years ago. Her powers are increasingly erratic until at the end of the third issue during a confrontation with Ghazi, Carol’s powers explode seemingly killing her. We also find out a startling fact about Rossi.

Osborn takes advantage of the situation and appoints Moonstone as the new Ms. Marvel, taking Carol’s old costume. However, she has to undergo psychological evaluation which ends up being quite unusual.

Next, Moonstone investigates A.I.M. and is shown that they are trying to breed a new type of superhuman, a combination of MODOK and the storyteller whom we met in the previous collection and in the very first issue of this series. However, instead of shutting them down, Moonstone has an offer from Osborn. Unfortunately, AIM turns it down… by throwing an asteroid into New York. It turns out that Moonstone has some weird mental connection to the fetuses which AIM has and she stole them and brought them to the Avengers headquarters. However, a mysterious (but not really) female figure made of energy is also interested in the fetuses and attacks Moonstone.

This is somewhat disjointed collection where one storyline ends and another begins. In fact, it might have been better to combine first three issues with the previous collection and start a new one with Moonstone as Ms Marvel. Also, Moonstone is not introduced at all, so the change came very suddenly and unexpectedly. My feelings of disjointedness might be heightened because Carol’s story arc was well developed (even though I personally felt quite frustrated with it at times).

It’s quite ironic to see how the former villain appears to do good and gets praised for it, even though she’s actually furthering Osborn’s evil agenda and even killing people in full sight of others, while Carol has been failing pretty consistently for a couple of years now.

One thing which actually helped the transition between the different storylines was the change in artist. Isaacs’ and especially Takeda’s art is much more manga styled than Olliffe’s.

The collection ends in a cliffhanger.

Collects the miniseries Infinity Gauntlet 1-6.

Writer: Jim Starlin
Artist: George Perez, Ron Lim, Josef Rubinstein, Tom Christopher

This is the first big cross-over event I ever read, back in 1993, when it came out here in Finland, so there’s no way I can be objective about it. I loved it back then and much to my surprise, it was still enjoyable, more so than many of the more recent cross-overs.

The story starts with Thanos. He has already found all the Infinity Stones and combined them into a gauntlet which makes him the master of mind, soul, time, space, reality, and power. He’s literally the supreme power in the Marvel universe. Mephisto is playing his lackey, giving him advice and flattering him all the way. Thanos worships Death and he tries to make Death love him. Fortunately, for the rest of the universe, that’s not easy.

Then, the Silver Surfer crashes to Dr. Strange’s house telling him the awful news. Meanwhile, three people die in a car crash and others take over their bodies. It seems that our heroes Adam Warlock, Pip the Troll, and Gamora have already died and this is the only way for them to have bodies.

Then things start to escalate and they don’t stop until in the end. Thanos kills off half of sentient life in the universe. Half of the people on Earth just disappears, along with a lot of superheros. Among the dead are the Fantastic Four and apparently most of the X-Men. In fact, only two X-Men appear in this series, Cyclops and Wolverine. Dr. Doom also joins the heroes.

Adam Warlock makes his appearance and gathers up a fighting force of the surviving heroes who will serve as fodder and distraction for bigger guns, among whom are personified powers such as Eternity and Galactus. The fighting is epic.

Warlock knows that in order to win, he has to have an intricate scheme and send people to their deaths. He seems very ruthless. And he’s right.

This is a very enjoyable cosmic fight but don’t expect anything else.

Collects Thor 140, Hulk 135, Avengers 69-71 and 267-269

Writers: Stan Lee, Roy Thomas, Roger Stern
Artists: Jack Kirby, Vince Colletta, Sal Buscema, Sam Grainger, Herb Trimpe, John Buscema, Tom Palmer

This is a collection of stories centered on the early appearances of Kang the Conqueror. However, they don’t include Kang’s first appearance which I found a bit strange.

Thor 140 focuses on the mystery of the Growing Man, Kang’s henchman. After the Troll War, Thor returns to Earth and fights the Growing Man.

Next up is Avengers 69-71.Tony Stark has been badly wounded and is in hospital, waiting for a doctor Thor is bringing to him. However, before the doctor can do much, the Growing Man kidnaps Tony and the Avengers chase him. They (Yellowjacket, Giant-Man, the Wasp, Captain America, Thor, and the Vision) are transported to Kang’s presence. Before the Avengers can pummel him, the Black Panther stops them and forces them to listen to Kang’s tale. He has started a contest with the Grandmaster and the prize is Earth. If Kang loses, Earth will cease to exist and if Kang wins, he will gain powers over life and death so that he can revive his beloved Ravonna. The Avengers agree to become his champions. Four of them are sent one by one to various places on Earth to battle The Grandmaster’s minions, the Squadron Sinister. In the second phase the rest of the Avengers battle the original Invaders in WWII setting. They still need the Black Knight’s help to get free from Kang’s clutches.

Next is Hulk where Kang is thrown about in a timestorm. He needs help from something or someone indestructible to destroy the Avengers and so he tricks the Hulk into helping him. Kang sends Hulk into the past to alter the present.

The final three issues are another Avengers story with multiple Kangs. Kang has traveled so much through time that there are lots of Kangs around from timelines which have splintered off from the original. They’ve apparently formed a Council which is eliminating some of the Kangs. The Avengers (the Wasp, the Black Knight, and Hercules) are boring a tunnel underneath their mansion when they’re surrounded by thick fog and strange sights. They encounter old Avengers, such as Hulk and Giant-man. Meanwhile, Captain America, Captain Marvel, and the newest Avenger Namor are enjoying the sea air until they find out that the others have disappeared and try to find them.

This is an okay collection but I don’t think these are actually the best Kang stories ever. I was also rather surprised to see that the first Kang story was not here. Because the rest of the stories revolve around Kang trying to revive his beloved Ravonna, it would have been better to show the story where Ravonna was originally hurt. It’s told in a flash back but that doesn’t quite feel enough.

It’s also interesting to compare the different style throughout the years. Most of the stories are quite old and they show it, in cheesier dialog (especially in the Thor issue) but also in the treatment of female characters. The last story has both Captain Marvel (Monica Rambeau) and the Wasp and their treatment is a far cry from how the Wasp is sidelined and forgotten in the first Avengers story. In the second, she’s the Avengers’ leader. In fact, Avengers issue 71 focuses on the Black Knight.

Overall, an ok collection but not really special.

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