Marvel comics

Collects Nightcrawler issues 7-12.

Writer: Chris Claremont
Artists: Todd Nauck

First up, is the aftermath to Wolverine’s death. Logan and Kurt have been friends for a long time and Kurt mourns for him.

Then the Crimson Pirates return. Bloody Bess contacts Kurt telepathically, asking for help, and Kurt teleports to her. The Pirates have unleashed an old X-Man enemy who has taken over them, except Bess. She’s had a change of heart and now is attracted to Kurt. It’s Bess and Kurt against the Pirates! Then the X-Men (Beast, Storm, Colossus, Rachel Grey, Iceman, Psylocke) follow and it’s the telepathically enslaved X-Men against Kurt! I rather enjoyed this story, except for the rather abrupt ending and Bess’ strange and inexplicable change of heart.

In the aftermath, the Pirates kidnap Kurt’s new sidekicks, Rico and Ziggy. In the last two issues, Kurt and Bloody Bess follow the students to another dimension and take the fight to the Pirate’s boss, Tullamore Voge. Kurt also has to decide if he will just rescue the two youngsters or attempt a far more difficult operation and free all the children taken to the slavers’ block.

This is classic Claremont and aimed at people who enjoyed the X-Men during his long run on the series. The X-Men are (again) significant secondary characters and by the end of the series, Kurt has three new sidekicks. I really enjoyed these stories; high adventure, despicable villains and noble heroes.

Collects Nightcrawler issues 1-6.

Writer: Chris Claremont
Artists: Jamie McKelvie, Todd Nauck

Nightcrawler is back from the dead and he’s (mostly) happy about it. In these stories he returns to his roots, to Amanda Sefton, who was his adopted sister and later girlfriend, and their mother Margali of the Winding ways. Both Amanda and Margali are witches. Margali is a very quirky character; you can never really know what she’s up to and on whose side she’s on. However, Kurt is disposed to think the best of her because she’s, well, the woman who raised him. However, she’s rarely used by other writers.

Kurt and Amanda’s reunion is cut short by an armored intruder who tries to kidnap Amanda and wrecks her apartment. The trail takes them to Germany and to the same circus where they both grew up. After a brief misunderstanding, Kurt brings Margali and Amanda to the Jean Grey school where the true endgame begins.

We get some introspective scenes about Kurt’s childhood together with Amanda, his return to life, and his earlier years with the X-Men and Excalibur, but the first four issues are mostly fast-paced fun. Amanda also several times says that she doesn’t require rescuing, given her own magical powers, but sadly, the storyline makes her a liar and I didn’t care for the ending.

I enjoyed these stories but I don’t know how accessible they are to people who haven’t read Claremont’s long run on the X-Men. Nostalgia is very much part of these issues. I think that Amanda is a very much underused character and her mother even more so. However, after this story, Margali’s allegiances are pretty clear. The X-Men are, of course, significant secondary characters as are the students at the school. Kurt is trying to find his own place at the school as a teacher. The truly new features are Kurt’s bamfs, diminutive blue Kurts whom he can direct. They increase his maximum teleport range significantly. I’m not entirely sure I like them but they’re handy in a fight and provide comic relief, too. The fifth and sixth issues introduce two new sidekicks to Kurt: Rico who is a student who looks like a scorpion, and Ziggy Kart, a new recruit who is a teenaged genius.

In the final issue, the Crimson Pirates return, aiming to kidnap Ziggy for their slaver boss.

Collects Amazing X-Men issues 13-19, Annual 1.

Writers: James Tynion IV, Chris Yost, Monty Nero
Artists: Jorge Jiménez, Carlo Barberi, Iban Coello, Walden Wong, Jorge Fornes, Kris Anka, Salvator Larroca

The first issue is a one-shot where one of the students at the Jean Grey school is missing. He’s gone on a date for the first time but chickened out. Then he runs into Lady Mastermind who uses his insecurities against him. Nightcrawler and Northstar investigate and perhaps get to know each other a little better.

Next up is an Axis crossover, where good guys are bad and bad guys are good. In this case, Nightcrawler has gone to Germany and he’s after the blood of the priest who taught fear and hate to his parish and therefore is partly responsible for the attitudes of the men who first tried to kill Kurt when he was a child. Mystique is going after Kurt, to stop him from murdering anyone. This was a nice flip.

Then the five-part Juggernaut story starts. The gem which gives the Juggernaut his (or her) power has returned to Earth. It calls for specific strong and violent people but also the former hosts can hear the call. One of them is Colossus who is now at the Jean Grey school. He sees a dream about the gem and tells about it to Storm. He expects to be part of the team which will go after the gem. Instead, he’s told that he can’t be trusted and he needs to stay put. Storm, Nightcrawler, Firestar, Marvel girl, Rockslide, and Iceman go after the gem… and find a large, angry demon guarding it. Some other people are coming for the gem, too, and they’re not nice. Several fights break out, of course. Colossus persuades Pixie to teleport him there, too, and the X-Men might need him against the demon, Man-Killer, Crossbones, and Jinn.

This story arch has surprisingly lot of humor, especially near the end. I still don’t care for the bickering much but I liked the way the X-Men didn’t just rush off into a fight. I particularly don’t like the way that they constantly put down Rockslide – feels like bullying to me and coming from people who are supposed to be very inclusive it’s very distasteful. However, it was great that Firestar got to shine, again. She might be new to the X-Men but she’s an Avenger and pretty experienced one, too. In this story, we get to know Colossus a bit better. The poor guy has gone through a lot of changes and he seems to be regretting some of them. Apparently, he’s sleeping with Domino, now. When did that happen?? Cain Marko also gets a little bit of character development and then it, apparently, goes away.

The annual is a one-shot exploring Ororo’s past. It turns out that she still has family: cousins and aunts. One of them has been kidnapped by a new supervillain who has murdered other people. Storm, Wolverine, Firestar, the Beast, and Nightcrawler fly to Africa to investigate. The story is about revenge and it’s pretty forgettable except that we get to see Storm in full fury which is always awesome.

Collects Amazing X-Men issues 7-12.

Writers: Kathryn Immonen, Craig Kyle, Christ Yost
Artists: Kris Anka, Juan Vlansco, Ed McGuinness. Mark Farmer, Carlo Barberi, Iban Costello, Walden Wong, Marc Deering

The first issue is a one-shot where Iceman and Firestar meet up unexpectedly with Spider-Man who has an alien baby with him. At first, Angelica and Bobby don’t know it’s an alien and try to defend it from Spidey. It’s supposed to be funny but didn’t really work for me and the plot doesn’t really make sense, either.

The Wendigo storyline takes the rest of the collection. Apparently, Wolverine has lost his healing factor and that’s why Storm has ordered him to stay at the school. However, when he wants to go to Canada, he goes to Canada. Unfortunately for him, a human body is ground into food and that starts a Wendigo curse which spreads over Canada because the Wendigos infect people with their touch!

Mac (Guardian of Alpha Flight) has gone missing and Heather and Logan are looking for him – going right into the small town where almost everyone has been turned into a Wendigo. The X-Men (Storm, Northstar, Nightcrawler, Marvel Girl, Colossus, Firestar, Iceman, and Rockslide) follow but not before the Wendigos have spread into several towns and now there are thousands of them. One of the X-Men turns into a Wendigo! Then Alpha Flight comes to help.

This was pretty intense storyline, even though I didn’t believe for a moment that the scratched X-Man would stay a Wendigo. Thor, Iron Man, and Captain America are glimpsed fighting the Wendigos at the USA/Canada border, trying to save the Canadians who have turned and protect other people from them. Meanwhile, the magic users who should be able to turn the monsters back to humans are shown to be incapacitated so the heroes need another way to stop the curse.

We don’t get much in the way of character development. In fact, while this could be a fun adventure, it’s pretty forgettable. Northstar doesn’t appear happy to see his sister and former teammates, but he did mellow out a little because of a little girl he saved several times. Then again, he and Aurora snipped at each other previously, too, so I guess it’s in character

On the other hand, I didn’t really care for the humor; the characters mostly bickered like teenagers. Also, it was really strange how Rockslide just suddenly popped up from Blackbird’s toilet during the third issue. It felt like the writers suddenly realized that they needed him and just yanked him there. Weird, because he didn’t do much until near the end. For such a supposedly epic storyline (and epic ending!) I’m pretty sure none of the characters will ever refer to it again.

Collects Amazing X-Men 1-6.

Writer: Jason Aaron
Artists: Ed McGuinness

Kurt is back! Nightcrawler has long been one of my favorite characters and I’ve missed him. But now, he’s back!

The story starts with Kurt in heaven. But he’s not enjoying his rest, but is longing to return. However, strange things start to happen: pirates raid souls from heaven. Naturally, Kurt has to defend the innocents – with a sword!

Meanwhile, Angelica Jones (Firestar) comes to the Jean Grey school for the first time. She’s going to be a teacher. But first she’s confronted by the various goings on at the school. She finds out that Beast is being pestered by Bamfs, small creatures that look like Nightcrawler plush toys. Apparently, they’ve been a problem for a while in the school but now they’ve crossed the line: they’ve stolen Beast’s coffeemaker. But they seem to be luring the X-Men to a portal which transports Storm, Beast, Firestar, Northstar, Iceman, and Wolverine to other realms. Wolverine and Northstar end into Heaven and Beast onto a pirate ship in an icy river while the rest of the team are transported to Hell itself. Of course, they have to fight their way out.

It turns out that Kurt’s father Azazel is behind the attacks: he’s trying to carve out his own kingdom in the afterlife – and apparently nobody can stop him and his army of evil Bamfs and other wicked souls except the X-Men.

In the final issue in the collection, the X-Men celebrate Kurt’s return but he’s melancholy because of his biological family. Then Mystique shows up and it’s a family reunion straight from Kurt’s nightmares.

This was quite a silly adventure, memorable only because of Kurt’s return. The Bamfs were always quite ridiculous concept and I just couldn’t take them seriously as combatants. The other wicked souls are more menacing. We also get a glimpse of another dead X-Man. But Firestar, Storm, and Nightcrawler are awesome. Beast, Wolverine, and Iceman get their own chances to shine, too. Northstar is the only one who doesn’t have much to do here.

There’s also a downside to this otherwise cheery romp: Kurt has made a deal in order to get back to Earth and a dead man has only one thing to trade. It remains to be seen how that affects him in the future. Azazel and Mystique will no doubt plague him and the X-Men before long.

Collects Thor (vol. 1) issues 154-174

Writer: Stan Lee
Artists: Jack Kirby with various inkers

Note: I read the Finnish edition which contains issues 158-170 and the rest from Marvel Unlimited.

In these stories Thor, often accompanied by other, less powerful companions, battles and defeats foes who are first called invincible. The stories are truly epic in scope; taking us to Asgard, deep space, and to other realms, too. The stories focus on fighting except for a few sub-plots. Here, Lee and Kirby are laying on the foundations of the modern Marvel Universe. The stories are enjoyable as old-school epic adventure comics.

The collection starts with a four issue story “To Wake the Mangog”. Mangog is the last of his race who has the power of billion billion creatures. Odin destroyed his race and imprisoned Mangog but now Ulik the troll sets him free. Ulik hoped to get someone who he could command but he was wrong. Mangog rampages on his way to Asgard and people fear him. Ragnarok looms!

Meanwhile, Odin has fallen into the Odinsleep and since Thor is on Earth, Loki takes the throne. Unfortunately for Asgard, Loki is more interested in trapping Thor than defending Asgard. Also, Karnilla the Norn Queen confesses her love for Balder the Brave but he spurns her. So, Karnilla swears to kill Balder.

After that story arc comes a couple of issues with less excitement: an issue which recounts how Donald Blake found the hammer of Thor. He wonders which one of them is real, Donald or Thor. Interestingly enough, when Donald falls asleep he can go to Asgard as Thor.

In the next issue, Odin answers the Donald/Thor dilemma and we see some of Thor’s history, when he was younger and more impulsive. Odin also explains why Thor is now also Blake.

And then: Galactus, the devourer of planets! Recorder 211 is an android who was created to record events and recount them back to his creators on Rigel. He comes to warn Asgard about a terrible threat. Of course, Thor leaves to face the threat which turns out to be Galactus. In a two-part story Thor, Recorder, and survivors from planets which Galactus has eaten battle Galactus. On the balance is the fate of Ego, the Living Planet.

After that battle, Thor encounters various other threats, even the early incarnation of a being who will be known as Adam Warlock. For a brief while, Thor has to leave Earth and the Warriors Three are left to defend it with Balder. Fandral, Volstaff, and Hogun are always entertaining, although their comedic scenes are too brief.

The collection ends with a couple of one issue stories. This clearly limits the story too much.

For the most part, Thor’s supporting characters are entertaining. However, they don’t develop really and there are far fewer female characters than males. Poor Sif is just a plot device, used to spur Thor to action. But to be honest, so are pretty much all characters; but at least the Warriors Three get to fight and have a few amusing scenes before they get into trouble and Thor has to rescue them.

For the most part I enjoyed this collection.

Collects Loki, Agent of Asgard issues 6-10. Victor von Doom guest stars!

Writer: Al Ewing
Artist: Lee Garbett, Jorge Coelho

This ties-in with the Avengers & X-Men: Axis event. My expectations were very low as soon as I realized this but the issues turned out to be quite fun.

In the first two issues, Loki and Doom butt heads. Loki tries to apologize recent events to his only friend but Doom kidnaps him in the middle of it. Apparently, Doom is convinced that Loki will bring about the end of the world. And so is Valeria who is helping her uncle Doom. Meanwhile, the Red Skull’s hate brainwaves reach Latveria.

In the third issue, it comic is taken over by hero Loki, Agent of Axis! Loki and the Enchantress have turned into good guys and Loki even fights crime in Las Vegas. However, both former villains are very cold and condescending towards their former allies and former friends. So, they definitely behave like brainwashed people rather than heroes. Loki has convinced himself that he can now be a new person and avert his coming fate. This and the next issue happen during the event.

The last two issues deal with the consequences. The Odinson comes to Loki for a heart to heart talk. They almost reconcile but then Loki is forced to admit what he has done. The Odinson drags him to Asgardia for a judgement. And in the final issue the old Loki shows up.

There’s some light musing about the nature of heroes and villains in these issues. The first four are still quite light and fun but the final two issues turns the tables and leaves us with a tantalizing cliffhanger.

The Loki in this collection sees the whole Axis inversion as an opportunity to redeem himself. He even tries to make the Thor-turned-evil to see light again. While this is absurd and fun, it’s not the Loki we saw in Avengers issue 1. But all the time, the older Loki is watching and laughing. That doesn’t bode well for the younger Loki at all, especially in that final issue.

I’m a fan of alternate universes so it was quite fun to see the former villains following noble impulses. But I don’t agree that being a hero or a villain is simply which impulses are stronger in you. But of course I have to find out what happens next.

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