Marvel comics

Collects X-Men #244-264, Annual #13

Writer: Chris Claremont
Artists: Marc Silvestri, Jim Lee, Dan Green, Steve Leialoha, Glynis Oliver, Scott Williams, Josef Rubinstein

This collection starts right after the end of Inferno and the first few issues are just a cool down from it. In the first issue (244) Dazzler brings the other X-Women to a mall for shopping. However, a group of mutant hunting humans are summoned there to capture a teenaged girl who lives in the mall stealing and throwing around fireworks. Yep, Jubilee was introduced in this issue and Gateway teleports her to the X-Men’s dreary headquarters.

Issue 245 wasn’t published here.

The next two issues the X-Men (Rogue, Psylocke, Storm, Colossus, Dazzler, Havok) fight Master Mold, a Sentinel made up of Nimrod and a Sentinel. Wolverine leaves the group and Psylocke and Carol had a heart-to-heart about how difficult it is for Carol and Rogue to share the same body. The only way for the team to beat Master Mold is to send it through the Siege Perilous and it takes Rogue with it.

We also get to briefly see Senator Kelly’s gorgeous blond wife who is one of Hellfire Club’s girls. However, she dies in the fighting and instead of blaming the giant robot which shot the car where the Kellys were, the Senator… decides that mutant are responsible and want to… build more giant robots!

Next, the Nanny and the Orphan-Maker attack. They change some team members into children in order to control them. However, when Havok fires at Nanny’s flying machine, he accidentally kills Storm and one of the most bizarre plot twists starts.

In issue 250, Zaladane kidnaps Lorna Dane and through the use of High Evolutionary’s machine, takes away Lorna’s mutant magnetic powers. Instead, Lorna gains strength, invulnerability, and grows taller.

In this collection, the X-Men team dies, again. This time the team (Psylocke, Dazzler, Havok, and Colossus) goes through the Siege Perilous in order to avoid a Reaver ambush. Only Wolverine is left and he’s quickly becomes a prisoner. With Jubilee’s help he escapes but his healing power is at its limit and requires constant help.

This is the collection where Psylocke gets her Asian body and ninja skills. She’s brainwashed by Hand and used by the Mandarin. We also get to see an all-new X-Men team which includes Moira MacTaggert, the recovered Banshee, the witch Amanda Sefton, Legion, and a couple of Moira’s assistants. Legion is also playing against this X-Men team and helping their attackers. And Storm returns as a little girl.

These stories were weird even by X-Men standards but I enjoyed them. Back then, it was hard to wait for the next comic to know what would happen next.

A possible conclusion to the FF.

Writer and artist: Alan Davis
Inker: Mark Farmer

Even though the story’s name is “the end” it felt to me more like a new beginning than a possible ending to Marvel’s first family. The story starts with each of the FF doing their own thing and they don’t get together until near the end. John, not Johnny anymore, has joined the Avengers and is leading a team of Iron Man, the Vision, Thor, Captain Marvel, and the Silver Surfer. Reed is doing research on an FF asteroid all alone, Ben and Alicia are married and they’re living on Mars with their kids, and Susan is doing deep sea archeology.

Susan and Reed have been torn apart by a tragedy: their kids were killed in a confrontation with rather mechanoid Dr. Doom. While Earth and the surviving characters live in near Paradise like world, it’s underscored by tragedy: the mutant wars during which apparently all mutants died. So, even though Reed has come up with the Metuselah treatment which prolongs the lives of humans (or at least the character we’ve grown to love) and other technology which has greatly enhanced the lives of humans, it has a bitter sweet tinge, to me at least. Johnny and the Avengers are faced with a gang of criminals, the She-Hulk is trying to talk to Reed about his survivor’s guilt, and Susan runs into Namor. Together Sue and Namor explore some ruins deep in the sea.

All of the FF are still very much the same characters, even though this story seems to take place at least two decades from now. In fact, all the characters are pretty much the same, older but not more mature nor wiser, with the possible exception of Johnny. Also, the book is full of familiar characters from the FFs past both allies and criminals. This seemed to irritate some reviewers; I rather liked it.

I was actually more interested in the science fiction setting than in the plot. Humans have developed space travel and have colonies off planet but the solar system has been quarantined on the joint decision of humans and other species. In John’s storyline some supervillains are trying to break through the quarantine devices. Iron Man has apparently lost his physical body but is able to download his consciousness to different armors. The heroes wear Personal Environment Generators which allow John, and other heroes and criminals, to use their powers in space. And Reed works on an asteroid which is orbiting Earth, with the FF logo on its side.

This is a fun story, full of the technological wonders I tend to associate with the FF.

Collects Uncanny X-Men #229-243, Annual #12, X-Factor #36-39

Writer: Chris Claremont, Louise Simonson
Artists: Rick Leonardi, Dan Green, Marc Silvestri, Art Adams, Walter Simonson

This collection has a continuous story line going through it and culminating in the multi-crossover event “Inferno” where all the secrets of Madelyne Pyor were revealed. Also, the Brood return and the nasty island Genosha is introduced.

The collection starts with a bang: Reavers attack a bank and take a young woman as a new recruit. The Reavers are humans who have lots of metallic, cybernetic parts. They’re also very nasty and the X-Men (Storm, Wolverine, Colossus, Dazzler, Longshot, Havok, Rogue, and Psylocke) have decided to take them down. The Reavers have a base in Australia and they’ve blackmailed the mysterious aboriginal man called Gateway to assist them with transportation. After a fierce battle, the X-Men take down the Reavers but some of them escape. However, the X-Men liberate their base and Gateway. The Australian underground complex becomes their base and Gateway starts to assist them. He doesn’t speak or acknowledge when others speak to him but somehow knows where they want to go. The X-Men also faced with a moral dilemma: what to do with the captured Reavers. However, Roma gives them another choice than just killing them: she give them the Siege Perilous to guard. The Reavers go through it. Madelyne Pryor joins the X-Men in their hideout.

Issue 230 wasn’t published in Finland.

Next issue focuses on Colossus. He sees a disturbing dream about his sister and decides to try to help her out. This is precursor to Inferno and we get to see Illyana in full demon mode when she and Piotr fight Baba Yaga and other demons.

Issue 232 brings back the Brood. Apparently, some readers don’t like them but I love them and was happy to see them back. A Brood Shark-ship falls from the sky and a group of humans camping nearby go to see it. The Brood kill all but one. That unfortunate man, Harry Palmer, doesn’t know that he’s been infected and he spreads the infection among other unsuspecting humans and mutants. When the X-Men find out about this, they track down Palmer who starts a fight and other, infected mutants join the fight. The Brood are difficult to take down, especially when one of them touches Rogue and takes over her and then Psylocke. They also want to plant a queen egg into Storm. Havok is forced to kill for the first time and this will haunt him. The humans in the story call mutants “mutie” but one man, a preacher, publicly defends mutants. I was bit surprised when the X-Men just brushed aside the whole killing thing by saying that the Brood had killed the people first and the X-Men were just “laying them to rest”. Meanwhile back in Australia the demon S’ym contacts Madelyne and she chooses to become the Goblin Queen

Annual 12: Storm flies off in a terrible hurry and the rest of the team track her down to the Savage Land. They are shocked to find that it has been destroyed along with all of the people in it. Then the team fights Terminus, with the High Evolutionary. Enjoyable enough story which is clearly a set up for later adventures. I really like Adams’ style.

Issue 235 introduces us to the very nasty nation of Genosha. A wonderful island for humans but mutants and mutates are condemned to forced labor from birth. Mutates are humans with latent mutant powers. Genoshan technology is able to change those potential mutants into whatever type of mutant Genosha needs at the moment. (This is a very powerful tech considering that they were able to take a latent empath and turn her into a “worker” type mutant with enhanced strength and durability. I’m very surprised that we haven’t seen this tech outside Genosha. At least I don’t remember seen it used elsewhere.) Also, the tech changes the mutate’s personality into subservient and barely intelligent.

The issue starts with a young man running from pursuers. He carries a baby and puts it into a plane in the hopes that it, his child, will be able to live free. Later, Madelyne has volunteered to fly doctors around. The medic she’s flying this time, Jenny Ransom, is kidnapped by a group of enforcers. The enforcers, called the Magistrates, work for Genosha, Jenny’s native country, and even though Jenny has Australian citizenship, the group forcibly brings her back. And takes Madelyne, too. The X-Men follow but in the battle Wolverine and Rogue are knocked out and kidnapped, too.

Eventually, they manage to track Madelyne to Genosha. While the X-Men work to find out what happened to the kidnapped people and to find them, Wolverine and Rogue manage to free themselves. However, Rogue’s body is now controlled by Carol Danvers’ persona who is much better suited to spy work.

This story asks pointed questions about who decides who are human and is really anti-slavery/exploitation. In the end, the X-Men don’t tear the whole country to pieces, though.

The next issue, 239, is prologue to the Inferno storyline. Here in Finland, we got not just the X-Factor and X-Men issues but also the New Mutants and the Excalibur issues. I think the New Mutants issues are important and it’s a shame they aren’t apparently collected into this US Essential collection. This is a major cross-over that reveals to the rest of the X-Men that Jean Grey is actually alive and to the X-Factor that the X-Men are alive. Instead of discussing things, the teams fight each other while fighting demons.

Madelyne Pryor is the center piece for Inferno, though. She brings the demons from Limbo to Earth. They are looking for her and Scott’s child and also attacking the X-Men. Limbo’s influence also turns inanimate objects into demons that attack and devour humans and it also influences the current X-Men to turn pretty demonic. For example Wolverine becomes more feral and both Longshot and Dazzler vain gloryhounds.

Upon a reread, I liked the story and even Madelyne’s part in it. Scott abandoned her and their baby as soon as he heard that Jean is alive. No wonder that Maddie is lashing back. Of course, she’s way over the top and hurting lots of innocent people along the way. I really enjoyed the whole demon thing and objects turning to demons. On the other hand, Mr. Sinister is introduced here as the ultimate bad guy who is manipulating everything and has an unhealthy fixation of the Summers/Grey genetic line. I never liked him and I still don’t. Poor Nathan. As a kid, he’s pretty much always a plot point; he’s only remembered when it’s convenient for the plot. When Roma resurrected Maddie along with the X-Men, she could have asked to be brought to her son. But no. Cyclops could have returned quickly, if he was truly concerned about his son. But no. Now, however, it’s convenient to the plot for everyone to be concerned about little Nathan.

What I didn’t remember what the huge crossover had time to focus on Longshot, as well, a little bit. He was deeply affected by the demonic influence which turned him into someone who enjoyed hurting others and took his confidence away. Havok has also changed into a more merciless guy.

However, the last issue focuses on Cyclops and his youth in the hands of Mr. Sinister. Most of his problems are attributed to Mr. Sinister’s manipulations.

Overall, this was another enjoyable reread. But in fact, rereading those Excalibur issues reminded me how much fun that comic was. The X-Men have come quite dark and will come more darker, still.

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.

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