Marvel comics


Collects X-Men (2019) issue 1-6.

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Writer: Jonathan Hickman

Artist: Lenil Francis Yu

Publisher: Marvel

Publication year: 2020

This was an interesting start to the next stage of X-Men. Most mutants live in the island paradise of Krakoa where they are immortal and happy. Except that the rest of the world still views them with suspicion and that the most powerful and experienced mutants must protect the rest.

A case in point is the Orchis, made up of the remains of many villainous human organizations, such as Hydra, A.I.M., and even S.H.I.E.L.D. They have an orbiting base where they’re creating weapons against mutants. Storm, Magneto, Polaris, and Cyclops attack them. They free captured mutants but also one who is apparently ”posthuman”.

The issue starts with a bang and a fight. Later we get to see our heroes in a more relaxed setting. Summer House in on the Moon. The Summers clan live there: Scott, Havok, Jean, Rachel, Nathan… and Logan. Corsair and the Starjammers are visiting.

In the next issue, another island approaches Krakoa. Scott, Nathan, and Rachel investigate. We get a couple of nice moments between them, but mostly they fight the locals. However, Krakoa and the next island merge so now the paradise island has dangerous new places. The mutants’ Silent Council is introduced. In retrospect, Scott made grave tactical errors in this issue.

In the next issue, four mysterious figures invade the island. I rather enjoyed the new villains, the Hordeculture and their confrontation with Scott and Sebastian Shaw. On the other hand, the new villains made our mutants look like incompetent idiots.

Issue four centers on politics. Krakoa is a new nation but already so powerful that the human nations are afraid of it, and for a good reason. Still, Krakoa’s representatives are asked to join a summit between nations. Magneto, Professor X, and Apocalypse are the diplomats while Cyclops and Gorgon are security. Once again, humans appear friendly, but assault squads are ready. I loved how Magneto flat out told the humans that Krakoa is soon going to be the economic powerhouse of the world because of the awful way that humans treat each other and others.

The next issue shows us that having a paradise island isn’t without a cost. Cyclops and Logan send three mutants to investigate the Vault, a place where time flows differently. They’ve chosen three who are most likely to survive it: X-23, Darwin, and Synch. While Storm and Cyclops attack the Vault as a distraction, the three try to infiltrate it. If they succeed, they could be inside for hundreds of years form their perspective. If they don’t, they die.

The final issue continues the shadowy dealings, this time with Mystique who has infiltrated the Orchid and tries to sabotage them as best she can. She’s doing it to get back Destiny. While she made a deal with Xavier and Magneto, they have no intention of keeping the deal. This feels huge out of character for both of them. Of course, Mystique has her own plots.

This was a very interesting beginning, showing us both a paradise for most mutants and yet it has a clear dark side, as well. This clearly starts off long storylines. Issue five ends in a cliffhanger and nothing is really resolved.

I enjoyed seeing most of the characters relatively happy and I’m very intrigued to see that Logan lives with the Summers clan.

The mutants have a lot of things going for them: five mutants who can resurrect apparently any mutant, Krakoa’s flowers which can create instant gateways between Krakoa and any place, medicines and healers, relatively safe place to heal and live. To balance it out, they also have a lot of enemies, including some nations.

Collects Age of X-Man: X-Tremists issues 1-5.

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Writer: Leah Williams

Artist: Georges Jeanty

Nate Grey created a utopia for mutants, an alternate reality where everyone is a mutant. The biggest threats in this world are intimate relationships. Love, both romantic and familial, is forbidden. Of course, people still have these dangerous feelings so Nate needs Department X to remove them. Psylocke, Iceman, Northstar, Blob, Jubilee, and Moneta are Department X. Bobby is his old self, joking as much as he can. Jean-Paul is trying to ignore Bobby as much as possible and is more interested in books than working. Betsy carries the heavy load of altering mutants’ memories “for their own good”. Blob is the team leader, but he has feelings of his own toward one of the team members. Jubilee believes in the cause and works her best. Moneta is a new character. She hates anyone who has feelings of love and calls them retrograde.

The team gets a tip about two lovers and heads out to arrest them. Psylocke is supposed to remove their memories of each other. But they find out that the woman, Nezumi, is pregnant. Children are cooked up artificially and no hospital can help in a delivery. What will Department X do? Also, we readers find out more about secrets behind how this society is held together.

Williams explores what the world would be like without intimacy on both societal and a more personal level. How the people must constantly guard against their own feelings and hide them from others. And ultimately how that’s going to fail. However, creating a new character to be the prejudiced idiot felt a bit of a cop out, but of course making an established character into one would alienate the fans of that character. Blob had surprising depth. I rather enjoyed the relationship between Blob and his crush, but I don’t see them getting together in the real world. Too bad we’re not going to see any repercussions of this series in the real world. None of these characters are my favorites but they were an interesting mix, especially as I don’t see any of them joining a secret police force for real.

Collects Age of X-Man Alpha, Age Of X-Man: The Marvelous X-Men 1-5, Age of X-Man Omega.

Writers: Zac Thompson, Lonnie Nadler

Artists: Ramon Rosanas, Marco Failla, Simone Buonfantino

The Alpha comic starts the new reality of the Age of X-Man storyline. When the X-Men seemingly died at the end of X-Men Disassembled, Nate Gray created another reality where he moved most of our merry mutants. Nate tried to create a paradise: a world where everyone was a mutant. But of course, something needs to be off. This time, Nate created a world where mutants have evolved beyond the base desires of love, family, and sex. People aren’t allowed to have relationships, no matter if they’re romantic or familial. Children are created in birthing chambers and raised in creches. They don’t know their parents or possible siblings. Trying to suppress such a basic human need isn’t easy. In the Alpha comic, we already find out that in order to create his utopia, Nate altered the memories of everyone. He also has Department X which arrests the ”criminals” and changes their memories even more, or if they ”infringe” several times, they’re taken away to prison. In the Alpha comic Jean and Bishop start a relationship and Bishop is arrested and dragged away. The rest of the team doesn’t even remember him anymore.

The Marvelous X-Men are Jean Grey, Storm, Magneto, Colossus, X-23, Nature Girl, and Nightcrawler. In this now peaceful world, they only fight against natural disasters. But when En Sabah Nur and his minion Kitty Pryde start to preach for love, the X-Men must take a stand. But is it against them or with them?

This was an interesting alternate world but of course, we all know that it can’t last. I had problems with a few of the ideas, such as Apocalypse as the messenger of love, but most of them were explained in the Omega comic. I didn’t really buy some of the romantic pairings the comics had, such as Bishop and Jean but of course the writers had to play with characters they were given.

I really enjoy seeing alternate versions of familiar characters and it was fun seeing Magneto, Storm, and Jean trying to get to the bottom of this new reality. The Alpha comic leads into all of the six new limited series and the Omega ties up all the storylines from the six series.

Collects Uncanny X-Men (2018) 17-22.

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Writer: Matthew Rosenberg

Artists: Salvador Larroca, Carlos Gomez, Carlos Villa

Publisher: Marvel

This is the culmination of six months of comics for the mutants who aren’t in the Age of X-Man alternate world. Cyclops and his team face increasingly desperate times. Also, one mutant is working without their knowledge and yet using them are puppets. The team is Cyclops, Wolverine, Mirage, Magick, Havoc, Karma, Chamber, Multiple Man, Hope Summers, Banshee, and Juggernaut. However, Karma leaves the team and so does Wolverine. The team has decided to use Dark Beast as their scientist. Not everyone is comfortable with that decision.

This is a very dark comic. All of the characters are struggling with the deaths of their teammates, friends, and lovers. Cyclops suggested that they would take care of their deadliest enemies before the X-Men themselves are killed. The team agrees on that mission but not much else. They fight and bicker amongst themselves while talking about issues such as leadership and trust.

Also, the US government wants to get rid of mutants and so they’re issuing vaccinations for children. The vaccine will stop mutations. The whole next generation of mutants is in dire danger.

This is meant to be the end of the X-Men, with the characters making a fateful decision very near the end. Of course, Hickman’s new run changes, not just the teams, but the mutants’ place in the Marvel universe. If the X-Men had ended here permanently, I probably wouldn’t have been satisfied for the simple reason that there are so many mutants and they all didn’t get their ending. That would have taken several issues, of course. So as it is, this was a fine ending to the series, for now.

Collects miniseries Marvel 1602: The New World 1-5 and Marvel 1602: The Fantastick Four 1-5.

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Writers: Greg Pak, Peter David

Artists: Greg Tocchini, Pascal Alixe

The first miniseries follows the adventures of Bruce David Banner and Peter Parquagh in the Roanoke colony in the New World. Banner was the right-hand man of the murderous King James of Scotland and England. James sent Banner to the New World to murder Nicholas Fury, but when Fury disappeared, Banner changed to a monster, the Hulk.

The local newspaperman, Jonah Jameson, has hired Peter. Peter also became friends with Virginia Dare, the daughter of Roanoke’s governor. She can change to various white animals, but she can’t control the change nor what she does in animal form. Peter has his own secret as well. When a pack of dinosaurs is trampling the settlement, he uses his powers to save people and the Hulk does the same.

However, King James is growing impatient with no news from the Roanoke and he sends the Iron Lord and his faithful servant Rhodes to the colony with a group of soldiers. When they come to the shore, they arrest the governor for treason. Of course, Peter and Virginia must help her father. Meanwhile, Banner flees to the wilderness and wonders if he has any reason to survive. And greedy Norman Osborn wants to kill all the Indians on the island. Lots of plotlines and lots of characters.

The second story centers on Fantastick Four and their struggle against Otto von Doom. Otto was called the Handsome, but he was hideously scarred in the main series. He wants a way to cure his scars. When he hears about a city beyond the edge of the world, he thinks has found it. He kidnaps William Shakespeare to document the voyage – and his triumph of the FF. The FF follow Shakespeare in Ben’s ship. But Johnny has kidnapped a woman he’s fallen in love with, Doris Evans on the eve of her wedding. Doris isn’t happy about it but the FF can’t turn back.

Otto has allied himself with the Four who are Frightful: Medusa, the Wizard, the Sandman, and the Trapster. Trapster seems to be the only one without powers.

The FF follow Otto’s flying ship and they meet in the middle of the sea. Of course, they fight and attract the attention of a couple of other familiar characters.

This was a fun read, especially if you liked the main 1602 comic. The New World deals with colonialism and Banner wrestles with the terrible things he has done for the king. It has so much story that the end feels a bit rushed. A couple of more issues would have fleshed out the conflicts and the side characters a bit more.

In the FF comic, David touches on the collision of scientific and religious worldviews. Sadly, I didn’t really care for how that ended. Will Shakespeare was added for some comic relief; other people said some of his most famous lines. Sue is invisible for most of the comic, but she’s pregnant and for some reason the fetus is visible, which looks really strange.

I think the FF are more, er, archetypal than usual: John is a drunkard womanizer, Sue is a bickering girlfriend, Reed is so focused on science that he doesn’t understand people around him, and Ben… is a gruff sea captain. However, the plotline partly rehashes one of the oldest storylines in FF.

It was fun to see the different versions of the characters I know, and I enjoyed the collection more than I expected.

Collects the miniseries issues 1-8.

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Writer: Neil Gaiman

Artists: Andy Kubert, Richard Isanove

Publishing year: 2003

I read this originally when it first came out in 2003 and mostly liked it.

So, Marvel characters were born in 1602. Sir Nicholas Fury is the spymaster to the elderly and sick Queen Elizabeth I. Stephen Strange is the Queen’s head physician and sorcerer. The men don’t like each other but have a grudging respect for each other.

Matthew Murdoch is a blind minstrel who secretly works for Fury. Teenaged Peter Parquagh is Fury’s closest assistant. Murdoch sings about four intrepid explorers who died while investigating the new world. Fury’s secret ally is Carlos Javier, who has a school for mutants.

All over the world, mutants are called witchbreed and the people hate and fear them. In England they’re tolerated, but in Scotland King James persecutes them, and in Spain the Grand Inquisitor burns them at the stake.

Storms are getting stronger, and Dr. Strange senses that they’re supernatural. He tries to find out more about them with his magic. In a trance, he sees that a ship is coming from the New World and that the girl on it is responsible for the storms–which will destroy the world. Virginia Dare and her loyal blond and white-skinned Native American guard are sailing from Roanoke to beg help from the Queen. Virginia’s hair is white and when she’s scared, she can involuntarily turn to a white animal. The guard is… very stoic and speaks only a few words when necessary. Very stereotypically cringe worthy.

Meanwhile, in Spain the Grand Inquisitor is preparing to burn at the stake a young man who dares to impersonate an angel, by having wings. The Inquisitor’s young aides, Wanda and Petros, have powers of their own, so the old Inquisitor seems to play a deeper game. However, Javier’s young charges save the young man from death.

Also, an old man is secretly bringing a Templar treasure to England. A treasure that could destroy the world or save it. The Queen commands Fury to protect it and Fury sends Murdoch.

And in Latveria Count Otto von Doom, called the Handsome, is weaving his own plots.

So, the comic has lots of characters. However, for me at least they worked well, mostly anyway. Strange and Fury get the most page time in the first issue, but other characters get more time in later issues.

For the most part, I enjoyed this reimagining of the oldest Marvel characters in an Elizabethan fantasy world. Daredevil especially had a bigger role and was more effective than I expected. Javier and Fury’s relationship was very interesting, too. Jean has to pretend to be a boy, which was a nice touch. I recommend this only for people who are already familiar with Marvel’s comics.

However, the women characters had tiny roles, so I was disappointed in how little Gaiman used them. Wanda’s only relevant action in the whole comic is in the first issue. Also, I don’t think the complicated explanation in the last two issues wasn’t really necessary. But my biggest disagreement was with a character that was revealed right at the end. I just don’t think they could have thought and done what they did.

Kubert’s art is quite distinctive. Isanove changed it to a painting style which worked very well for this story.

Collects Uncanny X-Men (2018) issues 11-16.

Writer: Matthew Rosenberg

Artists: Salvador Larroca, John McCrea, Juanan Ramirez

At the end of Disassembled (vol. 1) of the UXM series in 2018, almost all of the X-Men vanished during a fight and they’re presumed to be dead.

Now, Scott Summers is back. Actually, how he came back to life was in UXM Annual which, strangely, isn’t part of this collection. He’s keeping a low profile but helping people, especially mutants, who need it. But when a group of mutants attack a Humanity for Humans rally, he decides to defend the bigots. Now, all of X-Men’s enemies know that Cyclops is back. He challenges them and calls all X-Men who are still left. Only Wolverine answers his call.

Oh, and Scott meets with a young mutant who can see the future, Blindfold. I haven’t seen her before. She warns Scott that anything he does is futile but urges Logan to help him.

Oh yes. Wolverine is back as well. His return was in the ”Return of Wolverine” miniseries.

Logan and Scott team-up. They look for other surviving mutants. They find Havok (without the facial scars) and a group of New Mutants. Magik is her normal self, not as acidic as when she was in Scott’s X-Men team. Wolfsbane, Karma, and Mirage have been infected by the techno-organic virus so they talk like Warmachine. They also find the Multiple Man and a couple of other mutants.

Scott plans to take care of all of the X-Men’s dangerous enemies so that humans wouldn’t have to deal with them. The others are a bit skeptical but join his crusade.

This is quite a dark comic. With most of their friends and family dead, the X-Men aren’t a happy bunch. They know that their mission is most likely an impossible one and that some, or all, of them will die.

I quite enjoyed the banter between Logan and Scott. That’s pretty much the only banter in the collection. I also really enjoyed the first issue where they ended up trusting and supporting each other. Alex and Scott aren’t very close despite being brothers, but they have their moments. When Scott starts taking prisoners, the others have mixed feelings about it, and about the prisoners.

While this is darker than I like, at least right now, I enjoyed most of it. The comic brings back many elements of the X-Men when I first fell in love with them, namely Claremont’s long run in the 1980s. In addition to the classic villains, like Marauders, or sort-of-allies like Val Cooper, also the mutant hatred is, again, very high and the X-Men are a small band of misfits rather than a horde of experienced teachers and an even larger group of students with various powers.

So, overall I liked it, but none of my favorite mutants are in this comic (Storm, Kitty Pryde, Nightcrawler…). I’ll definitely continue to see just how they will come back.

(And of course, they will be back, with Hickman’s run starting soon after this storyline.) And yes, I’ll also dive into the Age of X-Man to see what my favorite mutants are doing.

Collects Astonishing X-Men issues 7-12.

Writer: Charles Soule
Artists: Gerardo Sandoval, Phil Noto, Paolo Siqueria, Matteo Buffagni, Aco, and Ron Garney

The story continues straight from issue 6. Rogue, Gambit, Old Man Logan, and Mystique are back from the Astral Plane. But with them came out another mutant, someone whom everyone thinks is dead but who has been trapped in the Astral Plane, dueling with the Shadow King. He’s a changed person. Mystique doesn’t believe he is who he says he is. The new mutant, who calls himself X, has taken over Fantomex while Fantomex’s spirit stays in the Astral Plane. Psylocke even visits the Astral Plane to make sure Fantomex chose it.

But together with X another mutant comes to London from the Astral Plane: Proteus who has reality altering powers. And Proteus wastes no time using his powers. The X-Men and X drive him away from London, but he goes to a small town in Scotland. He offers all the residents whatever they want. Of course, chaos ensues.

Characters rising from the dead aren’t unusual in comics, but I’m not sure if the return of this character was needed. But he seems to be a really changed man, doing things now that he wouldn’t have before. Also, Mystique especially is suspicious of him, which is refreshing and also really sensible. Soule’s run ends here, and the next writer takes up another cast of characters.

This was mostly an enjoyable read. Soule changes especially the balance between Warren and Archangel. Also, Fantomex’s mind remains in the Astral Plane. But in the end, X wipes the memories of him from all the other characters, except Betsy. I’m so used to comics where nothing changes that I was surprised, but I liked the changes. But who knows if the next writers will even notice them. Of course, that’s always the question with a universe as large as Marvel.

Collects Astonishing X-Men issues 1-6.

Writer: Charles Soule
Artists: Jim Cheung, Mike Deodato Jr.,  Ed McGuinness, Carlos Pacheco, Ramon Rosanas, Mike Del Mundo, Mark Morales, Rafael Fonteriz, Guillermo Ortego, Walden Wong

I wanted more Rogue and Gambit stories. Unfortunately, this comic is set before they get married. In fact, when they meet again in the first issue, Rogue is quite cold toward Gambit. But this must be the series where they’re built toward the wedding. So I’m looking forward to that.

A psychic wave leaves many lesser powered telepaths dead. But when that wave reaches Psylocke, she reaches out to the X-Men who are closest: Bishop, Angel, Rogue, Old Man Logan, and Gambit. Gambit is working with Fantomex so he comes along, too. A powerful telepath is attacking Betsy and the X-Men come to her rescue. Working together Rogue and Bishop manage to save her. However, their work is just beginning.

Betsy tells them that the Shadow King is alive and well in the Astral Plane. Some of the X-Men must go there and kill him or he will take over enough minds to escape to the world.

Bishop and Angel choose to stay and guard the others. Psylocke must stay and keep the others in the Astral Plane. So, Logan, Rogue, Gambit, Phantomex, and one mystery mutant go to the Astral Plane.

The Shadow King will try to take them over by creating a reality they will accept as real so I was looking forward to twisted versions, both good and bad, of our characters’ realities. This didn’t happen.

The first issue promised that the SK will use the characters’ fears and loves against them. Unfortunately, we got only a few scenes of that before another powerful mutant psychic started to influence our characters and they realized where they were. SK has taken over Gambit and Rogue before but that was only referenced a couple of times, not significantly.

So this turned out to be quite different than what I expected. Still, I quite enjoyed this adventure with both an old enemy, SK obviously, and new one which is the UK’s Ministry of Defense’s superhuman police force which seem very trigger happy. I also enjoyed the mystery mutant working with the others. Not so sure about the resurrected character but we’ll see what happens with them.

This was a good start and I’m going to continue with the series.

Every issue has a different artist. Their styles aren’t very different from each other, so this wasn’t too annoying except in the final issue. But it was noticeable in the other issues, as well.

Collects Fantastic Four (2018) issues 14-19.

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Writer: Dan Slott
Artists: Paco Medina, Bob Quinn, Sean Izaakse, Luciano Vecchio, Carlos Magno, Francesco Manna

National Air and Space Museum newest exhibit is Marvel-II the rocket ship where the FF did their first flight and got their powers. The FF are there, as well. Reed has the idea that the FF should redo their first, failed space flight. They should finally go to the planet where they were trying to go. Johnny and Sue agree but Ben think they’re all nuts.

But in the end all four members launch in the redone rocket ship. However, the FF don’t know that the planet is inhabited. The people of Spyre knew that the FF were coming to invade them all those years ago… and they’ve had time to prepare. Now they have their own superheroes, the Unparallered. But their near-perfect society has a darker side, too.

This was a fascinating concept and I enjoyed most of it. The people of Spyre have a very clear and insular culture. They don’t have any contact with any other cultures and so their view of the FF is quite different from what I’m used to. However, this is a pretty standard superhero story with a couple of twists. One of them concerned Johnny and I’m curious to see how it will turn out.

On the other hand, I’m not sure if we really needed an FF origin retcon. We already know that Reed isn’t a perfect person or scientist. Also, the storyline has several artists which hurt the comic a bit. Their styles weren’t completely incompatible but noticeably different.

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