Marvel comics

Collects Excalibur 59-67.

Writer: Alan Davis, Scott Lobdell
Artists: Scott Kolins, Alan Davis, Mark Farmer

The collection starts with a two-part story written by Lobdell and drawn by Kolins. Brian has been invited to Wakanda in business and he took Meggan with him. Kitty sneaked aboard with Lockheed in order to take a vacation on somewhere warm. That’s a good thing because Wakandan supervillain Icon attacks! Fortunately, the all-new and all-different Excalibur is there to defeat him. The new team includes Iron Man, Captain America (who are also there to represent US government), Black Panther, Jungle man, Shadowcat, and Meggan. Meanwhile, back in Britain Cerise and Kurt encounter the Knight Errant.

Then Davis returns and brings back Phoenix. In deep space, Rachel confronts Galactus and some disturbing truths about her power. Meanwhile, on Earth first Micromax (a super powered agent of the British government) and then Alistaire Stewart are kidnapped while Brian and Meggan are vacationing. Excalibur (with a more traditional line-up of Kurt, Kitty, Cerise, Kylun, and Feron) investigate the kidnappings and finds out about R. C. X which is Britain’s new secret para-human organization. It appears that someone or something is infecting Britain’s super powered people with a virus that changes them back to human and kills them. This takes up the majority of the comic. This is a treat for old readers because it brings back characters from the original Captain Britain comic (by Moore and Davis).

The last two issues have the most interesting story to me. Rachel has returned and she wants to use her powers to return to her own parallel timeline to wipe out the Sentinels with the Phoenix power. And who could blame her? However, people from that dimension interfere and the whole Excalibur comes with her to fight the sentinels, Hound Master Ahab, and the Hierarchy, the ultimate Sentinel which commands the other Sentinels.

This was a good conclusion to Rachel’s story but I would have loved to see more of the world. While in the original story, only US had been taken over by the Sentinels, this time the machines have apparently taken over most of Europe and are fighting in Russia. However, this was only mentioned and not shown.

Overall this was another good collection which ties up more dangling plotlines. However, I’m not really familiar with the old characters so I though the central storyline was a bit too long while the “Back to the Present” could have been expanded. Now it’s focused completely in superhero fights. Also, it leaves Widget with a human mind!

Collects Excalibur 42-50.
Writer: Alan Davis
Artists: Alan Davis, Mark Farmer

When Claremont left Excalibur and Davis took over, he brought fun back into the title and also started to tie up the plots Claremont left unresolved. These stories have a lot of funny moments, even when another subplot deals with more serious matters, such as Meggan’s quest for her family. The interdimensional police force is especially funny with various Captain Britains from alternate dimensions. So is Technet. Kylun and Kurt’s first meeting was also very funny. This is one of the best Excalibur collections. In this collection, Davis ties up Roma’s manipulations, shows us some of Meggan’s past, and introduces new members, too. All of the issues are available from Marvel Unlimited.

The collection starts with a giggle when Technet attacks the team. The team (Captain Britain, Meggan, Shadowcat, Lockheed, Phoenix, and Nightcrawler) are rather tired from rescue efforts so a talking egg which changes into a talking chick takes them by surprise and blows up the lighthouse. But Horatio Cringebottom from the Ministry for Cross-time Transport Regulation Monitor and Control freezes the villains. Horatio and his engineer Bert have come to fix Widget so that he won’t jump in time anymore. Despite Kitty’s protestations they take Widget apart and put him back together. Horatio also gives a message to Gatecrasher: the Omniversal Majestrix has cancelled the search for Phoenix and exiled Technet to Earth. In response, Technet pleads Excalibur for help and Kurt allows them to stay in the lighthouse. And Kylun is introduced.

In the next issue, Technet has pretty much taken over the lighthouse and Brian is fed up with them. The aliens are supposed to repair the damages their bomb did to the building but unfortunately, they seem to be damaging it more. Brian’s frustrations boil over and he confronts Kurt about Kurt’s feeling about Meggan. It all descends into a fist fight, Meggan flying off, and the Omniversal Police Force kidnapping Brian to answer for his crimes. Also: lots of shirtless Brian!

In the next issue, Meggan is trying to get in touch with her past and Rachel is helping her. In Otherworld, Brian faces the accusations and is sentenced to death – still shirtless. Meanwhile, Scotland Yard Commander Thomas wants Excalibur’s help with series of burglaries which apparently have a supernatural element. However, since Kurt is the only team member in residence (Kitty has left to an archeological dig with Alistaire), there’s only one solution.

Issue 45 introduces the N-Men: Technet in new uniforms and Kurt leading them! Also, Kylun’s quest to free his world, Ee’rath, kicks into high gear.

The next issue focuses on Meggan and Rachel in Germany looking for Meggan’s family. Meggan finds some answers and Rachel realizes that keeping the Phoenix dormant heals her fragmented memory. Meanwhile, Kulyn’s tale takes a tragic turn: his lady love is killed by an evil mage Necrom. Kylun follows the villain to Excalibur’s lighthouse and we finally hear Kylun’s full story.

The next issue introduces Cerise, an alien warrior woman with light/energy powers and Brian confronts Roma. Also, the team hears that the Earth apparently has only 78 hours left to exist. This starts the countdown to the explosive issue 50.

In the next issue, Necrom kills a lot of people to get himself to full power. Meanwhile, Excalibur is looking a strategy in order to survive.

In the final issue it’s Excalibur against their ultimate foe!

Collects Excalibur 51-58 and Excalibur XX Crossing

Writers: Alan Davies, Scott Lobdell
Artists: Doug Braithwaite, Will Simpson, James Frye, Steve Lightle, Ron Lim, Dwayne Turner, Joe Madueira, Jae Lee, Malcolm Jones, Rick Leonardi, Alan Davis

Mostly this was a fun collection but it has too many inconsequential one-shots and too much stuff not done by Alan Davies (for a visionary collection). But it also ties up dangling plotlines from the start of the series so that was great.

The collection starts with the latter: what ever happened to that small human group which disappeared in the first issues? And also what happened to the small dinosaur family which was seen in a couple of scenes here and there? Well, it turns out that the human group disappeared into a parallel world where dinosaurs are the major species. This was a fun issue with a dinosaur Excalibur and Fantastic Five.

In the next issue we finally get to know everything about Rachel and Phoenix. The X-Men are called in to help Rachel who is catatonic after what happened in the previous collection. However, Rachel leaves the group to (possibly) recover in peace and isn’t seen in the rest of the collection. It has a lot of exposition but I think it was needed to clear by the situation with just how Rachel got Phoenix force.

Next is one of those inconsequential one-shots: Brian tells Meggan about his adventure with Spider-Man when they were both in collage.

Then a goofy and funny one-shot where Brian, Meggan, Kulyn, and Cerise investigate a missing people case. Lots of references to Alice in Wonderland.

Then X-Men and Excalibur special which is possibly the worst story in the collection. A new supervillain hopeful shows off his powers to Dr. Doom in an attempt to get a job as an assassin. He actually has pretty nifty powers which could have been serious trouble: he can pick people out of the time stream and put them into elsewhen. Unfortunately, he’s very bad as using them: he picks Excalibur versus the original X-Men (plus Xavier) and puts them into one-on-one fights against each other in various time lines. I actually liked the idea a lot and if he had picked more formidable opponents, it could have worked. But it didn’t. (The best thing about it was Gladiator Hank). And the fact that each fight had a different artist didn’t help.

In the next two issues, Excalibur throws a party but gets gatecrashers. Finally, the secrets behind Courtney Ross are revealed and Jamie Braddock’s situation is (mostly) cleared. Psylocke guest-stars.

In the final two issues, Excalibur finds some people turned into gold and finds out that there really are trolls under London. X-Men’s blue team (Cyclops, Psylocke, Rogue, Gambit, Jubilee, Beast) drops by as well.

The Davis issues actually have some character development with Brian realizing that he’s using violence too much and Kurt worrying about if he’s capable of leading the team (and the X-Men somewhat undermining him). Kulyn also leaves the group before the party (issue 55) which further saps Kurt’s confidence.

Fun but uneven collection.

Collects: X-Men: Battle of the Atom 1-2, All-New X-Men 16-17, X-Men 5-6, Uncanny X-Men 12-13, & Wolverine & the X-Men 36-37

Writers: Brian Michael Bendis, Brian Wood, Jason Aaron
Artists: Frank Cho, Stuart Immonen, David López, Esad Ripid,Giuseppe Camuncoli, Andrew Currie, Tom Palmer, Chris Bachalo

Ah, crossovers! The bane of my superhero reading! Or they used to be before Marvel Unlimited. Now, they’re easier to read, as long as each comic is part of MU.

Battle of the Atom is a time travel mini-series featuring X-Men past, present, and future. In the end, there’s a lot of X-Men fighting other X-Men and that seem to be largely the point.

The original five X-Men have been brought to the present and they’re at the center of the conflict: if they should go back or stay. So far, the five have stayed and even split: Jean, Scott, Hank, and Bobby stay at the Jean Grey school under the tutelage of Kitty Pryde while Warren has joined Scott’s, er, the present Scott’s small band of rebels. Then, a group of X-Men from the future appear at the school and claim that the five have to return to the past or something terrible will happen.
The future group has some familiar and startling people: Xorn (who killed the original Jean Grey), Kate Pryde apparently from the Days of the Future Past future, Bobby as a huge ice monster, old Hank, and Xavier’s grandson.

Yes, we have no less than three Beasts and three Icemans at the same time in this story. If time travel and multiple same characters don’t make your head hurt, this can be fun. I loved the glimpses to the possible future and enjoyed the interaction between the various Hanks and Bobbys. Jubilee also had some very good moments. My problem was that it has far, far too many characters who don’t have much to do. Storm, Rogue, and Psylocke are some of my favorites and they mostly stand in the background but apparently have to be here for some reason. In fact, when I first read the few X-Men issues I didn’t have MU and no access to the rest of the story. In issue 8, after this cross-over, there was some mention that Rogue had left the team because of this event and I assumed she had a big role. Nope. She apparently died in Uncanny Avengers. And was resurrected. (Whew! Ever since Kurt died and was left dead, I sometimes worry about my other favorites.)

Collects Ms. Marvel 1-5.

Writer: G. Willow Wilson
Artist: Adrian Alphona

Kamala Khan was born in New Jersey 16 years ago to an immigrant Pakistani family. Her parents are very strict with her while her brother is very religious. Her best friends include another Pakistani girl Nakia and a classmate Bruno who works at a local grocery store. He appears to be secretly in love with her. She a fan of the Avengers, especially Captain Marvel, and plays online a lot. However, Kamala thinks that her life is very boring, if not outright terrible. She’s frustrated with how little her parents seem to trust her and just one to be a normal girl.

Once again her parents forbid her to go to party but this time she sneaks out. At the party, she’s made fun of and she leaves, feeling really down. However, a strange mist envelops New York and Kamala passes out inside the mist. She wakes up to a hallucination of Captain Marvel, Captain America, and Iron Man. When the mist goes away she looks just like Carol Danvers in her Ms. Marvel costume. She also has shape-changing powers which she uses to save a classmate from drowning.

The story focuses on her as a person and a teenager rather than a superhero. She learns how to control her powers and they get her into trouble at first, both at home and in school. She lives with her parents but decides not to tell them about her powers, which further complicates her life. The story has lots of comedy and can be read without much previous knowledge about Marvel characters.

Kamala is a great character. She’s ernest and genuinely wants to help people and have fun with her powers. Unlike most superhero comics, Ms. Marvel isn’t centered on fights.

Collects FF 18-23

Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artists: Nick Dragotta, Steve Epting, Chris Sotomayor, Chris Peter, Andé Araújo

Volume 4 collects a lot of one-shots. In the first issue, the FF kids are minded by Johnny. They get to have their first field trip – to the Negative Zone. But there’s trouble brewing and as the current monarch, Johnny has to tend to it.

In the next issue, the FF go to Wakanda in a companion piece to the two-issue Wakandan arch in the Fantastic Four. While Reed and Susan confront the magical part of Wakanda, the kids are riding around and having fun, until they come face-to-face with the infamous Hyena tribe.

The next couple of issues tie up dangling plotlines with Inhumans, and Johnny.

Then, it’s the little clone Bentley versus his “dad”, the adult Wizard. Wizard is convinced that his clones can never be anything else than little copies of him, destined to be an evil madman. Is he right and Bentley’s destiny is already written?

In the final issue, we return to adult Valerie and Franklin. In a bittersweet story they have to say goodbye to their family.

These issues tie up the Hickman run very nicely but they’re not essential to the storylines, unless of course the reader is interested in knowing what happened to Annihilus in the end or what happened with the Inhumans. However, they’re an entertaining bunch and less disjointed than the Fantastic Four volume 6.

The Future Foundation was a great idea and for the most part is was well written. There were a lot of kids, and adults, but most of them got a scene or two in every issue. The group had quite an interesting mix of kids. The most annoying one was Bentley and even he felt (still) adorable with his anger and assumed evilness. But Valerie started to creep me out more than a little bit. She’s only three years old and already reading, writing, and doing calculations better than Reed. She doesn’t really have a childhood; she’s like a small adult and is just frustrated when her parents tell her what she can’t do. Otherwise, I really liked Val and Franklin’s relationship. Overall, this was a good read and companion comic to Fantastic Four.

Collects FF 12-17

Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artists: Juan Bobilo, Marcelo Sosa, Nick Dragotta, Steve Epting, Chris Sotomayor, Paul Mounts

The first four issues happen at the same time as the Fantastic Four “Forever” story and we finally get to know what “All hope lies in Doom” means. Also, the fate of the Reeds from the other dimensions is revealed.

Issue 16 is the aftermath of the big fight and the revelations about Franklin. Valerie has to also face the music for all the things she’s done behind her parents’ backs.

Then Johnny moves in with Peter. After returning from the dead, Johnny feels that he needs a change and so he becomes Peter’s roommate. Peter isn’t thrilled, to say it mildly.

This is an excellent companion volume to the “Forever” trade. It’s not absolutely necessary but it has a pay-off to the multiple Reeds storyline and the Doom story, too. I enjoyed following the FF kids and the Johnny/Peter issue is quite funny.

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