Marvel comics


Collects issues 1-5 and annual 1.

Writer: Tom Taylor
Artists: Mahmud Asrar, Pascal Alixe

The original Jean Grey is back! (In Phoenix Resurrection which I have mixed feelings about.) And she’s not happy about the state of the world and especially about the relations between mutants and humans. So, she’s determined to change things for the better. But to do that, she needs a team of both old friends and she also recruits some new ones. And she wants to rescue as many mutant children from bigots as she can. I really liked that premise. It seems that mutants are even more hated and feared than almost ever before, even mutant children are attacked and some humans want to confine mutants to their own ghettos. It all has a very strong parallel to our own world, unfortunately.

The collection starts with the Annual where Jean is reacquainted with her old friends but also with bigotry when the X-Men are hanging out at the school which has been relocated to Central Park. Some of the humans don’t want to see mutants. Jean teaches one of them a lesson, but it’s not enough to her. She also confronts Black Lightning, the man who killed Scott.

The actual comic starts with a mix of old characters and new. Kurt, Namor, and eventually Storm and Gambit are the old characters. Jean talks with people, she even addresses the UN. Her plan is to make mutants a nation, so that when (other) nations discuss how to “deal with the mutant problem”, the mutants will have a say as well. However, when Jean’s framed for killing the UK ambassador to UN right in front of cameras at the steps of UN building, she and her team are on the run. They go to Wakanda and later to Atlantis.

This was, in a way, a return to X-Men’s roots: humans outright hating mutants, Jean and her team hunted for a misunderstanding, powerful enemies at every turn. It’s also more tied to modern day problems than space adventures. The master villain is Cassandra Nova. I was a bit disappointed that Rachel (Grey) was again going to be someone’s puppet. In this case, Nova’s.

The idea of mutant nation isn’t new, either. Jean mentions Genosha and Utopia which both ended badly. She’s also not an elected leader and some mutants are criminals, so I’m not sure which way Taylor is going to take the story (since the comic ended with vol 2, not very far).

Jean is one of my favorite characters, so I’m happy that she’s back. Kurt is another of my favorite X-Men, so it was great to see them working together. X-23 (or Wolverine) and her sister Honey Badger were also good additions and so is the Indian mutant Trinary. She has technology powers. The later additions of two of my other favorite X-Men Storm and Gambit were also great. I already have the second volume.

Advertisements

Collects: Avengers (1963) 124-125, 129-135, Captain Marvel (1968) 33, Giant-sized Avengers 2-4, Avengers: Celestial Quest 1-8.

Writer: Steve Englehart, Roy Thomas
Artists: Bob Brown, Don Heck, John Buscema, Dave Cockrum, Joe Staton, Joe Giella, John Tartag, Jorge Santamaria, Scott Hanna

This huge collection has Avengers from 1960s and the Celestial Quest which came out 2001.

However, it’s quite a bit disjointed at the start. The collection starts not Mantis’ first appearance but the first version of her backstory. A criminal which the Avengers have just arrested, Libra of the Zodiac, claims that he’s Mantis’ father. But Mantis has no memory of him and doesn’t believe his wild story. However, Swordsman believes him and even though the Swordsman is wounded, he takes a quinjet and heads to Saigon to confront the man who killed Mantis’ (Vietnamese) mother, a crime boss the Swordsman worked for before. The Avengers follow him and find him defeated. The Avengers fight against a monster from the stars. When they return to the mansion, they’re drawn into an epic space fight against Thanos’ forces. These issues also establish that Swordsman loves Mantis but she doesn’t love him, that the Vision loves Wanda and she loves him but Mantis wants the Vision because Mantis wants someone more powerful that the Swordsman (who apparently doesn’t have any powers).

The Celestial Madonna story starts when a large star appears over the Avengers Mansion. Kang the Conqueror appears and claims that the star announces that the Celestial Madonna has come and since the Madonna will give birth to “the one” and her mate will be the most powerful man on Earth, Kang is determined to take the Madonna for himself. There are three women inside the mansion: Wanda, Mantis, and Wanda’s mentor Agatha Harkness. So, after defeating the male Avengers, Kang kidnaps all three women so that he can find out which one of them is the Madonna and he also takes the Vision, Iron Man, and Thor to power his robotic minions. The Swordsman he scornfully leaves behind but Harkness guides the Swordsman to where the women are kept prisoner. While he can’t free them, he meets with the most important ally the Avengers will have, time-traveling Pharaoh Rama-Tut. The Swordsman, time-traveling Rama-Tut, and Hawkeye go after Kang.

The Avengers are rescued but the Swordsman is killed. When he lies bleeding to death Mantis apologizes to him the way that she’s been treating him and confesses that she does love him. The Avengers and Mantis return the Swordsman’s body to the garden of Priests of Pama and then she returns to Saigon where she thinks she grew up, on the streets. Thor, Hawkeye, the Vision, Iron Man, and Thor accompany her. However, things aren’t as she remembers. Eventually, Kang and Immortus kidnap the male Avengers and Mantis again, this time to to fight against the Legion of Unliving in Immortus’ Limbo.

The story reveals the first version of the Vision’s past but, perhaps more importantly because they aren’t retconned as much, also the past of the Kree and the beginning of the Kree-Skrull war, alongside with the story of the Celestial Madonna which is actually very small part of the story. In fact, even the story titled “the Origin of Mantis” isn’t. It continues the origin story of the priests of Pama and the sentient plant the Cotati, and the Vision.

The final eight issues are the Celestial Quest where Mantis has left her son with his father on the planet of the sentient plants the Cotati, and returned to Earth. Except that she has been split into several incarnations of herself (the freak, the mother, the prostitute, the priestess, and the avenger). When Thanos kills each incarnation, the remaining Mantises become more and more aware of herself until the next to last one is able to call to the Vision for help. The current Avengers (the Vision, the Scarlet Witch (who have broken up), Thor, and Silverclaw) along with the Squadron Supreme’s Haywire (who is grieving his girlfriend Inertia and is only with the other heroes because he thinks he’ll have chance to get her back by appealing to Death herself) accompany Mantis to the Cotati’s home planet to save her son Quoi from Thanos. On the way there, Mantis and Vision get together and Silverclaw develops feelings for Haywire. They also tangle with some reptilian space pirates whom later become Thanos’ minions, except for the only female pirate who eventually starts a romantic relationship with Quoi. Unfortunately, Quoi is rebellious a teenager who resents Mantis for abandoning him and he refuses to listen to her.

I rather enjoyed the older comics more, especially the middle part with the huge fights with Kang. Although Kang does come across as far more bluster than bite, he’s still one of my favorite Avengers villains. However, I really didn’t care for the odd “romances” which were straight out of E. R. Burroughs: the woman (both Wanda and Mantis) gets upset with her man (Vision and the Swordsman, respectively) and she’s cold towards him until he rescues her (or a revelation is made in case of Mantis) and then suddenly they marry. In fact, Wanda is only in a couple of the older comics because she’s learning witchcraft from Harkness and stays behind. She and Mantis constantly snipe at each other.

Mantis is a very different character from the movies. I’m not sure if Englehart wrote her deliberately as such an unlikable female character. If so, my hat’s off to him. Mantis a “mistress of the martial arts” and even defeated Thor with her skills. However, she doesn’t appear to have any superpowers except for some vague empathy. She’s a fearless fighter. But romantically she’s very capricious, turning her affections from the Swordsman to the Vision whom she knows is in love with Wanda. Mantis later explains that she wanted a super-powered man and that she felt close to the Vision because they were both lonely and felt that they weren’t really part of humanity. I don’t know if she tried to flirt with Iron Man or Thor but it seems a bit strange that since they’re both single, she wouldn’t try. (Of course, they both have their own comics and she wouldn’t appear in them, that’s probably the real reason.)

Interestingly enough, we find that Mantis is linked to another unlikable female character, Moondragon.

I was less happy with the Celestial Quest. Mantis’ son especially grated on my nerves. He speaks strangely and is far too much a grumpy, self-absorbed teenager to be a fun character.

Collects Mr. and Mrs. X issue 1-6.

Writer: Kelly Thompson
Artists: Oscar Bazaldua, David Lopez

Rogue and Gambit are happily married and having adventures in space!! I love this comic! Do you need to know more?

Well okay. About half of the first issue is about the wedding and the various X-Men who have cameos there. Rogue’s mom Mystique also makes an appearance. Surprisingly, it doesn’t end in a fight. Instead, the happy couple goes to their well-earned honeymoon. However, they only get a few days of peace before Kitty calls them with a mission that involves getting their hands on a “package” before others can. Those others end up being Shi’Ar Imperial Guard…

Because Rogue and Gambit are on a spaceship, they’re the closest ones to protect the “package” from the Guard, Deadpool, Technet, and even Star Jammers. However, when they find out what it is, they’re not surprised that so many people are after it.

Rogues’ powers also evolve. For the wedding (and honeymoon) she must wear a power dampening collar which gives her a continuous headache. However, with her powers evolving, she must wear it all the time.

The final issue is back on earth, when they throw a party at Gambit’s apartment. Besides a lot of X-Men, they also get some unexpected gatecrashers and ominous warnings. The collection ends in a cliffhanger (almost literally) and I can’t wait for vol. 2 which, unfortunately, is coming out in August.

While Gambit and Rogue are mostly happy together, they do have some issues to work out as well. There’s also sexy banter, kissing, and staying together no matter what, so if that’s not you thing, stay away. Thompson does reference their previous problems briefly. I think it’s for the benefit of new readers (which is probably needed) but she doesn’t focus on them. Which is fine for me. I’m sure they’ll be popping up again. I must admit, though, that the Technet (and Cerise! Please tell me she’s coming back!) especially are probably unknown to newer readers; I’m a long-time Excalibur fan and so I enjoyed their appearance.

I’m mostly happy with the art. Bazaldua’s women look very young but otherwise I’m happy with him. Lopez draws the last issue but his style isn’t too different from Bazaldua, so the change isn’t jarring.

Collecting the Siege prologue, Siege: The Cabal, Siege #1-4, and Avengers: The Way Things Are.

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artists: Michael Lark, Stefano Gaudiano, Lucio Parrillo, Olivier Coipel, Mark Morales, Jim Cheung

This is what the Norman Osborn Avengers were headed towards: the final confrontation between them and the real Avengers. Let’s face it, we all knew that it would end like this.

Asgard has fallen to Earth and Osborn is increasingly paranoid about it. The cabal of supervillains he has gathered isn’t helping his paranoia. Rather, Loki is feeding it. After the Cabal has a falling out, Osborn contacts the President (of USA) and just tells him that Asgard is a security risk and must be destroyed. The President forbids him but Osborn leads his faux-Avengers, H. A. M. M. E. R. and the initiative against Asgard’s forces, anyway. They beat down Thor first on live TV. Of course, Cap and his allies come to battle it out.

Osborn’s biggest gun is the Sentry who shows his real dark side. Ares even turns against Osborn but Osborn commands Sentry to kill Ares. A few other characters are killed, too, but I’m not sure if any of them stay dead. Loki, at least, is back.

This is the end of Marvel’s grimmer age. The next stage is Heroic Age where the Avengers (and other teams) are reborn as more heroic characters. I’m not a fan of grim heroes and liked the lighter Heroic Age more.

The final story in this trade is set before the Siege. In it, ice giant Ymir had beaten Thor and New York is in danger of being buried under snow, in May. Spider-Man calls in the real Avengers but Osborn’s Avengers also show up. They and the real Avengers must team up to retrieve the Twilight Sword from the ice giants.

The Siege event itself doesn’t introduce the characters at all; the assumption is that the reader has been following the storyline and so knows at least most of them. But the final story somewhat introduces the central characters and the conflict between them so it was strange to but it at the back.

While the event has a lot of characters, it focuses on Osborn and to some extent Steve Rogers, which makes it clearer than many other events. Especially if you read the last story first, so that you get to know (or are reminded of) the characters a little first.

Overall, this was a good ending to the conflict with a hopeful future for the heroes.

Collects X-MEN: GOLD 1-6, X-MEN PRIME 1.

Writer: Marc Guggenheim
Artists: Ardian Syaf, Jay Leisten, Craig Yeung, R. B. Silva, Adriano di Benedetto

After the events of Inhumans vs. X-Men, the X-Men are back and in a big way. Their mansion was previous put into Limbo so that the students would be safe from humans and the Terrigen Mists. Now, the mansion is back, in Central Park. Kitty Pryde is the headmistress and she’s also the leader of the Gold team which has Old Man Logan, Prestige (Rachel Gray), Nightcrawler, Colossus, and Storm. Armor and Rockslide are the students whom Kitty lets join the team on occasion.

Lydia Nance is the director of the Heritage Initiative and she’s warning the States that mutants are a huge threat. She wants to protect the world from the threat that mutants are. She’s coaxing ordinary people into hating mutants just for existing. At the same time, Kitty’s team fights Terrax and the new Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. When the villains leave behind damaged property and lives, the X-Men are blamed.

The next story arch starts in issue 4 with Gambit. He has stolen a small glass globe for Olivia Trask, of course, just so that he knows what Trask is after. The globe contains nanites. Gambit tries to blow up Trask’s work and instead he manages to cut loose the nanites which bond with a next generation a sentinel. Which start to rampage through New York, killing not just mutants but everyone who has any kind of mutation, like color blindness. New York’s heroes unite against it while Rachel is searching deep inside her for strength to overpower it mentally.

In a subplot, someone is killing mutants with military grade ammo. Logan and Storm investigate.

I liked this volume which I’m pretty surprised to say. I’m an old X-Men fan. I’ve read Claremont’s long run with Storm evolving into the team leader. I remember Kitty as Sprite, then Ariel, and later Shadowcat and now without a codename. I’ve read Claremont’s and Alan Davis’ hilarious Excalibur with Kitty, Kurt, and Rachel (along with Meggan and Brian). I love these characters (except Old Man Logan). And yet, all I can say is that it was pretty nice. Nice throwback to the previous adventures. Nice to see a grown up Kitty heading the team and the school. We even got a Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, with Pyro and Avalanche who are supposedly dead (so they’re probably clones or “just two guys without an original idea between them” as Kitty puts it).

Still, a good beginning to a new series with familiar characters. It ends with a severely wounded Colossus and some subplots unresolved. At the back of the collection there are six pages of history for the characters which was fun.

Collects Avengers Prime 1-5.

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artists: Alan Davis, Mark Farmer

This series is set right after Siege (where Norman Osborn led the Avengers and apparently used the Iron Man suit). I think I’ve only read the X-Men side of that.

After the events of Siege Cap is mad at Iron Man and Iron Man is trying to defend himself. However, they try to work together when Asgard falls to Earth and the Avengers investigate. However, Steve and Tony snipe at each other the whole time so much that even Thor suggests they leave. Then the remnants of the Rainbow Bridge activate and sends Thor, Steve, and Tony away. Each ends up alone in a fantasy type setting. It turns out that the Nine Realms are in chaos and everyone blames Thor. When Steve tells the elves that he’s a friend of Thor, he’s attacked. When Tony tells the ogres the same thing, he’s knocked unconscious and stripped of his armor. Meanwhile, Thor is battling the big bad boss.

This is a fun adventure without much deeper significance. The trio save each other while Steve and Tony are reminded how much they care for each other. The funniest part was Tony stripped naked and then Steve comes to his rescue in full armor. Steve also has a brief romance with a girl whose name we don’t know until the last issue. I guess she’s there to reassure the (male) readers that our heroes are heteros and that Tony and Steve are just friends no matter how much male bonding the story has.

Awesome art, as usual from Davis. I loved the massive battle scenes with a dragon and the various Nine Realms creatures.

Collects miniseries Rogue & Gambit 1-5.

Writer: Kelly Thompson
Artist: Pere Pérez

For many years (at least for us readers: Rogue and Gambit met for the first time in 1990s) X-Men Rogue and Gambit have danced around each other. They’re attracted to each other but so far they’ve had too many problems to really get together – in other words, the editors at Marvel didn’t want them together. In order to keep them apart, the writers invented several problems for them.

Well, in this miniseries they confront those issues head on.

Mutants have been disappearing from Cerebra’s scans. Kitty Pryde (who is now the leader of the X-Men) sends them to find out what’s going on. And the reason why she chose Rogue and Gambit is that the mutants are disappearing from a paradise island where a counselor offers to “free mutants of their trauma” and Kitty wants to send in a couple who needs counseling. Rogue is less than thrilled but since Gambit agrees, they head out.

They talk about their problems to a couple’s counselor while sneaking around. This is as much fun as it sounds with Rogue and Gambit snarking at each other while also wanting to be together. The story has just as much fisticuffs and mystery solving as figuring out their relationship.

The villain turns out to be quite an interesting person but their motives are left open. Thompson manages to make some rather questionable editorial decisions somehow reasonable for the characters, especially when you consider that Rogue was just 18 when they met. I’m pretty sure we haven’t been told Gambit’s age but he had been married and divorced by the time he met Rogue. We also get to see their first meeting which was during the time Shadow King had taken over Muir Island and they were both under SK’s mind control.

Recommended to fans of Rogue and Gambit. The story references a lot of their history so to get most out of it, you should be familiar with them.

Next Page »