Marvel comics

Collects: Uncanny X-Men 273-280, X-Men Annual 15, X-Factor 69-70, X-Men 1-3; material from X-Factor Annual 6, New Mutants Annual 7

Writer: Chris Claremont, Fabien Nicieza, Peter David, Jim Lee

Artists: Jim Lee, Scott Williams, Whilce Portacio, Paul Smith, and others

In this collection the rather large mutant team splits into Blue and Yellow teams and the classic X-Men (Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Iceman, Beast, and Archangel) leave X-Factor and return to being X-Men. It also includes the Muir Island Saga confrontation between the X-Men and the Shadow King. It also has the first issues of the (then) new X-Men title and Claremont’s final issue.

Right after the X-tinction Agenda, the X-Men, Cable, and New Mutants gather into to the school to think about their teams’ future. Cable suggests going after their known enemies, which there are many, and essentially waging war on them. Storm, Scott, and Jean disagree, saying that the mutants aren’t soldiers. However, before they decide on what to do next, Lila Cheney teleports a core group away to the Shi’Ar Empire. The group was the classic blue and yellow uniforms and has Storm, Gambit, Jubilee, Psylocke, Forge, Banshee and Wolverine.

Meanwhile, Rogue’s adventures in Savage Land continue. Magneto has used some machines to fix Rogue but the result was the she lost all her powers, including her own to absorb other’s minds and powers. Rogue, Magneto, and Ka-Zar are fighting against Zaladane who has stolen Polaris’ magnetic powers and seems to be even more powerful than Magneto. She has a powerful group of villains by her side, including Worm who can enslave thousands of others. Just when our intrepid trio is almost defeated, a joint UN and SHIELD squad comes to their rescue. Unfortunately, the UN squad includes Russians who hate Magneto. But Zaladane is now so powerful that Magneto can’t defeat her alone. Rogue and Magneto seem to be attracted to each other.

In the next issues, the space team fights alongside Lilandra and the Starjammers, and they’re finally reunited with Professor Xavier. However, nothing is as it seems.

When the space team returns to Earth, they’re in the fight of their lives: the final showdown against the Shadow King! The Shadow King is an enormously powerful telepath and Xavier’s arch nemesis. He also controls the Muir Island and everyone there, including Moira MacTaggart. He has corrupted them into more vile versions of themselves. Both the X-Factor and a lot of X-Men are required in order to end this vile villain. For a while, at least. They also have to fight against former allies and we finally find out what happened to poor Polaris.

Then the X-Men return to their roots: the original X-Men return and Xavier starts again to lead the team. They’re also pitted against Magneto. He’s rebuilt his old asteroid base and the world governments don’t like it. A group of mutants steal a space shuttle and attempt to get into asteroid but a group of SHIELD agents are following them. Magneto isn’t too pleased to see them but when one of the agents shoots at one of the mutants, he kills the agent in retaliation. Of course, things escalate from there. He raises the nuclear submarine he sunk years ago. The UN is starting their “Magneto Protocol” and the X-Men confront him. Magneto is justifying his actions when the X-Men team attack him. He escapes with the nukes but before that he declares Asteroid M as a sovereign state and a haven for all mutants.

Magneto has also found out that someone has tampered with his genes and blames Moira. When she confesses, after Magneto threatens to kill Xavier, Magneto forces her to temper with the X-Men’s genes and make them agreeable to his plans. Cyclops, Rogue, Beast, Gambit, Wolverine and Psylocke declare themselves followers of Magneto! Of course, the nations on Earth don’t want Asteroid M to threaten them and in the end colonel Fury asks secretly the remaining X-Men (Storm, Forge, Archangel, Jean, Colossus, Ice Man) to, essentially, take Magneto down before Asteroid M is hit by a huge plasma cannon. Of course, an epic battle ensues.

Magneto is shown here in very gray light (of course, if he was a cackling maniac, he wouldn’t be such a fascinating and enduring character): at the start of the collection he’s trying to save the planet from Zaladane’s destructive powers and muses about how he used to be very much like Zaladane when he was younger. In X-Men 1, he says that he doesn’t have a cause and he doesn’t want followers. It’s the actions of human bigots which force him to declare his asteroid a nation and then defend it. Unfortunately, he’s also used by one of his so-called Acolytes.

This was also another interesting read after Avengers vs X-Men. Scott is here still heart and soul an X-Man and he argues passionately against Cable’s more violent approach and he also clearly disagrees with Magneto’s views.

I liked this collection a lot; I love the Shi’Ar and the Starjammers. The fight against the Shadow King and Magneto are more personal than usual and they’re also clashes of ideologies as well as people.

The annuals have a storyline called “Kings of Pain” which wasn’t published here in Finland.


Writers: Chris Claremont, Louise Simonson
Artists: Bill Jaaska, Mike Collins, Joe Rubinstein, Whilce Portacio, Jim Lee, Scott Williams, Art Thibert, Rob Liefeld and lot of others

This collection features the introduction of Gambit, another cool loner type (in addition to Wolverine).

The X-Men issues in this collections start with a three-issue focus on Storm. She’s now a little girl in Cairo (Illinois, not Egypt). She steals from the rich using her erratic powers to help her. However, the Shadow King is on her trail and manages to lure her into a trap. She escapes it only with the help of Gambit. But when they manage to leave Shadow king and his hounds to the dust, Nanny and the Orphan Maker attack.

Then, we return to Madripoor where Wolverine, Psylocke, and Jubilee get some help from the Black Widow. Logan reminisces about how he first met Natasha during WWII. She was just a child whom the Hand, a guild of assassins, tried to use for their own ends. Logan and Captain America saved her.

And in issue 269 we finally get the return of Rogue who disappeared into the Siege Perilous in issue 247. She returns to the X-Men’s old hideout in Australia without Ms. Marvel’s powers. Unfortunately, the hideout has been retaken by the Reavers and Ms. Marvel has been separated from Rogue. Carol immediately attacks Rogue who just manages to escape into the Savage Land. Carol ends up in Muir Island and the Shadow King takes her over and sends her to attack Rogue again. In the end, only either Carol or Rogue can survive.

The rest of the issues in this collection were not published here in Finland. Most of them are available digitally at Marvel but they’re not part of the Marvel Unlimited subscription, except for the X-Men issues. Fortunately, the collection is in the Finnish library system.

Next, the four annuals bring us the Days of Future Present story. It starts with the Fantastic Four annual: the team (with their son Franklin, human Ben Grimm, and Sharon Ventura as Ms. Marvel who looks like the Thing) is returning to Four Freedom’s Plaza when the whole building disappears. Then, the Baxter Building reappears. When they investigate, they find an adult Franklin with frightening powers. Eventually, the New Mutants, X-Factor, and the X-Men get involved, as well. The X-Factor annual includes the historic (to me, at least) moment when Rachel meets Jean for the first time and admits to Jean and Scott that she’s their daughter from an alternate future. Unfortunately, this don’t go well for her.

I love the Days of Future Past story and some of the stories which it has spawned. This in an average offering where the story itself is buried under the clash of characters and teams. The four teams fight Ahab and his sentinels and hounds in addition to the adult Franklin. (And after reading A vs X, it was very interesting to see Reed say that Scott and the other mutants in his team are like family to the FF.)

The rest of the collection is taken over by the X-tinction Agenda which cross-overs to New Mutants and X-Factor. The story starts with Genosha essentially declaring war on the X-Men and sending out a strike team to Xavier’s school. They kidnap Storm in her child form and four of the New Mutants: Boom-Boom, Rictor, Wolfsbane and Warlock.

Then the X-tinction Agenda is in full swing. At first, Cable, Banshee, and Forge don’t know where the missing mutants have been taken but quickly X-Factor, Cable, Forge, Gambit, Banshee, Sunspot, and Cannonball head to Genosha to free the captive mutants. Also, Wolverine, Psylocke, and Jubilee appear there and are eventually reunited with the rest of the team. Meanwhile, the last X-Man who went through the Siege Perilous turns up: Havok is a dedicated Magistrate. Despite his powers he loathes all mutants. He thinks that he was born a Genoshan and volunteered to become a Magistrate.

The Genoshan president has joined forces with Cameron Hodge and Hodge was the one who decided to kidnap foreigners from foreign soil. The Genengineer and the leader of the Magistrates both want to get rid of the increasingly insane Hodge which is a wedge the X-Men exploit.

Boom-Boom and Rictor are without their powers most part of the story and most of the rest of the mutants also lose their powers temporarily forcing them to rely on their skills. This is always an interesting tactic. Warlock and Wolfsbane are greatly changed in this story and Storm returns back to her old adult self.

This is an enjoyable cross-over but the difference in art in jarring. The X-Men issues are done by Jim Lee and Scott Williams whose style is far sleeker than the other artists in the story line.

Gambit is the new character and even though he suggests once to Storm that they should just leave, he quickly becomes a reliable team member. Jubilee is actually far more reluctant to take orders than Gambit.

Collects Uncanny Avengers #1-5

Writer: Rick Remender
Artist: John Cassaday

After the events of Avengers vs X-Men, Captain America finally acknowledges that the Avengers haven’t done enough to help mutants. In order to help them now, he gathers an Avengers team from both mutants and Avengers. He also appoints Havok as the team leader. They’re thrown into a difficult situation right from the start: Avalanche attacks a group of humans and trashes several city blocks.

Meanwhile, Xavier’s grave is opened and his body is stolen. Rogue and the Scarlet Witch try to defend the body but unsuccessfully; instead they are kidnapped. Rogue loathes Wanda because of the things Wanda has done to the mutants but Wanda shields Rogue during the attack and is wounded. The attackers are a new group of villains under the leadership of Red Skull who has a pretty frightening new power. (I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t read it.) The rest of the team (Cap, Thor, Havok, and Wolverine) are trying to calm down humans who are attacking mutants on the streets. A villain called Honest John seems to be causing this with his propaganda powers.

Red Skull’s S-Men were a bit cheesy start for the series and it seemed to me that Wanda confessed that she was actually thinking of joining Red Skull’s group! This was really disappointing! Otherwise, I think that it’s good that the Avengers have finally woken up to the difficulties mutants have and are actively trying to help them. The story references both Nazis and the Days of the Future Past comic in the X-Men, even having that iconic poster of the terminated heroes behind two fugitives, only this time the hunted ones are Havok and Wanda.

The final issue in the collection is a start to the next storyline. Twins are born and they’re called Apocalypse Twins. Both Kang and Immortus are involved. Meanwhile, back in the Avengers Mansion, Wonder Man, Wasp, and Sunfire are the newest members. Since Wonder Man doesn’t fight anymore, he’s in mostly for PR. But during a press conference, the Grim Reaper attacks. The Reaper claims that he can’t die but Rogue absorbs his powers and seems to kill him.

I’m a sucker for a good Kang story and I have high hopes for this storyline. Both Simon and Sunfire seem to have been through a lot of traumatic events which brings conflict into the team. Loved the early glimpse to (alternative?) future at the end of issue 4. Havok was great at the press conference; he took off his mask and told everyone his real name – then again he doesn’t have a secret identity as such.

Overall, I enjoyed this new team and I’m looking forward to that Kang story.

Collects AVX: Consequences 1- 5

Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artists: Tom Raney, Jim Charalampidis, Steve Kruth, Allen Martinez, Scott Eaton, Andrew Hennessy, Gabriel Hernandez Valta

Spoilers to Avengers vs. X-Men!

This almost feels like the pay-off for the huge cross-over. (I really don’t have anything against mindless, super powered fisticuff! Really!) Wakanda is now closed to all mutants when Black Panther tries to rebuild his nation (Hmm… I’m not aware of any Wakandan mutants. Surely there must be some?)

Scott is in prison after the things he’s done and he’s in a private prison which has a whole cell block just for mutants. Only Scott and one other mutant are there but apparently the plan is to eventually populate it with other mutants. Scott has an inhibitor on so he can’t use his powers. In fact, if he tries to activate them, he gets zapped with pain. Still, putting Cyclops into a prison built for humans is a big mistake. He’s also convinced that he did the right thing, except for the killing. Of course, the Phoenix force did restore mutants to the world so it turned out that he was right, after all.

Wolverine, Iron Man, and Captain America try to talk sense into him with varying success. In the end, Cyclops is a wanted murderer on the run from the law and Wolverine runs a school for mutant kids. Who could have predicted that one?

Meanwhile, Hope is trying to find her dad, Cable. He’s left a note saying that she shouldn’t look for him but she does anyway. She tries a little taste of “ordinary life”, too.

In the end, this leads to the All-New X-Men comic.

Each issue has a different artist but their styles aren’t drastically different so it wasn’t a problem for me.

Collects Avengers vs. X-Men #0–12, Material from Marvel Point One

Writers: Matt Fraction, Brian Michael Bendis, Jason Aaron, Ed Brubaker, Jonathan Hickman
Artists: Frank Cho, Jason Keith, John Romita Jr., Scott Hanna, Adam Kubert, Jim Mahfood, Oliver Coipel, Mark Morales, Adam Kubert, Kohn Dell

Once again, I read the Finnish issues which included also the A vs X issues, which essentially have just a fight between two characters, so they don’t really add anything to the storyline, with the exception of Hope vs Wanda.

The Phoenix Force is coming back to Earth and the Avengers are worried and want to stop it. But for some reason Cyclops thinks that it will bring rebirth to the mutant race. Everyone is convinced that the new host will be Hope Summers. Cyclops wants to train her and Captain America wants to get Hope to safety to, er, Avengers Tower I guess. Why he would think it’s a safer place than Utopia, I don’t know. And it turns out that Wolverine is so terrified of Phoenix that he’s preparing to kill Hope.

The Avengers come to the Utopia Island and, surprising no-one, an epic battle between the two super hero groups starts. After, Hope heads to the Moon… and both teams send a group to grab her. But they’re too late. While the two hero groups wound each other with fists, powers, and words, the Phoenix force reaches Hope whom everyone seems to have forgotten in their eagerness to pummel each other. But she rejects it and Tony Stark hits Phoenix with his disruptor weapon which he hopes will kill the force. Instead, the force is split into five fragments which bond with Cyclops, Emma Frost, Magik, Colossus, and Namor.

The Phoenix Five (and Hope) head back to Earth and proceed to make it a paradise. The Avengers, well, are suspicious of them and continue to, er, fight back against such generosity. Of course, everything goes horribly wrong.

Usually cross-over events end without anything changing. This one’s different. It launched the Marvel NOW line which changed the X-Men and the Avengers teams.

The storyline is essentially interesting: Cyclops is fighting for the survival of his species while Cap wants to keep the whole world safe. I for one don’t really understand why Scott thinks that Phoenix would do that. Of course, this is his batshit insane phase (I’m firmly convinced that somewhere before he started to cheat on Jean with Emma, he was switched with an evil/insane version from one of the other Earths) so who knows why he does anything anymore. The characterization of many characters is weird here; apparently they just follow their designated leader without any questions asked until near the end. Does that sound like the X-Men for you? Or the Avengers? In addition to Pietro and Wanda, the Beast and Wolverine and his whole school is on the Avengers’ side. So this is a very exiting plotting, at least on paper, and has great artists but it feels a forced confrontation to me, just an excuse to get a lot of hero versus hero fights. Much like Civil War felt to me, earlier. The last parts have some better characterization, though.

But it brought about interesting changes to the Marvel universe and that’s (usually) a good thing.

Writers: Chris Claremont, Michael Higgins, Dana Moreshead, Scott Lobdell
Artists: Chris Wozniak, Josef Rubenstein, David Ross, Ron Wagner
Collects Excalibur 29-34

This collection starts with three one-shots and none of them are written by Claremont. The first issue is a weird and pointless cross-over with Power Pack. The Power family’s mother is taken to the Institute of Psychic Research which turns out to be far weirder than they thought.

In the second issue the team, and Alysande, are celebrating Alistaire Stuart’s birthday when Meggan suddenly turns into a vampire, knocks out Phoenix, bites Kurt, and flies away. Guest starring Doctor Strange.

The next issue is a Nightcrawler one shot. It’s pretty silly and the best thing going for it is that most of the time it has Kurt in a loincloth. ;)

The last three issues have two plotlines. Courtney Ross sends Kitty (who doesn’t know that Excalibur is back) to her old boarding school so that Kitty can get enough credits to get into Oxbridge. The school is quite a tough place and the students “welcome” Kitty in by reading her diary and stealing her clothes. Also, her powers don’t work on the school grounds. It turns out that the place on the edge of bankruptcy and eventually, the students band together to save their school. Meanwhile, Mesmero takes over the rest of the Excalibur with his hypnotizing powers.

Also the ongoing mysteries of Courtney Ross and Jamie Braddock aren’t resolved in these collections but in issue 56 when Alan Davis has returned as both writer and artist so some of these stories have a build-up without a resolution, unless of course you can get the single issues (issues 51 is the next to last one in Marvel Unlimited. The last one is issue 95. The intervening issues are not included.). I’m also not so sure that Courtney’s actions is this collection make sense in light of the big reveal.

Several of the stories here depend on Phoenix being somehow out of commission. For example, I really doubt that mere hypnotic powers could fool her but it turns out that Mesmero pulled exactly the same stunt with the original Phoenix, Jean Grey (the Uncanny X-Men issue 111). I’m still not convinced it’s actually possible. Overall, these are pretty silly stories.

Collects Excalibur #21-28

Writer: Chris Claremont, Michael Higgins, Terry Austin
Artists: Alan Davis, Paul Neary, Chris Wozniak, Allen Milgrom, Ron Lim, Ron Rubenstein, Barry Windsor-Smith, Bill Sienkiwicz, Colleen Doran

Even I have to admit that the quality goes down in this collection, sadly. This collection has a lot of one-shots with different artists and writers.

The collection starts strongly with the Crusader X two-parter. This is an alternate dimension where America is still part of Britain. Crusader X is the equivalent of Brian in this timeline but in addition to flight and strength he has the ability to lock on to someone’s aura and track them. Also, Prussia is this Britain’s greatest enemy which leaves Kurt in danger. Meanwhile, this universe’s Jean Grey is in danger and Rachel is trying to protect her. This was a very interesting dimension and I’d love to get more adventures in it.

The next two issues are the only ones with Davis as the artist. Excalibur comes to a dimension where the world’s greatest criminal empire is run by Kitty Pryde and her chief sorceress Illyana Rasputin. Meanwhile the Justiciers are doing their best to uphold the law, which includes a swift arrest and trial of every mutant. Excalibur crashes into Kitty’s tower, Justiciers hot on their tail and wanting to arrest them immediately.

The next issue brings an end to the caper: Opal Luna Saturnine herself brings our team to the omniversal hub where she expects to get to the bottom of things… and capture Phoenix. Rachel disguises herself as Kitty and the team tries to sort things out. Meanwhile, Courtney Ross becomes Kitty’s “fairy godmother” and helps her celebrate her 15th birthday. Kitty still thinks that she’s lost another team and is very depressed about it but cheers up a lot. It seems that Courtney wants to teach Kitty that sometimes she has to break the rules instead of following them. However, the caper ends very neatly and Rachel even manages to keep her disguise.

And then: Galactus! The team has returned to their lighthouse home but Galactus has decided that Phoenix is too great a danger and has to be separated from the host. The team tries to defend her and even the Watcher shows up to, er, watch.

Next issue is a one-shot from before the Caper which explores Rachel’s sad past. This had some promise but unfortunately, relies on deceiving the team telepath.

Next is one of the strangest issues ever: Excalibur versus the Nth man. The characters from both comics switch places with Kurt and Rachel facing the only superbeing in the Nth man’s world and John Doe and the Russian assassin Novikova battling Brian and Meggan. The point of the story seems to be to give clues to Excalibur about Jamie Braddock’s powers.

The last issue is another one shot: Meggan and Brian adventure. It was nice seeing them happy and together for a change but otherwise this is a forgettable story.

This is a fun little collection but not as good as the previous ones.

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