Marvel comics


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.

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A prose novel with Avengers characters and many of their enemies.

Publication year: 2018
Format: print
Publisher: Titan books
Page count: 348

This is a stand-alone novel. The cover hints that these are the movie Avengers. While the five Avengers from the first movie are indeed the prominent characters, later joined by the Vision and the Scarlet Witch, there are a couple of hints that they’re actually the comic book characters. Specifically, Wanda is referred to as a veteran Avenger and her powers aren’t the movie powers but the mix of hex and magic she uses in the comics. Also, some of the villains are clearly their comic book versions, not the movie versions.

The writing style assumes that the reader is already familiar with the characters, their backgrounds and powers; they’re not introduced at all. Instead, we’re plunged straight into action with every character.

Captain America is fighting Baron Wolfgang from Strucker (with his Satan’s Claw not seen in the movies) and Hydra in Berlin. He’s assisted by S.H.I.E.L.D. agents and resources. At the same time, Hawkeye and Black Widow have just arrived to Savage Land where A.I.M. is doing something big. Our heroes must survive the Savage Land dinosaurs and then infiltrate the A.I.M. base. Meanwhile, Tony Stark is dealing with Ultron’s attack in Washington DC. Ultron has managed to jam communications, so the Avengers can’t communicate with each other and nobody else can communicate, either. Thor is in Siberia trying to deal with a magical attack and S.H.I.E.L.D has called Bruce Banner into Madripool as an expert scientist rather than as the Hulk.

Each group is on their own because of the communications blackout and dealing with a major threat to the world. However, the villains haven’t coordinated their attack with each other so they’re somewhat at a disadvantage. Of course, something even more sinister is going on.

The POVs of the book are all from the Avengers so we don’t see the enemies POV. Each chapter follows one hero or a group of heroes and is full of action. In that way, it’s similar to many comics. However, I think that some chapters are more blood-thirsty than comics, where the heroes go out of their way to avoid killing anyone. Here, Natasha and Clint kill many A.I.M. minions.

The cover claims that each of the Avengers are on his or her own, but only Thor is really on his own, for a while at least. The others are supported by S.H.I.E.L.D. agents

If you know the Avengers and are a fan of the comics, I recommend reading this. However, don’t expect anything deeper or any character development. A very entertaining and action-packed book.

Collects Fantastic Four issues 347–350, 352-354.

Writer: Walter Simonson
Artists: Walter Simonson, Arthur Adams

The first three issues are drawn (gorgeously) by Adams and inked by various people. The FF have returned to their own world and time, and are relaxing. Well, except for Sharon who is depressed because she’s now again the Thing rather than a woman. Ben tries to comfort her but in vain. A mysterious woman crashes her space ship to Earth and heads for the FF so that she can find what she came to Earth to find. She manages to subdue the FF one by one. However, she’s not successful in finding her prize.

Meanwhile, a skrull space ship has landed, looking for the woman. Instead, they find Monster Island. They managed to use their tech on the monsters and send them to various cities to attack humans.

The mystery woman keeps her disguise as Susan Richards and sends a message to four humans: Wolverine, gray Hulk, Ghost-Rider, and Spider-Man. To them, the woman claims that the FF are dead and the killers can be found with a hand scanner. The four head off to the Monster Island.

This was a fun little story with monsters, the Mole Man, and skrulls.

Then Dr. Doom attacks… Latveria. He defeats the Doombots and Kristoff who has apparently been posing as Dr. Doom ever since the real doc left. He examines the FF and realizes that he can use Sharon’s need to become human. So, he meets with her in New York and makes the offer to turn her back to a human. Sharon agrees and leaves with the doc to Latveria. Of course, Dr. Doom pries secrets from Sharon’s mind. Meanwhile, Ben uses Reed’s machines to become the Thing again, so that Sharon wouldn’t be so lonely. Awwww… that’s very sweet of him.

Dr. Doom sends an ultimatum to the FF who hurry to Latveria to rescue Sharon. While the rest of the FF fall victim to Dr. Doom’s traps, Reed and the doc battle each other using devices which allows them to jump around in time. Well, at least inside 30 minutes.

The Time Variance Authority gets involved. Their job is to monitor the multiverse and try to stop people from time traveling too much. However, they don’t really seem very effective. They arrest the FF and try to put them on trial for time traveling. Things don’t go well for TVA.

This was a bit wackier story than the previous ones, thanks to the TVA. In the ends, Simonson largely returns the FF to the status quo with Sharon back to a human and Ben again the Thing. The TVA is a wacky concept, especially considering how truly powerless they are to actually prevent time travel. They seem more like a bureaucracy for bureaucracy’s sake than anything useful. Which could well be the point.

Another fun collection!

Collects Fantastic Four issues 342–346.

Writer: Walter Simonson, Danny Fingeroth
Artist: Walter Simonson, Rex Valve, Chris Ivy

The first issue is apparently a filler where Ben, Johnny, and Sharon have an adventure of their own. It wasn’t published in Finland. Simonson didn’t work on it.

The rest of the collection is solid Simonson. The FF find out that they didn’t actually return to their own world from the time bubble. Instead, they’re in an alternate world where Dan Quayle is the President of US and Joseph Stalin is still the Premier of USSR. Stalin is 111 years old and is wearing a power armor which is keeping him alive. The world is still in darkest Cold War. When Quayle decides to launch a pre-emptive nuclear strike against the Soviet Union, Reed and the rest of the FF must work hard to prevent it. This world’s Reed has started to build EMP-weapons and our Reed manages to finish them just in time to blow the missiles from the sky. Then the FF head to Kremlin in the hopes of finding a way to stop World War III. After they battle Stalin, who is wearing his impressive power armor, they find out rather strange things.

Next, Reed is able to fix the time sled and they again try to return to their own time. But they don’t succeed yet. The FF find themselves in jungle with a group of US soldiers. Also, the FF don’t have their powers, so the soldiers are rather skeptical about their identities. Even Sharon returns to her human form. But the jungle full of hostile dinosaurs they must work together in order to survive. However, the jungle seems to be a just a fragment in time, an island which is quickly falling apart from around them.

I’m a fan of alternate universes and this jaunt was a lot of fun! I loved the surprise at the Kremlin; I didn’t remember that at all from my first read. I also love dinosaurs so it was fun to see them. Also, Ben brought his Thing suit with him so he was the only who how had powers. That was a fun reversal.

I’m not so crazy about Sharon’s subplot. She’s starting to loath her Thing form and wants to be a woman for Ben. Ben tries to reassure her but in vain. Also, Johnny is still thinking of Nebula and wondering how he can face Alicia.

Otherwise, this was great fun, if somewhat weird to see Ben and Johnny involved with and declaring their love to women who are now long gone from their lives. (I think this Alicia turned out to be a skrull and Sharon started to work for Doom or something.)

Collects Fantastic Four issues 334–341 from 1989.

Writer: Walter Simonson
Artists: Rich Buckler, Romeo Tanghal, Ron Lim, Mike Decarlo, Walter Simonson

I wanted to read some older comics and rather than rereading Byrne again, I ended up reading Simonson’s run on the FF. Most of Simonson’s run has been translated into Finnish but not the first three issues in this collection.

The FF are really Fantastic Five in these stories because in addition to the Invisible Woman, Mr. Fantastic, and the Human Torch, they include Ben who has turned back to a human (but sometimes uses a Thing costume which gives him enhanced strength) and Ms. Marvel, a female Thing, Sharon Ventura who is dating Ben. (And Johnny is married to Alicia.)

The collection starts with a three-issue Act of Vengeance tie-in. Very underwhelming supervillains try to take out the FF with mostly comical results. However, when the FF is invited to testify to four Congressmen about the superhero registration act, the singular attacks turn from amusing to annoying. In the third issue, the Act of Vengeance are wrapped up for the FF.

Then Simonson really starts going! A time bubble from the future is threatening the present. Reed discovers that and the FF (along with human Ben and female Thing Sharon) together with Iron Man and Thor dive into the time stream hoping to correct things. This is a continuation from Simonson’s Avengers run. Unfortunately, it also means that Thor and Iron Man are more prominent characters than Sue and Johnny.

Inside the time bubble is out of control Galactus, eating the whole universe. Now, the team must try to find some way to stop it. But evil blue woman Nebula has taken over Johnny’s mind and she has her own agenda. Guest-starring Death’s Head and Gladiator from the Imperial Guard.

While we get a brief recap of Avengers 296-297 and 300, I think it would have been far more reader friendly to simply include those issues in the collection, especially since I don’t think they’ve been reprinted anywhere. Of course, the whole Dr. Druid/Nebula thing started earlier, and I think those issues are reprinted in Avengers: Heavy Metal. I was subscribing to the Avengers at the time, so I have vague memories about the whole thing but readers who haven’t read them could well be quite confused, especially since the cross-time Kangs are involved (but only briefly).

But it doesn’t really matter. This is FF at their most cosmic, traveling through time with the time sled and to different places with Thor’s hammer. They encounter very dangerous foes during the desperate race to save the whole universe.

The collection ends with a cliffhanger and wraps up with Simonson’s interview and a couple of FF pin-ups. (who would have thought that Reed needs to advertise watches. 😊 )

Definitely recommended, if you like this sort of thing.

Collects All-New X-Men issues 18-21 and X-Men Gold issue 1.

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis, Chris Claremont, Stan Lee, Louise Simonson, Roy Thomas, Fabien Nicieza, Len Wein
Artists: Stuart Immonen, Wade von Grawbadger, Brandon Peterson and Mahmud Asrar, Rob McCloud, Bob Wiacek, Walt Simonson, Pat Oliffe, Jorge Molina, Salvador Larroca, Christ Sotomayor

After the events in the Battle for the Atom cross-over, the teenaged original X-Men and their professor Kitty Pryde decide to join Cyclops’ lunatic team. This also give the chance for Kitty and Illyana to reconnect. They used to be best friends and roommates back in the Xavier school. On the bad side of things (for me), all the teenaged X-Men and panting after Jean.

In the next issues, the team (teenaged X-Men, Kitty, and Illyana) battles the Purifies, religious fanatics who want to clean the Earth of mutants. They were founded by William Stryker. The team also encounters a girl the Purifiers are hunting. The girl is terrified, and Kitty pursues her. She turned out to be Laura Kinney, X-23.
Apparently, she was kidnapped, and terrible things were done to her. Now she wants revenge and the team follows her to the Purifiers’ base.

In the soap opera front, Scott and Laura have feelings for each other. Despite Jean saying that she doesn’t want anything to do with Scott, she’s jealous and spies on them. (Insert eyerolls here.) Oh, and Illyana gave the team their new uniforms. The Purifiers are a great way to show the team how different things are in the here and now than in the sixties. So, the team’s fish out of water experiences continue.

I didn’t enjoy this collection as much as the previous one but it’s still mostly on the fun side. I especially enjoyed the exchange between the bad guys when some of them were arguing that they can’t kill the time-traveled X-Men or the timeline will suffer… as they’ve seen in movies.

The final issue in the collection is a strange one. It’s X-Men Gold vol. 1 issue 1. Apparently, it came out in 2014 but in the X-Men internal chronology it’s set far further in the past, when Kitty Pryde was still very new to the superhero stuff and using the name Ariel, and Scott was still married to Jean’s clone Madelyne and Nathan had not yet been born. Also, Rogue has only just joined the team and the team is coming home to US from Japan where Wolverine was supposed to have been married… but didn’t. So, a huge blast from the past!

In the main story, the team battles a new kind of Sentinel and Kitty gets to show off her leadership skills for the first time. The issue has also four very short back-up stories. The first involves the original X-Men where… Jean apparently has no objection to dating any of the other original X-Men… In the second story, Banshee and Sunfire (whose only other appearance in the collection is in the next story) meet for the first time. In the third story, Wolverine meets the new X-Men for the first time and immediately thinks of how easy it would be to kill the others. The final story is the weirdest of them all. Xavier and Magneto are in some sort of dream world where they helped to build the world into a paradise… or have they?

While I enjoyed seeing the “classic” (for me) X-Men in battle once again, I doubt new readers would get much out of these stories. Also, they’re pretty forgettable so they seem to be pretty much filler.

Collects X-Men: Schism 1-5, Generation Hope 10-11, & X-Men: Regenesis.

Writers: Jason Aaron, Kieron Gillen
Artists: Carlos Pacheco, Frank Cho, Daniel Acuna, Aland Davis, Adam Kubert, Cam Smith, Mark Farmer, Mark Roslan, Tim Seely, Billy Tan

Despite being such a fundamental event, Schism was skipped in the Finnish edition of the X-Men and now I understand that decision. It’s an ambitious comic with the theme of children in war. That’s a hugely important topic and is addressed through two main views: the mutant kids in Utopia (especially Idie) and the new Hellfire Club pre-teen kids. Their lives are pretty much the opposite of each other.

The four pre-teen kids have all grown up impossibly rich. Yet, they all turn out to be insane mass murderers, seemingly without other cause than boredom (and possibly getting out the shadows of their parents). None of them are abused in anyway. Yet, they casually murder their own parents and take over their business empires. And then take over the Hellfire Club by murdering the previous leaders. They’re also planning mutant genocide and intend to profit from it. That’s… chilling, twisted, and insane are too mellow words. Yet, they’re so clearly monsters that they’re pretty much caricatures. What’s the message here? Unearned wealth makes kids into murderers? I don’t know.

The mutant kids are far more relatable. Most of them are Hope Summers and her generation Hope kids. I’m actually not very familiar with them. They were shown briefly in Finland when the whole Generation Hope started but not much after that. But they’re all under 18 and Hope has recruited them to be soldiers. Some of them, and some of the adults, take exception to that. Idie is the central character. She’s 14 and has accepted that she’s a monster because she’s a mutant. Wolverine is horrified by that and is even more horrified when she ends up killing people. She does it in self-defense, of course, and rescues other people beside herself. But she still thinks of herself as a murderer.

I rather enjoyed the Generation Hope issues here which gave us insight to the kids’ point-of-view.

The other theme is heroes disagreeing but that’s an old hat by now. The main conflict is between Cyclops and Wolverine. They pretty much invert their original positions: Cyclops wants mutants to be proactive and protect themselves while Wolverine wants the mutants to live first and protect themselves when absolutely necessary. Cyclops the realist and Wolverine the idealist.

The problem for me is that Logan has never before been against teens in battle. Kitty Pryde? He trains her as a ninja when she’s 14. Jubilee? Again, he trained her when the rest of the X-Men had gone through Siege Perilous and were lost to him (yeppers, I still remember way back things. ;)). He also trained Rogue although she was 18 when she joined X-Men (IIRC). And X-23. He had no problem being in the same team with any of them. Now, suddenly, he’s got a problem with the newer kids. Hmph. So, while the idea might be good, the execution not so much. In fact, I think Ororo would have been far better choice as the idealist leaving Utopia. Or perhaps Kitty, thinking the other kids needed a childhood she didn’t get (although I don’t remember her ever lamenting it). Maybe Kurt? Or to shake things up real good, how about Emma who claims to loooove teaching. Or perhaps someone newer who still had the idealism left. Because part of the problem is that the old and experienced X-Men have seen so much and lost friends and family, that while many of them would like to live in a world where mutant children would not need to be soldiers, they’re far too pragmatic to behave like they already have that luxury. Because that’s why they’re fighting. To get to that world.

Also, the story clearly shows that the mutants are in deadly danger right frelling now and if they kids don’t fight, they’re dead. So, what’s with sudden idealistic Logan who wants to get the kids killed now, huh? But of course the real main issue between them comes out when Scott says: “She never loved you, you know. You always frightened her.”

That’s right. Mr. Hypocritical who abandoned Jean for Emma. (No, Marvel, I’m never going to forget that.) And by the way, Mr. Hypocritical who abandoned his wife Madelyne and their new-born son for Jean. (Ditto.) And of course on the other side Mr. Hypocritical who has already taught children to fight.

In the end, I think this was done because the mutants were too cozy with each other. Too many characters and too difficult to get them in danger when they have ready back-up. So, it was an outside driven thing rather than rising from the characters, so it felt forced to me (and yeah, I really shouldn’t expect any character driven things from comics). It could have been a far more interesting conflict if Marvel had chosen central characters whose personalities had actually fit the roles chosen for them. In that case, Logan choosing to, for example, support Storm would have been far more believable choice. But you know, who wants to read about girl mutants making their own choices when we can have the savage but noble Wolverine battle the increasingly unlikable Cyclops over a dead girl?

Okay, rant over. 🙂 I think I’ll be revisiting some older X-Men comics, except for the All-New X-Men which I’ll continue with.

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