Marvel comics

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.

Collects Excalibur #12-20

Writer: Chris Claremont, Michael Higgins
Artists: Alan Davis, Paul Neary, Dennis Jensen, Dan Adkins, Rick Leonardi, Ron Lim, Ron Rubenstein

Excalibur’s interdimensional travel has begun! Nightcrawler, Shadowcat, Phoenix, Captain Britain, Meggan, Lockheed, Widget, and Professor Alistare Stuart are thrown from one dimension to another. Sometimes their powers work, sometimes they don’t.

First the train they’re traveling in sets down in a magical version of Britain where fairies live in the forests and the Queen’s guard has giants. And the Queen and the Queen Mother are accomplished sorcerers. The story isn’t terribly original but has some great gags, like the opening sequence where a knight errant sees a worried Lockheed next to unconscious Kitty and draws the wrong conclusions.

In the third issue, number 14, things get even sillier when the team arrives to Earth where apparently every incarnation of every super hero and villain exists at the same time. Meanwhile, back on Earth Courtney Ross sends Nigel Frobisher, the unfortunate former banker, to hire Technet to free Brian’s (and Psylocke’s) older brother James from captivity. His jailor is Doctor Crocodile.

In the next issue, the team hops from one dimension to another while Technet frees James. However, it turns out that James was a very bad man and now he has pretty incredible powers, to boot. He wipes the floor with Technet singlehandedly. In the first Excalibur special, Technet captured Kitty, Rachel, and Meggan so Jamie is worrisomely powerful. During the fight Excalibur hops from dimension to dimension wearing pretty silly outfits.

The next two issues, 16 and 17, are perhaps my favorites in this long-running series with Kurt as the swashbuckling hero. This is clearly a homage to Barsoom (and Claremont wrote Barsoom comics for a while so he knows the source very well) with swordfights, men and women in very small amount of clothing, and four-armed aliens. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Also, the team’s powers don’t work in this dimension so they have to rely more on their wits and skills. At the end, Meggan shows herself to be very powerful indeed.

Next, the Jamie Braddock plotline gets into higher gear and Excalibur arrive into a world which seems to be obsessed with car racing and the world’s best racer is Jamie Braddock. Of course, the Excalibur have to fight him in the end. Guest starring Dirty Pair (Lovely Angels from manga). These have some great scenes, such as Kitty in the wheel of a racing car Widget has made but on the whole, this was starting to get to bit too silly even for me. At the end of the issue, Kitty is separated from the rest of the team; she’s stranded into their home reality.

The final issue is one-shot set before the Cross-Time Caper started. Demon Druid causes problems for our team. Unfortunately, this is a complete fill-in with Brian acting like an ass and Meggan crying over him on Kurt’s shoulder.

Issue 18 starts a galore of guest artists which lasts until issue 23. Unfortunately, they all have very different styles from Davis so the difference is jarring. Claremont makes fun of this in issue 18 where Kitty says that they look different.

Claremont also establishes a connection between Rachel and Meggan which was started actually back in their New York adventure. Meggan is a shape shifter and she also tends to shift her shape to mimic anyone close to her. This is very unfortunate in the case of Phoenix where Meggan goes so far that she makes herself look like Rachel and changes Rachel into Meggan. That’s why they crash into the car racing world. However, it also gives the team a chance to deal with super powered Jamie. We also get to know that when Meggan changes her shape to another super person, she gets the powers, too!

I enjoyed this collection, too.

Collects Excalibur issues 6-11 & Excalibur: Mojo Mayhem

Writer: Chris Claremont
Artists: Alan Davis, Paul Neary, Marshall Rogers, Terry Austen, Arthur Adams, Bob Wiacek

This time the series starts with a bang; literally because Phoenix leaves the lighthouse in a hurry and blows a path straight through the whole building. She heard a cry for help from her “little brother” baby Nathan Summers and left to help him. A huge cross-over event, Inferno, has begun. Excalibur’s part isn’t necessary for the event’s overall plotline but the characters go through changes which will affect them later. In fact, a reader might be confused if she or he hasn’t read the other Inferno comics.

Rachel flies to New York, which has been taken over by demons. She’s promptly taken out of the rest of the story – because she’s turned into a plastic dummy. Meanwhile, the rest of the team flies after her. Unfortunately, the demonic influence in the city immediately takes over Meggan who changes into the Goblin princess and she starts to hunt Brian, Kitty, and Kurt.

Afterward, the team stays in New York for a couple of days. Issue 8 is an aftermath issue where each of them goes to their own ways. Kitty visits her old friends the New Mutants, Kurt is retrieving an old X-Men jet, and Rachel visits her brother, but unseen by Jean and Scott because they don’t yet know that Rachel is their child from another timeline. Meggan is terribly ashamed of her actions and has left to harbor where a group of women find her and cheer her up. Meanwhile Brian is looking her all over the city. He also finds out that his powers are diminishing.

In the next issue, Kitty tests Brian’s powers and notices that they’re nearly gone. She also brings the others’ attention to Meggan’s problem: she changes shape unconsciously to anyone who is near her. But they’re called back to London by detective Thomas. There, Excalibur has to confront Lighting Squad: their double from another Earth which was conquered by Nazis. Hauptmann Englande and his associates are very nasty people. Their Kitty is a tortured being who has been forced to kill and might be a ghost herself. The Nazi team doesn’t have Rachel, though.

In the final issue, the English authorities have negotiated a way to return the Nazi team to their own world but something goes wrong. The Excalibur vanishes, too.

Meanwhile, Nigel Frobisher, the rather unpleasant banker we met earlier, gambles with Courtney Ross but loses – big time. Courtney is turning about to a quite a nasty person, too.

The whole team get a lot to think about in these stories but Meggan especially: she’s starting to wonder just who she is or if she even has a personality of her own. Also, when the team returns to the lighthouse, Kitty finds Illyana’s soulsword in front of the building. She doesn’t want it but even Phoenix can’t get rid of it. She also feels really inadequate next to Rachel. Also, Kitty and Kurt are starting to see disturbing parallels with Jean-Phoenix and Rachel-Phoenix which is very bad news. Brian is still an alcoholic and Kurt is worried about the whole team.

Mojo Mayhem was drawn by Arthur Adams and stars X-Babies who are Mojo’s creations. Wolverine, Storm, Rogue, Psylocke, Longshot, Colossus, Havok, and Dazzler escape the Mojo world with an unfortunate adult. At the same time, Kitty is taking a deserved vacation but ends up with the X-Babies.

I enjoyed this collection as well, but I remember my favorite being the Cross-Time Caper which starts in the next collection. I read them when they originally came out, in the early 1990s. A very impressionable age for me  . I think the start of Excalibur is one of Claremont’s best writing: mixing adventure with relationships and interesting supporting characters. He’s also dealing with a lot of mature themes such as attempted rape and alcoholism in addition to Meggan’s identity problems.

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