Age of Apocalypse Pt IV
Travis Hedge Coke
Do we fix things now and build from the damage, or jump back in time and stop it before it all goes bad? This is a classic scifi set up, a standard ethics thought experiment, but it’s still worth plumbing once in awhile, with new scenarios. Everything Gone Wrong is a great setting, especially if what’s gone bad are all things you can get nostalgic about if they weren’t suddenly septic and sickening.
My feeling is that hardship, suffering have never made anyone a better person or improved a place, a government, a calendar or modus operandi. Hurt does not implicitly or on its own help anything or any person. But, showing us everything gone worse, or gone sideways, as a thought, as an explication, can demonstrate by inversion, by revulsion, how well “reality” works, how much we enjoy and why we enjoy the traditional reality or accepted version of things.
Novelty helps us be better people and to enjoy life. As long as the novelty doesn’t become a standard, at least, as that can often be annoying. To which end, I’m shifting it up a bit this time, and providing what I think is the most fitting album to listen to while reading each of these miniseries or the final oneshots which shouldn’t take a whole album each to read.
Astonishing X-Men #4
X-Men vs Holocaust!
I Dislike: Scott Lobdell doesn’t do characterization so much as have characters or narration say their characterization.
I Don’t Understand: “What? An ice lasso?” - At no point, will ice ever wrap around a person's arms and cause them to think of lasso. Right?
Soundtrack Album: Ed Hunter - Iron Maiden
On the Series: Read it fast, or read it while you’re doing other things. It’s not a comic to be thought about very seriously. There are, however, moments that are entirely grand and should not be missed. So… mixed bag? What you’d expect from the talent and the era? Or just a mixed bag of a comic.
Paradise burns as the Shadow King rises!
I Dislike: Ken Lashley’s layouts, both in-panel and in terms of panels on the page, distract me more than they attract my attention in a functional way.
I Don’t Understand: Why is the art very literal about some more artsy descriptions, like the “video flicker” of the Shadow King in underspace?
Soundtrack Album: Ramones - The Ramones
On the Series: While this is thematically the strongest of all the miniseries, and a strong walking tour of the sort Warren Ellis would later, in a way, be synonymous with as a lover of fictive places and subcultures, X-Calibre is still a little too loose in its pacing. It jerks back and forth between urgent and lecturey without either side building to a strong enough pitch. It is still a worthwhile read, as part of the AoA and on its own, or even better, as an interlude in Warren’s ongoing Excalibur run, which this interrupted. As a glib and brutal rumination on spirituality, faith, and religious need, it has more to say than probably anything else Marvel put out that year. The action bits are brief, sometimes a little perfunctory, but they crackle and they burn hot enough, sincere enough to be exciting even on rereads. Artistic flubs like energy steaming off Mystique’s eyes and fingers, or thuddingly awkward background character designs can’t truly hamper what’s an otherwise vibrant and aggressive adventure story
Gambit and the X-Ternals #4
A baby is kidnapped! A world is ending! Gambit kisses someone! Guido screws up!
I Dislike: The title never found its own niche, its own story, despite spending most of the pages way far away from every other AoA book, and this issue just brings that home by opening with another book’s characters and expecting us to care.
I Don’t Understand: “She’s not a firecracker. She’s an atom bomb.” - of Jubilee, who is not an atom bomb. Sorry.
Soundtrack Album: Orphans: Bawlers, Brawlers, and Bastards - Tom Waits
On the Series: I wish I liked this one more, because its a big, splashy, comic about characters I like (Guido, Gambit, Jubes) doing a thing I love (ensemble of thieves steal stuff, get it wrong, struggle to get out alive). It was fun to come back to after more than a decade of not having read, but you can’t go home again, and there’s nowhere for me to get my footing in Gambit and the X-Ternals. Scenes move along beautiful as long as someone has something valuable in their arms, or are chasing something important, but when people stop to stand, or fight, it bugs me. When I slow down to read a full conversation or the many, many narrative captions, I lose the thread of why I’m loving the comic I’m reading otherwise. But if I focus on faces and legs, running and ducking, hope and grief and yearning, all is briefly good.
Generation Next #4
The team finally rescue Colossus’ little sister, but…!
I Dislike: This could’ve been, basically, issue two, couldn’t it? Makes issues two and three, and most of the first issue feel like a car running on idle while you get out and run up the block to the store, then come back and get in the car again.
I Don’t Understand: The random cell phone caller in the work camp. Why?
Soundtrack Album: Cry For Love - Jimi Hendrix
On the Series: Scott Lobdell can make me feel all warm and fuzzy about characters in one page, and unfortunately, two issues later, I don’t care about them at all. It’s a sort of instantaneous-nostalgia, some twee hipness. That’s in full effect here for all four issues, but even if I’m bemused for a scene, by the time two more scenes have gone by, I’m not holding onto anything from the scene I loved. The love fades fast. Bachalo’s idiosyncratic an intense art helps keep me intrigued for awhile, but even that fades with repeated exposure. Generation Next shouldn’t feel disposable, expendable, but so it does, as if it delivers all it has in any random scene you could select, nothing to the overall, nothing extra in bothering with the whole mini.
Weapon X #4
Logan and Gateway run herd on a fleet of attack ships headed to fight Apocalypse.
I Like: Gateway and Logan are both cool, honorable, determined guys. They’re stand up guys. And, even while they don’t see eye to eye, they do right and do it all the way.
I Dislike: Ends on a hard cliffhanger for the Omega oneshot.
I Don’t Understand: How do the cybernetics get up under all the skin on victims as we see with Carol?
Soundtrack Album: Live in Italy - Lou Reed
On the Series: By far the easiest and most consistent reread for me, of any of the AoA. This ticked every checkmark it possibly could to rock for me. Carol is treated as badass and worthy of her on-paper credentials and job history (plus she rocks more guns and pouches than a 90s Cable). Logan is soulful, self-sabotaging, brutal and beautiful and cool. Jean’s a bit mixed up, a little mad, and big-time hero. Gateway was awesome for one of three times in history that will ever happen. The villains are huge and monstrous. The ethics are real. The romances feel passionate. Every page is indulgent, gorgeous, lively.
Amazing X-Men #4
The rescue of Bishop (who I forgot was captured) and Jamie Madrox (who doesn’t really need to be rescued, but that’s nice).
I Dislike: The mise en scene is outright awkward. Page layouts are distracting. If you don’t already know what someone’s powers are, the visuals don’t communicate them at all.
I Don’t Understand: Why does Storm fire spirals of green energy from her hands?
Soundtrack Album: Emancipation - Prince
On the Series: Like Amazing, except maybe worse, this series never escaped being piecemeal plot points to motivate a larger story or smaller stories happening more fully in other comics. Why couldn’t the whole thing have been mad religious parody and rescue mission like this one? What’s even the point of the Mags/Rogue baby stuff happening in the other X-Men title, or the Gambit and the X-Ternals stuff bleeding into here?
Factor X #4
Everything falls apart as brothers must decide how to live, and whether to accept the redheaded women who love them.
I Like: The Bedlam Brothers just sounds good. Havok stone cold abandoning Scarlett, pregnant, in love.
I Dislike: Cyclops being somehow a good guy in this. No. He’s participated lockstep with genocide, rape camps, torture and misery. A slight turn of conscience whereby he saves a few people does not erase that.
I Don’t Understand: How can this be this haphazardly structured?
Soundtrack Album: The Revolution Will Not Be Televised - Gil Scott-Heron
On the Series: Factor X was cool for being rough, but it’s so roughly hewn and for what? For all the stabs at great themes, or excellent conceits, for the good character dynamics, why was this comic not more concretely structured? It could have been told via the girl reduced to a brutalized wolf chained in a lab, it could have followed Havok as he indulges in human women, nightclubs that fear him, soldiers who hold him as a saint, a brother who hates him and lionizes him. There could have been a narrative flow, an arc or trajectory that thrust us forth through the four issues. Instead, we have this and this and this, this, this too.
The hero beats his creator to death and meets the folks who aren’t his parents!
I Dislike: Jeph Loeb loves nostalgia-strong sudden appearances of characters who mean little to the characters in the story but a lot to us. I like it exceedingly less.
I Don’t Understand: Steve Skroce spends the issue hiding crotches in shadows where they’d be unlikely or drawing very taut packages on his dudes. It’s between superhero-traditional and naturalistic approaches; not sure why he’d bother.
Soundtrack Album: 4-Way Diablo - Monster Magnet
On the Series: Four issues to get us to where a traditional first issue would end, and it’s going to keep going, as this one’s an ongoing while the others wrap up with their fourth. But, if you read them one a month, it’s exciting and brash. Some pages do really explode with fight pow bam, others with a middle finger to the world and a kiss on its lips.
Can the X-Men defeat Apocalypse before they destroy the universe and reset time? Or, will Apocalypse forever be undefeated in a universe that no longer exists?
I Like: Chromey, acetatey cover. Opening splash of Magneto bloodied and an off-page voice telling him to fall down and make it easy on himself. Magneto building his armor around himself as he gets his fighting spirit back. The last page is cool.
I Dislike: The art is all over, serviceable but rarely exciting. There’s a real strain of ugly vs pretty going on that’s a bit dumb. Bishop, Colossus, and Morph basically have the same head and expression just recolored.
I Don’t Understand: Nate’s vocabulary. Where’d he learn all these phrases and references and stuff? We know the dude’s never seen a sitcom.
Soundtrack Album: No Time to Cry - Cradle of Filth
Reestablishing the “real world” X-Men.
If you go by the comic inside: It’s more than a bit like that.
I Like: Wolverine and Jean in the rain is pretty. Professor X wearing his Jim Lee jacket with the puffy lapels is always a treat. I like the woman in the wheelchair who shoves a hot poker in Emplate as soon as he walks in her living room.
I Dislike: Beast is drawn repeatedly awkward and off-model. Psylocke and Storm both come off truly weak in this comic. For a collection of vignettes, there’s little to hold them together or let them play off one another.
I Don’t Understand: Why do the X-Men fail to save the guy? Why do they all arrive, either running, driving, or flying, at the same time?
Soundtrack Album: Speak Now - Taylor Swift but it want to be Alice Smith’s She.