Spreaker Widget

Monday, April 13, 2020

Superman: Year One

Frank Miller (Sin City, The Dark Knight Returns, 300) and John Romita Jr. (Amazing Spider-man , X-Men, Daredevil: Man Without Fearjoin forces to put their own spin on the origin of Earth’s greatest hero, Superman. While adhering to the basic tenets of Superman’s story - an orphan from a doomed planet is sent to Earth, raised by a Kansas couple, and becomes Earth’s greatest hero - Miller and Romita put their own spin on the Man of Steel’s beginnings. Published under DC Comics newly dubbed, more “adult” label, DC Black Label, the creative team sought to create a story that is geared towards more mature audiences. Therefore, there is content featured in this Superman story that is not typical of the Blue Boy Scout.

The three issues contained in this volume are separated by a title based on the geographical location by which each plot is centralized. These three locations are Smallville, Atlantis, and Metropolis. Fittingly, the opening of book one features the imminent destruction of Kal-El’s (Superman’s) home planet, Krypton. The look and feel of the Kryptonian civilization is very reminiscent of the reimagining of Superman’s culture of origin in the 1990s: futuristic with towering spires, the splayed neon of advanced technology, and minimalistic, draped clothing resembling a futuristic Greek society. As explosions ransack the serene setting, baby Kal-El is placed into an escape pod in an attempt to spare him from the planet’s fate.

The first page of this book is introduced by a nameless narrator who describes each scene and Superman’s motivations in the eeriest of details. This narration is characteristically written in short, factual statements, as opposed to abstract thoughts that are typical of reading a character’s inner monologue. For instance, in the first panel of page one, describing the destruction of the planet Krypton, the narration reads, “The air seems to boil. Lightning flashes. Thunder roars. A planet wide storm. There is no rain. No relief. The crust roars and wrenches. Everything falls and clatters and breaks. Everything screams.” This type of narration continues throughout the book. It does not appear to be the reflective thoughts of the main character, as if Superman is retelling his own story, rather the descriptive words of an unknown third party witness to these events.

As is traditionally expected of this story, Kal-El’s escape pod lands on Earth in a field in Kansas and is discovered by a man named Jonathan Kent who then takes the child home to his wife, Martha. As has been the trend in most recently tellings of Superman’s origin, Jonathan and Martha were not elderly when they discovered Kal-El, rather they are a young couple with no children. The Kents adopted the child and named him Clark. The story continues as expected, mostly, with Clark slowly developing unexplainable abilities with which he and his adopted parents must cope. However, the story takes a turn from the typical when Clark reaches high school. Much of the Smallville plot line surrounds Clark’s frustration with a group of bullies in his school. Clark, in Peter Parker-like fashion, is treated as an outcast and therefore befriends others who are regarded similarly. Clark’s underlying annoyance with the browbeaters is that he knows he could teach them a lesson but he is hesitant to show his strength because of his father’s warnings. However, Clark made a choice to use his abilities when Lana Lang, Clark’s love interest, is threatened outside of her home. As the ruffians threatened to rape Lana, Clark arrived just in time to stop them. It is at this moment that Clark decided he would become a defender of the weak - a hero. The most direct course, in Clark’s mind, is to join the U.S. military. It is here that Superman: Year One makes its most unexpected turn. This reader found this idea to be fascinating and ingenious. Why wouldn’t Superman be a soldier? Think of the possibilities. Of course, one begins to think of Captain America with laser vision. Book one ends as Clark is headed to basic training, saying goodbye to his Kansas home and his first love.

Part Two is titled “Atlantis” but opens in Great Lakes, IL at the Naval Station where Clark is now a cadet in the U.S. Navy. Clark’s strength and stamina are evident to his superiors immediately. As he did playing football at Smallville High, Clark is holding back his true potential as to not raise suspicion. But one of Clark’s colonel’s, Col. Kurtzberg, suspects that there is more to this Kansas boy than meets the eye. One night, while the rest of the soldiers are sleeping, Clark is awoke by the sound of women’s voices coming from out in the ocean. As he goes to investigate, Clark is met by Kurtzberg who tells Clark that he is hearing Mermaids (but Clark didn’t hear that from him). This is an interesting storytelling choice. This scene confirms that Kurtzberg is open to accepting possibilities beyond the norm, though he is unwilling to voice that belief among his peers. In the following weeks, Clark was lured out to the sea by the mermaids, who he learned are Atlanteans, and fell in love with the princess of Atlantis, the daughter of King Poseidon. In order to prove himself a worthy suitor, Poseidon submitted Clark to a series of grueling tests, all of which Superman passed with ease. It was at this time that Clark donned his costume for the first time and the legend of Superman began to grow. 

Back on land, the Navy cadets are recruited to run an emergency mission. A military vessel had been hijacked by pirates and Clark’s camp was the closest aid. During the mission, Clark protected his classmates from a live grenade and outed himself as something more than human. As a result, Clark Kent was honorably discharged from military service, listing the cause as insubordination. The higher-ups were concerned that, given Clark’s abilities, he would not be willing or able to follow orders. As Clark packed his bags his classmates stood in solute and Col. Kurtzberg encouraged Clark to use his gifts for the betterment of the world and for the benefit of mankind. In a way, Clark gave Kurtzberg confirmation of his belief in the paranormal. 

Chapter three opened as an intrepid reporter in a submarine dove into the ocean to investigate the growing legend of the “Superman.” Lois Lane had heard the stories of a mysterious man who comes from the sea to do wondrous feats. But Miss Lane was getting too close to discovering Atlantis, so her sub was struck by Atlantean defenses. Just in the nick of time, Superman arrived to save the reporter from her watery fate. After a run-in on shore with the U.S. military, Superman realized that his legend is growing too large and too fast for him to remain in Atlantis, so he follow Lois Lane to the city of Metropolis. It was there, in the bustling city, that Superman found he could live out his true heroic potential. From petty crimes to terrorist attacks, Superman was able to save the day daily and the people of Metropolis championed their new-found savior.

Interestingly, each chapter of this story is not only centered around a particular location but also a particular woman. In true comic book fashion, each of Clark’s love interests’s initials are “L. L.” Lana Lang, Clark’s Smallville High sweetheart; Lori Lemaris, the daughter of Poseidon; and Lois Lane, the rising star reporter from Metropolis. 

Frank Miller and John Romita Jr. are two of the most distinct and prolific artists in the comic book business. Both artists’s styles are instantly recognizable due to their easily distinguishable characteristics: Miller’s use of hard angles and dark shading, and Romita’s similar rough edges and attention to detail. For this Superman project, Romita carried the bulk of the weight as the artist, with Miller providing the occasional cover. Romita’s art throughout the book is top notch and, in my opinion, some of his best work. Romita’s artistic approach to the Man of Steel depicted him similar to the classic Superman with an air of majesty and debonair about him. The artists decided to forego the use of the classic Superman “S” emblem, opting for a more angular design that is unique to Superman: Year One. The art of this book carries the excellent writing, supporting it with epic scenes and dynamic juxtaposition.

The writing in this book was ominous, but intriguing. The nameless narrator brought a mysterious element to the story that made it feel otherworldly and distinctive. Despite this book being a retelling of a prevalent story, it felt wholly unique and singular while also being grounded in a world that felt familiar and welcoming. It is apparent that Miller and Romita shared the creative process of coming up with the story for Superman: Year One, but then split the responsibility of writing and art between the two of them with Miller primarily carrying the role of writer. The writing is reminiscent of Miller’s other works, yet with an air of hopefulness and joy that is not typical of his style. The dialogue is entertaining and adds to the story, steering into the occasional pun, with the shining element being the narration. For example, consider this excerpt from a panel in which Superman is lifting Lois' destroyed submarine out of the ocean: “And to they wait… and they watch. They watch the hero as, like Atlas, he heaves his massive back into his task… and he laughs at gravity… as he always does… he laughs at gravity… and he lifts his impossible burden up… up… and away.”

Miller and Romita’s take on Superman is full of “wow” moments that approach the character in a unique way, truly unlike any preceding Superman tale. Clark’s motivation in these books is clear-cut, simple and altruistic. Despite its more adult leaning, Year One captures the inspiration of Superman’s heroism unlike other stories. Moreover, Superman portrays a true southern gentleman, treating his peers, elders, and superiors with the utmost respect, even in times of disagreement.

Superman, like Jesus Christ, is an example of complete power under control. Philippians 2:7 says that Jesus “emptied himself” to become a man, meaning that he had the power of God in the body of a man. Jesus was capable of anything and everything, but only used his power for the good of others and to make God known. Similarly, Superman chose to use his powers for good and had to learn to keep his power in check in order to use it rightly.
Frank Miller and John Romita Jr. present an unusual but welcome adaptation of Superman’s origin that, although geared towards more mature readers, still presents the Man of Steel as a symbol of justice and goodwill. Fans of the franchise will enjoy this eccentric approach the Last Son of Krypton while newcomers may discover a Superman that is their quintessential version.


Positives:
- Great storytelling.
- A new take on classic characters.
- Dynamic art.

Negatives:
- Adult language/themes.
- Threat of sexual assault.

Story/Plot: 8.0
Writing: 9.0
Art: 9.0


Content Guide

Violence: Being that Superman typically solves his problems by punching a villain in the face, this book features some physical violence but very little gore. There is one scene that features a young girl being assaulted by a group of boys who threaten to rape her.

Sexual Content: Besides the aforementioned threat of rape, Superman is involved in physical romantic relationships with multiple women in this book. None of which are graphic or even highly suggestive, but do feature physical embraces and kissing.

Drug/Alcohol Use: Occasional consumption of alcohol.

Spiritual Content: As one chapter is set in rural Kansas, the local church and priest are featured in the story, with Christian religion viewed as part of the culture. Recognizing the existence of alien worlds and the under-water lost city of Atlantis, other deities are suggested besides the Christian God. Superman, despite making some mistakes, displays an altruistic desire to do good and to help others.

Language/Crude Humor: In an attempt to make this book more “adult”, more crude language is used in this book than would typically be found in a Superman comic.

Other Negative Content: DC’s Black Label comics are geared more towards mature audiences, so the content of this story features adult themes and situations that are not typical for this character.

Positive Content: Superman/Clark is portrayed as a young man of integrity who respects and obeys his parents, as well as others in authority such as the U.S. military.


Length: 211 pages

Release Date: November 12, 2019

Age Rating: 18+

Writer(s): Frank Miller and John Romita Jr.

Artist(s): John Romita Jr., Frank Miller

Inks: Danny Miki

Colorist: Alex Sinclair

Letterer: John Workman

Publisher: DC Black Label Comics

Genre: Fantasy, Adventure

Friday, February 7, 2020

Conan the Barbarian #7 - 12



Marvel’s acquisition of Conan the Barbarian has been beneficial for the character and Jason Aaron’s story has been buzzing around comic book fan-boy circles for over a year. Riding the coat-tails of the popularity of the Conan: Exiles video game, this relaunch of a titular comic book character landed on the table of the pop-culture consciousness at the perfect opportunity. Fans of the character had high expectations of Marvel Comics when they acquired the character rights in 2018 and now, it is safe to say, Marvel has delivered with gusto.

Issue #7 continues as the previous six, opening to a brothel in a gloomy, archaic setting where a bearded and sullen Conan has entered with a hidden purpose. As with previous stories in this series, no information as to the year of Conan’s life in which this tale unfolds is provided - the main character’s age can only be guessed by his scars. As the procurer of the brothel presents five women to Conan and asks which he prefers, the barbarian responds, “I’ll take them all.” In a world where slavery is a reality, the purchase of men or women is commonplace. Still, one wonders why Conan would want to buy five women from a brothel, and so did those whom he had purchased. Afraid that their new owner wished them harm the women prepared to defend themselves, but were shocked when he saved them from a pack of wild wolves. It was then that Conan shared with the women that he was on a mission to take down a pirate who had a foible for women, and they were Conan’s key to get close to him. After serving their purpose, Conan awarded each woman with their freedom. The end of this issue holds an important clue that will be evident in the story’s conclusion in issue #12, recounting Conan’s former and future lovers.

The eighth issue finds Conan returning to the place of his birth, the home of his only living relative, his grandmother. As Conan draws closer to the snowy Cimmerian village, he is filled with dread and overcome by a feeling that something is amiss. After being welcomed into the home of man Conan had known since he was boy, the man turns and attacks Conan in a rage. Escaping the house Conan is shocked to find that the entire village has been put under a spell by the abominable Thoth-Amon - a nefarious wizard whom Conan foiled on numerous occasions. It can be assumed that this was not Conan’s first encounter with Thoth-Amon, given that Conan identifies the culprit right away by his observation of the use of snakes to hypnotize and possess the villagers. Conan’s grandmother and the others are restored to their own cognizance while Conan receives his anticipated warm welcome. Meanwhile, Thoth-Amon, far away in his tower in Stygia, has a vision of Conan’s death, not by his own hand, but by those of the children of the Crimson Witch.
In issues #9 Conan awakes in a strange place, guided by a nameless host, as he faces a slew of monsters and obstacles in an attempt to rescue a people that have been trapped there for years. In this issue, monsters from throughout Conan’s history are featured, including the mirror-monster from the Schwarzenegger film, Conan the Conqueror, and the ice giants from Conan: Exiles. After rescuing the people and his host from the belly of “the god below”, his guide reveals the name of Conan’s murderer, Razazel, stating, “…it will be the last name you ever hear.” 

**SPOILER ALERT**
The following paragraphs contain major spoilers concerning the conclusion of this storyline. Do not read any further if you wish to remain spoiler-free.

Issue #10 begins the narrative that we have all been waiting for. The children of the Red Witch make their move and manage to capture King Conan, revealing that they have been following Conan, biding them time for decades, and waiting for the moment when Conan was weak and vulnerable enough to be overtaken. The Red Witch had required the blood of a great warrior to revive the blood-god Razazel and, at long last, Conan was to be sacrificed so that Razazel may rise. But Conan would not be dispatched without a fight. Despite his valiant effort to defeat the witch and her children, Conan was drained of enough blood to arouse the blood-god and, as promised, Conan died.

In the next issue, Conan entered the afterlife, though he is unaware at first. As Conan climbs a mysterious mountain his life is recounted with each new height. At the summit, Conan finds an audience with Crom, the god whom he had followed his entire life, and learns that he, himself, is dead. Conan finds it laughable that, after all his exploits, adventures, and victories, his demise came by the hand of a feeble witch and her blonde, twin children. Speaking face to face with his god, Conan pleads his case not from a position of begging rather accusing Crom of being a worthless, absent god who does not honor his subjects despite their devotion. Even in the face of a god, Conan is a fighter. Crom, understandably, lashes out at the puny Conan, enraged by his insolence. But Conan will not settle with being dismissed. Conan argues that he has lived his entire life devoted to Crom, carrying his name to distant lands, declaring his victories in Crom’s name, all the while never praying to ask his god for anything, and this is what he earns? Death at the hands of a witch. And furthermore, someone has to stop Razazel and Conan is the only man who can do it. Crom is angered by Conan’s rebuttal but can not deny that his subject has a valid argument. Crom agrees to send Conan back to the land of the living to defeat Razazel but also promises that his next death will be gradual and more painful, that he will die alone and downtrodden, and that his next trip to the afterlife will not be as pleasant as this one. Back in the land of the living, the children of the Red Witch are just beginning to celebrate their victory when the fallen body of Conan stands.

The final issue of “The Life & Death of Conan” finds a newly resurrected Conan the Barbarian King fighting for his life and the destruction of the blood-god, Razazel. In the face of such opposition, the newly powerful twins and the blood-god plus an army of undead warriors, Conan is severely outnumbered - he is losing. But help arrives from an unexpected means. The seventh issue of the series told of Conan’s two loves: the love of his young life (presumably the pirate queen, BelĂ­t, according to past Conan lore), and the love of his later life which produced Conan a son. Followed by a brigade of soldiers ready to fight beside their king, Conn, the son of Conan, descends the stairs into the gloomy, battle-stricken dungeon. Aided by the prince and his army, King Conan defeated the twins and their undead army. Because it was Conan’s blood that awoke the blood-god, he alone has the power to defeat the beast and send him back to the nether-world. After doing just that, Conan and his son ride into the sunset, looking forward to their next adventure.

In this highly anticipated climax to the storyline, Conan becomes the obvious Christological metaphor (not suggesting that this was the author’s intention): an evil has been unleashed upon the world that can only be defeated by the resurrected hero who is willing to sacrifice himself that the innocent may be protected. Hebrews 9:22 says that there is no forgiveness without the shedding of blood, and 1 John 1:7 says that Jesus’s blood purifies us from sin. Jesus died on the cross but was resurrected three days later and it is by his shed blood that sin is defeated and we can have a relationship with God, our creator. Just as Jesus was willing to die on the cross for those who would follow him and be saved (Philippians 2:8), Conan put his own life on the line to save the world.

In his interaction with Crom, Conan metaphorically represents many modern attitudes towards the Christian God. Many who deny the existence of God do so based on God’s perceived lack of benevolence - on their perception that God does not help his people, so he must not be real. Or, if God is real, he does not care about his creation. These are the claims that Conan states of his god, Crom. Even Christians, those who believe in God, often claim that God seems distant, that he is uninvolved in their life. In the Bible, King David asked this same question in Psalm 10:1 saying, “Lord, why do you stand so far away? Why do you hide in times of trouble?” David, a man after God’s own heart, at times felt that God seemed far away. The first important distinction is that this feeling happens to the best of us. There are times where God will feel distant, and that is OK. It doesn’t mean that he is not there. What is paramount to note is that David wrote this Psalm in a time of disobedience - a time where he had strayed away from following God. Take a moment to read Psalm 18 and you will find David in a completely different state, celebrating the overwhelming presence of God in his life. The book of Romans tells us that sin separates us from God (Romans 1:18-25, 3:23). If God seems distant, it is because we are not pursuing him with our whole selves. If God seems absent, it is because we have sin in our lives that is separating us from him. God hasn’t moved, we have. When God seems distant we must draw closer to him, not the other way around.


Positives:
- Terrific storytelling.
- Compelling characters.
- Great art.

Negatives:
- Eroticism/Partial Nudity
- Scenes of Violence/Gore
- Witchcraft/Occult Imagery

Story/Plot: 9.5
Writing: 9.5
Art: 9.0

Bottom line: The conclusion of this storyline is thrilling and engaging. Conan the Barbarian is not appropriate for younger audiences but is sure to enthrall fans of the character and the genre.  Like the preceding issues, writing and art are top-shelf. Also, like issues 1-6, issues 7-9 could be read as stand-alone stories, however, I purport that the prologue endings would cause curious minds to explore the whole story.



Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Conan the Barbarian #1 - 6

In 2018 the publishing rights for the character Conan the Barbarian was returned to Marvel Comics after a long stint at Dark Horse Comics. Marvel published Conan comics from the 1970s through the 1990s before the rights were sold to Dark Horse. Conan’s popularity has sustained for almost a century, therefore Marvel knew that the acquisition of Conan had to be accompanied with a powerhouse book to please fans. The books that have resulted from this transaction are an absolute treat for any fan of the most famous barbarian in history. Prior to 2018, Dark Horse produced many quality Conan storylines and titles. With Conan the Barbarian and its accompanying titles, Marvel has matched if not exceeded expectations.
Conan has endured as a popular hero because he views the world in black and white terms: evil must be punished (severely) and good must be protected. Conan is an anti-hero in that he is a murderer and a thief, and yet he is the hero because, in the end, he always makes the choice of the greater good while protecting the defenseless. 

The first issue opened with the briefest of introductions to the character. Page one depicted Conan’s hectic birth as his mother’s village is being raided by invaders, and the second page portrayed King Conan seated on his throne. The first two pages of issue one demonstrated the scope of the forthcoming story: this would not be a linear tale of Conan’s life, but a story that is told from different points in Conan’s journey to his own death. On the third page, we find a young, battle-worn Conan fighting a horde of warriors for money. A beautiful woman watches nearby, taking great interest in the Cimmerian. Taking advantage of his weakness for the opposite sex, the woman seduced Conan and lured him away from the public eye. In private, she is revealed to be an ancient witch who sought to sacrifice a great warrior to her god, Razazel. Conan managed to kill the witch and escape from her nefarious trap. Flash-forward decades later, and King Conan encountered the same witch and her offspring who announce that Conan’s fate is to be sacrificed to their god. The cliff-hanger ending of issue one is continued at the end of every subsequent book, implying that Conan’s death is inescapable. 

In Issue #2, Conan fought alongside an army of Picts (a fictional aboriginal tribe) against a swarm of giant snakes, unaware that the Red Witch’s children were watching from afar. The third book told the story of a seventeen-year-old Conan who was imprisoned and waiting to be executed in the Nemedian border town of Red Tree Hill. Guilty of stealing gold from the local townspeople, Conan had no right to plead for pardon and yet fate spared him of his sentence. In Issue #5 Conan is stranded at sea, facing an onslaught of sea monsters, and in #6 Conan is appointed the commander of a king’s army in need of a bold leader. Through each adventure, for what appears to be most of Conan’s life, the Red Witch and her children lie in wait.

In the previous paragraph, I purposefully skipped Issue #4 so that I could draw special attention to this comic. I’ve been reading Conan comics for most of my life and have loved the character since I watched the Arnold Schwarzenegger movies with my father as a youngster. This comic is quite possibly my favorite Conan story ever. Jason Aaron wrote a story in which Conan the Barbarian became a vigilante hero. Conan is frustrated and stifled by his role as a king. What used to be his greatest aspiration has now become a disappointment due the monotony of ruling a kingdom. In a desperate attempt to relive his days as a vagabond defender, Conan disguises himself and slips away in the night to punish evildoers in his kingdom’s streets. But even then, Conan’s fate is being influenced by the Red Witch.

Conan lives in a world where a myriad of gods exists. However, Conan stands out among his contemporaries as a monotheist in that Conan believes in a single god, Crom. Conan pronounces his allegiance to Crom while also cursing him as an absent, impetuous deity. In life, we can sometimes feel like God is not there for us - like God is distant. However, we must remember that, unlike Crom, God is ever-present in our lives and is always in pursuit of his creation: us. In Psalm 23:4 and Deuteronomy 31:6, God promises his people that he will never leave them; that he will always be by our side. 

In the same way, just as God pursues his people, another stalks mankind in an effort to keep them from knowing God. The Bible describes Satan as a roaring lion who hunts his prey, seeking to devour them (1 Peter 5:8). In this story, Conan is stalked by the evil Red Witch who seeks Conan’s demise. Throughout his life, this evil presence has been in the shadows watching and waiting for the perfect time to strike. In the same way, the devil waits for a moment of weakness to put temptation in our way and ruin us. Unlike Conan, we have awareness of this threat and we can defend against it. As 1 Peter 5:8 also says, be on your guard. Moreover, we have a God that is not absent but acts in our defense and who offers his power to defeat our adversary (Ephesians 6:10-17).


Positives:
- Terrific storytelling.
- Compelling characters.
- Great art.

Negatives:
- Eroticism/Partial Nudity
- Scenes of Violence
- Witchcraft/Occult Imagery

Story/Plot: 9.5
Writing: 9.5
Art: 8.0


Bottom line: Conan the Barbarian is a fun adventure across a vast timeline. This book is certainly not appropriate for a young audience, but will absolutely thrill fans of the character and the genre. The writing and art are top-notch, setting a high bar for future Conan titles. Amazingly, each of these six issues could be read as a singular story without previous knowledge of the ongoing storyline. But I purport that any reader who picked up an issue of this story would want to read the rest of the run.



Monday, September 9, 2019

The Dark Crystal: Age Of Resistance

In 1981, the Jim Henson company set out on a daunting, never-before-attempted task. Henson’s dream was to make a fantasy adventure film that was completely absent of human actors - the cast was to consist entirely of puppets. Inspired by the art of artist Brian Froud, Henson and his team dreamt up the world of Thra. What resulted was nine months of pain-staking work that culminated in a masterful film called The Dark Crystal. The film was released in 1982 and was not received with great acclaim nor with disdain, rather an ambivalence that must have been disappointing for Henson and his team. However, over the years The Dark Crystal has developed a strong following as a “Cult Classic”, becoming a favorite to fans of multiple generations. In 2017, Netflix announced that they would be producing a prequel series to The Dark Crystal. Moreover, it was made known that the new series would be produced in a means faithful to its predecessor: void of human actors, with practical effects and puppets. This news was absolutely wonderful to fans of the original film, with anticipation growing over two years of waiting for its debut on August 30, 2019. The resulting series is a masterpiece of cinematic artistry and a love letter to Henson, Froud, and the others who created the original film. 

The Dark Crystal: Age Of Resistance takes great care in sculpting the world of Thra, going deeper into the cultural structure of both groups of main characters: the Skeksis and the Gelfling. For centuries, the world of Thra was kept in balance by a powerful crystal under the watch of Aughra, an ancient and benevolent sorceress. From another world, the Skeksis came to Thra and made a deal with Aughra in which she would be allowed access to cosmic knowledge in exchange for guardianship of the crystal to be transferred to the Skeksis. But the Skeksis were a selfish and corrupt lot who used the crystal to unnaturally extend their lives, thus corrupting the crystal and disrupting the balance of Thra. In a desperate attempt to attain immortality, the Skeksis turn to their devoted subjects, the Gelfling, using the crystal to drain their life force, or “essence.” One Gelfling, Rian, discovers the Skeksis’ scheme and sets out to convince his people that the Skeksis are evil and not to be trusted, thus inciting a war between the Gelfling and the Skeksis.


The plot of the prequel series revolves around the journeys of three Gelfling: Rian (voiced by Taron Egerton, Rocketman, Kingsman: The Golden Circle), a Skeksis castle guard who holds the only proof of the Skeksis’ betrayal; Deet (voiced by Nathalie Emmanuel, Game Of Thrones, Maze Runner: The Death Cure), a cave-dwelling Gelfling with a strong connection to nature; and Brea (voiced by Anya Taylor-Joy, Glass, The Witch), a Gelfling princess who discovers ancient truths that support Rian’s claims about the Skeksis. By joining forces, these three find the power to lead the Gelfling in a rebellion against the Skeksis.

There are many exciting voice talents who contribute to Age Of Resistance. Notably is the legendary voice actor Mark Hamill, famous for his role as The Joker in Batman: The Animated Series, as the Skeksis scientist. Simon Pegg, the voice of Buck in the Ice Age series and star of Shaun Of The Dead, provides the whiny voice of Chamberlain, a central character in both this series and the 1982 film. The speaking role of Skeksis emperor is provided by Jason Isaacs, known for his roles as Lucius Malfoy in the Harry Potter film series and Captain Hook in the 2003 film, Peter Pan. And finally, the legendary puppeteer Kevin Clash, famous for his roles as Elmo on Sesame Street and Baby on the TV series Dinosaurs, is both a performer and voice actor for Augrah. The puppeteers on this project consist of newcomers, legends of the industry who also worked on the original film, and even a YouTube sensation who was asked to do a bit part. The talent in Age Of Resistance is palpable, as the performances of the puppets is so full of life that it makes the depth of the story completely convincing to the audience. The director, Louis Leterrier, states that his desire was that the audience would forget that they were watching puppets. For this viewer, that was precisely the case.

The cinematography is beautiful, maintaining a look and feel that is modern but faithful to the original film, feeling as if one transitions over a 40 year period from one into the next. The set design is remarkable. The world feels tactile and real, like it really exists. This one of the many advantages to producing this series using practical sets and effects. One marvels at each new scene, taking in that someone had to meticulously design and construct each set. For example, the library in which Brea researches Thra’s history contains thousands of books and documents strewn across the floor and stacked around the room, not just on shelves. Shelved books could be made as single pieces, but it is obvious that these books were created with more care and attention to detail. A triangular book of Skeksis history makes an appearance that contains pages upon pages of actual text and hand-drawn graphics. The music in this series is wonderful and, like the camera work, is reminiscent of the preceding movie. What is likely my only qualm about Age Of Resistance is the absence of the theme from The Dark Crystal by composer Trevor Jones. There are slight homages to this theme within the score, but I was awaiting a moment where the swell of that score would sound. Alas, it did not. 

Perhaps this Henson fan’s love for the creators and the material causes a certain amount of bias, but the plot of this series was every bit as engaging and dramatic as any show of its like or not. I often found myself on the edge of my seat, with my jaw gaping open, or pressing the “play” button on my remote to get to the next episode as fast as possible.
It is highly recommended that any fan of this series watch the included bonus feature documenting the making of Age Of Resistance. The stories of those involved in the production of this series and how they got involved is titillating. According to this documentary, Age Of Resistance is the most ambitious, most expensive, and largest production of its kind. Netflix has been so generous with allowing creative control to the producers of the original content that it borders on irresponsible. They have green-lit so many projects in the past five years and created a myriad of original content that no one person could consume if they set themselves to the task. On the other side of that coin, this fan is so appreciative for Netflix’s executives being so magnanimous and optimistic and allowing project like this one to be done. The creative control allowed to the Henson company and the writers of Age Of Resistance are why this project turned out so masterfully.

The most shocking revelation in watching this series was that I expected the tenth and last episode to end with a set up for The Dark Crystal. Much to my surprise, it did not. Age Of Resistance tells the story of just that: the Gelfling’s revolt agains the Skeksis. The most exciting aspect of this realization is that a second series must be in consideration, one that will end, as fans of The Dark Crystal know, in tragedy for the Gelfling.

Jim Henson was not a religious man, nor a confessing believer in God or any faith. Fans of Henson’s work such as The Dark Crystal, Fraggle Rock, Labyrinth, and The Muppets have likely picked up on Jim’s leaning towards a universalist or naturalist worldview. Henson’s work, particularly The Dark Crystal and Fraggle Rock are fraught with ideas of “all is one” and elements of mysticism. Even the beloved song sung by Kermit the Frog, “The Rainbow Connection”, alludes to this type of view. This considered, it is no surprise to see these elements repeated in Age Of Resistance. The Gelfling’s history and traditions speak of equality and “all is one” ideas. It is proposed that when a Gelfling dies that their spirit, or essence, returns to Thra, suggesting that they are one with their planet. The Skeksis (originally conceived to represent the seven deadly sins) are depicted as glutinous, greedy beings. The emphasis of their voracity is placed on their impact on Thra and the crystal more-so than on themselves. However, there are two moments in this series that are shockingly gospel-related, albeit almost certainly unintentional. Both instances come from moments involving Thra’s protector, Aughra.

In episode 3, growing suspicious of the changes in Thra during her absence, Aughra travels to the Skeksis’ castle to confront them about their misuse of the crystal. Aughra confronts the emperor and the other Skeksis, as they enjoy a spa treatment serviced by slave labor, and declares that the crystal has been abused and therefore Thra is out of balance. The Skeksis defend themselves, stating that they have been generous to Thra and used the crystal to bring order and advancement. Aughra responds, “You speak but know nothing. Or is it you know and speak nothing?” Paul writes in 1 Timothy 1:7, “They want to be teachers of the law, although they don’t understand what they are saying or what they are insisting on.” Paul is warning his readers to be weary of those who speak as if they have knowledge but, in reality, do not, because they have not taken the time to learn the truth and apply it to themselves. The Bible is laden with warnings against speaking without discernment and wisdom (Ecc. 10:12, Prov. 10:19, James 1:19, Eph. 4:29). Jesus himself states in Luke 6:45 that “the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” It is of the utmost importance that, before we claim to speak truth or wisdom, that we compare our perceived truth to the word of God to see if it matches up. In this case, the Skeksis were not speaking the truth because they knew that they had used the crystal for selfish gain but did not want to admit fault. We do this on a daily basis - reasoning away our wrongdoing so that we will not allow ourselves to feel conviction. Psalm 19:12 asks that God would reveal our “hidden” sins, the sin about which we are in denial. The Skeksis knew the truth but refused to admit it. Contrarily, it is important that if we know the truth, we speak it. Too often those who have discovered the truth keep it to themselves and never declare it to the outside world. Jesus said in Mark 16:16, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” The author of Philemon writes, “I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ.” Those of us who know the truth have a responsibility to speak it.

In the beginning of episode 9 there is a direct metaphor of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. Like many superhero stories and fantasy tales, a hero offers up their own life for the sparing of others’. As the Skeksis prepare to kill Brea and her two sisters in order to drain their essence, Aughra arrives with a proposal. Aughra explains to the Skeksis that her essence is much greater than that of the Gelfling and would prove much more effective. She continues that if the Skeksis will spare the Gelfling, she will give up her own life and essence. In form, the emperor asks, “You would give up your own life for a few of these worthless Gelfling?” Aughra responds that the crystal can not take her essence, she must give it of her own free will. In the Christ role of this metaphor, Aughra offers her own life to spare the innocent. Paul explains how Jesus Christ did this for us in Philippians 2:7-8, “And when he had come as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death - even death on a cross.” Jesus did this so that we may have eternal life with God and the forgiveness of our sin (Ephesians 1:7-8). The difference between us and the Gelfling? We are not innocent (Romans 3:23). We are guilty in the eyes of God, but Jesus’ sacrifice offers us forgiveness despite our unreservedness (Romans 5:8). In this moment, Aughra personifies the sacrifice that Christ made for us on the cross by offering her life for those that she loves.


Overall, I award Age Of Resistance a ten out of ten. The production value and storytelling are absolutely top-notch. Fans of the original film will be pleased to find the same amount of wonder and adventure, if not more, that its predecessor. Parents beware, there are a lot of truly scary moments in this series and it may not be suitable for children under the age of 7 or so. Personally, I can not wait until my daughters are just a little older so that I can share this series with them. If you have not already, log on to Netflix and watch episode 1 - you will be hooked.


Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Reading the X-Men - Update

Only two issues left to go of Chuck Austen's Uncanny X-Men run! Yes!!!

Wait...

No...

I've now got to read TEN issues of adjectiveless X-Men that he wrote?!?! F*** you, Joe Quesada!!!

Reading the X-Men 3 Year Update coming soon.

As is some words on Stan "The Man" Lee and his passing away yesterday too young at 95.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Superman: Rebirth Vol.1


As I wrapped up my summer semester of school I paid a visit to my new local library (in the Gentilly area of New Orleans where I now live). The wall of graphic novels made my jaw drop in geek awe. The selection at this library was vastly larger than that of my library back in Mobile, AL. As I perused the selection I found a lot of books that I wanted to read, but I started to notice something. I was discovering multiple volumes from the Superman: Rebirth series - volumes 3, 6, 4, 8... I began looking for each volume and discovered that my library had the entire Rebirth run of Superman. As a result, and because I need a distraction from academia, I've decided to read each volume and give my impressions here. So let's get started!

As the New 52 "gave birth" (pun intended) to the Rebirth series at DC a lot of questions needed answering for those, like me, who had not read all of the New 52 Superman books. Personally, I despise multiverse story telling in comics. The innumerable amount of possibilities it opens up may seem like endless possibilities to some, but for me its just confusing and lazy storytelling. From the first page of Superman: Rebirth the reader is confused. There's a bearded Superman (Superman-A) in a familiar black suit with a silver insignia on the chest. He's mourning the death of the Superman from the New 52 (Superman-B) and, revealed in conversation with Lana Lang, awaiting the previous Kal-El's return from the grave - seeing as how that seems to be the M.O. given that Superman-A had also returned after being killed by Doomsday. If you're asking, as I was, "What?!" I hate to say that these details were not given in the story. I looked up at article online that summarized the ending of the New 52 storyline, and here's what I learned: Superman-A from the 90s that fought Doomsday, died, then came back, had a mullet for a while, married Lois, etc. was removed from the timeline for a short while. The younger, brasher Superman-B appeared and began making a name for himself, dating Wonder Woman, and what-not while Superman-A made a decision to go into hiding. Why would he go into hiding? Because he and Lois have a son, Jonathan, and they decided to keep him and his abilities a secret (Oh, snap. I just realized this is somewhat similar to Superman Returns... now I kind of hate it... Oh, well). Being in hiding did not stop Superman-A from doing heroic deeds, he just did so incognito. But with the events surrounding the death of Superman-B, Superman-A felt he had no choice but to reveal himself.

Stan Lee famously stated, "Every comic book is someone's first comic book." For this reason Marvel has often included a summary of the story previous to the issue in your hand on the first page or inside cover to catch the reader up on what's happening in the book. This was much needed in Superman: Rebirth. I've been reading Superman comics all of my life, but I was totally lost a few pages in to this story. I had to put it down, get on the computer, and do a Google search to discover what had happened before the story I was reading and to explain the context of what I was seeing. In most Superman stories if the reader is not familiar with the storyline that is happening at that time, one can usually put the pieces together based on things that are typical to the Superman universe. However a number of things were out of whack in this story. One, there was more than one Superman and one was dead and the other was wanting the dead one to come back. Two, Superman had a son, lived on a farm, and had not been the public Superman for quite some time.

My questions: So now Batman and Wonder Woman don't know if they can trust this Superman-A. Do they not remember Superman-A? Did they meet Superman-B with no recollection of Superman-A? Was Superman-B all they had ever known of Kryptonian life? Supergirl apparently was around. How does she fit in? If I had a bunch of money to blow on comics I would have read all of this and known the answers to these questions already (but I don't, so I haven't). For a reader jumping into this story at Rebirth, I am utterly confused. But one trudges on and pulls a Forest Gump to say, "Well, I've come this far..."

In the opening story of Superman: Rebirth, Superman-A takes Lana Lang and the Fortress of Solitude along with the remains of Superman-B, contemplating if they can use some kind of matrix to reawaken the deceased hero. Given that Superman-B was turned to dust when he died there is apparently no hope of his reanimation. Knowing that the world needs a Superman, and despite the risk for his family, Superman-A becomes the one and only Superman once again. There was a really cool splash page in the second issue in which Superman flies away from the graveside of Superman-B (where he and Lana had buried him next to Jonathan and Martha Kent) and says, "The colors will fly", of course referring to the red, blue, and yellow of Superman's costume.



As the audience is introduced to Superman's family, the apparent soccer-mom version of Lois Lane and their son, Jon. The character of Lois seems so far removed from her quintessential character in the comics that I really don't know that to make of her. She's definitely not smarmy, go-getter as I'm used to, here Lois is a concerned, protective Mom. I know that becoming a parent changed me in a lot of ways, as well as my wife, but who we are as people did not change overall. In these issues I feel that the character of Lois is way off from who she's supposed to be. Perhaps later in the story she'll reveal her old self. After all, she's also apparently been living under a different name for quite some time, on a farm, with a son that has superpowers, married to a man who is Superman but isn't being Superman - I can see how that would cause a person to behave differently.

Jon is a likeable. As we are introduced to this character we find that Jon's powers are unstable and unpredictable, surely a difficult struggle for someone under 10 years old. Jon runs out into a field accompanied by the family cat when a bird of prey swoops down and carries off his pet. He angrily yells at the bird to let the cat go and a burst of heat vision explodes from his eyes. The bird was killed, but unfortunately so was the cat. Jon held this guilt and did not reveal what happened to his parents, but it was witnessed by the neighbors' daughter. Later in the story, Superman reveals to Jon that he knew what had happened because he could both smell and hear the events as they played out.

Jon also is suspicious of his Dad's relationship with Wonder Woman and Batman, who show up on the farm to talk to Superman and give Jon a creepy stare as he spies on them from his bedroom window. After Jon takes a tumble from a tree Lois and Clark take him to the fortress to try and figure out why his powers seem to come and go at random. When they arrive at the fortress they find that the Eradicator (yes, another throw back from the 90s "Reign Of The Supermen" storyline) has inhabited the fortress and seeks to help Superman maintain his Kryptonian legacy. Unfortunately, that legacy must be kept pure by eradicating the abomination that is Kal-El's son, Jon, who is half human and half Krtyptonian. The Eradicator explains that General Zod created the Eradicators to capture criminals and conspirators by consuming heir souls in order to deliver them to the Phantom Zone. Superman discovers that, in the dying moments of Krypton, the Eradicator had consumed the souls of the entire population of Krypton, who now serve as the source of his strength. In order to protect Jon, Lois, and Metropolis from the Eradicator, Superman flies his family to a Bat-cave that Batman had apparently set up on the dark side of the moon. Superman struggles to defeat the Eradicator and is literally consumed by him, along with Krypto the super-dog. Inside the Eradicator, Superman enlists the help of the Kryptonian souls to defeat the Eradicator and outside, as the Eradicator tries to kill Jon, Lois puts on a suit of Bat-armour and beats the snot out of the Eradicator. As Superman leads a mass exorcidus (exorcism + exodus, I made that up) of souls out of the Eradicator, only one powerful being remains inside as the source of his power: Krypto. Superman commands Krypto to come out of the Eradicator and his power is gone and he ceases to exist.

A long-term and beloved character of Superman comics, Bibbo, makes an appearance in this story, and helps to confirm for Metropolis that this "new" Superman is the real deal.

Overall I give Superman: Rebirth Vol.1 a solid "B." The art is incredible at times and very good throughout. For me, the art is 50% or more of the comic. The story can be amazing but if the art is bad I will not enjoy a book nearly as much. The art was great, the story was decent. I'm definitely interested in seeing where this goes next.


Monday, November 27, 2017

Reading the X-Men: 2 Years+


Somehow for the second year in a row I completely miss the anniversary date of when I first started this reading project. The original date is November 11, 2015, but for whatever reason I manage to miss it by, like, 10 days every time. Whatever. It's been 2 YEARS since I started this thing! Here's the list now:
Uncanny X-Men (Volume 1) # -1, 1-32, 98-371
Uncanny X-Men (Volume 1) Annual # 3-18, 1995, 1996, 1997
Uncanny X-Men and Fantastic Four Annual 1998
Dazzler # 1-42
X-Men: First Class (Volume 1) # 1-8
X-Men: First Class (Volume 2) # 1-16
X-Men: First Class Special # 1
X-Men: First Class Giant-Size Special # 1
Avengers (Volume 1) # 47-49, 263, 298-300, 350-351, 368-369, 400-402
Avengers (Volume 1) Annual # 10
Giant Size X-Men # 1
Amazing Spider-Man (Volume 1) # 161-162, 311-313, 415, 420
Power Man # 57
Wolverine: Days of Future Past # 1-3
Marvel Team-Up # 100, 117-118, 135, 149-150
Marvel Team-Up Annual # 6
Spider-Woman # 37-38
Marvel Graphic Novel # 4-5, 12
New Mutants (Volume 1) # 1-100
New Mutants (Volume 1) Annual # 1-7
New Mutants Special Edition # 1
New Mutants Summer Special # 1
New Mutants: Truth or Death # 1-3
New Mutants Forever # 1-5
Magik # 1-4
Wolverine (Volume 1) # 1-4
Secret Wars (Volume 1) # 1-12
Marvel Fanfare (Volume 1) # 4
Marvel Fanfare (Volume 2) # 2, 4-6
Kitty Pryde and Wolverine # 1-6
Iceman (Volume 1) # 1-4
Nightcrawler (Volume 1) # 1-4
Beauty and the Beast # 1-4
X-Men/Alpha Flight # 1-2
Firestar # 1-4
Wolverine/Nick Fury: Scorpio Connection
Wolverine/Nick Fury: Scorpio Rising
Secret Wars II # 1-9
Heroes For Hope Starring X-Men # 1
Fantastic Four (Volume 1) # 286, 312, 322-324, 414-416
Fantastic Four (Volume 1) Annual # 23
X-Factor (Volume 1) # -1-149
X-Factor (Volume 1) Annual # 1-9
X-Factor: Prisoner of Love # 1
Spider-Man and X-Factor: Shadowgames # 1-3
X-Factor Forever # 1-5
Alpha Flight (Volume 1) # 1-2, 33-34, 53, 61, 87-90
Alpha Flight: In the Beginning # -1
Longshot # 1-6
Web of Spider-Man # 47-48
Web of Spider-Man Annual # 2
Thor (Volume 1) # 373-374, 378, 427-428
Power Pack # 27, 35, 42-44
Daredevil (Volume 1) # 238, 252
Spider-Man vs Wolverine # 1
Fallen Angels # 1-8
X-Men vs Avengers # 1-4
Fantastic Four vs X-Men # 1-4
Incredible Hulk (Volume 1) # 336-337, 340, 390-391, 444-445, 454-455
Captain America (Volume 1) # 339
Excalibur Special Edition # 1
Excalibur (Volume 1) # -1-125
Excalibur (Volume 1) Annual # 1-2
Excalibur: XX Crossing
Excalibur: Air Apparent
Excalibur: Mojo Mayhem
Excalibur: Weird War III
Wolverine (Volume 2) # -1-144
Wolverine (Volume 2) Annual 1995, 1996, 1997, 1999
Havok and Wolverine: Meltdown # 1-4
Wolverine: Jungle Adventure
Wolverine/Punisher: Damaging Evidence # 1-3
Wolverine: Rahne of Terra
Wolverine: Blood Lust
Wolverine: Inner Fury
Wolverine: Killing
Wolverine: Evolution
Wolverine: Doombringer
Wolverine: Knight of Terra
Wolverine/Gambit: Victims # 1-4
X-Men Origins: Wolverine # 1
Astonishing Spider-Man and Wolverine # 1-6
Wolverine: First Class # 1-7
Ghost Rider/Wolverine/Punisher: Hearts of Darkness
X-Terminators # 1-4
Mutant Misadventures of Cloak and Dagger # 4
Spectacular Spider-Man (Volume 1) # 146-148
What If… (Volume 2) #6, 77-78
What If… X-Men: Age of Apocalypse
Spellbound # 1-6
Ghost Rider (Volume 2) # 9, 26-27, 29, 67-68
Punisher War Journal # 6-7
Punisher (Volume 3) # 11-12
Marvel Comics Presents (Volume 1) # 10-17, 51-53, 72-108
X-Men: Spotlight on Starjammers #1-2
X-Men: True Friends #1-3
New Warriors (Volume 1) # 31, 45-46
New Warriors (Volume 1) Annual # 1
X-Force (Volume 1) # -1-97
X-Force (Volume 1) Annual # 1-3, 1999
X-Force and Cable Annual 1995, 1996, 1997
X-Force and Champions Annual 1998
X-Men (Volume 1) # -1-91
X-Men (Volume 1) Annual # 1-3, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1999
Spider-Man # 16, 72, 84
Cable: Blood and Metal # 1-2
Stryfe’s Strike File # 1
X-Men: Odd Men Out #1
X-Men Unlimited (Volume 1) # 1-24
Cable (Volume 1) # -1-70
Cable (Volume 1) Annual 1999
Cable and Machine Man Annual 1998
Sabretooth # 1-4
Gambit (Volume 1) # 1-4
Deadpool: Circle Chase # 1-4
Avenger West Coast # 101
Deadpool (Volume 1) # 1-4
Blaze # 4-6
Doctor Strange: Sorcerer Supreme # 69
Adventures of Cyclops and Phoenix # 1-4
Bishop # 1-4
Generation X (Volume 1) # -1-58
Generation X (Volume 1) 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998
Generation X Holiday Special # 1
Rogue (Volume 1) # 1-4
X-Men Chronicles # 1-2
Tales From the Age of Apocalypse: Sinister Bloodlines
X-Man # -1-55
X-Man Annual 1996, 1997
X-Man and Incredible Hulk Annual 1998
Tales From the Age of Apocalypse # 1
Blink # 1-4
X-Men: Alpha
Generation Next # 1-4
Astonishing X-Men (Volume 1) # 1-4
X-Calibre # 1-4
Gambit and the X-Ternals # 1-4
Weapon X (Volume 1) # 1-4
Amazing X-Men (Volume 1) # 1-4
Factor X # 1-4
Age of Apocalypse: The Chosen
X-Universe # 1-2
X-Men: Omega
X-Men: Age of Apocalypse One-Shot # 1
X-Men: Age of Apocalypse # 1-6
X-Men Prime
Starjammers (Volume 1) # 1-4
Storm (Volume 1) # 1-4
X-Men: Book of the Askani
Askani’son # 1-4
Spider-Man Team-Up # 1, 5
Sabretooth Special # 1
Further Adventures of Cyclops and Phoenix # 1-4
X-Men/Brood: Day of Wrath # 1-2
X-Men/Clandestine # 1-2
Archangel # 1
XSE # 1-4
Onslaught: X-Men
Green Goblin # 12
Iron Man (Volume 1) # 332
Onslaught: Marvel Universe
Onslaught Epilogue
Road To Onslaught
Sabretooth and Mystique # 1-4
Pryde and Wisdom # 1-3
Rise of Apocalypse # 1-4
Black Knight: Exodus # 1
Beast # 1-3
Logan: Shadow Society
Marvel Holiday Special 1996
Maverick: In the Shadow of Death
Venom: Tooth and Claw # 1-3
Maverick # 1-12
Magneto (Volume 1) # 1-4
Deadpool (Volume 2) # -1, 0-3
Marvel Valentine Special # 1
Juggernaut # 1
Domino (Volume 1) # 1-3
Imperial Guard # 1-3
Psylocke and Archangel: Crimson Dawn # 1-4
Daydreamers # 1-3
Kitty Pryde: Agent of SHIELD # 1-3
Gambit (Volume 2) # 1-4
Machine Man and Bastion Annual 1998
X-Men and Dr. Doom Annual 1998
Gambit (Volume 3) # 0.5, 1-5
X-Men: The Magneto War # 1
Magneto Rex # 1-3
Weapon X: First Class # 1-3
X-Men Origins: Colossus
X-Men Origins: Jean Grey
X-Men Origins: Beast
X-Men Origins: Sabretooth
X-Men Origins: Iceman
X-Men Origins: Cyclops
X-Men Origins: Nightcrawler
Exiles (Volume 1) # 60-61
Champions (Volume 1) # 1
X-Men and Micronauts # 1-4
X-Men Forever (Volume 2) # 1-12
X-Men 2099 # 1-9
Mutant X # 1-15
Mutant X Annual 1999
Warlock # 1
Bishop: XSE # 1-3
X-Men: Children of the Atom # 1-2

For a grand total of...(drums rolling)...1934! I'm actually disappointed. That amounts to 739 days of reading, averaging 2.6 comics per day. And I also fell short of my goal/prediction to get to Grant Morrison's New X-Men run by the end of year 2. Heck, I'm not even into Chris Claremont's first return to the main X-books. 

Anywho, let's break it down:

Annuals: 74
Graphic Novels: 22
One-Shots: 40
Issues From Minis: 286
Number of Minis: 71
Issues From Ongoing Series: 1512
Ongoing Series Started: 23
Ongoing Series Finished: 6 (Which includes Dazzler, Excalibur, Maverick, New Mutants, X-Factor, and X-Men: First Class)
How many X-Men comics I have left to read: 

Observations:
- I may have made this comment on previous round-ups, but Wolverine graphic novels tend to suck. Hard. Can't wait till the glut of Wolvie minis in the mid-2000s.

- Excalibur ended nicely. X-Factor didn't.
- Excalibur kept the majority of its original line-up on and off until the end. Rachel Summers being the lone exception.
- X-Factor obviously didn't, since the original line-up was the original five X-Men. But the line-up after the change in X-Factor #71 changed often, leaving only Polaris and Havok as major players until the end. The last 20 or so issues of that pretty much ended the series being a team book anyway and focused on a strange ensemble cast of heroes, villains, and whatever else. I have no idea what they were thinking by the end of that series.
- Holy crap, do I love Joe Casey's Cable. I've said before possibly that he's my favorite comic writer, and I came to his stuff through his first major comics work in Cable. But finally getting to finish it, wow what a great series. And Jose Landronn was a fantastic pairing with Casey. Wish they'd done more together.
- Then Marvel had to mess Cable up so they could get Rob Liefeld on it to take it to the new millenium for all of, like, five issue.
- X-Men 2099, when I first read it in high school I loved it. I'm not so much into it now as I was then, but I have to give John Francis Moore a ton of credit for 1) not miring it in X-continuity and 2) barely making it a team book. The 'team' is hardly ever together, splitting up into various personal missions. And the 'dream' that this era of X-Men expounded on ad nauseum is given lip service by a Professor Xavier-type leader but then dropped pretty quick when he has a change of heart/personality. I appreciate that.
- Maverick was a lot of fun, helped by art by rising star Jimmy Cheung. I liked the black ops mutant tales, and the down ending to the series. Better than I thought it would be.
- Mutant X is...interesting. I can't call it good, but Howard Mackie set up the premise and then fairly quickly started dismantling it which has been fun. It seems like it wants to be a darker comic than it is. Cary Nord's art has been great to watch develop after his Daredevil run from around this era.
- Mackie has never been a writer that I've enjoyed. Of course, I still will never be able to get past his hand in the "Spider-Clone Saga", but that's neither hear nor there. He is like Terry Kavanagh from this time period - when he's good it's decent enough stories, but when he's bad I loathe it. I'm reading Mackie's Astonishing X-Men mini that set up the "The Twelve" storyline and it is ATROCIOUS. It's up there with that terrible issue of Cable Jeph Loeb wrote in the Onslaught crossover. *brrr* that Cable issue still gives me nightmares.
- I'm supposed to be starting the Bishop ongoing soon. He had a ton of minis during this era, all written by John Ostrander. I enjoyed them more than I figured I would, but it's weird Marvel didn't hire Ostrander to do the ongoing for them.
- I can't tell you how much I hate 'psionic powers' now. Such vague BS. And so boring and overused. It became the Wolverine of powers in the mid to late 90s.
- Alan Davis replaced the outgoing Steve Seagle and Joe Kelly around this time on Uncanny and Adjectiveless X-Men (that should totally be a comic). The art has certainly been pretty, but it's clear Davis was just painting by numbers when it came to the writing. And those numbers were certainly supplied by the editorial team. When this stuff was coming out was when I was just starting to understand the business and behind-the-scenes stuff of comics. I was ticked when Kelly and Seagle left, and felt like Davis' run had no heart to it. Almost two decades later and I still feel the same as to the quality. There is no heart to this time of the X-Men's history, and the emotional aspect of X-Men is what made X-Men, um, the X-Men. It was slavish to the continuity in totally uninteresting ways (The Twelve) and brought back characters just for the sake of having them on the team.
- Aw, man, and they ruined Marrow. They made her 'pretty,' and gave her some control over her bones so that she could make herself prettier. And as a result she became nice and compliant and sucky. They took away every bit of aggravating personality Joe Kelly had instilled in her and she never was the same again.
- Generation X kept plugging along, never realizing its potential but never really becoming a bad comic either. Under Larry Hama and then Jay Faerber, it stayed a fun and mostly light-hearted comic.
- I can't wait until X-Man is over. I understand it supposedly became readible when Warren Ellis and Steven Grant took over, but I don't like this character and I don't like this comic and I want it to end.
-Eh, I don't have much else to write about. This isn't and interesting time for the X-Men barring a short run or two. Maybe at the half year point I'll have gotten into Morrison's run finally. Oh, and then Chuck Austen's run that made me stop buying X-Men for years and years to come. Boy I'll have plenty to say then.