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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Reading the X-Men: A year and a half+

19+ months later...

I started my X-Men reading project on November 11, 2015. I like to periodically look at my running tab of everything I've read. I figured every 6 months is a good time span between tallies. 

Giant Size X-Men #1
Uncanny X-Men #1-29, 94-338
Uncanny X-Men Annual #3-18, 1995, 1996
Amazing Spider-Man #161-162, 311-313, 415
Power Man and Iron Fist #57
Wolverine: Days of Future Past #1-3
Marvel Team-Up #100, 117-118, 135, 149-150
Marvel Team-Up Annual #6
Dazzler #1-42
Spider-Woman #37-38
Avengers #47-49, 263, 298-300, 350-351, 368-369, 400-402 
Avengers Annual #10
Marvel Graphic Novel #4, 5, 12
Magik: Storm and Illyana #1-4
Wolverine (Vol. 1) #1-4
New Mutants #1-100
New Mutants Annual #1-7
New Mutants Special Edition #1
New Mutants Summer Special #1
Secret War #1-12
Marvel Fanfare #4, 55
Kitty Pryde and Wolverine #1-6
Iceman #1-4
Nightcrawler #1-4
Beauty and the Beast #1-4
Firestar #1-4
Secret Wars II #1-9
X-Men/Alpha Flight #1-2
Wolverine and Nick Fury: Scorpio Connection
Wolverine and Nick Fury: Scorpio Rising
Heroes For Hope Starring the X-Men #1
Fantastic Four #286, 312, 322-324, 414-416
Fantastic Four Annual #23
X-Factor (Vol. 1) #1-127
X-Factor (Vol. 1) Annual #1-9
X-Factor: Prisoner of Love
Alpha Flight (Vol. 1) #1-2, 33-34, 53, 61, 87-90
Longshot #1-6
Web of Spider-Man #47-48
Web of Spider-Man Annual #2
Thor (Vol. 1) #373-374, 378, 427-429
Power Pack #27, 35, 42-44
Daredevil (Vol. 1) #238, 252, 262-264
Spider-Man vs Wolverine
Fallen Angels #1-8
X-Men vs Avengers #1-4
Fantastic Four vs X-Men #1-4
Incredible Hulk (Vol. 2) # 336-337, 340, 390-392, 444-445
Captain America (Vol. 1) #339
Excalibur (Vol. 1) #1-102
Excalibur (Vol. 1) Annual #1-2
Excalibur Special Edition #1
Excalibur: Air Apparent
Excalibur: Mojo Mayhem
Excalibur: Weird War III
X-Men and Micronauts #1-4
Wolverine (Vol. 2) #1-106
Wolverine (Vol. 2) Annual 1995
X-Terminators #1-4
Mutant Misadventures of Cloak and Dagger #4
Spectacular Spider-Man #146-148
What If (Vol. 2) #6
Spellbound #1-6
Ghost Rider (Vol. 2) #9, 26-27, 29, 67-68
Punisher War Journal (Vol. 1) #6-7
Marvel Comics Presents (Vol. 1) #51-53, 72-108
Wolverine and Havok: Meltdown #1-4
Wolverine: Jungle Adventure
Wolverine and the Punisher: Damaging Evidence #1-3
X-Men: Spotlight On Starjammers #1-2
Wolverine: Rahne of Terra
X-Men: True Friends #1-3
Wolverine: Blood Lust
New Warriors (Vol. 1) #31, 45-46
New Warriors (Vol. 1) Annual #1
X-Force (Vol. 1) #1-61
X-Force (Vol. 1) Annual #1-3
X-Force and Cable Annual 1995
X-Men (Vol. 1) #1-57
X-Men (Vol. 1) Annual #1-3, 1995
Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #16, 72
Wolverine: Inner Fury
Cable: Blood and Metal #1-2
X-Men: First Class (Vol. 1) #1-8
X-Men: First Class (Vol. 2) #1-16
X-Men: First Class Special #1
X-Men: First Class Giant-Size Special #1
Stryfe's Strike File #1
Spider-Man and X-Factor: Shadowgames #1-3
X-Factor Forever #1-5
X-Men Unlimited (Vol. 1) #1-12
X-Men: Odd Men Out #1
Wolverine: Killing
Wolverine: Evilution
Wolverine: Doombringer
Sabretooth #1-4
Gambit (Vol. 1) #1-4
Deadpool: Circle Chase #1-4
Avengers West Coast #101
Deadpool (Vol. 1) #1-4
Blaze #4-6
Doctor Strange: Sorcerer Supreme #69
Adventures of Cyclops and Phoenix #1-4
Bishop (Vol. 1) #1-4
Rogue (Vol. 1) #1-4
Blink #1-4
Cable (Vol. 1) #1-36
Generation X (Vol. 1) #1-21
Generation X (Vol. 1) Annual 1995
X-Men Chronicles #1-2
Tales From the Age of Apocalypse #1-2
X-Men Alpha
Generation Next #1-4
Astonishing X-Men #1-4
X-Calibre #1-4
Gambit and the X-Ternals #1-4
Weapon X #1-4
Amazing X-Men #1-4
Factor X #1-4
X-Man #-1, 1-20
X-Man Annual 1996
Age of Apocalypse: The Chosen
X-Universe #1-2
X-Men Omega
X-Men: Age of Apocalypse One-Shot
X-Men: Age of Apocalypse #1-6
X-Men Prime
Wolverine: Knight of Terra
Starjammers #1-4
Storm #1-4
X-Men: Books of Askani
Askani'son #1-4
Wolverine & Gambit: Victims #1-4
Spider-Man Team-Up #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
Onslaught: Marvel Universe
Green Goblin #12
Punisher (Vol. 3) #11
Iron Man (Vol. 1) #332
Onslaught Epilogue
Road To Onslaught
Sabretooth and Mystique #1-4
Marvel Fanfare (Vol. 2) #4-5
Pryde and Wisdom #1-3
Exiles (Vol. 1) #60-61
What If... (Vol. 2) #77-78
What If...X-Men: Age of Apocalypse
Champions (Vol. 1) #1
Wolverine: First Class #1-7
New Mutants Forever #1-5
X-Men Forever (Vol. 1) #1-12
Weapon X: First Class #1-3
Sabretooth Special

So, put it all in a spreadsheet (you know, X-Cel, ha...) and I am now at 1475 X-Men comics after a year and a half. More than I expected. Now to break it down:

 - In terms of X-Men related ongoing series, I've started (from #1) seventeen. Only three of those have ended during my reading time: DazzlerNew Mutants, X-Men: First Class (second volume).
- I've read 53 annuals connected to those ongoings.
- I've read seventeen graphic novels. Ten of those starred Wolverine.
- I've read 23 one-shot comics. Some of those were bookend issues for crossovers, but I counted them as single title comics.
- I've read 57 separate mini series (ranging from 2 issues long to 12). Eight either starred Wolverine or he doubled with someone else (Kitty Pryde, Gambit, Punisher, Havok). Three were about Cable. Two about Sabretooth. Two for Bishop. Two for Gambit. Shockingly only two for Deadpool, but that is going to change when I get to, what? 2007 or 2008?
     - 30 of these minis were about one person or two people. The rest were groups or ensembles. 18          were one person, 12 were duos. Of the singles, 13 starred men, The five women with spotlight            minis were Magik, Rogue, Storm, Blink, and Firestar. For the duos, nine minis co-starred women        with one of those having two women for their stars (X-Men: True Friends with Phoenix (Rachel)        and Kitty).
     - Up until this point, only one of the original five X-Men has had their own mini series: Iceman.          Four of the 'new' X-Men from Claremont's era (including Kitty in this group) have had minis, and      one New Mutant (Magik).
     - Marvel seems to go through time periods where they put out a bunch of X-minis around the same      time, then take a break for a few years. The mid-80s had stuff like Iceman, Firestar, X-Men vs            Avengers, etc. Then the mid-90s had Gambit, Bishop, Rogue, Sabretooth, etc. Another round will        come up in the early-00s with Cyclops, Chamber, Iceman again, some others. Then Wolverine            gets, like, fifty minis after that.
- I've now read 10 major crossovers. I'm not including the crossovers that occurred in annuals like Kings of Pain or Evolutionary War. The next crossover coming my way is Operation: Zero Tolerance for 1997 which will be the last time the X-line crossovers all or most of the titles until Messiah CompleX in 2007. I know there are little crossovers between the titles like Dream's End or Magneto War, but I'm meaning the classic X-crossover that involved nearly everybody and every book. 

Some (completely random) thoughts:
- It amazes me the art choices Marvel made during the mid 90s. Carlos Pacheco and Bryan Hitch were regular fill in artists quite a bit. They were both on the upward slope to their prime, but still pretty damn amazing and energetic artists, yet Marvel couldn't have given them something besides minis and fill in issues? I know Pacheco got Excalibur and eventually X-Men, but Hitch took off for greener pastures eventually. There were several really good fill ins during this time that deserved better.

- Nobody writes a 'quiet issue after a crossover' better than Scott Lobdell. He nailed it every time. 

- The crossovers got darker and darker. The main difference, however, between the dark Age of Apocalypse and the dark Onslaught was that AoA was fun, inventive, and full of energy. Onslaught was none of that.

- Warren Ellis took over Excalibur during this time and the roots of his later super-hero themes and concepts were evident here. Government conspiracies, secret evil projects, shady organizations, chain smoking jerks with hearts of gold, etc. What was more interesting was his character work and humor. I didn't care for all of his takes (Meggan in particular seemed off), but I thought he wrote a great Kitty. That being despite the face he evidently thought she was older than she was supposed to be and put her in an adult relationship. He still nailed her personality. Moira was fun, Nightcrawler was fun. I particularly liked the fact he was saddled with the Britannic nonsense that they had turned Captain Britain into, and Ellis quietly ignored it over the course of his run until he simply had Cap put on his old uniform and that was that.

- He also wrote several minis during this time. I was most fond of Starjammers. That was a great space opera book, and smartly written.

- Magneto pulling Wolverine's adamantium out of his body was still impressive and shocking. I enjoyed the vulnerable take on Wolverine. Buuuuuuut then they decided to devolve him and remove his nose. A friend of mine actually gave me an action figure of this Wolvie for my birthday once. It had 'real' hair on its forearms. Bizarre.

- Jeph Loeb's comics were a breeze to read. I don't know if it was less overwrought narration boxes or dialogue that didn't simply explain the plot, but his books tended to go a lot quicker. 

- I can't find anything yet that's entertaining about X-Man. 

- Cannonball joined the X-Men during this time, which was a long time coming. But then he just simply forgot that he was any good at anything. He went from leading the most violent and proactive of the X-teams to an anxious rookie immediately. He was never starry-eyed around the X-Men when he was a New Mutant, so I don't like that take here. Joe Kelly on X-Men is coming soon, and I love his version of Sam. 

- Professor X was taken out of the line for a few years at the conclusion of Onslaught. It was a welcome dismissal. 

- Mark Waid became an X-Men writer! And then quit after 5 and a half issues. 

- I loved his storyline with Dark Beast (from the AoA universe) kidnapping regular Beast and taking his place on the X-Men disguised as regular Beast. I mean, the obvious plothole was Jean or Psylocke picking up on it immediately, but they covered by saying that Onslaught was masking his identity. It could've had some legs, but they wrapped this angle up way too quick for it to become fun. 

- The XSE mini series was surprisingly good. I know John Ostrander is a damn good writer, but I wasn't enthused to read it. It turned out to be a good character piece for Bishop and his sister Shard.

- Sabretooth as a rehab patient living in the mansion under Professor X's care was one of my favorite storylines of this time period. And it effected so much to come: Archangel getting his old wings back, Psylocke and the Crimson Dawn stuff, Boom Boom taking a harder edge, Professor X failing and failing, Wolvie devolving, Jubilee realizing she needed to leave the X-Men to train with Generation X, all of the drama with Gambit and Rogue. I mean, it touched everything. It was wrapped up violently and grimly and was very satisfying...

- ...but then they added him as a forced member of X-Factor (ala Suicide Squad). And thus began Marvel's insistence on making Sabretooth a pseudo good guy and X-Men member. It persists to this day, and I've always hated it. Sabretooth is a murderous, vicious animal. He's done horrible, unforgivable things and I've disliked every attempt to turn him into a hero. Imagine if Spider-Man and Green Goblin had to team up. Imagine if Batman and Joker were on the Justice League together. Some villains should never be anything other than villains, and Sabretooth is a prime example. 

- Speaking of Generation X. Scott Lobdell and Chris Bachalo launched during this time once of my favorite X-titles. But here is an example of a book never quite reaching its full potential. There were moments of greatness here and there, but it never added up to what I'd hoped it would be when I was first reading this as a kid/teen. However, the characters were fabulous. 
     - Jubilee has long been a favorite of mine, and she really became well-rounded in this title.                    Lobdell was always a writer that seemed to get her. 
     - Monet (M) came from this, and she's been a mainstay for years. 
     - Cannonball's younger sister Paige (Husk) was a well thought out character with an interesting               and kind of gross power to shed her skin like a snake with a new form underneath that she could         change at will. So she could turn to rock or poisonous vapor or metal. 
     - Skin and Synch were awesome and then killed off panel by future writers who suck. Skin was             just to fill the role of sacrifice to plot. Synch's death was handled a little better at the end of the           series, but that's a character who should have been a mainstay and even a leader at some point.             His power was pretty cool as well. He had a rainbow colored aura that could imitate the powers           of anyone in close proximity. Kind of like a hippie Mimic. The idea was that may he could                   eventually learn to keep those powers permanently and perhaps one day become the first                     omnipotent mutant. So Warren Ellis killed him and he hasn't come back since.
     - Mondo was a chunk Samoan, laid back and chill to a fault. But then he was traitor working with           Black Tom Cassidy and that was stupid. 
     - Penance was a unique design with razor sharp, ruby colored skin. She and M (and their brother          Emplate, the group's arch-nemeis) had a complicated back story. I don't think Penance even                exists anymore. 
I mean, damn. Just look at that.
     - Then there was Chamber. A Brit whose psionic fire power (or whatever) blew his chest, neck, mouth, and jaw completely out of his body. What's left is a chamber of energy residing in his upper torso that just flows and circles around what's left of his body. I don't think there was as iconic of a design for an X-Man since Nightcrawler or Warlock. So of course in Marvel's     infinite wisdom, they had his powers taken away and his body restored to normal after M-Day in the mid-00s. Someone finally had the intelligence there to realize what a great character and design Chamber was and turned him back into what he should've stayed as. 

And that.

- I decided during this time to go back and start reading from the very beginning of X-Men. Those early Stan Lee and Jack Kirby issues weren't the easiest things to get through. It started picking up once Roy Thomas came along and he added some continuing stories, but it was still rough reading at times. I'm looking forward to Neal Adams coming along soon,

- The Mimic not only was a member for a bit, but actually leader of the X-Men? I never really knew that. He wasn't a very good one, which seemed to be the point. His story arc was pretty well done. I found myself getting into it once it picked up steam and thoroughly enjoyed the issues where he fought the Super Adaptoid and ended up losing his powers. 

- I also got into the First Class books which took place in between continuity in those early X-Men issues. Jeff Parker's run (mostly along with Roger Cruz) on these comics were a blast. A lot of humor, and more adventuring rather than dour fights. Parker is a great writer whom I wish would find his way back to Marvel soon. 

- Surprisingly I found myself liking Wolverine: First Class even more than the X-Men one. Fred Van Lente is another favorite writer of mine. He managed to tap into some really entertaining Wolvie stories while keeping them light and funny with the addition of Kitty. It almost is as much Kitty's book as it is Logan's.

- I also took in some of the, I don't know, sideways continuity books? New Mutants Forever, X-Factor Forever, and X-Men Forever. The idea was that these were continuations of what Chris Claremont or Louise Simonson WOULD have done had their runs kept going. So had Claremont not left after X-Men #3 with Jim Lee, these stories were what he had planned. The X-Men ones were more an ongoing that ended up making two series. The NM and X-Factor ones were minis. 

- I can't say I was especially enthused by the New Mutants Forever series. The stuff with turning Doug into a Red Skull was really weird, and I don't know if Doug ever even used his powers. Dani and Rahne were taken out of the story in the first issue and not used the rest of it. Sunspot and Warlock were meant to be with the Fallen Angels at this time, but Claremont just had them partying in Brazil. And setting the story in Nova Roma, the Roman city hidden in the Amazon rain forrest, wasn't exactly what I'd want from a nostalgia NM story. It wasn't bad, just not what I'd hoped for. Claremont was doing some interesting things for Warlock that made me think they might have continued the series past five issues, but that never happened. 

- Claremont's X-Men Forever is a bit more interesting. I'm only twelve issues in at the moment. He split Cyclops and Jean up in the very beginning of it, then ultimately let Cyclops go home to Alaska. I was very happy with that. He also killed Wolverine, had Storm betray the team and a young Ororo appear, and, yes, had Sabretooth join. Dammit. Despite that, it's been pretty good. A lot of this doesn't exactly line up with the direction Claremont has said he wanted to go in the past had he not left the books, but whatever.

- Simonson's X-Factor Forever was a joy to read. Of all of these series, this one felt like it picked up right where she left it. The family dynamic is fully there, as are the relationships Iceman, Archangel, and Beast had made outside of the team that later writers let fall apart. Apocalypse was also a major part of the story, and I've always liked Simonson's take on him a lot better. He's always more consistent in his goals. Dan Panosian did the art, which was pretty stylish and much more attractive that when he was more of a Liefeld clone in the early 90s. I wish he'd do more these days. 

- I think back-reading all of this has slowed my progress down through the main part of my reading map. I had predicted back in December that by the end of 2017 I'd be at Morrison's run. I'm thinking nope. I don't even want to try to predict where I'll be. 

- What's to come? Operation: Zero Tolerance, and several more ongoings as Maverick, Gambit, Bishop, and Deadpool all get their own series. The Joe Kelly run of Deadpool - which was such an important part of the character - is one of my favorites of all time. Excalibur and X-Factor are eventually cancelled, but Mutant X takes X-Factor's place.

- Lots of creative shake-ups as Scott Lobdell leaves the line. James Robinson does Generation X for a bit before Larry Hama takes over, and Hama leaves Wolverine. Robinson also has a short Cable run before handing off to my favorite comics writer Joe Casey. Ellis leaves Excalibur but will return for a fun Wolverine story. John Francis Moore gets X-Force for a really good. Then Kelly and Steve Seagle take on the main two X-books before getting so ticked at editorial that they both quit at the same time. That was a fun year. 

- Meanwhile Carlos Pacheco becomes a regular artist on X-Men, and Chris Bachalo takes over Uncanny. Terry Dodson eventually finds his way to Gen X. Jose Ladronn takes on Cable for some Kirby-ish awesomeness. Adam Pollina stays on X-Force for a bit before Jimmy Cheung gets it. Leinil Yu begins his work on Wolverine, and Steve Skroce takes on Gambit before he changes movie history with his work on The Matrix

So, this was long. I've been working on this article for two weeks now. Hope I didn't bore you too much.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Wrecent Wrasslin' Wrap-Up

I've had the good fortune to attend not one, but TWO wrasslin' shows lately. NXT brought their live event show (house show to those not working in WWE) near me so I got to scratch one off my wrasslin' bucket list. I also went to a local wrasslin' promotion called RSWF (Real South Wrestling Federation) in Memphis. Five bucks, a couple of hours on a Saturday night, and some indy wrasslin' as raw and dirty as it could be.

The guy in red was called Mario and came out to Super Mario Bros. music.
The Duchess Ayzali. The announcer claimed she was from the UK, but I heard her jaw with some fans and her accent was dubious. Or, rather, nonexistent. 

Kayla Lynn vs the Duchess was easily the match of the night. These two broke out at least five moves I've legit never seen before. Very impressed.

And weirdly there is (terribly shaky) video footage of the match! Which was apparently shot directly over my shoulder.

Pure Power.

Pure Power chokelsamming the heel commentator, despite being heels themselves. It was welcome, though.
#DIY (pre-breakup). Ciampa was trying on Nikki Cross's jacket.
Not sure what Sanity was pointing at.
Hey, I actually caught a wrestling move without it being blurry AF.
"Cien" Almas
Hideo Itami (pre-heel turn) vs Almas
Aleister Black somehow talked WWE into the Raven-type entrance where he gets plenty of rest before his match.
Black vs Cezar Bononi
Billie Kay and Peyton Royce
The main star I wanted to see, ASUKA!
Asuka and Ruby Riot celebrating their tag victory.
nXt champion Bobby Roode, easily the most over person of the night. 
His entrance, even at a live event, was incredible GLORIOUS.
Roode vs recent Smackdown debutee "Perfect Ten" Tye Dillinger. 

Great, long match with Roode standing tall at the end.
But wait...Roode still wants to beat Dillinger down!
But of course, got to leave the fans on a good note and Dillinger runs Roode off and celebrates with the fans. Great night and a great show.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Reading the X-Men: Onslaught (again)

Ok, so what had happened was Lobdell wanted this big cosmic entity, but when the big white entities adorned Jim Lee and Rob Liefeld with four properties that would one day make Marvel billions (ok, except Fantastic Four) the call was made to change Lobdell's plans. Thus were the seeds planted for X-stories by editorial fiat rather than creators.

Bobby Harras and Lobdell hashed the shiz out and decided to turn this unseen threat that had been pounding the X-folks in their various titles for a year+. Oh, and that's 9 ongoing series at this point. What was going to be a completely new creation became a 'whodunnit' that turned out to be a traitor to the X-Men: Professor Charles Xavier.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Reading the X-Men: Age of...Onslaught, I guess...

Ok, I see I need to get back to doing some of that writing stuff on here. Yes, I ended Part One of my Age of Apocalypse columns on a cliffhanger that I'm sure all of you (ooo...ooo...ooo (that's an echo because no one is reading this)) were dying to find out what happens next. I will get to the rest of the AoA parts soon because life finally threw a curve ball and chilled out for a brief minute. The podcast is on our usual sabbatical after wrapping up the giant-sized 13th issue, so there is a little down time for the moment.

I wanna talk about Onslaught. After all, you can't spell 'Onslaught' without 'Laugh? Tons!'
Why so serious?