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Tuesday, January 1, 2019

X-aminations in January 2019...and Beyond!

Three words:

Age
Of
Apocalypse

That's right, the next six months of reviews will find the X-books gearing up for, and then diving into, the "Age of Apocalypse", the X-books' most ambitious and sweeping crossover yet, in which every series is technically cancelled & relaunched under a new title set in an alternate reality ruled by Apocalypse, a status quo that will last for an entire four months of publication time. This storyline had a huge influence on me back in the day, and represents something of the high-water mark of my initial Marvel Zombie/all-in/"everything the X-books do is great because they're doing it!" mentality. As a result, reaching it in X-aminations is benchmark for me on-par with hitting with the '91 relaunch or the beginning of the "All New, All Different" X-Men, and I'm excited to finally be approaching it.

But first, we've also got three months' worth of regular X-books to cover, as the series are forced to pivot quickly from "Phalanx Covenant" to "Age of Apocalypse" (to varying degrees of success; pour one out for Generation X, which gets "cancelled" and thrown into an alternate timeline only four months after it debuts). "Legion Quest", the crossover-before-the-crossover, unfolds across Uncanny & X-Men (and to a lesser extent, X-Factor & Cable), the mystery of Reignfire is (sort of) revealed in X-Force before reality gets blown away, and Wolverine returns to the mansion 15 issues after he left. Plus, there's three more solo limited series (a second Deadpool mini, plus Rogue and Bishop's) and, of course, more superfluous Wolverine oneshots.

As always, if there's anything that looks to be missing or you think should be covered, let me know!

On Sale September 1994
January 2: Deadpool - Sins of the Past #1-4

January 9: Wolverine - Evilution
January 10: Cable #17

January 16: Bishop #1-4

On Sale October 1994
January 23: Uncanny X-Men #319
January 24: X-Factor #109
January 25: Wolverine #88

January 30: X-Men (vol. 2) #39
January 31: X-Force #41
February 1: Excalibur #84

February 6: Generation X #2
February 7: X-Men Unlimited #7
February 8: Cable #18

On Sale November 1994
February 13: Uncanny X-Men #320
February 14: X-Factor #110
February 15: Wolverine #89

February 20: X-Men (vol. 2) #40
February 21: X-Force #42
February 22: Excalibur #85

February 27: Wolverine - Scorpio Rising

March 6: Rogue #1-4

March 13: Generation X #3
March 14: Cable #19

On Sale December 1994
March 20: Uncanny X-Men #
March 21: X-Factor #111
March 22: Wolverine #90

March 27: X-Men (vol. 2) #41
March 28: X-Force #43
March 29: Excalibur #86

April 3: Generation X #4
April 4: Cable #20

April 10: Unstacking the Deck: X-Men Fleer Ultra '95

April 17: X-Men: The Phoenix Saga / X-Force Series IV & V Action Figures

April 24: Ghost Rider/Wolverine/Punisher: Dark Design 

May 1: Unstacking the Deck: Marvel Flair Annual '95

May 8: X-Men Alpha #1

May 15: X-Men - Year of the Mutants Collectors Preview

On Sale January 1995
May 22: Astonishing X-Men #1
May 23: Factor X #1
May 24: Weapon X #1

May 29: Amazing X-Men #1
May 30: Gambit and the X-Ternals #1
May 31: X-Calibre #1

June 5: Generation Next #1
June 6: X-Men Chronicles #1
June 7: X-Man #1

On Sale February 1995
June 12: Astonishing X-Men #2
June 13: Factor X #2
June 14: Weapon X #2

June 19: Amazing X-Men #2
June 20: Gambit and the X-Ternals #2
June 21: X-Calibre #2

June 26: Generation Next #2
June 27: X-Man #2

Power Rankings for August 1994
1. Uncanny X-Men #317
2. X-Men (vol. 2)  #37
3. Cable #16

The Generation X "pilot episode" of Uncanny #317 edges out the more action-orientated "Generation Next" finale, while Cable places high thanks to the Steve Skroce art and the connection to the "Phalanx Covenant".

4. X-Force Annual #3
5. X-Force #39

Featuring some nice Mike Wieringo art while making the most of its "villain focus" mandate, the X-Force annual edges out the regular series, which featured the sweet (if also rushed) debut and exit of Prosh.

6. X-Factor #107

Once again, X-Factor marks the mid-point of quality in the line, thought this particular issue is a tick or two down from the series' usual fare.

7. Excalibur #82
8. X-Men Annual #3
9. Wolverine #86

The dull "Life Signs" conclusion is kept out of the cellar thanks to an even duller X-Men annual, while the Gene Ha art of that annual helps prop it up above another slipshod, superfluous Wolverine fill-in issue.

7 comments:

  1. So excited for Age of Apocalypse. I reread the entire story about three years ago and will probably do so again as you review it

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  2. AoA was the last big story line of my childhood comic reading. I can't wait to read your reviews of it!

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  3. I remember exactly where I was when I read in previews that Xavier was "dying" and that the whole line was being cancelled. This was the biggest event I had seen in comics at that point, and to me personally the X-Men have yet to top it with any subsequent event. I wondered if you were going to review each issue on its own or do each title in a #1-4 grouping like a miniseries. I am so excited for this.

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  4. AoA is such an odd storyline for me. In retrospect, it's a refreshing-yet-fleeting blip on an otherwise disappointing decade for X-books. At the time, I hadn't bought an X-book for probably two years, and had largely abandoned Marvel for Vertigo (also, Mark Waid's Flash was quenching any superhero cravings,) so when I saw a copy of "Astonishing X-Men" at a friend's house, he filled me in on the whole shebang. I flipped through the book, but it didn't do anything for me, so I set it aside and forgot about it.

    Then, about ten years ago, I was compiling a digital library of comics to replace the physical one I'd lost (and in the process, just downloading anything I could find) and came across a full Age of Apocalypse run in one folder. I spent a few days reading the whole thing, and was pleasantly surprised at how solid it turned out. The writing and art varies from book to book, but as a collaborative work, it's impressively coherent and consistent in overall plot and (especially) with the characters. It's arguably the best-executed Event of the decade aside from the original Infinity Gauntlet, which had the advantage of a single writer. I don't know whose "baby" AoA ultimately was, but I like to imagine Lobdell, Nicezia, Hama, Ellis, Harras, and whoever else sitting around, throwing ideas at each other and deciding what crazy directions to take each alternate universe character in (which traits of each hero and villain were part of their nature? which were nutured? how tough was it to not just make all the heroes into assholes, because seriously that's always tons of fun?)

    I didn't love the whole thing, but I liked it enough to give that failed Age of Apocalypse monthly series more chances than most people did (probably more than it deserved, but that's a discussion for another thread.)

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    1. Yep, I have similar memories of Age of Apocalypse.
      I stopped reading comic books in high school, but couldn't stay away. I ended up being drawn back to comics by Vertigo....and Spawn (which was really hot at that point and just starting out). I couldn't resist starting to read X-Men comics again too though, as that my original comic book collection.

      When I saw that the Age of Apocalypse was going to relaunch the entire line, I decided that was a perfect point to drop all the X-books.
      So, I ended up skipping the Age of Apocalypse. Then, the X-books started up again from their original numbering, so I decided I should keep buying them for my collection.

      It wasn't until about five years ago that I decided I should go back and hunt down all of the AoA comics.
      My experience was similar to yours. I was pleasantly surprised as the quality of almost all of the AoA books.
      It was a quite entertaining and well-done event, in the middle of a period of X-Men history when I wasn't enjoying the monthly comics.

      The two comics from that period which do stand out are Ellis on Excalibur and the Lobdell/Bachalo Generation X.
      I decided to skip reading those titles at the time too.
      I had lost interest in Excalibur, and had no idea who this Ellis guy was, as he hadn't become a big name yet.
      Generation X was just another X-book to add to my pull-list, when I was already reading more than I wanted.
      I would later go back and read both (Excalibur after Ellis showed up at Vertigo. Generation X when, out of nostalgia, I decided to fill-in the gaps on my X-book collection). It was too bad I wasn't reading both of them at the time they were being released.

      Generation NeXt was probably the best of all the AoA series.

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  5. I’ll put this here instead of back where I first mentioned it in comments on Loeb's debut in Cable #15...

    Jeph Loeb on getting hired by the X-Office

    The first [Legends of the Dark Knight] Halloween special had been out a couple of months, and I got a phone call one day from Lisa Patrick at Marvel Comics. She said, “I’d like to know whether or not you’d like to work on the X-Men.”

    I said, “What?!?”

    And she said, “I’ve read your Halloween special. I think it’s terrific. We need new writers. Would you like to work in the X-Men office?”

    “Who is this?”

    “I’m Lisa Patrick; I work with Bob Harras.”

    “Does Bob know that you’re making this phone call?” [laughs] I was a huge X-Men fan. X-Men was the #1 book in the country. I thought that it was a joke. Why ask me?

    She said, “I have to ask you four questions.

    “One: Are you available?”

    “Yes.”

    “Two: Do you currently read the X-Men books?”

    “Yeah, I’m right up to date.”

    “Three: Can you deliver a property on time?”

    “Yes. Just ask anybody at DC.”

    “Four: Do you know what it’s like to work in the X-Men office?”

    “No, I have no idea.”

    And she said, “You’ve answered all the questions correctly.” [laughs] Of course, it would take me a year to find out what that last question meant.

    I very quickly met Scott Lobdell, and Scott helped me navigate through the Bob Harras waters. I started out as the writer on Cable, and then, all of a sudden, I was the writer on X-Force; shortly after that, I became the co-creator, along with Steve Skroce, of X-Man, so I went from no contact with Marvel to writing three of the then nine X-Men books.

    Stefan Blitz & Brian Saner Lamken. “A Shot in the Dark — Jeph Loeb: The Comicology Interview.” Comicology Vol. II #1, Pgs. 7-33 [Side B]. Raleigh: TwoMorrows Publishing, Spring 2000.

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    1. (Austin usually sets off such excerpts in quotes — sensibly — but due to so much of this being a conversation relayed in the first person I did away with them for readability; otherwise, more than half the lines would start with an opening double quote followed immediately by an opening single quote.)

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