Days Of Future Present

days of future present
If yesterday’s post was too straight forward, today’s will be a little more complicated. “Days Of Future Past” brought on the super epic “Days of Future Present” and ties together the X-books of the time with the Fantastic Four. This ran through four annuals (Uncanny x-Men, X-Factor, Fantastic Four and New Mutants) in the summer of 1990. And it all pivots around Franklin Richards.

An older, adult Franklin from the alternate future where “Days of Future Past” happened travels back in time to the then-current day Marvel Universe, which causes all kinds of craziness with the Fantastic Four and the young, child Franklin. It also causes problems with Rachel Summers, who was originally from the same timeline as adult Franklin where they were romantically involved with each other  and she assumed he was dead. It only gets more confusing as it is revealed that when Rachel traveled back in time, an evil Sentinel/cyborg hybrid called Ahab had followed her, planning on not only killing her but several mutants and super humans who would become in the future. It’s a lot like Terminator 2: Judgement Day, only coming out the summer later.

And as this is going on, both Franklins are having trouble controlling their mutant ability to war reality, which makes things all the more difficult.

The story is a little long at times, but the writing team of Louise Simonson, Walt Simonson and Chris Claremont manage to make it cohesive enough to be enjoyable. But then again, during this time any book that was associated with the three of them was great.

On the art side of things Jackson Guide, Jon Bodganove and Art Adams did a great job. The three of them have unique and timeless styles, and nothing felt out of date save for some of the fashion choices.

Main story aside, there are some other cool moments. We are introduced to Gambit for the first time, who debuts helping Storm (who has been turned back into a teenager) break into the X-Mansion. There is also the first time that Jean Grey meets Rachel, her possible daughter from an alternate future. That must have been awkward.

Speaking of awkward, we also get scenes (like the one pictured) that have both Cable as an adult and as a child in baby Nathan. That’s possible, since Nathan gets sent to the future to be raised, only to come back as Cable. But at the same time I wonder if that aspect of the character’s life was planned out yet.

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Fifty Greatest X-Men Characters #41: Shatterstar

shatterstar-x-force-x-factoNext up is another character that I’ve always enjoyed. He is as sharp as a tack, well the signature double-bladed swords that he carries. I’m talking about the X-Forcer turned X-Factorer Shatterstar.

His debut was fairly straight forward. Shatterstar is a test-tube grown mutant from the Mojoworld of the future who traveled back in time to help the X-Men to help them defeat the alien Mojo who rules the dimension he calls home. His introduction was just like so many of the characters that first appeared in the early 1990s; he shows up, joins a group and starts kicking ass. For the most part, everyone did a good job writing him. He was a displaced warrior who would be much more comfortable fighting people. Needless to say, he jived perfectly with being in X-Force under Cable’s tutelage but not so much when it was the other young mutants running the show.

Eventually they gave him more of a character, with him at one point having acquired the memories of a deceased teenager. But the biggest character growth was under Jeph Loeb’s direction, with an allusion to Shatterstar having a secret relationship with his teammate Rictor. A decade later, Shatterstar and Rictor became public with their relationship and creating Marvel’s premier gay couple. It’s been handled very well, and Rictor and Shatterstar have an extra complexity going on. This is his first romantic relationship of any kind and he doesn’t want the exclusivity that Rictor is seeking. And to make things more confusing, Shatterstar finds himself attracted to both sexes. I like the direction that they’ve taken, making him a coming of age character who is pushing thirty.

Oh and one more really cool thing about Shatterstar…HE’S THE SON OF DAZZLER AND LONGSHOT!!!! Way back in 1992’s X-Men Annual #1, there’s a one-off comment between Dazzler and Longshot talking about naming a child Shatterstar and kicking off two decades worth of speculation. As part of Peter David’s conclusion for X-Factor, this is revisited and is FINALLY confirmed.

$(KGrHqUOKkEE7HvjNWkzBPmuqeVlyQ~~60_35And one more thing…Toy Biz made some really cool Shatterstar figures back in the 1990s. I remember vividly picking up the figure on your right when I thought I was way too old to be stopping into a Kay Bee Toys and buying anything. I was a freshman in high school and would have been quite embarrassed if anyone saw me. But then again, I wasn’t invited to any of the cool kids’ parties any way.

So there I was proudly plopping down five bucks to get an awesome action figure which I still have to this day!

Baltimore Comic-Con 2013 Sketchbook: The Beast by Jamar Nicholas

The Beast by Jamar Nicholas
I was so happy to add this sketch of the Beast to my collection at the Baltimore Comic-Con. It’s by cartoonist Jamar Nicholas who did an amazing adaptation of Geoffrey Canada’s Fist Stick Knife Gun: A Personal History of Violence which you should really check out.

You can follow Jamar’s blog here.

Fifty Greatest X-Men Characters #50: Strong Guy

strong-guy

Strong Guy is a very complex, overlooked and simple character all at the same time. How does that make any sense?

Strong Guy’s power is that he is able to transform the energy from a physical impact into muscle mass, turning his physique into something that a strong man participant could only dream of. That said, Strong Guy isn’t a strong man at heart. Instead, he’s just projecting a large wise cracking, musclebound image.

We learned in X-Factor #87 about his childhood, with him being a constantly bullied, nerdy weakling who covered up his insecurities with a lot of sarcasm. Once his mutant powers kicked in, he still never developed his confidence. He’s spent a fortune trying to impress people and is severely afraid of letting people know that his mutation causes him a lot of pain.

That said, Strong Guy makes a strong supporting character, whether he is a bodyguard for Lila Cheney or Dazzler or a member of the various X-Factor incarnations he has been part of. Strong Guy works so well in the X-Universe because of his dual nature. He loves putting out the image of a tough guy smart ass, like a WWE version of Denis Leary. But his true self, the one all his teammates and friends see, is a very kind and gregarious giant.

X-Factor Forever

x-factor-forever

It’s no secret that I’m a super fan of Louise Simonson’s work, so getting the X-Factor Forever collection was a must buy for me. The book resolves plot-lines that she had set up nearly twenty years ago!

The first part of the story pretty much reestablished the dynamics of the characters. Cyclops (and his son Nathan, who, you know grows up to be Cable) are adjusting to life with a newly returned from the grave Jean Grey, and the rest of the team is enjoying themselves.

At first, it seems like the kidnapping of young Nathan by Caliban and Mister Sinister is the worst that will happen. But instead, X-Factor finds itself in an uneasy alliance with Apocalypse to find the child, for he is the proof that the cosmic Celestials need to deem mutant-kind a worthy species.

The resulting story has to be the best written Apocalypse I’ve ever encountered. Through the main narrative (and a back-up feature that chronicles his life) we learn that he has been subtly influencing the direction of mankind into evolving, ensuring its survival among the planet’s other species, the Deviants and Eternals. Apocalypse had appointed Mister Sinister to be his apprentice who unfortunately has his ideas on how humans and mutants should evolve. It’s a race against time and whoever has Nathan will control the outcome of the Celestial’s judgement.

Again, the writing on this is amazing. Louise is able to conjure the feelings of Jack Kirby style cosmic drama with Grant Morrison-like sensibilities, all the while not sacrificing her own style. I highly recommend this. And if you pick up the collected version, it includes X-Factor #63-64, which concluded her run on the original series. Get this…you won’t be disappointed.

X-Factor #66: A Really Bad Day

There is a lot of stuff going on in this issue. If there was ever a day where the X-Factor should have stayed in bed, this would be it.

The team’s headquarters is a sentient floating battleship, literally named Ship. Before it was X-Factors mobile base of operation it belonged to Apocalypse. He’s deployed a squad of his minions to not only attack X-Factor, but to infect the ship with a virus that makes Ship lose control of itself and start attacking Manhattan. X-Factor are trying to get Ship back under control while other Marvel characters are helping evacuate people from Ship’s path. What’s remarkable to me is how everyone is so understanding of Ship being out of control. Ship eventually decides that the only way it can get back under control is to commit suicide, which no one in X-Factor is happy about.

As this Ship story unfolds, Apocalypse’s plan to abduct Cyclops’ son Nathan is revealed. It turns out destroying their headquarters was an elaborate distraction. The story leads to the first appearance of the Askani Clan from the future, as a woman member has been sent from the future to protect the baby. People from the future travelling back in time to protect a child was a huge theme in 1991, between this plot and Terminator 2.

The issue is interesting from a creative standpoint, as it was written by the combined efforts of Whilce Portacio, Jim Lee and Chris Claremont, with art from Portacio. It’s like a meeting of the minds of the X-creators in this issue. The backup feature is called Apocalypse Manifesto, with profiles of the powers and dangers of Beast and Iceman from Apocalypse’s perspective. These were written by Fabian Nicieza.

X-Factor #84

Let’s take a look back at X-Factor #82–the second part of the X-Cutioner’s Song crossover. It’s hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that this came out twenty years ago. God I’m getting old.

As the second part of a crossover running through four different ongoing series, the pacing on this is kind of odd but its forgivable. In part one, Professor X has just been shot by Cable and is in grave condition at a hospital. X-Factor’s government liaison Valerie Cooper is trying to get a handle on his status, as he’s apparently been infected with some sort of techno virus that is turning him into a machine. I hope that Professor X is covered by his HMO; this sounds expensive.

As this is going on, X-Factor is investigating what had happened at the crime scene. X-Force–without their leader Cable, cause he apparently just tried to assassinate Professor X–is also there. The two groups tussle for obvious reasons, with X-Factor

There is one scene that sticks out now as being odd in retrospect involving Wolfsbane and Rictor making out with Shatterstar watching. At the time it makes sense, since they are former teammates after all. But in modern-day, Rictor and Shatterstar are a couple, and I’m sure it must be awkward watching your significant other making out with a wolf chick.

Art in this issue was by Jae Lee. I guess this was still early in his career, as his artwork really reminded me of Sam Keith, with the dark moodiness, use of negative space and odd cartoonishly rendered characters. But that’s a good thing, as I enjoy both Lee and Keith’s work.

30 Things I Like About Comics—#10 Louise and Walt Simonson

Walt & Louise Simonson @ Boston Comic Con

Walt and Louise Simonson at Boston Comic Con(photo courtesy Brad Searles's flickr account)

 
Talk about a power couple! Louise and Walt Simonson are two of my favorite comics creators. Whether working independently or as a team, any book that they get a credit on is a must buy for me.

I could go on for days talking about their work, but lets just visit some of their more well known projects.

As a writer, Louise had lengthy runs on Power Pack (which she created with June Brigman who went on to the Brenda Starr comic strip) and New Mutants, two of my favorite series from Marvel. Over at DC, she was a big part of the 1990s Superman line, writing Superman: Man of Steel and later created Steel with Jon Bogdanove during the “Death of Superman” era. Louise has also crossed over from the comics spinner to the bookstore shelf, having written several novels and young adult books featuring DC super heroes as well as DC Comics Covergirls, a coffee table book featuring the history of the publisher’s lady characters.

Walt made a huge splash on the comics scene with his Manhunter backup feature in DC’s Detective Comics. He went on to his now legendary run on Marvel’s Thor, where he was the writer and artist. This really is some of the best Thor stories ever; this period brought us Beta Ray Bill. He also had a similarly successful run as writer and artist on Fantastic Four. Walt has also worked on a bunch of projects for DC, including Orion, New Gods and Hawkgirl.

Power Duo

Walt and Louise Simonson. Photo courtesy Andy Ihnatko (www.flickr.com/andyi)

Together, Louise and Walt had an extended run on X-Factor, where they turned poor Angel into the super awesome Archangel. They also wrote the critically acclaimed Meltdown limited series; a surreal adventure featuring Havok and Wolverine, with art by painters Kent Williams and Jon Jay Muth. Recently they’ve collaborated on a series about the video game World of Warcraft for DC/Wildstorm.

Their legendary careers aside, the Simonsons are super nice and friendly when meeting fans at comic shows. They’ll happily sign anything and love talking about comics.