Archive for June, 2011

Northstar in flashback in “Flashback” in X-Men Legacy #250

June 28, 2011

X-Men Legacy #250
August 2011

Though not billed on the cover as an Age of X aftermath issue, this Giant Size milestone issue of X-Men Legacy (wow – has it really been 20 years and 250 issues since a comic book sold 8.1 million* copies?) contains a ten page Age of X epilogue story about the mysterious Revenant character. Likely because it has the most unimaginative title a story could have, “Flashback” is only titled in the intro page, where readers are warned of the abrupt change in artist as Steve Kurth, Age of X artist, takes over midway in the book from Koi Pham. Northstar appears as a regular member of the X-Men in flashback, and there is a possible appearance of Box’s foot.

Right before Revenant’s ghosty naked form finally leaves, a recap of various Age of X events dizzyingly radiates in reverse order from top left to bottom right across a two page spread, with the very first panel showing an image of Northstar crouching down just after reality is returned to normal. This image is a faithful reproduction of the same scene Steve Kurth drew in New Mutants #24, the last numbered issue of the crossover.

In a jagged corner of one panel on the same two page spread, a foot which may belong to Box appears. Unfortunately not enough is shown for an exact confirmation but Box was present in the depicted scene, so it is possible.

* – in 1991, the first issue of this title, the adjectiveless X-Men #1 sold a very large number of issues. It’s generally agreed that it is at least a 7-figure number. Some place it as high as 8.1 million, but I hereby disavow any actual knowledge of what the actual number might be. Since 8.1 million is the highest number I found on the Internet, I’m using it to make my point and for the fun purpose of intentionally spreading unverifiable information, so please no flames. If you know the exact number, please leave a comment.

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Age of Apocalypse Wild Child returns in Uncanny X-Force #11

June 17, 2011

Uncanny X-Force #11
Aug 2011

Cyclops disbanded the secret X-Force team in X-Men: Second Coming #2, an act which prompted Wolverine to immediately organize an even more secreter team, of course. The new X-Force debuted one page later with a new line-up; a few months later they got a new series with a new writer, new artists, and a new adjective! The Uncanny X-Force team travels to the Age of Apocalypse (AoA) world in this issue, where AoA Wild Child appears as a member of the AoA X-Men.

Shortly after Dark Beast and X-Force enter the Age of Apocalypse universe, two figures track them from the shadows. They are easily identifiable as Wild Child and his master Sabretooth, who later ambush and brutally attack Wolverine outside of Dark Beast’s lab. Wild Child does a heck of a job raking his claws across Wolverine, who reveals in a caption, “Wild Child’s shreddin’ muscle faster than I can heal it.” Despite the intensity of the raging attack, Wolverine takes him out with an sharp elbow to the face. Then, they realize they’re all friends and take a submarine to Atlantis.

A promotional image by Mark Brooks featuring AoA Wild Child first released online in February of 2011 had been advertising this return to the Age of Apocalypse, so fans weren’t so surprised to see him in this issue. The promotional image would later be printed as a 2pg spread in several comics dated June 2011 specifically advertising this issue and also appeared as a background image for the table of contents of the 2011 X-Men Spotlight. Ultimately, this image would be used as a variant cover for this issue as well (see below).

We last saw AoA Wild Child in the one-shot Exiles: Days of Then and Now #1, where he was plucked out of the Age of Apocalypse world by a version of Quentin Quire (Kid Omega) to form a new team of Exiles. For those of you who keep track of these sorts of things, the Age of Apocalypse world is designated Earth-295 and the world where Quentin Quire’s Exiles were brought is designated Earth-91172. How AoA Wild Child was able to return isn’t clear, but it was fairly common for Exiles to jump across universes and back to their own without much fuss.

Less clear is the time period of this issue. A sentry outside Dark Beast’s lab indicates that five thousand and six days have passed since he last entered, which was at the end of the original series in 1995. For those of you who were reading Alpha Flight comics instead of paying attention when they taught the calendar in school, 5006 days is about thirteen and a half years, corresponding to some time in early 2009, if reckoned from the end of X-Men Omega, the last book of the original AoA series (where this reality was supposed to have ceased to exist, but let’s not mention that). In a C2E2 interview, writer Mark Remender placed the events of this issue ten years after the 2005 X-Men Age of Apocalypse series. Both methods of reckoning are plausible, as AoA Wild Child ought to have had time to finish his mission on Earth-91172 and return to his own world under either scheme.

Besides the rounded ear, this version of AoA Wild Child differs somewhat from how we’ve seen him. Notably absent is the chain that Sabretooth had been using as a leash. Notably present is his ability to speak! He’s now able to bang out a few sentences, albeit in broken English, but still a significant improvement over the grunting from the original series, where he was so mute that he had to come into physical contact with Rogue by licking her to communicate. By the way, “McCoy’s Devil” refers to the assumption that Wolverine is a clone of the AoA Weapon X created by Dark Beast (Hank McCoy).

His costume is slightly modified as well, though it does retain the elements of his standard AoA costume and still copies Sabretooth’s costume. Interestingly, this isn’t the first time Mark Brooks has drawn Wild Child. In 2005, artist Mark Brooks drew what was supposed to be the wraparound cover of the X-Men: Age of Apocalypse – One-shot, in which Wild Child and Sabretooth had an 8pp feature and were therefore prominently featured. An inset from this unused cover was reprinted as a head shot for Wild Child in the entry for the AoA X-Men in the OHOTMU: Age of Apocalypse one-shot, leaving fans confused as to the source of this image for a few months until the 2005 X-Men Age of Apocalypse series was collected in trade paperback and the unused cover was finally printed in its entirety as a pin-up, ending the mystery.

Click on the image for the full pin-up

This very clear version of Mark Brook’s character design from 2005 reveals a few costume changes from that version to the 2011 version. The brown collar is now colored red, the rounded rivets on the collar are now slotted, and the white wrappings and wrist pads shown on Sabretooth’s wrists in that image are now copied correctly onto Wild Child’s wrists.

Note: this issue has a wraparound variant cover by interior artist Mark Brooks, taken from a promotional image for this issue. When folded, Wild Child appears mostly on the back, but part of his left arm and part of his face appear just over the stapled edge on the obverse half. It also has a Second Printing variant, which shows various images from inside the book, one of which is taken from the “Die, Pig, Die!” panel above, but unfortunately Wild Child’s head is cropped out.

Uncanny X-Force #11 – Mark Brooks variant
Uncanny X-Force #11 – Second Printing variant

Northstar and Jeffries in X-Men #12

June 15, 2011

X-Men #12
Aug 2011

This issue is part two of “First to Last”, a five-part arc that started in X-Men Giant Size #1 where a clan of the advanced mutant race Neo show up on Utopia, only to be destroyed by the Evolutionaries, powerful interventionist beings who claim to protect mutantkind. In this issue, Cyclops attempts to pull off a “behind the scenes” plan to defeat the Evolutionaries, all communicated telepathically, while the expository portion of the book plays out in regular speech. One of the telepathic messages goes out to Northstar, who appears in one panel as a regular member of the X-Men, having joined up in Uncanny X-Men #508 and one goes to Mister Jeffries, who also appears in one panel, as a regular member of the X-Men Science Team, having joined up in Uncanny X-Men #505.

Alpha Flight Collector has had serious problems with Chris Yost for killing off Diamond Lil in an inexplicable and unceremonious manner in X-Force #23, so his writing is particularly subject to extra scrutiny. He does Northstar’s bit just fine, placing him alongside Namor subsequent to the mighty stone giant Pillar’s disintegration last issue, and sounding as perfectly arrogant as he can make him with his one line when he mocks the order to stay still.

In the next panel, Jeffries receives a telepathic message from Cyclops to build a machine that does… something… , and immediately has an intense reaction, calling out for Dr. Nemesis, who in turn, races just as intensely to the lab to assist.

This is exactly how Madison Jeffries’ powers are supposed to work – he was supposed to be the guy who can build any machine with his mind, but not necessarily ready with the engineering knowledge how to design them. Both John Byrne and Bill Mantlo paired him up with Roger Bochs, the brilliant design engineer, and this is the general sense fans had of how Madison Jeffries’ powers were supposed to work.

Roger Bochs concentrates, Mr. Jeffries touches his forehead… …and machinery mentally designed by the one is transformed out of metal by the other.

This type of “design download” directly into his mind had been done in Alpha Flight #36 when Roger Bochs uploaded the design for a sonogram machine directly into Jeffries’ mind when Shaman (as Dr. Michael Twoyoungmen) required one to analyze Snowbird’s unusual pregnancy. Chris Yost got this nuance of Jeffries’ powers exactly right, so good job on that. Also, good job on the tease. I closed the cover, DYING to know what Jeffries’ next contraption would be, and thrilled that he might play a pivotal role in defeating the extremely powerful Evolutionaries, when the other X-Men were told to stay still.

Note: this issue has a variant cover by interior artist Paco Medina taken from a much larger promotional poster for the “First to Last” story arc.

X-Men #12 – Medina variant

Jeffries has a fear of water in X-Men: Earth’s Mutant Heroes #1

June 12, 2011

X-Men: Earth’s Mutant Heroes #1
Jul 2011

The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe series extends itself with a slightly unusual issue, and one has to be a real fan of the OHOTMU series to appreciate the subtle difference: instead of containing lengthy entries on major characters from the X-Men, it contains single page updates to A-list characters in addition to entries further down the B- and C- lists. Seeing as how the A-list characters just had entries in the amazing 2008-2010 hardcover series, along with other entries in the five-issue update to that series, it makes sense to present only an updated entry for those characters. As an exception to this rule, Mister Jeffries (who I consider an A-list character of course) has a 3pg entry, unusual in both its size and recency to his last entry in issue #6 of the hardcover series. Also, he has a fear of water.

For those of you who read these OHOTMU books with regularity, you know that an entry larger than two pages is somewhat rare, especially after a full entry from just a few years ago. In fact, Jeffries’ entry is one of only two entries with more than two pages in this book, so the Alpha Flight respect-o-meter is all the way to the right on this one, folks.

It gets even better: Jeffries appears on the cover! Kalman Andrasofszky included him top center, playing with some floating mechanical bits. Unfortunately, some of the title block obscures the full image but promo art released by Marvel clearly shows Jeffries without any interruption (see inset below). Note the “X” on Jeffries’ arm patch, and compare that with another canonical image of Jeffries (courtesy of the Alphanex database over at alphaflight.net) with an “A” on his arm patch.

And it gets even better than that: we get a new main illustration from series artist Gus Vazquez, replacing the volume 2-era exoskeleton image from issue #6 of the Hardcover. Other illustrations in this entry include an inset from his first appearance in Alpha Flight #1 with art by John Byrne, wearing his Gamma Flight costume (which is labeled Alpha Trainee, sort of an error, but not really, since Gamma Flight members were Alpha Flight trainees), a reprint of the main illustration from his entry in the OHOTMU Deluxe Edition #2, with art by Mike Mignola, which showed him in the blue armor, but in this issue, an unfortunately miscolored mid-section (it’s supposed to be yellow, not white – that error was also in his previous entry in HC#6), a reprint of the main illustration from the OHOTMU ’89 Update #1 by Jim Lee (a version of which is linked to above showing the “A” patch on his arm), an image taken from a splash page in Alpha Flight #125 with art by Jim Reddington, an image of him in his mustachioed era by Scott Clark from Alpha Flight volume 2 #1 and an obscure image of him as Gemini by Georges Jeanty from Weapon X #1.

Since his entry in the Hardcover volume 6, there are some notable changes, the first being an increase in page count from two to three, the illustration updates mentioned above, and a simplification of some of the captions identifying his armor. The Mignola image has been renamed from “Box Mark I armor” to “First Box Armor”, removing the complication of the fact that Roger Bochs and Jerome Jaxon were the first two to use the blue armor. The caption for the Lee image of the armor has been changed from “Box Mark II armor” to “With second Box armor”, again a simplification to remove the confusion about Walter Langkowski occupying the red Box armor for a while before Roger Bochs took it over again after Walter regained his/her human form. The Reddington image, which was uncaptioned in HC#6 is now captioned “Third Box armor”. In addition, the Gemini illustration has been updated. The HC#6 issue had a different Gemini image which only showed the upper body instead of a full body shot.

In the text, his identity has been updated from “Secret (known to certain government officials)” to “No dual identity”, reflecting his current status with the X-Men. Not surprisingly, as a member of the Science Team and sometimes written as a brilliant scientist (mostly by Mike Carey), the occupation of “Scientist” has been added, as well as the notation of his Education as “Basic US Army training”, reminding the reader of his background/origin story with his brother, Lionel.

The rest of the text is a slightly updated version of the text from the Hardcover issue, with a very strange reference to his fear of water (as mentioned in Alpha Flight #39) appearing in the very first paragraph. It’s strange because when one thinks of Madison Jeffries, “Fear of Water” doesn’t exactly come to mind, yet it seems to be featured so prominently, moved from its position buried mid-entry in the Hardcover issue right up to the first paragraph in this issue. The text also retains the errors misprinted in the Hardcover issue which took Puck’s joking reference to Department H as the “Clinic for Socially Maladjusted Super-Beings” to be an actual clinic, while muddling his history with Roger Bochs as well, an error in direct conflict with his first full appearance in Alpha Flight #16 when he met Roger Bochs for the first time. Additionally, an unfortunate typographical error misspells Manikin’s name as Whitne Knapp, particularly odd because it was properly printed as Whitman Knapp in the Hardcover.

In the Stats portion of the entry, the power grid is updated. His hair color has been changed from “Black” to “Black with gray”, noting his modern appearance with grayed temples. For those of you who keep track of these sorts of things, his Intelligence has decreased from 3 to 2, Strength and Durability stays the same from at 2 but increased to 6 while wearing the Box armor, Speed increased to 5 with the Box armor, Energy Projection corrected form 4 to 1 with a ranking of 6 while wearing the Box armor and Fighting Skills reduced from 4 to 3, noting his main role as a support staff on the X-Men rather than a front-line combatant. Alpha Flight Collector has an issue with reducing his Intelligence from 3 to 2, as he certainly has smartened up from the guy we knew back in the day.

His previous bio ended just as he joined up with the X-Men in Uncanny X-Men #505, and this update properly includes what’s happened to him since then, briefly touching on his mental state. It says he was “Somewhat mentally addled” in that issue, then goes on to describe the events of his membership in the X-Men since, ending just at the events of Uncanny X-Men Annual #3. Entries in the rest of the issue go as far as the return of the Breakworld aliens in Uncanny X-Men #535.

Some notable facts are revealed in this issue. The time leaper, a Jeffries creation mentioned in issue #509 is confirmed to have been used in the Messiah War arc. It also snarkily notes “Jeffries suggested the X-Club travel to the past to seek answers for reinstating the mutant gene, and traveled to the year 1906 to investigate the birth of the modern mutant race [in Uncanny X-Men #512]; a mission that ultimately provided nothing to reinstate mutant abilities.” The whole purpose of the X-Club as formed by Beast was to find the reason why there were no more mutant births, yet this was completely abandoned in subsequent issues by Matt Fraction, the same writer who originally came up with this idea! Additionally, some chronology of simultaneous overlapping appearances of Jeffries (in Nation X, Necrosha, Second Coming, Curse of the Mutants and miscellaneous other issues) is cleared up.

Some notable exceptions from the extended bio are the details of his recruitment into the X-Club in Uncanny X-Men #506, #507 and #508, the battle against Predator X’s in in Uncanny X-Men #517, helping out the New Mutants in New Mutants #4 and #5, getting knocked out in the Age of Atlas/X-Men crossover, his role in the Curse of Mutants storyline excluding the one-shot X-Men: Smoke and Blood #1 and the Age of X appearances. Finally, it should be mentioned that Jeffries has a fear of water.

Note: in the entry for Utopia, Northstar’s boyfriend Kyle is listed as Kyle Roy, the first time his last name has been mentioned.

Note: at least two known misprinted versions of this comic exist, one being a complete but misordered version with the Jeffries entry appearing out of order as the first printed entry, and another incomplete version with the third page of the Jeffries entry appearing as the first printed page and his entire entry reprinted later among other duplicated entries.

Mmmf! in Uncanny Mmmf! #537

June 9, 2011

Uncanny X-Men #537
July 2011

The Breakworld aliens returned to the pages of the X-Men in issue #535 and were welcomed to Utopia injudiciously by Cyclops last issue. Their leader Kruun, a particularly brutal psychopath, and his charming wife Haleen aren’t exactly the perfect houseguests as they smash, stab, slice and/or inject everyone in sight and end up taking over the entire island. Mister Jeffries appears in a single panel as a regular member of the X-Men Science team, having joined up in issue #505.

Last issue, Kruun smashed his face into a control panel and depowered him, then dumped him into a closet with depowered Magneto. There he remains for this issue, and that would be that for this post except his little appearance is part of something I find pretty neato.

Mmmf!

Haleen, who was at first reluctant to go along with Kruun’s plans to take over the island and exact revenge on the X-Men, discovers Magneto and Jeffries in the closet. The symmetrical page layout, reminiscent of the “9-panel per page” format used in the Watchmen, brilliantly depicts her change of heart from top to bottom and left to right. The central panel, the only panel containing dialogue, is the focal point of the page, and is bookended by the X-Men metalsmiths on the left and a hammer strike against the Breakworld metal by her own hand on the right.

Click to enlarge

Just perfectly done. Even though Jeffries is all bound and gagged and depowered and looking pretty much as pathetic as you can look, and the change of heart depicted is one from mercy to depravity, it’s still a nice touch to see the panel layout across the page used as a device to advance the story.

Alphans appear in X-Men Spotlight

June 8, 2011

X-Men Spotlight
July 2011

Note: This issue is unnumbered. The Marvel Spotlight series, a promotional series featuring artists and events since 2005, has not been numbered, but unofficial numbering by fans was possible as issues were released. Since this issue does not even retain the title “Marvel Spotlight”, it is difficult to place it in any numbered sequence in that series.

Though the cover shares the logo with the ongoing adjectiveless X-Men title, the actual contents of this promo book are broadly divided among nine sections covering the major ongoing titles in the X-books. Mostly consisting of creator interviews, it also includes penciled previews and retrospective pieces, as well as a modest number of advertisements for collected works. Wild Child appears in one of the promotional images and Northstar appears in a full-page splash reprinted from Uncanny X-Men #531.

The promo piece with Wild Child was first released online in February of 2011 to promote Uncanny X-Force #11 and some sort of nebulous event called “Year of the X-Men”, which so far has turned out to be nothing more than a few promo images and a symbol of a big X in the Roman numeral MMXI. For those of you who were reading Alpha Flight comics instead of paying attention in math class, that’s 2011. It also appeared recently in print as an in-house ad in several comics dated June 2011. The full two page in-house ad is slightly larger than the image printed in this book, which is reduced and cropped, with the text elements of the ad removed as well. The image is of the Age of Apocalypse X-Men battling X-Force, recreating events which sort of happened in Uncanny X-Force #11.

I’m glad it was published in this book because I’m generally not going to post about Alpha Flight members appearing in advertisements and it is a nice piece by Mark Brooks. It appears on the inside front cover and spills over onto the first page, both of which serve as the table of contents for the book. Note that the image shown above is from this Spotlight book and is cropped at Kyle’s elbow and butt from the actual ad which shows him in his entirety.

Turn the page and a full-page splash featuring Northstar opens the section for Uncanny X-Men and Generation Hope, which is an interview with Kieron Gillen, the current writer for both series. The splash is from Uncanny X-Men #531, which was Kieron Gillen’s first issue as co-writer with Matt Fraction, who phased out after the Quarantine arc ended in issue #534. The panel shown above is from the original issue and is faithfully reproduced in this book.

Northstar Tiny Size in X-Men Giant Size #1

June 7, 2011

X-Men Giant Size #1
July 2011

No, not Giant-Size X-Men #1 from 1975, the one-shot that relaunched the adjectiveless X-Men title later renamed Uncanny X-Men. Flip around the title and you get this book – a one-shot out of the adjectiveless X-Men title that started up in 2010. By reversing the title, “Giant Size” no longer modifies “X-Men”, and it’s a good thing because it’s hardly giant – just a 40pg issue, not the 68 pages we used to get. Northstar appears in a few panels as a regular member of the X-Men, having joined up in Uncanny X-Men #508.

Utopia, the island home of the X-Men, is invaded yet again, this time by the Neo, a group of super-evolved mutants who have also experienced depowerment and an inability to procreate as a result of the Scarlet Witch’s reality-altering in House of M. Inexplicably, they launch an all-out assault on the island and just about every inhabitant of the island comes out to its defense, including Northstar. Unfortunately, due to the enormous number of mutants on the island, this is one of those issues where nearly everyone (not Mister Jeffries, though!) appears very tiny in the background and only a few main characters are featured.

Northstar is shown in battle against Pillar (name not revealed in the book but identified subsequently in X-Men: Earth’s Mutant Heroes #1, an OHOTMU-style handbook published the following week), one of the Neo who appears to be an enormous stone giant and who is able to take down Namor, no easy feat indeed! It’s not clear exactly why Northstar was sent to battle an enormous stone giant, as his power set seems incompatible with that type of opponent. What is he going to do – use his super-fast punching power to pulverize fist-sized chunks out of the guy? It would take years! It would have made more sense for him to be paired up against some of the other Neo, but since the scene starts in the middle of the battle, the fog of war leaves us to wonder.

The book itself is split into “now” and “then” segments; the “then” segment being an extended hidden memory retcon flashback explaining the sudden appearance of yet another set of invaders: the extremely powerful Evolutionaries. Back in the “now” segment, the Evolutionaries end the battle by killing off all the Neo by ripping them apart. Northstar can be seen very tiny again in a single panel with Namor, who has apparently recovered, as Pillar is disintegrated.

Later, Northstar can be seen again rather small, standing among a very rattled group of X-Men as they realize that all Neo everywhere have been exterminated. It should be mentioned that the images shown on this post are highly magnified, as the actual size of the three Northstar’s images in the book are (in order from top to bottom) one, one and one and a half inches – hardly Giant Size at all!

Note: there are three variant covers for this issue including a blank cover, which is the first blank cover in the Alpha Flight Collection, a cover by interior artist Paco Medina taken from a much larger promotional poster for the “First to Last” story arc, and a “50 years of Fantastic Four” cover by Simone Bianchi which wraps around to a low contrast reprint of the cover to Fantastic Four #544 on the back, with art by Michael Turner.

X-Men Giant Size #1 – blank variant
X-Men Giant Size #1 – Medina variant
X-Men Giant Size #1 – Fantastic Four variant obverse
X-Men Giant Size #1 – Fantastic Four variant back cover

alphaflight.net interview with Dale Eaglesham!

June 1, 2011

Alpha Flight fan Phil snagged an interview with new Alpha Flight series artist Dale Eaglesham! He’s the guy on the left in the above image. Head on over to the amazing alphaflight.net to read it! Congratulations to Phil on the interview, and as a bonus, you get some new exclusive preview artwork never seen before!