X-Women: Thoughts on the Controversy After Reading

When I first saw the images that Marvel released of X-Women, my kneejerk reaction was that they were trying to use sex in order to sell books. Apparently I wasn’t the only one. There was some initial response after those first couple of images, but this week there’s certainly been an influx of people commenting on the art in this book. I decided that I was going to stay away from the controversy as much as possible and reserve judgment until I had the book in hand and had read through it.

Having now read through the entire book, I don’t think the early complaints of exploitation were unfounded. Many of the suggestive images in this book may be a bit gratuitous, but on the other side of the coin, I didn’t think they were over the top and distracting either. In Babs’ Brutally Honest video about this book, she brings up a couple of complaints about the cover. I was pleased to read that the image on the cover directly relates to a couple of pages in the book. The X-Ladies weren’t just hanging on vines near a waterfall just to look sexy.

I felt that there were the outfits worn in many of the scenes in this book could, arguably, be worn in the given situation. When the ladies are in the water, it’s not unreasonable that they’d be in skimpy bathing suits. When they go out to a party, again, they would probably be wearing clothes to get the attention of potential suitors. Given the personality and the position of power of the leader that was hot for Storm, it’s not a huge surprise he’d make her wear a skimpy outfit. The only part that I felt the skimpy outfits was a bit out of place was when they were on the ship before meeting the Cargo Cultists. It’s possible they’d just gotten quite comfortable around one another, but I can’t imagine they’d want to be dressed so skimpy around “Captain Dave.”

This book is far more tame than I’d expected. The fact that I enjoyed the story definitely helped the book seem less like it was pandering to the horny teenage male crowd as well. Despite looking at the art a little more closely due to all the talk about it before the book’s release, the story helped make sure I wasn’t getting too wrapped up in considering whether it was exploitative or not.

All that being said, could there have been a different cover image that didn’t make them look so suggestive? Sure. Will Marvel sell a few more books because of this cover? Probably. Ultimately, as a male reader, I can’t say I was offended by the sexuality in this book. I’m curious to see how others react to this book, especially women. This title maybe should have been used more to try and attract new people to reading X-Men, or comics in general, by showing some of the strong ladies being awesome but I think the art may not have helped that cause. One final note, I found it humorous that Emma Frost was probably the most dressed female in this entire issue.

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Revisited: Apocalypse the Twelve

I enjoy going back and reading older comics that ran before I ever got into comics. Considering I’ve only begun keeping up with comics in the past two or three years, I have a ton of material to work from. In these Revisited features, I’m planning on simply jotting down a few thoughts on each story as I read it. I unofficially began this feature last week with my thoughts on Age of Apocalypse, so this week, I’m taking a look at another Apocalypse book: Apocalypse the Twelve.

After reading about how the X-Men from another reality dealt with Apocalypse, I wanted to learn more about how the 616 X-Men fared against Apocalypse. While this isn’t their first encounter with one another (that occurred back in the 80’s with early X-Factor issues), this does occur post AoA so I thought the story would flow better since Bishop and Nate Grey escaped from AoA.

From the beginning of the story, it’s established that twelve specific mutants are destined to play some role in the fate of world thanks to the prophecy laid out in Destiny’s diaries. I thought the story did a great job leaving the reader in the dark about why these specific mutants were needed as well as what they were actually needed for. When these reasons are finally revealed in the last couple of issues, I felt that there was actually some thought on the writer’s part as to why those specific twelve were chosen. It wasn’t simply because most of them were popular, well known, powerful mutants. They each represented an aspect in creating a hugely powerful whole. From the elemental powers of Storm, Iceman, and Sunfire to magnetic control over the energy thanks to Magneto and Polaris, I felt that each of the twelve truly did play a vital piece of the puzzle in creating an ultimate power.

In that same vein, I also felt that Apocalypse acted incredibly clever. In my look at Age of Apocalypse, I was pretty unimpressed with how Apocalypse was written. I wanted a more active role from him instead of just ordering people around. While he still mainly ordered others to do his bidding, I thought in this story he did it with much more forethought. The whole time, I got the feeling that he had a plan. He was thinking three steps ahead at any given moment. He recruited the Skrulls to create distrust in ranks of the X-Men, he captured a few choice mutants in order to lure the rest of the twelve to his front door, and he did a great job playing off the emotions of his enemies in order to capture those that he needed. I got a very Batman vibe from his well made plan.

Despite all of his effort though, Magneto was still instrumental in throwing a wrench into his nearly rock solid plan. Just like in the Age of Apocalypse, Magneto played the thorn in the side of Big A. While Magneto was one of the strongest mutants during the events of AoA, in this story, he was the weakest. I thought that this drastic difference in power between the two versions of Magneto, although both ultimately led to problems for Apocalypse, was nothing short of fantastic. It just goes to show that Magneto will always be a present force with an impact on the X-Men universe regardless of the state that he’s in.

For all the good this story did though, I thought the cliffhanger ending was a complete tease. I was expecting a more solid conclusion to the story. Up until that final page, I had thoroughly enjoyed nearly every aspect of the arc. The final throw-down between all involved and ending with the sacrifice of Cyclops made for an awesome read. Leaving him taken over by Apocalypse with nothing more than a “Next: Ages of Apocalypse!” message irked me a bit. Needless to say, expect the next Revisited to be on Ages of Apocalypse.

Overall, I found these books to make for a great read. It wasn’t a lengthy crossover (like AoA) which helped it stay focused on an overall plot. The mystery of the twelve was built up perfectly with an extremely satisfying explanation. The action was solid and capped off by an excellent, climactic conclusion. Ultimately, I’ve found this to be one of, if not the most enjoyable Apocalypse story that I’ve read and would, without a doubt, recommend. I’ve got high hopes going into Ages of Apocalypse and I can only hope that it doesn’t disappoint.

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Some Thoughts on Age of Apocalypse from a First Time Reader

It has been about fifteen years since the Age of Apocalypse crossover event occurred in the Marvel universe. Sadly, I’m only just getting around to reading this monumental tale. It was quite enjoyable to see many of my favorite mutants (and other Marvel characters) follow a path without Charles Xavier’s direction. It was also neat to see characters like Dark Beast and Blink from this reality, after having read about these characters in more recent X books. After the read-through, I wanted to lay out a few thoughts that occurred to me while reading these books.

I think the most prevalent thought I had while reading this saga was, “Holy crap, this is kind of depressing.” This story certainly wasn’t a lighthearted tale. One thing after another seemed to go horribly wrong for the various mutant teams that took part in this epic. From the death of Scarlet Witch, to Rogue breaking Gambit’s heart, and the departure of Wolverine and Jean from Magneto’s X-Men (and these are just from the prequel books!), things rarely felt like they were looking up.

I think a lot of that feeling stemmed from the way this story was presented. With eight different mini-series going at one time, they each start off detailing things going wrong. The X-Men weren’t without some victories throughout the course of this event. Wolverine and Jean helped to get the humans on board Sentinels and sent them to Europe before the High Council could drop a few nukes on Apocalypse’s version of America. These victories tended to be short lived though. Jean left Logan shortly after that to rescue the helpless people still under the oppressive thumb of Apocalypse. It wasn’t until the very end, upon the resolution of the various story-lines, that I really felt like the story was worthwhile. I felt that the final book did a great job tying up all the story threads that had led to that point. I was skeptical at first whether a double-sized issue could actually wrap up the plot of eight different stories, but I was not disappointed. Upon closing that book, I felt that all the hardships the various teams went through over the course of their various books made the ending that much sweeter. It’s tough to have a story that dark run for that long and give the reader a proper pay-off at the end, but I really felt like these books did it.

Along with the story, I feel I must comment on the art. I really feel like this had a distinctly 90’s feel to it. Apocalypse must be dropping some steroids on the drinking water, because some of the characters were huge. Apocalypse himself seemed to have shoulders about three times wider than his waist. Magneto, Colossus, and Sabretooth were a few others that were hitting the steroid spiked juice. While that certainly didn’t take away from the story, I couldn’t help but chuckle at the ridiculous proportions from time to time. Aside from that though, the colors seemed to be more muted to me than many of the comics from those years. It really added to the oppressing feel of each of the books and I think it added a lot to the tone of the series as a whole.

Overall, I found this to be an interesting look at how the lives of the various X-Men, and the Marvel universe for that matter, could have played out if a single, albeit important, man had been killed. From the character cameos (It wasn’t until the second appearance of Dead Man Wade that I made the connection to his 616 counterpart.) to the bleak tone, I think this was an interesting experiment on Marvel’s part. I do wonder how the avid X-Men fan felt about this while it was going on. I believe I read that the normal X titles took a break while these were being issued. Was that enjoyable, or did you give up on X-books until this passed? With eight (EIGHT!) different minis going on at once, it had to be tough to keep up with the entire story on a month to month basis.  


A Couple Thoughts on Siege and its Tie-Ins

Now that Siege has ended and the Heroic Age is kicking off, I’ve started reading Siege as whole. I read the main four issues of Siege but I wasn’t really blown away by it. The fact that I’ve never been much a Sentry fan has something to do with my somewhat lack of enjoyment with Siege I’m sure. However, I felt, to give it a fair shake, I decided to try and read all the tie-ins along with the main series.

I’ve made it through more than half the books, and I must admit, I’m enjoying many of the tie-ins quite a bit. Very few of the books actually deal with Sentry at all. He may show up for a panel or two, but that’s about it in a lot of cases. I’ve especially been enjoying New Avengers. While I’ve never really followed many of the Captain America books, I can’t deny the influence that Steve Rogers holds on the Marvel Universe. Seeing how the various heroes react to his return is fantastic. The fact that they’re inspired and hyped up because of his return, in turn gets me excited to see what Cap’s going to do and makes me want to go back and read some more Cap books.

I also really enjoy the Embedded books. I read these tie-ins during Secret Invasion, and while I didn’t mind them, I didn’t know the characters and had no real emotional attachment to them. When Ben Urich’s wife died, the lack of attachment didn’t work well for me. From the three Embedded issues I’ve read from Siege thus far, I’ve certainly enjoyed them far more. The story thus far has been focused on Ben and Will Stern, an old friend Ben happened to run into. I’m not sure if Will’s been in comics before, but it’s enough to know that the two have worked together at some point in the past. That allows these books to focus solely on showing a side of Siege that isn’t seen in most of the other books: the non-powered side. I enjoy watching these guys do everything they can to get the truth out to the public. In order to do that, they’re willing to throw themselves into the middle of a war of super-powered beings despite their distinct lack of any kind of powers. It’s nice to get an “everyman” look at these events every once in a while.      

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A Book that will Stand the Test of Time: Runaways Volume One

C2E2 was an amazing experience. It was my first convention and it left me extremely excited to attend another. While there, I learned that numerous vendors attend conventions and sell their wares for awesome prices. I most definitely was not prepared for some of the deals that I saw and that led to a few purchases I may not have made if not for the excitement all around me. Included in these purchases were the three Runaways hardcover trades that encompass the first volume of Runaways. Despite the impulse buy, I definitely do not regret these purchases in the least.

I read the entirety of the first volume of Runaways about a year or so ago. Before I even began reading them though, I was already hooked thanks to the concept alone. Teenage kids learning that their parents are super-villians just sounded like a great story to me. During our teenage years, I think every one of us has thought that our parents were super-villians at some point or another. What would any of us actually do if that were true? I was intrigued to see how this story played out, and I was far from disappointed.

For the most part, the comics I read are typical super-hero comics. I’m used to the likes of Captain America, Iron Man, and X-Men for the most part. The fact that this story wasn’t as focused on the kids’ individual abilities as much as it was about these kids being put in an impossible situation and how they deal with the fallout of their normal lives falling to pieces. That made this story feel more unique that anything else I’d read. I realize that this may not be as unique to those that have read quite a few more comics than I, but for me, thanks to it being so different from what I usually read, allowed this book to draw me in so much more completely than many other books do.

I enjoyed that each kid begins relatively unremarkable. They’re nothing more than typical teenagers. Each kid then discovers that they have something that makes them remarkable whether it’s an ability, a certain weapon, or a powerful pet. They then attempt to take their skills to the street and balance the cosmic scales by doing good deeds to offset their parents’ misdeeds. While it doesn’t exactly go as well it seems to for other super-heroes, it’s nice to see them make the attempt. The threat of the mole in their group builds the suspense as the story progresses as well. I found myself venturing guesses when I first read the issues, and I was pleasantly surprised when one of my least likely candidates was the mole. What made it most surprising though was the fact that it was explained intelligently. It wasn’t simply a twist just for shock value.

Despite this being my second read through, I found that the story hadn’t lost the pull that it held from my first read through. Having read all of the current issues of Runaways and knowing where the story goes post volume one, I found that this made no impact on my enjoyment of the entirety of this first volume. I think that says a great deal about the story. It stands so spectacularly on its own making it easy to jump back into that story at any given time. I firmly believe this story will withstand the test of time and be able to hold up years down the road. Brian K. Vaughan spins some incredible tales, and I think this may well be my favorite of his work.  
I also found the art to set the perfect tone for this story from start to finish. Adrian Alphona’s pencils were crisp and clean in each and every issue. It appeared a little more mature which I felt complimented the story. Some art on later issues in volumes two and three was a little more “cartoony” which I felt went against the type of story that was being told. Along with Alphona’s interior work, I felt Jo Chen’s covers were absolutely astounding. They were so incredibly detailed really showed off each character in awesome poses. While some of the later story arcs were less than stellar, Vaughan’s first volume is easily one of my favorite comics. The progression from typical teenagers with parental issues to legitimate heroes was an absolute treat to read and experience. For me, this story is definitely placed up there with Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men run on my list of must read stories. 

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