Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Greetings from Battleworld: Secret Wars Week 10

Welcome back to Battleworld. Today we start with Dan Grote looking at the new version of a favorite X-Men reality and at Ms. Deadpool's continuing adventures...

Age of Apocalypse #1
Story: Fabian Nicieza
Art: Gerardo Sandoval

This isn’t your father’s Age of Apocalypse.

I mean, it mostly is. A lot of the same elements are there. Strictly speaking, it’s not Earth-295, the reality in which the original 1995 story took place, later revisited in Rick Remender’s Uncanny X-Force and a short-run series by David Lapham. If it were, a lot of the characters in this book would be dead, not the least of which being Apocalypse himself.

That said, it IS a world (or a domain of Battleworld) ruled by En Sabah Nur in which Magneto and his X-Men are considered terrorists. AND it’s written by Fabian Nicieza, one of the architects of the original AoA. Not to mention artist Gerardo Sandoval is clearly channeling a darker shade of Joe Madureira, the artist on Uncanny X-Men during that era.

The POV character in this series is Doug Ramsey, aka Cypher, whose mutant power is to translate any language. Doug is apparently the chosen one of this story, or The Special, to steal a phrase from The Lego Movie. Because like that movie’s Emmett Brickowski, his abilities are so classically uninteresting as to be overlooked by almost everyone. But the X-Men want him on their side, and they sacrifice a number of their own in a failed attempt to save him, so there must be something to him.

Doug ends up in the hands of Mr. Sinister, who has his prelates, Scott and Alex Summers, take him to the human ghetto, where he learns by playing Alphabet Soup with the dialogue that the humans are planning to unleash a virus to kill all the mutants. Leading the humans are Carol Danvers and Super Doctor Astronaut Peter Corbeau.

Like Inferno and X-Men ’92 (still my favorite of all the Secret Wars books), this one trades in nostalgia for a time when the X-Men sat atop Marvel’s editorial heap. It’s weird that so many of these Secret Wars X-books exist solely to say “Don’t you miss us, guys?” as if it were the fans who had changed tone and direction so drastically over the past 15+ years and not the books themselves. That said, I am looking forward to this fall, when Jeff Lemire and Humberto Ramos’ Extraordinary X-Men hopefully restores the missing flagship in the X-line.

Mrs. Deadpool and the Howling Commandos
Story: Gerry Duggan
Art: Salva Espin and Val Staples

Last month, the big question about this book was “Why isn’t it Mrs. Deadpool VS. the Howling Commandos?” seeing as Dracula sent his monster minions to accompany Shiklah on her quest to spread her brothers’ ashes with the order to kill her.

Turns out the Howlers don’t like Drac either. How could they? He’s got that weird white hair and body armor and is not at all charming, flying in the face of everything that made Tomb of Dracula a great read. Oh, and they didn’t kill the Invisible Man; they just left him behind to spy on their master in their absence. So now we have a true Legion of Monsters team-up book.

As ever, the heart of Mrs. Deadpool remains its humor, inspired by those Looney Tunes shorts where Bugs Bunny messes with the big, furry, orange monster. Shiklah attempts to pull the Medusa trick a second time, only to find the titan’s head has been replaced with a watermelon and bananas and the real thing is hiding in the Living Mummy’s extra-roomy wrap. Marcus the Minotaur with a symbiote and manageable diabetes is an endless font of horse-related fight puns. Frankenstein’s monster smashes zombies with the joy of a psychopathic child, until his fear of fire gets him burned at the Man-Thing’s touch.

Ghost Deadpool sticks around as the book’s narrator and teller of Man-Thing jokes, and has a hard time watching his wife-in-another-reality kissing other dudes, even if it is just to hurt them and establish dominance over them. The arrival of Ghost DP’s guardian angel may be one of the book’s best moments.

At book’s end, a pair of funky and scaly (respectively) new Thors show up at Dracula’s castle with questions about “some crazy exorcist jive,” widening the book’s scope from standalone monster romp to Secret Wars-adjacent monster romp. Stay tuned.

And I'm looking at the third issue of one of the earliest Secret Wars tie-ins, Inferno...

Inferno #3
Story: Dennis Hopeless
Art: Javier Garron & Chris Sotomayor

While Age of Apocalypse is just getting its start, Inferno is ramping up to its conclusion. Colossus's attempts to free his sister, Illyana, from her evil other self, the Darkvchylde, have ended badly. Of his team, Nightcrawler is now a dragon monster in Darkchylde's thrall, Boom-Boom is missing, and he and Domino are working with the Goblin Queen, Madelyne Pryor, and her thrall/boyfriend, Havok. So things aren't good for our heroes. This issue is centered around a massive battle, as Illyana finally has a way past the magical dome that keeps her and her demons prisoner, namely Nightcrawler's teleportation abilities. What we get is a massive battle scene, including a breathtaking two page spread, that is just crammed with cameos of all sorts of X-Men character. Most any X-character you can imagine is in the background here, fighting demons. Javier Garron does an excellent job of making the pages crowded with demons and mutants, but never losing any clarity; you can still follow the scenes and the fights while checking out the backgrounds for cameos. Colossus and Domino are now trapped in the dome without Nightcrawler to get them out, and the two share a heart-to-heart about how Colossus needs to think and deal with Goblin Queen, as it's clear she's using him. Hopeless uses most of his Cable & X-Force team as the main characters in this mini-series, and continues to write them very well. I liked that team a lot, and it's nice to see them back. Frankly, I would love to see more of young Cable in this series. Cable makes a lot of sense as a ten year old, after all; all the padding and big guns are perfect for the mindset of a kid that age. If Old Man Logan can come back to the Marvel Universe after this event, why not young kid Cable? The issue ends with the appearance of a character who I think all X-fans have been expecting in this series, since he was central to the original "Inferno" storyline. Now past the halfway point, and with a fourth faction in place with the debut of Sinister (my favorite X-villain), Dennis Hopless has a lot of balls in the air to catch safely over the next two issues. Inferno is an exciting mini-series of high action, and I'm looking forward to the payoff.

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