Friday, March 16, 2018


Writers: Chad Bowers & Chris Sims | Artist: Scott Koblish
Colorist: Matt Milla | Letterer: VC's Travis Lanham
Assistant Editor: Heather Antos | Editor: Jordan D. White
Production: Annie Cheng | Production Manager: Tim Smith 3
Editor-in-Chief: Axel Alonso | Chief Creative Officer: Joe Quesada
Publisher: Dan Buckley | Executive Producer: Alan Fine

Before we get back to the X-MEN '92 story, I'll take a moment to discuss the format of these "Infinite Comics". I think they're something Marvel does at least somewhat regularly; digital-first stories, usually inconsequential to continuity, drawn and produced with digital consumption first and foremost in mind. This is the first one I've read, and it's pretty cool. It's meant to be read in a "landscape", rather than a "portrait" format like a traditional comic, presumably in order to better fit a tablet or computer screen. There are animated effects, word balloons disappear and appear in single panels as characters speak for extended monologues, and sometimes static images of characters move between backdrops as they talk. (In the earlier chapters, for example, as Cassandra Nova leads the X-Men through Clear Mountain, she also speaks with Professor X on the astral plane, and while her figure stays the same, her background changes between the two locales.)

Now my limited dinosaur brain will always prefer just reading a normal old-fashioned comic book without all these bells and whistles, but I do have to admit that the effects are cool as a novelty. Though I must wonder -- Marvel reprinted these stories in comic book format and then again in trade paperback, and I can't imagine how they were translated to paper! Specifically the bits where panels change and appear behind characters as they stand in static poses, talking... I can only assume there are several instances of repeated artwork in those books, which would look odd to a casual reader.

Anyway, moving along! As X-Force resuscitates Professor X, Cassandra Nova puts Cyclops and Jean Grey through her Mind Field. As they resist her, Jean manifests the power of Phoenix -- but Nova cuts the confrontation short when X-Force arrives at Clear Mountain searching for the X-Men. Nova introduces her brainwashed team of Gambit, Rogue, and Wolverine to X-Force, while Professor X and Psylocke attempt to warn Baron Kelly that Nova plans to assassinate him.

Eventually a massive battle ensues when the dreaded "7-Sentinel" is activated. Professor X duels the Shadow King on the psychic plane, severing his connection to Nova. Wolverine, Gambit, and Rogue are broken of their brainwashing and help their friends defeat the Sentinel. Kelly is saved and the day is won, but Nova escapes. In the end, Xavier, taking a cue from the idea behind Nova's corrupted mission, opens his school once more, and a new class of young mutants arrives. Bishop and Psylocke leave X-Force to join the X-Men, and Cyclops and Jean depart the team for a much-deserved vacation.

The "Secret Wars" stuff is more prevalent in these chapters than in the earlier ones, as we get a few references to Doctor Doom ruling the universe, and Nova's entire plan is revealed to be the assassination of Kelly so that she can seize control of Westchester for herself. But even with these weird annoyances involved, the story is still pretty fun. For one thing, Bowers and Sims throw so many nineties references into these final chapters, that the story basically reads like a little love letter to the X-comics of that era. When Xavier battles the Shadow King on the astral plane, his psychic self manifests as Onslaught -- which makes no sense, but is fun to see anyway. The new students who arrive at Xavier's school in the final pages are the original cast of GENERATION X. We get two epilogues as well, one of which features a Shadow King-free Cassandra Nova encountering the mysterious "Joseph" while the second shows us Apocalypse and his Horsemen, among whose number are classic (?) nineties crossover villains Exodus and Bastion.

I'm a little bummed to see Cyclops and Jean leave, but the additions of Bishop and Psylocke to replace them are welcome, at least. Plus, glancing at the covers for the upcoming regular series, it looks like Summers and Grey and will remain part of the cast to some extent, even if they're not formal X-Men. The only other disappointment of any note in this story comes from the final pages, which reveal that Baron Kelly is no friend of mutantdom after all, and is actually a deep cover agent of Apocalypse (in fact, he seems to be the fourth Horseman alongside Bastion, Exodus, and Mystique). I know this series, being a SECRET WARS tie-in, isn't exactly in the same continuity as the cartoon series, but it is, on some level, supposed to be a sequel to that show -- and the X-MEN cartoon saw Kelly realize the error of his ways and become a genuine supporter of the X-Men and of mutant rights. Going back on that development here feels cheap.

Lastly, I'd be remiss if I didn't spend a paragraph or two raving about the artwork in these "infinite comics". It's drop-dead gorgeous. I'm really only familiar with Scott Koblish as an inker, but he's a great penciler too, and he has a masterful command of the classic Jim Lee X-costumes. Everyone is perfectly on-model with the Lee look (less so with the TV show's adaptations thereof, however, but I'm actually okay with that since the cartoon didn't offer the best interpretations of Lee's work). I had glowing things to say a few years ago regarding the artwork in issues 5 - 7 of UNCANNY X-MEN: FIRST CLASS, which saw Koblish inking Nelson DeCastro for a superb pastiche of the Dave Cockrum/John Byrne era, and here Koblish flies solo in an equally delightful early-mid-nineties effort (aided by some brilliant era-appropriate colors from Matt Milla). It seems he's the guy you want for an X-Men nostalgia project set in pretty much any period!

Most retro X-Men projects wish they could look this perfect!
Sadly, however, this is Koblish's final work on X-MEN '92. He drew the Infinite Comics but not the ongoing, which is a huge shame. His work fits this material to an absolutely perfect tee, and the upcoming artwork, while nice, doesn't look much like what I'd expect of a nineties X-Men revival, unless you're going for more of a Joe Madureira thing versus a Jim Lee/Andy Kubert thing. Why Koblish wasn't kept aboard for the ongoing is a mystery, but whatever the reason, dropping him is a massive misfire on Marvel's part.

Still, even without Koblish on art, I'm looking forward to whatever comes next. Bowers and Sims have earned enough goodwill for that with this first installment of their nostalgia trip.

1 comment:

  1. Blob, Pyro and Avalanche rushing in as "X-Men" to save Kelly from assassination. I don't know if I should take it as cute or blashemous or as appreciation of the character arcs.