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Mini-Series and Maxi-Series

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UNIVERSE ABLAZE. The Titans and the Legion of Super-Heroes combine for a four part prestige mini-series that mostly takes place in the future. Brother Blood has succeeded in defeating the Titans in our time by killing off several of the members and placing the others [Starfire, Flash, Troia, Arsenal, Tempest, Omen and Argent] in suspended animation until they are discovered and released by the Legion. In writer Dan Jurgens' scripts [Jurgens also did the lay-outs, finished by Phil Jimenez] the Titans perhaps take the fact that everyone they know is dead a little too calmly, but the story is generally handled lightly. The main villain is not Brother Blood but Universo, who is out to take complete control of the universe in order to avoid even the possibility that he could ever again be imprisoned. [Coming from the same planet, Titan, as Saturn Girl, Universo was imprisoned as an infant because no one was safe from his hyper-developed mental powers.] Universo mind-controls the Titans into helping him by attacking key defense areas and the Legion have to bring them down and release them from Universo's influence. If that weren't enough, Starfire discovers that her bitchy sister Blackfire is still alive a thousand years in the future, and is just as evil as ever.

This is certainly an entertaining mini-series, lots of fun for both Legion and Titans fans, although its light tone is mildly off-putting at times and some of the humor is pretty childish. The art is colorful and at times striking, but never quite outstanding in composition. Some of the characters, such as that loser “valley girl” Argent, are not especially welcome and add little to the story. Perpetually horny Arsenal [even when he thinks he'll never see his daughter again] is actually Speedy, Green Arrow's former sidekick; Tempest is the former Aqualad; and Omen was once known as Lilith. This is not bad but also not as memorable as it might have been.


HOUSE OF M # 1 – 8. Marvel mini-series. 2005. The X-Men and the Avengers aren't certain what to do with crazy Wanda Maximov [who lost it in the final issues of The Avengers] and neither is her father, Magneto. But before they can decide whether or not to end her life, she somehow re-envisions the world so that mutants are in power and humans are the slaves, and heroes and characters who were once dead – such as Hawkeye, Gwen Stacy and others – are now alive. Wolverine is one of the only people who remembers what the world used to be like, and he eventually gathers others to his cause of turning things “right” again – not that everyone feels they should. It turns out that it was Quicksilver who convinced Wanda to use her own and Prof. X's powers to give everyone their heart's desire. At the end of the story the mutant gene has disappeared from all but a few select mutants, but otherwise everything is back to “normal.” Spreading out to affect the entire Marvel Universe with special “House of M” editions of many Marvel comics, this worked as a marketing ploy but perhaps not much else. The story by Brian Michael Bendis was intriguing but unsatisfying, and the art by Olivier Coipel and Tim Townsend too uneven, sometimes superficially pretty and other times unattractive. A somewhat interesting attempt to recreate the excitement of the Age of Apocalypse, but it doesn't quite work.


EARTH X. Krueger; Leon; Reinhold; Ross. Marvel Comics.
The 12 issues of 1999's Earth X, along with issues 0 and X, have been collected into one thick volume, along with an unnecessary intro by a fan who writes episodes of TV's idiotic Buffy. The series attempts to explain the wheres and why-fors behind many Marvel characters, beginning with the premise that Earth – like many other worlds – has been turned into an egg or incubator for a Celestial [those giant space beings], who have manipulated earthlings into becoming super-powered “anti-bodies” to fight off anyone who might prevent the “egg” from reaching adulthood. Oatu, the Watcher, who seems to hate mankind, tells X-15 [Machine Man}, whom he has chosen as the new Watcher now that he is blind, that mankind has no great purpose of its own and is essentially disposable. Reed Richards mistakenly believes that he has caused the mutation of everyone on earth – virtually everyone now has some kind of power or special weirdness – due to his use of vibranium for what was meant to be more benign purposes. Actually Black Bolt used Maximus' weapon to bring out the “inhuman” in everyone on Earth so his people would no longer be persecuted. Steve Rogers is leading the good fight against Madame Hydra, who has literally become a many-headed hydra, and the new Red Skull, who is a bratty, sociopathic young teenager with mind-control abilities. The re-designed Inhumans figure in this too, with Black Bolt making the ultimate sacrifice. Wyatt Wingfoot has become Cap's latest partner, and Spider-Girl, a now portly and powerless Peter Parker's daughter, has merged with Venom. The Hulk and a kid Bruce Banner are two separate entities. An aged Wolverine is married to a slatternly Jean Grey, who tells him that after all these years she's really Madelyne Pryor! Captain Britain killed the Grey Gargoyle after he turned the rest of Excalibur into stone so they [for some reason] can't ever revert back to flesh. Thor is a female and all of the Asgardians learn that they look and act the way they do only because someone on Earth believed that was the way they where – or something like that. Galactus shows up to save the day even though Reed turned him into a star. It turns out that this Galactus is really the long-missing Franklin Richards, but Reed cannot greet his son because he might shatter the “Galactus” fantasy he's under and lose a powerful ally in this war. Got all that?

Wolverine and "Jean Gray"
Oatu, the Big Bad Watcher

Earth X is full of fascinating elements and features virtually every Marvel character of note or not. While entertaining in its own way, and suspenseful, it is also very wordy (there are even long text sections between each chapter), talky, and a mite pretentious – and maybe too cluttered in every sense of the word for its own good. But the main problem is the thick, messy, badly inked, crude and unattractive art that pretty much stinks up the story and keeps this maxi-series from ever taking flight. Yes, there are some effective panels here and there, but for the most part this is artwork that is terribly uninspired and completely lacking in eye appeal. The only exception is Alex Ross' striking covers, but the inside art is by penciller John Paul Leon and inker Bill Reinhold – too bad! [Ross and Jim Krueger came up with the story and concept while Krueger did the script.]
Part One of a trilogy including Universe X and Paradise X.


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