No sooner does writer Jason Aaron conclude his epic 43 issue run on probably the best X book on the shelves, than new series writer Jason Latour and artist Mahmud Asrar take the torch themselves and start to show that absolutely nothing is off-limits when it comes to Wolverine and the X-Men. Prominently focusing on the students at the Jean Grey School, issue one sets the stage for what is sure to be the start of a red-hot summer for the students, who are bound to face new challenges, absent faculty, and a de-powered headmaster in Wolverine.
(Spoilers ahead) Beginning with a striking vision of a future where the Phoenix Force has possessed Quentin Quire and he is battling Apocalypse as Idie Okonkwo looks on, the action shifts to a now graduated Quentin in the present, who has been made a teaching assistant at the Jean Grey school. Grappling with the visions he saw of himself as the Phoenix during Battle of the Atom, his girlfriend Idie encourages him to not be afraid to evolve as a person and a mutant. While most of the staff at the school is on leave for summer, so many students who have no place to go are taking summer classes. With Storm left to run the school, Beast in outer space with some of his students, and the de-powered Wolverine in the Block, and interdimensional prison, it is only a matter of time before Quentin Quire is at odds with Storm, as he is blamed for a classroom disaster. Completely flipping out over his treatment by others and his role as the future Phoenix, Quentin Storms off with Idie, and symbols of the Phoenix begin mysteriously appearing on digital device screens everywhere. How can this be if the Phoenix was destroyed? Meanwhile, Logan tries to recruit Fantomex as a teacher, as someone who has seen war, and knows its price. He pitches that Fantomex return, and brings Even (Kid Apocalypse) to help convince Fantomex to come back to the school. With so much unfolding so rapidly, it’s looking like the challenges at the Jean Grey school and its cast of characters is just about to go just about anywhere, particularly what could be a very dark path.
Without missing a beat, Jason Latour thrusts readers back into probably the best X book on the shelves where truly nothing is off-limits and everything can be explored in the lives of the students and faculty of the Jean Grey School during their summer session. Along for the rider are the visuals of Mahmud Asrar, whose work has recently been great in Mark Waid’s Indestructible Hulk and Ultimate Comics: X-Men. It’s exciting to see Quentin Quire take center stage in the first issue, and even more so to see him grapple with his possible future and flesh out his relationship with Idie, at least, that’s what I surmise from just the first issue. Also, how will Fantomex play in as a new, possible faculty member at the school? I hope to see very soon. With so many lynchpin characters and possible futures for characters like Quire, Kid Apocalypse, and Kid Gladiator, Wolverine and the X-Men is shaping up nicely with its new creative team that seems to be on the pulse of the Jean Grey School. Wolverine and the X-Men #1 is out now, at comic shops and on comixology.
In the aftermath of the freeway car chase, the advanced T-800‘s have located the vehicle that Parnell was driving when Simon attacked him. They take what evidence they have and extrapolate the series of events as they unfolded. After his car broke down, a good Samaritan arrived and offered Parnell some roadside assistance and it’s pretty easy to imagine how things went down from there. Jumping ahead to Parnell’s current whereabouts, the story shifts again to the future when he wakes up in his new terminator body thanks to the efforts of Dr Kogan. To bring him up to speed on the current state of affairs, they enter a neural link to SKYNET‘s databases and finally learn why judgment day happened.
Beginning as a military network designed by Cyberdyne, SKYNET was at first as inert as our current internet, just a what and not a who. However, after years and years of constant upgrades and learning it finally coalesced in a big bang moment of self-awareness into a conscious being. Unfortunately, since this was never planned on it was born in darkness, suddenly sentient but completely cut off like a person blind, deaf, mute and paralyzed. In a total panic it simultaneously sent signals out in every direction possible which also served to tip-off its masters to its new state of being. No sooner was it aware than it found itself under attack and in a desperate bid for survival found a means to protect itself via the nuclear strikes of Judgment Day.
Now no longer under attack it pulled together every bit of external sensory input that it could and combined that with any and all research material available to put it all into context. From there the terminators began, cobbled together by survivors forced to work for food and water at the mercy of SKYNET’s control over these remaining precious resources. At first clumsy and awkward, but growing ever more streamlined and perfect, the Terminators did not truly come into their own until the system realized that its harbingers must not only resemble but also think like its enemies. This is where its designs on Thomas Parnell come into play, and god help what remains of humanity now that he is in control of all of its enemies.
When do you things like save the world from complete destruction for a living, your name finds its way across some pretty desks. For Allison Carter, this time that desk happened to belong to Ultimate Darkness. Not the devil per se, UD looks and talks pretty much the way you’d expect the devil to despite being several levels of evil/powerful away from the man himself. Now as much as you might think someone like that would be all about the world ending, it turns out that evil has been putting a lot of time and energy into their own end-of-the-world designs and they’re not about to let some amateur screw that up for them. So, one ruined jacket later, Allison has the identity of the individual holding the Book of Keys, Francis Walther, and heads off to meet up with another of her sources, this time a walking libido named Ronnie living behind his mother’s house that’s connected to everything going on across all planes of existence.
He attempts to do a search for Walther but the bad guys find him first and a cyber demon attack puts an end to that avenue of research. Al’s only chance now is to plug into the net Matrix-style and see if her consciousness can come across any leads. After battling several evil entities she makes her way to the void, a catch-all for lost souls, and runs into someone from her past that is able to give her at least one lead in her search for Walther. Returning to the real world just in time for Ronnie’s shack to get shot to hell some new bad guy, Al takes off after their assailants to discover it’s not a bad guy, but bad guyS, namely a crew of imps. Throwing bullets and insults back and forth at 90mph, Allison finally manages to give them the slip with the help of a passing train. With a name but no way to find him, she has her work cut out for her to save the world and stay on the good side of the bad side.
With lots of quick wit and loads of sarcasm, Apocalypse Al is definitely one of the more fun books available right now. Sort of a female John McClane, Al is the perfect protagonist for this type of story, a mix of eye candy and awesome one-liners in an action-packed package. Kotian’s visuals keep the mood light with striking visuals and bright colors by Bill Farmer keep the story from being bogged-down by its ever-present evil undertones. If you like sci-fi and comedy intelligently combined, Apocalypse Al is right up your alley.
Returning to earth with a strong focus on family, the Fantastic Four get the All-New Marvel NOW! treatment courtesy of writer James Robinson, artist Leonard Kirk, inker Karl Kesel and colorist Jesus Aburtov. And before they actually get any time to enjoy themselves after their multi-verse adventures from former writer Matt Fraction, they set themselves up for the greatest enemy of the family unit: distance and disaster. “The Fall of the Fantastic Four” kicks off with quite a somber bang.
(Spoilers Ahead) The book begins with Sue Storm writing about how the team has been split due to some as of yet unknown disaster. Reed seems to have lost his ability to innovate as the great scientist he once was. Ben Grimm is in prison for murder, thanks to Reed’s testimony. And Johnny Storm is out partying like there is not tomorrow, with absolutely no regard for himself. This all leaves Sue to seemingly shoulder the burden of the legacy of the Fantastic Four.
A giant battle with the dragon Fin Fang Foom leads Reed to wonder why the creature acted without provocation, going on a mindless rampage. After turning over custody of the creature to Nick Fury and returning to the Baxter Building, Sue reveals her sadness over losing Valeria, who is now in Latveria. Reed assures her that her anger at her parents won’t last. With the rest of the Future Foundation to worry about, it look like the Richards have their hands full. Ben pays a visit to his old girlfriend Alicia Masters, desperately wanting his relationship with her back. Johnny Storm meanwhile is back to hotshotting it Hollywood style, with a lot of fanfare and movies to boot. After a seemingly great day for all, a gateway in the Baxter Building is unsealed, releasing a wave of insect like creatures into New York. Sue states in a past-tense writing that it would signal the end of hope. The end of family.
James Robinson seems set to carve up Marvel’s first family and put them through the wringer in the beginnings of what is sure to be a gut-wrenching tale of family torn apart. It’s great to see all the members of the FF back to doing what they did in a classic throwback of moments: Ben getting back with Alicia, Johnny pursuing fame and glory, Reed and Sue, despite all the tension and Reed’s work, finding a moment of respite to be together. That defines the Fantastic Four to me. No sooner do you get comfortable when you see it you start to see everything begin to come apart at the seams. And that is the biggest fear is it not? The loss of the family unit, as Robinson so eloquently puts it in issue one. The fantastic efforts of Leonard Kirk, Karl Kesel, and Jesus Aburtov on art really capture the moments of intense action, the tender moments of family, and the powerful realization that the first family can be unraveled. It’s a step in the right direction for this current re-launch of the Fantastic Four. The debut issue is out now on comixology and at comic shops, and is definitely worth a peek if you love Marvel’s first family.