Top of the Pile: Uncanny X-Men, Spider-Verse, Darth Vader

My comic book pile is almost — almost — current. After a summer and fall of reading comic books almost every day I’ve caught up on everything except for X-Men Blue, a few issues of Uncanny Avengers, and the limited series X-Men Black. I credit my bullet journal’s habit tracker with finally accomplishing this feat. As I wrote over the summer, the habit tracker reminds me to read my comics (and makes it all too obvious when I don’t read my comics).

Uncanny X-Men

Dominating my pull list is the resurgent Uncanny X-Men. Marvel resurrected the title after retiring previous flagship books, X-Men Gold and X-Men Blue. The opening issues of the X-Men Disassembled storyline see Kitty Pryde suddenly go missing, causing one of the X-Men’s signature Blackbird planes to crash with a cadre of mutant trainees aboard. The young mutants survive and it turns out this is just one of dozens of weird world-wide events including a horde of derranged Multiple Men (wasn’t he dead?), rampaging dinosaurs, a rogue attack on a “mutant vaccine” facility. It’s all supposed to set up the “Age of X-Men”, a utopian limited series in the style of “Age of Apocalypse” (the excellent – and now legendary – storyline that saw all of the standing X-titles canceled and replaced by their alternate timeline equivalents).

While I’m a bit skeptical about the Age of X-Men — none of their alternate universe events have measured up to Age of Apocolypse — I’m glad I’m caught up enough on my reading to realize “hey, all of my titles are about to go away”.

Spider-verse

I’m not a huge Spider-man fan. I’ve collected Spidey titles on and off since high school, but it’s been mostly “off” since the “One More Day” storyline in which Peter Parker’s marriage to Mary Jane was retconned out of existance thanks to a deal with the demon Mephisto. It was a business move meant to revitalize Peter Parker and Spider-man as a franchise by returning him to his less grown-up roots. Granted, I’m not the target audience for comic books any more, but this felt like a huge step backwards for Marvel. As a geek dad, I think it’s good for people – particularly kids – to see two adults in a health relationship. By killing that relationship, they also killed the opportunity for those kind of stories.

Besides, there was a better way to accomplish editor-in-chief Joe Quesada’s quest to revitalize Spider-man’s narriative prospects: the Spider-verse. The Spider-verse consists of varient Spider-people from across the Marvel universe. Miles Morales, the Spider-man of the Ultimate universe was the best example of this, but there were plenty of others, including Spider-Gwen (Gwen Stacy, from an alternative timeline where she was bitten by that fateful Spider), Silk (a young woman bitten by the same spider that bit Peter), and clones like Ben Reilly (aka the Scarlet Spider).

I’d been vaguely aware of these variant Spider-folk for years. In truth, it was my daughter who really dove into the Spider-verse, reading the Spider-Gwen and Silk graphic novels when they came out. Then came Spider-man: Into the Spider-verse, Sony’s animated Spider-man movie released in December 2018. I went into the movie with low expectations — this was, after all, Sony. They’d rebooted the franchise 3 times in 14 years, giving us such bombs as Spider-man 3 and Amazing Spider-man 2 along the way.

With Into the Spider-verse, all is forgiven. It deserves its own review, but in short, it’s fantastic. It mashes up different art and musical styles to create a vibrant multiverse you want to go back to as soon as you leave. It introduces new characters every bit as compelling as the original Spider-man, while respecting and strengthening his legacy.

It also got me reading Spider-man comics again. After seeing the movie twice in the theatre, I fired up the Marvel Unlimited comic book app and found that 2014’s “Spider-verse” mega crossover (which Sony drew much of its inspiration from) was available in the app. I’ve been reading a comic a day from that storyline for much of January. Like the movie, it mashes up several universes worth of heroes as Spider-folk, though the premise is different. In the movie, the multiverse is under attack due to a scheme of Wilson Fisk, aka Kingpin. In the comics, a group of super-beings known as the Inheritors are hunting spiders to steal their life force. The movie is tighter than the comic books, but the comic books provide more opportunities to explore the weirdness that is Spider-man. It’s a good read, and I recommend checking it out if you have Marvel Unlimited or can snag a few of the graphic novels.

Darth Vader

I always had a particular vision of how the Dark Times played out in the Star Wars universe. This the time between the end of Revenge of the Sith and the opening of A New Hope where the empire is hunting down and slaying the last surviving Jedi in the galaxy. Nothing Marvel, Dark Horse, or Lucasfilm had done really fit the desperate, dark vision I had in my mind … until now.

The current Darth Vader comic book title begins just after Anakin dons the armor and persona of Lord Vader. It begins with Vader needing to forge his own Sith lightsaber, which involves corrupting the focusing crystal of a living Jedi’s lightsaber. The story sees Vader hunting down a candidate Jedi, confronting the myriad demons that have assembled over his violent life … and crushing them all to succeed in his mission. New lightsaber in hand, he takes on additional missions for his Emperor, working with the Inquisitors to find and defeat Jedi. Throughout it all there are the slightest glimmers of goodness in Vader that help reinforce his redemption in Jedi, but overall it’s a dark, brooding comic. If you’re looking for a title that inspires hope, this is not that book. But if you’re looking for something that adds to Vader’s origin story, this is the title for you.

One comment

  1. I’m glad you’re catching up with your comics. I felt very disappointed with Amazing Spider-Man after the Mephisto maneuver and let my subscription lapse because of it. I also agree wholeheartedly with your assessment of the Into the Spider-verse film. Quite fun and impressive.

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