Universe X Volume 1 TPB (New Printing): v. 1 Paperback – 13 Dec 2006
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This title contains a collection of "Universe X" 0-7, "Spidey", "Cap", and "4".
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In the near future, Earth has been overrun by superbeings to the point where there are no normal humans left, and there are no children. (There are two exceptions to this rule, but neither are really children.) I think that this is in part a commentary on where comics were going when Alex Ross came up with this idea, and to many it felt like him doing his classic story "Kingdom Come" in the Marvel Universe. However, there is a lot more going on in the story as well. What Ross and co-plotter Jim Kreuger have done is to take disparate story elements like the Celestials, like Galactus and the Kree and the Skrull and the Asgardians, and bound them together to create a compelling overview of the Marvel Universe. They gaze into the origins of the universe and use these story ideas, that were generated randomly from Stan and Jack down, and make it look as if there was always a big picture if you knew how to join the dots. And it is breathtaking.
Better yet, they manage to tie this to the idea of what makes a hero, to fears of mortality, to the way people change as time wears them down. There are wonderful personal moments in this book for Peter Parker, the one-time Spider-man, and his daughter, Venom; for Reed Richards and his dead wife Sue; for Captain America, reaching the end of the hero's journey, protecting the newly returned Captain Marvel as he seeks to repair the universe.
But what are these strange visions that Kyle Richmond is having of another dystopian future where all the heroes have been killed by Sentinels and humans rule the roost?
This is a wonderful philosophical book that actually looks at the tropes of good and evil and responsibility and heroism, that most comic books nowadays either take for granted or just pay lip service to because "all morality is grey" nowadays. It is compelling and it features art by some of the best: Dougie Braithwaite, John Totleben and John Romita Senior amongst others.
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To make the long story of "Earth X" short, Terrigen Mists had turned pretty much everybody on the planet into super beings. The Celestials come to destroy the Earth by releasing a Celestial embryo but the planet is saved by the new Galactus (nee Franklin Richards), who consumes the egg. Reed Richards, who has been pretending to be Doctor Doom, creates a vibranium network of "Human Torches" to burn off the Terrigen Mists and thereby restore Earth's human population. Whether this would be a good thing or a bad thing remains to be seen, and as the "Universe X" part of the trilogy begins Earth is on the brink of a civil war. Losing the Celestial embryo has reduced the planet's mass, causing shifts in orbit and polarity that have resulted in climatic changes more akin to "The Day After Tomorrow" than "An Inconvenient Truth." Not surprisingly, the mass of humanity does not want to give up its powers and those Marvel superheroes left alive and now fighting those they once protected.
The main narrative thread throughout these stories are Captain America and the reborn Mar-Vell are on a scavenger hunt to collect the greatest sources of power in the world (e.g., the Books of the Darkhold and Vishanti, the Mandarin's rings of power). But there are separate issues dealing with Reed trying to bring Sue back from the storm, Spider-man and Spidersman, and what I would call the final fate of Captain America except for the fact that in this storyline the dead live on and fight on in the land of the dead where they all think they are alive. I am not sure if this view of the realm of the dead is a telling allegory (comic book superheroes never really die), or whether this variation of Valhalla is just a major flaw in the story. There may be relatively few deaths in the world of comic books, but those deaths usually matter, and this idea undoes that. There are deaths in these stories, but we are talking about deaths in an alternate Marvel universe so it is not real (in addition to being not "real").
John Paul Leon has been replaced as the penciler, so "Universe X" has a different look. Doug Braithwaite and Thomas Yeats and the main pencilers this time around, with Jackson Guice doing the layouts on "Spidey" and Brent Anderson doing some pages as well. Bill Reinhold is inking again, but Al Williamson gets equal billing in this trade paperback and there are a whole bunch of other inkers credited, including John Romita Sr. who does the "flashback" pages of the "Spidey" story. The plethora of artists only reinforces the idea that this is not as coherent a story as the first part of the trilogy. I do not think the results are great or particularly memorable (although certainly some alternative reality comic book stories can be) and I become less and less interested in the appendixes to each chapter as we go merrily along, but there are some interesting elements to be plucked from the complex narrative, such as the idea that the biggest bad guy of them all would end up being Crusher Creel. I already have "Universe X Volume 2 TPB" and have pre-ordered both "Paradise X Volume 1" and "Paradise X Volume 2," so I am going to see this trilogy through to the end.
This is not the case with Universe X part 1. I found this first half very difficult to read because of the inclusion of several non-popular characters and realms and past stories that make it dificul to understand. There is also some cosmic talk and Multiverses (mind you DC) and Microverses and different realities that takes the love and meaning away from the original saga.
I just end up this one to continue with Universe X part 2. I hope at the end this whole purchase pay off.