Alex Ross Spotlight: Marvels and History

By Rob Siebert
The 5th Turtle

It’s easy to compare Marvels to another seminal Alex Ross work at DC years later, Kingdom Come. The stories themselves aren’t that similar. But the main character in both is essentially an average Joe seeing all this colorful superhero stuff from the ground level.

The Norman McCay we meet in Kingdom Come is an old man. But in Marvels, we follow Phil Sheldon the late ’30s into the mid-’70s. So we see the majority of his life play out alongside the evolution of the world of Marvels.

Ross elabrorates…

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

Toy Chest Theater: X-Men X-Plosion

By Rob Siebert
Full-Sized. Not Plastic.

We don’t see the X-Men as often as we should here at PI. So lately I’ve been looking for ways to spotlight them. Low and behold, here they are in “Toy Chest Theater.” And oh yes, we’ve got a packed production today.

In combing through the toy photography community, I’ve seen a lot of Wolverine. Cyclops too, but a lot of Wolverine. So naturally, most of what you’ll see today will include him. But I’ve also worked hard to move beyond Wolvie. (Lord knows he’s hurting for publicity.) Case in point…

I haven’t spotlighted a lot of (if any) photos with captions. But in this image from @satoshi_k, the caption is what ties it all together. We’ve got Cable walking with a purpose, locked, loaded, and ready to go. We’ve got snow, which might suggest a nuclear winter. Or on the other hand, simply winter. Those heavy doors leave it a little ambiguous as to when this takes place.

Yes, the caption is “Change the future.” But is he departing from the future to the past, or is he already in the past?

Either way, this shot wasn’t cheap. The figure, made by Mezco Toyz costs $100. Some of us suffer for our art. Sometimes our wallets suffer as well.

But hold on, we’re not done with @satoshi_k yet…

Sweet fancy Moses! Once again, these figures from MAFEX cost almost $100 each. But @satoshi_k damn sure got his money’s worth on this one.

I love the shots that make you ask, “How the hell did they do that?” My intellectual brain tells me, “Of course that’s probably not real fire.” But the image looks so damn convincing that it plants that seed of doubt.

That one element that puts it over the top? The Wolverine pose. The illusion of momentum is absolutely tremendous.

Cyclops is such a rich, complex, and often bad-ass character. So much more than a lot of casual fans give him credit for. @Tyo nugroho0 illustrates that beautifully here. What’s interesting here is that the image isn’t necessarily about the figure itself. It’s about the setting it’s placed in.

Plus, the jacket. The SH Figuarts Cyclops figure comes with a “removable leather-like jacket.” We’re just going to pretend that says “removable leather jacket.” Leather-like makes him sound like a wuss.

Here we have Magneto doing the thing people always expect Magneto to do. Not just to Wolverine, but Iron Man. That’s not quite how it works. But it’s happening in this scene from @creaptic using Marvel Legends figures. And to his credit, he makes it look good.

A future edition of Toy Chest Theater is going to focus on…well, focus. I have a lot of respect for photographers who create a scene with layers. Not only that, but they know which layer is the most important. We know what Magneto looks like. What’s important is what he’s doing. What’s important is that Wolverine is in agony. That’s what we need to see.

Jeremy, a.k.a. @figurephotoworks, brings us this next shot that I really love.

Along the same lines as what Tyo nugroh0 gave us, here we have Wolverine and Colossus among the wreckage of what I assume was a fight with Sentinels. But to give it that special look and feel, Jeremy (a.k.a. @figurephotoworks) used “sand, a drain blaster, and a smoke machine.” The result is absolutely gorgeous.

I also love that he chose these particular Marvel Legends figures. Colossus’ normally glimmering skin covered in sand gives us a sense of just how dense that cloud behind them is. Wolverine’s brown and yellow suit is not only a great fit for the image, but a personal favorite of mine.

For some reason, the toy photography community seems to love pitting Wolverine against Omega Red…

This first one from Stephen (@mandalorianrunt) not only has one of those great X-Men/comic book-ish environments, but it’s got that awesome yellowish green lighting in the background.

If I’m not mistaken, based on some behind-the-scenes photos Stephen put up with this, that smoke behind Wolvie is actually cotton. You’d never know it, though. You really never even consider the smoke. That’s one of the ways you know you’ve got a great image. Everything at least appears to blend together seamlessly.

CWolverine vs. Sabretooth. One of the big rivalries in all of comics. It terms of sheer disdain for the other person, it’s probably up there with Superman vs. Lex Luthor or Batman vs. the Joker. Here we have a really nice shot of Logan pinning Creed down in a wooded setting. And here we have something else that’s fairly rare in toy photography, at least as far as I’m concerned: Blood.

@BrinquedosNaReal could easily have used ketchup, food coloring, or something like that. But he went the plastic route. I’m sure that wasn’t originally intended to be blood. But it works as blood, as it makes the image appear like it was taken with a high-speed camera. Like some poor photographer just happened to be standing there as these two rabid animals are slicing each other’s guts out.

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

An X-Men Gold, Vol. 1 Review – Noobs Enter Here

TITLE: X-Men Gold, Vol. 1: Back to Basics
AUTHOR: Marc Guggenheim
PENCILLERS: Ardian Syaf, R.B. Silva
COLLECTS: X-Men Gold #16
FORMAT: Softcover
PUBLISHER: Marvel
PRICE: $15.99
RELEASED: August 23, 2017

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I’m a continuity buff. It’s a fool’s errand, considering how often timelines change in American superhero comics. But for me, half the fun of getting into superhero books was going back and reading all the major stories, seeing how things progressed, etc. That being said, I’ve long since given up on deciphering X-Men continuity. Between all the different characters that have come on and off the team, died and come back, travelled through time, the ones with dopplegangers from other time periods, and all such insanity, it’s just too much. Considering how amazing and iconic some of these characters are, getting tangled up in all the plot threads becomes horribly frustrating.

That’s why I’ve been waiting awhile for a series like X-Men Gold, a book that not only serves as a jumping on point for new readers, but as the title says, brings the concept “back to basics.” This title gives us heroes we recognize fighting for mutants and humans alike. In making Kitty Pryde the team leader, we’ve advanced to the next chapter in the story while remembering what so many loved about it in the first place. It acknowledges the X-Men mythology, but tells its own story. If you’re a new reader or someone looking to jump back into things (as I was), that’s what you want.

In addition to Kitty, our team consists of Old Man Logan, Storm, Colossus, Nightcrawler, and Rachel Grey (now called Prestige), with Gambit being added in issue #4. The most glaring “Huh?” moment will likely involve Logan. The operative question being, “Why is Wolverine an old man?” The book lets us know this is a character from another world, but it doesn’t beat you over the head with it. The dynamic between old flames Kitty and Peter (Colossus), which goes back decades, is also a focal point of the book. That’s obviously enhanced if you know their history. But what the book gives you is enough.

By making her the team leader, X-Men Gold shines a really nice spotlight on Kitty’s evolution as a character. In contrast to the younger version that more casual readers are familiar with. The Kity we see here is battle tested. She’s comfortable calling plays in the field. Her teammates, most of whom are older and more experienced, follow her lead without question. As the mutant community works to rebuild its image after the events of Inhumans vs. X-Men, we see her step up and serve as an ambassador. She’s as much a main character here as she’s ever been.

Guggenheim was wise to spend quality time on Rachel Grey here. She’s the one on this team that most casual fans won’t know about. We get a subplot in issues #4-6 about her being afraid to use her powers to their fullest extent, for fear of losing control like her mother Jean Grey. Or worse, going bad like her father Cyclops. She even gets little scenes with psychic projections of both. It’s a nice character snapshot that sets the table for stories to come.

The bad guys in this book are classic X-Men villains with a new coat of paint. We see the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, a group we’ve most notably seen led by Magneto. In the background, we have a political pundit trying to rally the public against mutants. She’s clearly an analogue for a Fox News type figure. Later on, Gambit is caught in the middle of an accident that sees a “smart swarm” of nanites mix with Sentinel tech. This creates an entirely new breed of mechanical menace for our heroes. None of this is terribly original or new. But it falls in line with the book’s “back to basics” approach. So it works.

Our penciller for the first three issues is Ardian Syaf. His art has a weight to it that fits the dramatic moments in this story very well. Whether it’s the two-page spread in issue #1 (shown above), or the understated “ra ra” moment at the end of issue #3 (partially shown below). Our opening action sequence with the team facing Terrax is also suitably epic.

I assume the plan was for Syaf to stick around after issue #3. One way or another, that didn’t happen. Subtle anti-Christian and anti-Semetic messages were found in the pencils for issue #1, and Syaf was fired. How ironic, in a series that’s ultimately meant to be about tolerance. I don’t want to dive into the politics of what Syaf did. But obviously this is the wrong forum, with the wrong audience.

R.B. Silva tags in for the remainder of the book. He and inker Adriano Di Benedetto give the book a softer aesthetic that objectively is fine. But being the second artist in a collection like this is always challenging. The tone has been set, and now you’re deviating from it. But Silva draws awesome Sentinels, and his Gambit isn’t too shabby either. Sadly, he doesn’t stick around for subsequent issues.

Occasionally someone will ask me, “Where should I start reading [insert character name]?” That’s always been a fairly hard question with the X-Men books. Historically, I’ve pointed people to Joss Whedon and John Cassaday’s Astonishing X-Men run. But X-Men Gold might just become my new answer. Or at least one of my answers. I won’t compare it to the Whedon/Cassaday stuff in terms of quality. But it’s about as accessible as any X-Men story I’ve read. It’s a great doorway into the saga’s modern era, while still advancing the characters for longtime readers.

Bottom line? Start here noobs.

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