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Give me something to sing about: Diana gets nostalgic, 4/9

Brian Hibbs

Here’s an interesting bit of synchronicity: just as I’m feeling a bit tired of comics, two of my old favorites stage a comeback. Insert Al Pacino/Godfather reference here…

EXILES #1: I may have mentioned that EXILES used to be one of my favorite series back when Judd Winick was writing it. I liked the Tony Bedard run too, warts and all. But then Chris Claremont took over, and… well, I’m pretty sure that if you hold his first issue in your hands and listen closely, you’ll hear an eight-man band playing “Nearer My God To Thee”. It was that bad.

Enter Jeff Parker, relaunching the book with a new #1, a new team, and a familiar premise with a new twist. I think the most important thing Parker brings to the table, right off the bat, is subtlety; after the electric-jackhammer stylings of his predecessor, it’s refreshing to see simple narrative devices like foreshadowing being used effectively – for example, there’s a mystery in this issue (hint: somebody might know more than they’re saying), but Parker doesn’t hang a neon sign that reads HERE IS A MYSTERY OMG.

Being the debut issue, there isn’t much here by way of characterization: with the exception of the Panther, the Exiles seem more or less consistent with what you’d expect. But there’s plenty of leeway for maneuvering, and Parker’s track record leads me to believe he just might pull this off. I’m actually looking forward to the next issue, for the first time in a long time. GOOD.

TIMESTORM 2009-2099 #1: So that other favorite of mine? Marvel 2099. Well, half of it, anyway. I adored Peter David’s SPIDER-MAN 2099, and DOOM 2099 was sort-of-okay during the John Francis Moore run but really took off with Warren Ellis, and X-MEN 2099 had no Wolverine (seriously, I want you guys to just stop for a second and imagine a X-Men series running for over two years with no feral Canadians at all), plus it put together an interesting and diverse bunch of mutants without ever doing the Great-Great-Grandson of Scott Summers bit.

So the line had a great run for a while, until it quite literally drowned in editorial interference and that was pretty much the end of it. Well, unless you count Robert Kirkman’s attempt to revive the franchise in 2004 (which I don’t because my God it was AWFUL but that’s neither here nor there). And now it’s 2009, and Brian Reed is trying to bring it back. Sort of.

Marvel’s traditional stance on future timelines (especially dystopias) is that even if you avert whatever event created the World of Suck, said World will still exist in an alternate universe. From a marketing standpoint, that’s a sensible approach: you can keep mining the popularity of those timelines long after the present-day story’s moved on (case in point: “Days of Future Past” and the many, many, many spin-offs it’s generated since 1981).

I mention this because that’s not what Brian Reed does here. The 2099 of TIMESTORM has some familiar elements: Tyler Stone’s still running Alchemax, Miguel O’Hara’s around, Shakti Haddad is still Cerebra (though she’s been boldly – and disturbingly – redesigned), etc. But the furniture’s been rearranged too, and normally a writer would just handwave this as being a “different 2099” (which is what Kirkman ended up doing for the Marvel Knights story). Reed does one better: Tyler Stone is using time travel to rewrite the past, and every change causes a ripple effect that alters the “present” of 2099. Frankly, it’s a very clever twist – it lets Reed rewrite and reconfigure whatever he wants while maintaining that sense of nostalgia, because as far as we readers know, anything that isn’t consistent with the original is a result of Stone messing with the timeline.

Points off for using Wolverine, though. So… GOOD, and I hope this does well enough that we get an ongoing or two out of it.

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