The End is Nigh!

While there are a plethora of books and movies forecasting the end of the world in a variety of different fashions – anyone seen Independence Day perchance? – the Science in “science fiction” if often lacking and while it would be great to insert a virus into an alien computer core, thereby averting the destruction of humanity, somehow, I just don’t think that it’s going to happen!

Lucifer’s Hammer is the story of the Hamner-Brown comet, discovered by a pair of amateur astronomers (by the way in case you don’t believe that amateur astronomers sometimes discover things like this – check outthis link and this one and for something that happened quite recently this one too!). While still quite a distance out from Earth, it is on a trajectory to pass quite close and although the Scientific community at large are adamant that it will not hit, there is enough doubt that a charismatic and zealous fundamentalist preacher is able to whip up a large amount of hysteria in the US.

Gradually as the comet continues to come closer and closer, the probability of it’s impacting the Earth decreases and even up until the moment of actual impact, there is uncertainty remaining about whether or not it will impact the Earth. Even a joint Apollo-Soyuz mission sent into space to study the comet, now dubbed “The Hammer” by popular media, is unable to confirm or refute its potential collision with earth. The comet does fall, and lands in pieces in various parts of the world with a devastating effect.

Cities disappear overnight and flooding is rampant with Tsunamis hitting all the coastal cities and weeks of nonstop rain destroying all the crops and foodstuffs. Food is at a premium and people are forced to scavenge for survival with Civilization itself falling apart at the seams! However this is actually where the story picks up!

In a similar vein to The Postman (by David Brin) humanity sets back upon the long road to recovery but factors are in play that are determined to reverse this. The battle between the forces of civilization and anarchy has begun and only time will tell who will win.

Personal Thoughts
As mentioned previously there actually is some science in this book and nothing in it is too farfetched at all. It’s a really believable read and while I’d like to hope that humanity as a whole would act better to itself in times of strife and tragedy, unfortunately natural disasters like the Haiti Earthquake show that there are always a selfish few who think about themselves first. One point though – if there was ever an argument to get off the Earth and start exploring/colonizing space this is it. All of our “eggs” are in one very fragile basket and its imperative for all of us to get out there!

Character Growth & Development – 3/5

Perhaps a bit too black and white with regards to the heroes and villains of this piece but overall, the characters themselves are believable and the way that they acted/reacted to the changing situations was well explored and thought out.

Story Growth & Development – 4/5

Unfortunately the scenario presented is a bit too real and believable. It would be great to have Bruce Willis fly up and destroy the asteroid in space, but considering how successful NASA has been on many less ambitious projects this is unlikely to happen either. The honest truth is that if a comet or asteroid similar to the one proposed ever did materialize in our future (which to some extent is inevitable) … barring a miracle, this book could turn out to be historical fiction vs. science fiction. L

Overall Rating – 7/10

If you like your scifi with a bit of real “science” and if you like reading about the end of the world … you’ll love this book! Give it a shot. Niven & Pournelle are excellent authors and know how to craft a yarn amazingly well.

This article was initially meant to be about the 10 best (single) issues of the X-Men, but as I started researching (re-reading) and reviewing, I quickly came to discover that more useful and informative would be the 10 best story arcs in the X-verse which I have tried to provide to you all below.

#10 – Inferno (#239-243):

Uncanny_X-Men_Vol_1_241Brief Synopsis:

“Inferno” was a Marvel Comics company-wide crossover concerning the corruption of Madelyne Pryor into the Goblin Queen, the final transformation of Illyana Rasputin into the Darkchylde, and a demonic invasion of New York City.

Good:

As this involved books across the Marvel Universe with some of the storylines being at best incidental and/or irrelvant, it was a bit of a mish-mash of characters and writers.  However, the actual main X-Titles, written by Claremont were actually very well done and the story/character development in them extremely well explored.  Some of the fight sequences in this arc are exceptional and worth a read as are some of the graphical elements!

Bad:

As mentioned previously, the fact that these books crossed the Marvel Universe made it a little bit of a pain to ensure that you actually caught all the key elements that might have happened.

#9 – The Morlock Mutant Massacre (#210-#213):

mutantmassacre12Brief Synopsis:

The Morlocks are under attack. The Marauders are acting like hunting parties, tracking down the Morlocks and viciously killing them without apparent cause. The X-Men and other heroes rush in to help stop, or at least, slow the slaughter.

Good:

Wolverine and Sabretooth have a pair of classic bouts, setting up what will become one of comics’ classic rivalries. Some definite character growth and development as Shadowcat, Nightcrawler and Colossus take serious injuries while Angel of X-Factor experiences the agony of having his wings impaled by harpoons.

Bad:

The Morlock Mutant Massacre is the first X-Men crossover, and one of the best so not too much to say with regards to the ‘Bad’.

#8 – Age of Apocalypse

20130605-202544-700x404Brief Synopsis

Legion (David Haller), a powerful psionic mutant on Earth and son of Professor Charles Xavier, travels back in time with the intention of killing Magneto. He believes Magneto’s death will allow Xavier to achieve his dream of human/mutant equality. But Legion traveled to a time when Magneto and Xavier were still friends. So Xavier dies trying to protect Magneto. Legion vanishes, and a new timeline is created. The only person aware of how history has changed is Bishop, a time traveling mutant who followed Legion.

Because of Xavier’s sacrifice, Magneto comes to believe in his late friend’s dream of peaceful coexistence between humans and mutants. Apocalypse, an immortal mutant villain, was monitoring the fight. He chooses this moment as the perfect time to begin his world conquest, which didn’t happen in the regular Marvel Universe for another ten years.

Good

Logan & Jean Grey get together … Magneto & Rogue … some excellent ‘what-if’ scenarios and battles are explored … what’s not to like?!

Bad

Some people have this near the top of their lists and others at the bottom. Its near the bottom of mine not because the story isn’t interesting, but rather because there are too many different books to follow and pick up.

X-Men_God_Loves_Man_Kills_cover#7 – God Loves, Man Kills (Marvel Graphic Novel #5):

Brief Synopsis

“God Loves, Man Kills” is a powerful story resonating with all kinds of persecuted minorities such as African-Americans, Jews and homosexuals. It’s also surprisingly personal, emotionally complex, beautifully rendered and well deserving of a place on this list.

Good

Yet another X-Men story that is widely considered to be a classic. An emotionally charged story with young kids murdered and mutants being persecuted. But artist Brent Anderson does a great job of using images to allude to historical events without becoming heavy-handed. Writer Chris Claremont does a great job of using crowd reactions to show that the issue may be more complicated than either Rev. Stryker or the X-Men are willing to admit. The real heroes of this story are actually two normal cops who don’t know who to believe but who still do their duty.

Bad

Definitely NOT a story that you would expect in a Comic book – very deep and emotional and shows a different side to a lot of characters. Nothing really bad about this one.

#6 – Acts of Vengeance(#256-#258):

Brief Synopsis:

Written by Chris Claremont. Art by Jim Lee, Scott Williams, and Joe Rubinstein. During the infamous “Acts of Vengeance,” Wolverine and Jubilee face off with Iron Man’s arch nemesis the Mandarin and the Hand’s deadly new assassin – Psylocke?!   At this point in X-Men history, the team has disbanded and the various heroes are scattered around the globe. The Mandarin takes advantage of the situation and kidnaps Psylocke. He brainwashes her, body-switches her and transforms her into his assassin.

Good:

Wolverine on his own against Mandarin, the Hand and a host of ninja assassins. It’s a great kung fu action story, with one hero facing impossible odds and the other hero the unwilling pawn of the enemy. Plus, the story serves as Jim Lee’s introduction to the X-Men.

Bad:

The main crossover is admittedly pretty awful but it resulted in some great tie-in stories, especially in the X-Men titles

782688b695a9137e2a6d154424ca5354#5 – Broodfall(#232-#234):

Brief Synopsis:

The Brood is Marvel’s foray into a predatory alien race not all that far off from H.R. Giger territory, only they infect their victims like a virus, eventually turning them and assimilating them into the Brood collective.  This is the best Brood story ever, bar none. While all of the earlier Brood stories featured the X-Men going into space and facing the Brood out there, this story features the Brood coming to earth. That means that if the X-Men lose, the Earth loses. That makes the stakes a lot bigger and much more personal than in previous Brood stories.

Good:

The Brood infect Wolverine with one of their seed. Wolverine has often been the focus of stories in which he has to battle his own inner demons. This time, he has to battle an inner demon that isn’t his own!  Of course, there are also big battles, panic in the streets to make even Japanese monster movie enthusiasts happy, Brood beasts throwing cars around and more superhero action than you can shake a stick at.  This is definitely the highlight of the Marc Silvestri era of the X-Men.  Some excellent covers and artwork are also evident!!

Bad:

Nothing bad to say about this one!

#4 – Rogue Redux (#269)

Brief Synopsis:

Rogue is spat out from the Siege Perilous to land in her room in the X-Men’s headquarters in the Australian Outback, seemingly unchanged. From a news report, she learns that Mystique has been murdered. As she tries to alert her teammates, she learns firstly that she has lost her Ms. Marvel powers and secondly that the HQ is now back in the hands of the Reavers. Surprisingly, Carol Danvers now has a body of her own again and, while she fights the Reavers, Rogue absorbs Gateway’s powers long enough to teleport herself and (accidentally) Carol away. Carol ends up on Muir Isle. Though struggling bravely, she falls under the control of the Shadow King and chases Rogue as his servant.

Good:

Rogue and Magneto – together gain for the first time.  Some great fight sequences and battles and also some amazing covers.

Bad:

Doesn’t really do anything to advance the storyline but still a very good story in and of itself.

hellfire_club_by_gcassata-d4grm2b#3 – The Hellfire Club – (#207-#209)

Brief Synopsis:

John Romita Jr.’s first run on the series, and features a murderous scuffle between X-Man Rachel Summers (Phoenix II) and Selene, a member of the infamous Hellfire Club, the mysterious “Inner Circle” of which likes to control world affairs a little more than they should.

Good:

A huge brawl in Central Park with the whole Hellfire Club taking on the X-Men and then it gets even better with Nimrod, the super mega badass Sentinel programmed to destroy all mutants.

Bad:

Nothing bad here either!!

X-Men_v1_141#2 – Days of Future Past (#141-#142):

Brief Synopsis:

A graying Wolverine, an adult Kitty Pryde, a dystopic future ruled by mutant-hunting Sentinels, the death of the X-Men and a time travel story.  This is the inspiration for the most recent X-Men movie

Good:

This is another of the classic X-Men stories.

Bad:

It doesn’t hold up quite as well as “The Dark Phoenix Saga” but it’s hard to hold that against the original story. It’s just that it’s been copied, imitated, parodied and revisited so often that it doesn’t seem as original as it would have at the time.

#1 – The Dark Phoenix Saga (#129-#138):

XMen135Brief Synopsis:

Written by Chris Claremont and drawn by John Byrne, this is the story that shows up on lists of the best comic book stories of all-time. And it deserves it. Reportedly, Claremont and Byrne had observed that over the years, a number of villains had reformed and become heroes but we’d never seen a comic book hero fall and become a villain. They decided to tell the untold tale and they chose beloved ingénue Jean Grey, aka Marvel Girl, for the role.

The Dark Phoenix Saga is one of comics’ great tragedies. It explores the axiom that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Slowly, Jean Grey, now known as Phoenix, begins to flex her powers in ways that the readers and her teammates find morally questionable. Yet, the fall is made even more tragic by the involvement of the Hellfire Club. Jason Wyngarde, aka Mastermind, manipulates her mind and her emotions which makes Jean Grey a victim of tragic circumstances as much as of her own power. Phoenix-The-Untold-StoryUninhibited by any morality, Phoenix eventually uses a sun to replenish her powers, causing the sun to go supernova and killing billions of inhabitants of that solar system. That crime brings Phoenix to the attention of the Shi’ar Empire, now set on capturing and executing her for mass murder. The tragedy is further deepened when Jean Grey is apparently “cured” of the Phoenix power before she stands trial meaning that the Shi’ar are convicting the innocent ingénue rather than the powerful Phoenix. The X-Men, despite their earlier reservations, stand by Jean Grey only to watch her sacrifice herself in order to save the rest of the team.

Good:

Action, fights galore and an excellent story that captures your heart and mind.  This is number 1 becasue it’s the best and well deserves this rating!

Bad:

This is it. This is the big one.  There is NOTHING bad about this book.  If you’ve not read it before, get it now.  You won’t be sorry.