Axel-In-Charge: Extending "Secret Wars," Excitement for a "Totally Awesome Hulk"
Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. Today’s page is from Gambit and the X-Ternals #2, which was published by Marvel and is cover dated April 1995. Enjoy!
Man. Coming right in the middle of the Decade of Excess (or X-Cess, I suppose), the Age of Apocalypse gave us the most Ninetiesest story and art in a period of X-Treeeeemmmm COMIX, and Gambit and the X-Ternals was shining example of it. Fabian Nicieza, who wrote this issue, doesn’t have much to do – he tells us that the group is no longer on Earth both with the caption box and with Jubilee’s “Where the heck are we?!!” question, but that’s about it. He’ll make up for it, though – fret not!
It’s Tony Daniel’s glorious artwork that we need to consider here (this was before he got all highbrow and added his middle initial to his name, like he does these days). It’s not just Daniel’s pencil work that makes this so very Nineties, however. I don’t know who inked this page (the issue has three inkers – Kevin Conrad, Al Milgrom, and Mike Christian), but there certainly are a lot of lines, aren’t there? Plus, Chris Eliopoulos is lettering this in the X-Treeeeemmmmest way – colored bubble letters were a big trend back in those days. But let’s get back to Daniel’s art, along with Marie Javins’s coloring (Digital Chameleon separated the colors). It’s a splash page, so we don’t need to worry about Daniel’s storytelling techniques, because he’s not trying to tell a story, just give us a big impact to begin the comic. So let’s go around the horn, starting with Jubilee (we learn all these characters’ names within a few pages, so even though we might not know them if we’re just picking this up randomly, bear with me). She’s clearly Asian, which is always nice, and she has the glossy lips that always look weird on minors in comics. She’s wearing what appear to be Peter Pan slippers, but hey, that’s comics. She’s squarely on the back of Guido, not on his shoulders, which works because Guido appears to be a hunchback. His tiny head sits between massively deformed arms, and his open mouth shows the millions of teeth which every comic book character appeared to have at this time. His hand, you’ll note, is bigger than his head, which is just freaky. Over what passes for his shoulder is Rictor, also with his mouth agape, also with a smallish head (not as small as Guido’s, but still) in the middle of giant shoulders, plus what looks like two (2) ponytails (in a few pages, we’ll see that he does indeed have two ponytails). He’s so X-Treeeeemmmm! he needs TWO MOTHERFUCKING PONYTAILS!!!!!! Behind and above him (balancing on his tail bone?) is Lila Cheney, who’s naked for some reason (I have not read this series since it came out, so I’m sure there’s a perfectly good reason for her to be nude). Her giant hair towers above her (because why not?), and her waist is so tiny Guido could wrap one hand around it, I’d think. I’m not sure where the shadow to cover her breasts is coming from, unless it’s from a giant CCA stamp floating off-panel above her somewhere. Moving on, we get Sunspot, who’s awesome, frankly. His hair is all crackly, and his transformation into his Sunspot persona can’t hide his awesome mask thing. He’s not surprised, he’s full of rage! as we can see from his gritted teeth (in the Nineties, gritted teeth meant you were serious about kicking ass!). He has muscles on his muscles, from his bulging neck to his massive chest, and he’s twisted in such a way that his belt buckle faces the reader even though we’re seeing a side view. Finally, there’s Gambit. Oh, Gambit. Look at that scrub-brush hair! Look at those red eyes! Look at those glove things that extend up his arms! Look at those boots and knee pads! Look at that superfluous ribbon wrapped around his right leg! Look at those dagger things that he’s holding in his right hand with no effort whatsoever, glowing with that purple special effect! Man.
Would this get you to keep reading the book? Beats me. I bought the whole damned series, so who am I to judge? It’s energetic, I suppose, much like the rest of the issue. Still … if you’re trying to explain the 1990s to a comic book fan who missed the decade, you could just show them this page and say, This. And they would nod ruefully. C’est la vie, my friends. C’est la vie.
Next: Another X-book?!?!? Well, I do own a lot of them. Sorry! The archives have many non-mutant books, I promise!
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