Monday, April 24, 2017

His head's a mess, but so pretty.

Several plotlines keep moving forward this issue, but most of the action takes place in his head. And the Supreme Intelligence's head. Literally, in the latter: from 1988, Silver Surfer #8, "Soul, Sweet Soul" Written by Steve Englehart, pencils and color by Marshall Rogers, inks by Joe Rubinstein.

The issue opens with a bizarre impression of domestic life, before the Surfer is attacked by Kree thugs. Fitting, since he's in the mind of the Kree's Supreme Intelligence, the massive super-computer made up of the conglomerated minds of their best military leaders. (If you were a victorious Kree general, you could earn a spot as part of the Intelligence, which is both the worst incentive plan and retirement plan I can think of.) The Surfer had attempted to get the Kree to leave his homeworld Zenn-La alone, out of the most recent Kree/Skrull war; but as a Skrull spy recaps to her superiors, the Intelligence was willing to do so for Zenn-La, but the Surfer pushed further and asked for earth to be left out as well. The Intelligence then absorbed the Surfer's soul, since it was using one of the Soul Gems to keep its head together, as it were: the racial divide between the blue and pink Kree minds was tearing it apart.

The Contemplator, one of the Elders of the Universe, wanted the gem for their master plan: this was pre-Infinity Gauntlet, so what the gems actually did was still a bit vague. No sale from the Supreme Intelligence, as the minds within try to break the Surfer and absorb him. But the Surfer has allies: the plants, representing the alien Cotati; and the Surfer's silver rat. Um, space coyote.

No, his bird!

Back in the physical world, Kree scientists working on the Surfer's board are dismayed when it flies away, but probably not as dismayed as the Supreme Intelligence, since the board flies right into his head, through the gem, and the Surfer flies back out on it! He also takes the gem on his way out and splits; leaving the Kree empire figuratively beheaded as the Supreme Intelligence loses its mind. The Contemplator laments losing the gem, but his cohort the Gardener may have a back-up plan to get it, involving the Surfer's ex, Shalla-Bal...!

Rogers was the first artist on this run of Silver Surfer, and for me and a lot of fans, probably the first Silver Surfer artist they saw. There was a John Byrne one-shot in 1982, but I don't think the Kirby or Buscema issues were as readily available as reprints then. Personally, it wouldn't be until maybe 1990 that I saw the 1980's Fantasy Masterpieces reprints, and those may have been shorted some pages. Rogers was a great choice; his Surfer lithe and agile. Still, he was only on the book about a year, then Ron Lim came on at #15 and would be the regular artist for about 75 issues, more or less. (Some issues he only did covers, since he'd be pulling duty on the Infinity books.)
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Friday, April 21, 2017

Batgirl's parents were killed drag-racing? There's a Fast and the Furious crossover in there somewhere.

While I'm glad to have this issue--it's a pretty iconic cover--I can't help but think finding the concluding chapter might be a pain: from 1998, Legends of the DC Universe #10, "Folie a Deux, part one" Written by Kelley Puckett, pencils by Terry Dodson, inks by Kevin Nowlan. Fun fact: I took two years of French in high school, and don't speak a word of it, so I had to look up folie a deux...shoot, I took a lot of psych in college, you'd have thought I'd know that from one or the other.

This was the first part of a two-issue Batgirl story, and opens with 11 silent pages split between Batgirl stopping a mugger--and not being above grabbing a dropped gun, although she doesn't use it--and a flashback to what seemingly starts as an assault, but is just a guy picking up what might be his wife, then drag racing two jerks at a stoplight, then getting hit by a truck. In the morgue, a recognizable (if not any younger-looking) Jim Gordon looks at the bodies toe-tagged Roger and Thelma Gordon, Barbara's parents. Since it's a silent sequence, it's easy to just flip through, but there are a few subtle clues in there: Roger putting a flask in his jacket, then as he puts his hand over Thelma's mouth, you notice the wedding band. Thelma's hair in a bun and glasses is reminiscent of Barb's as a librarian, while Roger reminds me of a less-thick Flass from Year One. Still, you get the notion that Barbara got her daredevil tendencies from her dad, and her brains from her mom.

Raised by Jim, as Barbara goes off to college, he had something that he'd been trying to tell her but couldn't quite bring himself to. Meanwhile, while she was far more mature and studious then her peers, Barbara is treated like a child by Batman, who visits her in her dorm room (!) to tell her to quit being Batgirl. Ooh, that'll work. Barbara argues, she was 18 and could do what she wanted, but if Batman would train her, she wouldn't go out until he said she was ready. As Batman trains her on a rooftop (he would've had to meet her there, since he hadn't told her his identity) they're watched by Jim, who has no idea how to deal with this. When Barbara started missing classes, he may have accused her of being on drugs or something, even though he knew that wasn't the case. Pissed off and feeling distant from her adoptive father, Barbara still goes to meet with him at Gotham Federal Bank, but doesn't seem to notice a gentleman packing a hidden Uzi at the door...!

A lot to unpack from this issue, and the last two pages feel especially crammed story-wise. I'm not sure this was the first time Jim Gordon is shown to really know Barbara was Batgirl: I've seen a few stories where it's implied, but he may be pretending not to know. Also, is Jim Barbara's biological dad now, or has that not changed? And does the "folie a deux" of the title refer to Barbara caught up in Batman's "psychosis" of crime-fighting, or Jim caught up in Barbara's newfound vigilantism? Maybe the second part would clear that up.
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Thursday, April 20, 2017

Julia should play the Force Works card, see where that gets her.

I enjoyed the movie Civil War so much, considering how much trepidation I had over it being based on the crossover Civil War, which I hated and still hate. So why not check out an issue dealing with blowback from that, that'll be fun...from 2007, Ms. Marvel #14, "The Deal, part 2" Written by Brian Reed, pencils by Aaron Lopresti, inks by Matt Ryan.

Former Spider-Woman Julia Carpenter, now using the name Arachne, had been on Team Cap during Civil War, and refused to register afterwards. Ms. Marvel and her strike force, Operation: Lightning Storm, had just brought her in, arresting her in front of her daughter; and now Carol was questioning if mmmmmaybe they weren't in the wrong on this one. Talking it over with her boss, Tony Stark, she wonders if Julia didn't deserve more help than she had received; Tony asks if that would be "special favors" but Carol points out they had both gotten out of trouble before by playing the Avengers card. Meanwhile, trying to find her daughter Rachel, an escaped Julia goes after Ms. Marvel's rookie teammate Anya, who smacks her down.

Captured again, Julia is justifiably pissed at Carol and her former West Coast Avengers teammate Wonder Man, but they still help her reunite with Rachel, who was with Julia's parents. Who were pissed at Julia, for bringing the war to their door as it were: they felt she had endangered them all, and should leave Rachel to be raised by them. Instead, with Carol's help, Julia leaves with Rachel. That may cause a custody battle down the road, but Tony had pulled some strings to get Julia onto the new Canadian super-team Omega Flight. Still, Julia is not particularly grateful, and doesn't forgive Carol. Meanwhile, A.I.M. recovers their "DNA bomb" for MODOK...

Man, Julia Carpenter would continue getting the shaft from Marvel, and getting traded to Canada wouldn't even be the worst of it. (And her teammates on Omega Flight? Proud Canadians like Beta Ray Bill and USAgent...hey!) She would later be shifted over to be the new Madame Web for a while in the Spider-Man books, and was blind for at least some of that? She may have still fared better than some other Spider-Women that were killed off, but still. (In fact, I had thought Anya was killed off later, but not yet anyway.) Meanwhile, somehow Carol Danvers is still a fairly likable character, despite Marvel's ongoing efforts. She reminds me a lot of DC's Captain Atom: former military, a bit stricter than other heroes in general, probably more likely to be cast in the authoritarian or bad cop role...
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Wednesday, April 19, 2017


There actually was a recent Marvel comic, where a character did the Br'er Rabbit bit Pool mentions, and does make a dramatic escape! I don't want to spoil it, even though I thought it was telegraphed...

You can read a bit about alum here, but I'm more familiar with it from stuff like this:

That's probably not good for anyone or anything.

Yondu says Pete gave him a parrot; that would be Peter Quill, Star-Lord. I could see him thinking it would be funny to give Yondu one, and Yondu constantly threatening to eat it but becoming way too attached to ever do that.
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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

I really thought this "Zero Hour" tie-in might tie in at some point...

When we looked at the Demon's Zero Hour crossover issue a couple weeks back, I was going to take a gander at another one from that crossover. Not this one, actually, but it still works: from 1994, Wonder Woman #0, "The Contest, part 2: The Blind Eyes of Time" Written by William Messner-Loebs, art by Mike Deodato Jr. With a Brian Bolland cover!

If I ever read this issue, it's probably been about twenty years; but the first page confirms my guess that this was building up to Artemis replacing Diana as Wonder Woman. Replacing heroes, either long-term or temporarily, had paid off big for DC so far with Superman, Batman, Green Lantern (I was going to count Flash, but Wally was well-established by this point) so why not Wonder Woman? Diana is not thrilled when her mom Hippolyta tells her there will be a new contest for the title of WW, in part because they felt Diana was getting too manlike, as in violent. Hippolyta acts as if Diana had been getting too big for her britches, and tells her she's not irreplaceable in the role. Later, Diana's friend Mala softens that blow a bit: this contest really isn't any different than an election, re-confirming her status; and maybe Diana might not want to be Wonder Woman forever? Diana has to at least admit that's a possibility.

There's a brief flashback to the first contest, in which Diana had been forbidden to compete, but had done so while masked and won. Here the mask is the fancier Mask of Proteus, with which she looks like a completely different Amazon; it may have been felt an ordinary mask wouldn't have fooled Hippolyta long enough for Diana to compete. While Diana is helping set up for the contest, and noting she currently only has her normal strength; Artemis shows up to tell her that won't be a problem, since Hippolyta has announced that any that have warred against her and not shown the proper "loving submission" couldn't compete, namely her. That's at least the second time "loving submission" has come up this issue (and it would again before the end) and it's a bit of a throwback to WW's oldest stories, I don't think it's seen much anymore.

To find out what's what, Diana accompanies Artemis to her village: I'm not sure about the politics at this point, but they were a splinter faction, "cast out" at some point in the past and living a rougher, more violent life than Hippolyta's Amazons. Still, the aged wise woman Mala (Diana notes she has a friend with that same name...) tells Diana of their "first mother," Hippolyta's sister Antiope: they still had a sculpture of her from three thousand years ago...and it looks exactly like Diana! She barely has time to ask what that was about before she disappears...

Diana seems to wake up moments later, about three thousand years ago, as Antiope. We see her sister, a much younger and flightier Hippolyta, giddy with joy, since Herakles had proposed to her. In Wonder Woman continuity, Herakles enslaved the Amazons for some time; and while Antiope doesn't trust "ol' cudgel-brains" Hippolyta has spilled all kinds of beans about the Amazons' immortality. Antiope has to marry Herakles' friend Hylas, who turns on her on their wedding night: she fights free to warn her sister, but is tricked by Herakles wearing the Mask of Proteus, and clubbed on the head--as is Diana in the present!

Best guess; I think this plotline was laying down that maybe Hippolyta wasn't always right in her decisions, which was going to make Diana consider if it was right for her to be Wonder Woman. Artemis would have the costume for a bit, but it may have been a briefer stretch than I had thought. Well, at least Artemis would get an action figure out of it years later! And Deodato's art is nice--probably the best art the book had since George Perez--it's very, um, male gaze-y, let's say. I don't know how that would be received today...
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Monday, April 17, 2017

Things have to stick together, I guess.

Once again, we see Florida in the Marvel Universe is nothing but swamp, except for maybe one little spot of NASA. From 1981, Marvel Two-In-One #77, "Only the Swamp Survives!" Written by Tom DeFalco, pencils by Ron Wilson, inks by Chic Stone.

I'm midway through the last Two-In-One Essential volume, but I think this issue is from just prior. While Man-Thing gets the guest-star billing, it's also a Nick Fury story: Man-Thing had already appeared in MTIO #1 #43, while Fury had gotten cover billing on #26 and #51. Nick approaches Ben to test-pilot a new jet capable of hitting Mach 6, and Ben jumps at the chance to prove himself as something other than a monster. Somewhat predictably, the test flight doesn't go particularly well: something gives out, and it takes all of Ben's skill just to crash-land into the swamp without cracking up completely. Still, the crash is so bad even the Thing is messed up, with a broken arm and severe concussion. (When emergency systems fail, Ben has to punch his way out of a flaming wreck; would an ordinary human pilot have even survived taking off in that jet?)

Stumbling dazed through the swamp, Ben thinks back to "the first time (Fury) conned me," during World War II, and the subsequent flashback adventure with the Howling Commandos. Meanwhile, empathically feeding off of Ben's courage, Man-Thing tags along with Ben's swamp-slog, saving him from some poachers, but giving him the "fear burns at the Man-Thing's touch!" when an exhausted Ben collapses and fears he's let Alicia down. That jolts Ben enough to keep going until the Human Torch finds him. (Johnny doesn't appear to see the Man-Thing, since the mindless creature lurches off then. EDIT: There may be a reason for that: I'm not sure Reed's ever seen or been told about the Man-Thing. Even if he didn't know the particulars, he'd be driven to science the hell out of that.) In the hospital, Ben's leg appears to be broken as well, although he wasn't as hospitalized as he would be in MTIO #96!
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Friday, April 14, 2017

What, was Doc Samson booked up? Do you need a referral or something?

There's something to be said for knowing yourself, and knowing when you need to take the time for serious mental health help. Of course, it's possible to know you need the help, but still half-ass it. Like today's book! From 1999, Deadpool #26--deep breath, the full title is "Our Second Most Confusing Issue Yet...After Issue #6 (We Would've Said #9, But That Was Just Bad, Not Confusing) (or Mouthful of Malice, Head Full of Cheese)" Script by Joe Kelly, co-plotted by James Felder, pencils by Pete Woods, inks by Walden Wong.

Deadpool is not in a good place here, although for different reasons than usual. He was coming off the "Dead Reckoning" storyline, where he saved the world from an alien messiah that would have left earth mindlessly, blissfully happy: it's safe to say Pool is hung up on the idea that he saved the world from being happy. He also narrates here as if he's specifically talking to someone, explaining himself; although it would be a bit before that someone would respond back. In a somewhat cliched Middle Eastern nation, Pool rescues a bride from a forced marriage to an oil sultan; but while she thinks her true love paid Pool to save her, he was actually hired by the sultan's brother to steal her for himself. Pool's new pilot, Ilaney, questions him on it, and is shouted down for her trouble.

Ilaney was a new addition to the supporting cast, since Blind Al was no longer staying with Pool, but as he sets up his new Bolivia? Former pre-cognitive Monty was still around, although Pool didn't really want to talk to him right now. He does give Monty a gun, which Monty thinks is to kill himself based on Pool's wording, but it's to guard Pool's dollies. Or their heads. Again, not in a great place then.

Pool takes a merc job for a hit, in the hopes that it will quiet everything else going on in his head for a moment. There are a few problems with that, though. Pool is testy and fidgety, the target turns out to have A.I.M. support troops, and Pool is also hallucinating "a lady on a giant saber-toothed rabbit pouring bourbon into a pitcher of milk while Patsy Cline's 'Crazy' plays softly in the background..."

Losing his cool a bit, and nearly shooting Ilaney during a helicopter crash, Pool is still able to get them out of it. (How? "Come on...they're A.I.M.") On the last page of the issue, we find Pool has divulged all of this, under hypnosis, to his psychiatrist...Dr. Bong?

In the last panel, there's a picture of Howard the Duck, with darts thrown at it: if I'm not mistaken, Dr Bong hadn't appeared in a comic for about twenty years, since Howard the Duck #31 in 1979! Ooh, no, take that back: it had only been ten years, since 1989's She-Hulk #5! A deep cut: I was only vaguely aware of the character from old Bullpen Bulletin mentions. Hmm, Bong apparently wasn't a psychologist before this appearance, either. Weird. Still, this was at the time a high-water point in Deadpool's insanity, and while he would get better (through the magic of sucker-punching Kitty Pryde and getting multiple-stabbed by Wolverine) he would get waaaaay crazier down the road, too.

I wish I could say I picked this one with the bunny for Easter, like I plan ahead here. Get some chocolate bunnies and have a good weekend!
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