Friday, April 28, 2017

Today, the role of the Controller will be played by Davros.

That big, intimidating exoskeleton suit he used to wear was cooler, but maybe not comfortable for day-to-day use. Plus, it gives him another look, in today's book: from 1994, Iron Man Annual #15, written by Len Kaminski, featuring "Minds in Collision" Pencils by Gene Colan, inks by Al Williamson; and "Wargame" Pencils by Mark Bright, inks by Kevin Yates.

The Controller was one of Iron Man's older foes, debuting back in 1969's Iron Man #12; and had actually worked for Thanos at one point. He also usually wore an exo-suit, since due to childhood illnesses and being caught in multiple explosions, he was in pretty bad shape and not especially mobile. The exo-suit made him look more physically threatening, but he was more of a mental opponent, using his mind-control technology on an army of slaves, many of which were seemingly harmless civilians that he could turn at any moment. Like the slave currently waving a gun around Tony Stark's office. Although Iron Man stops him, Tony can't figure out what was wrong with him, since while the slave acted like he was being controlled by the Controller, he didn't have any surgical implants or tell-tale control discs stuck to him. How did the Controller do it? Outsourcing.

The Controller had long known, since his first appearance in fact, if he used his tech on someone with strong enough mental powers, he could then use those powers through his slave. Meanwhile, Tony has an idea how to infiltrate the Controller's base using a holographic disguise, although I'm not sure how he knows where it is. Putting that aside, Tony's plan fails instantly, since the Controller is aware of all his slaves and knew he wasn't one, and Tony catches a beating from cybernetic drones. The Controller starts turning up the control-juice to break Tony, who had at least some resistance thanks to the artificial nervous system he had at the time. The Controller goes too far and blows a circuit: namely, his psionic slave Sarah, who turns into a rage of energy calling herself Mindstorm.

Lashing out, Mindstorm forces Tony and the Controller to mentally relive each other's lives, which probably wasn't a picnic for Tony, but the Controller describes it as "the perfect platonic ideal of torture." That may be laying it on a bit thick, but while the Controller begs for the release of death, Tony blasts the generator, cutting out Mindstorm's power, and she dissipates. And the Controller is left in control of nothing, not even himself: he appears to have stroked out, and is left in a vegetative state, aware but unable to move.

I kind of thought Controller might appear in the second feature as well, in his traditional exo-suit; since Tony fights a number of his classic a holographic simulation. That of course goes awry when the safety interlocks fail--who could have ever foreseen such an occurrence? It does give M.D. Bright an excuse to draw a ton of villains, from traditional punching bags the Blizzard and Whiplash, to a bunch of armored baddies like Iron Monger and Firepower, to end of level bosses like Ultimo and Fin Fang Foom! Tony has to link himself into the computer to stop it, and finds external sabotage, setting up the next issue of the regular series.
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Thursday, April 27, 2017

I was looking for a specific comic, didn't find it, came up with this instead. Approximately 70% of the posts on this blog could start this way, but this is a good one: from 1981, Marvel Two-In-One #82, "The Fatal Effects of Virus X!" Written by Tom Defalco, pencils by Ron Wilson, inks by Chic Stone.

I just read the issue prior, #81, recently; featuring the Sub-Mariner. While a depressed Ben walks the streets of New York, feeling dejected since Alicia was moving out of the Baxter Building; Namor is taking a break in the city to remember the peaceful, relaxing time he spent there as an amnesiac, homeless drunk. Ah, good times. (Seriously. The pressures of ruling have got him down, but he still acts here like his time in the Bowery was a lark.) Their plotlines intersect when they discover A.I.M. is sending giant synthoids to kidnap homeless people, for use in germ warfare experiments. While Namor rallies the homeless in an attempt to rescue an old friend; Ben is captured while saving a bum, and exposed to MODOK's Virus X. MODOK then flees with said virus, the homeless people turn on the "freak" Namor, who leaves in a depressed huff, while Ben staggers, the effects of the virus already taking hold...(Actually, Namor may have just split since it wasn't his name on the cover next issue; he had fulfilled his obligation there!)

Dazed, Ben trudges towards the Baxter Building--to be fair, Virus X did take his mind of his depression, it may have legit treatment uses. A multicultural street gang of three thugs see the Thing as an opportunity to make their reps, and attack; doing so ineffectually that Ben may not even realize they were there. Fortunately, he's "saved" (if he was in any danger) by the passing Captain America; and Cap goes easy on the thugs because they're young and frankly sad. At the Baxter Building, Reed begins work to diagnose Ben's condition, with the assistance of biochemist Bill Foster, better known as Giant-Man. Bill was dying of radiation poisoning, which may have been an open secret at that point: Reed and Ben probably knew, and Cap knows, although that may just be for purposes of exposition. A cranky Ben wakes up on the examination table, in a lot of pain, since he was mutating: as the cover puts it "It can't be! I'm ch-ch-changin'--becomin' UGLIER!" Ben rages for a moment, perhaps justifiably, before Cap and Reed calm him down. Cap actually plays the "Dead sidekick" card there: rough, but not really the time for that. (Not sure if it's intentional, but DeFalco seems to write Cap as really square.)

Needing some air, Ben takes off on his jet-cycle, joined by Giant-Man, who wanted to return the help Ben had given him. While Cap hits the streets, and numerous thugs, looking for a lead on A.I.M; Ben has returned to the launch site where he and the rest of the Fantastic Four stole a rocket and went into space, for a bit of flashback. (The launch site "spaceport" is abandoned, which is both depressing and probably accurate; but was the launch site in New York state? They couldn't have gone much further...) Bill gets a rare glimpse behind Ben's cheerful facade: he puts up a good front, but hates being the Thing. (Usually. That can vary somewhat.) When Cap finds an A.I.M. hideout, the three heroes take it down, then take a transporter to MODOK's secret iceberg base, where they are confronted by stacks of A.I.M. "beekeeper" thugs (in blue this issue, as opposed to their traditional yellow) and MODOK's new Thing-inspired synthoid. The latter gives Ben a hard time, since the Virus was taking its toll, but he rallies and punches it out of the base, causing the ocean to come flooding in.

Giant-Man fights to a research lab for the cure, which an A.I.M. tech explains works by making the body temporarily immune to radiation. Bill's ears perk up a bit at that, since something like that might be able to cure him as well. While he's able to get it back, while the heroes use the teleporter to escape, a falling chunk of debris damages the "hypo-gun," leaving only enough for one dose. Ben had lost consciousness, but it's to Bill's credit that he barely hesitates to give Ben the dose, saving him and returning him to his usual Thing look. Giant-Man knows the world needs the Thing, "not second-rate Giant-Man!" He does a very sad, very end of an Incredible Hulk episode walk away; and the issue ends without the traditional "Fin" or next issue blurb or anything. (Flipping through Essential Marvel Two-in-One #4; that cold-ending was done at least sometimes: it was for the Ghost Rider story in #80, where Johnny Blaze does something similar except on a motorcycle; but still affecting.)

We've had the tag "Another one in the loss column for Giant-Man" for years here, partly because of this plotline: he would be cured, but lose his powers, in MTIO #85. Bill would get his powers back years later, in 1988's West Coast Avengers Annual #3, but didn't stay in that title long at all. Then Mark Millar would try to make him, as Goliath, seem like a big name, as to make killing him off in Civil War #4 a big deal: it doesn't work, the other reason for the tag here. This issue makes you feel more for Giant-Man; he deserved, if not obscurity, at least better than a plot-point death.

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Wednesday, April 26, 2017


What do I actually know about Angela? Just about nothing! Almost totally winging it, based on mentions in articles and stuff I've overheard, rather than anything I've actually read! Honestly, the only comics I've ever read with her are probably random later issues of Guardians of the Galaxy, and those weren't issues with her in the spotlight, so she could basically be Player-2 Gamora.
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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

They don't call him "Mr. Action" because of the ladies.

In Batman comics, occasionally you might suspect Commissioner Gordon of actually knowing Batman's secret identity. I've always been pretty sure Robbie Robertson at the Daily Bugle knew Peter Parker was Spider-Man. And Jimmy Olsen...well, he's narrowing it down, at least. From 1997, Adventures of Superman #550, "The Secret" Written by Karl Kesel, pencils by Stuart Immonen, inks by Jose Marzan Jr.

The former Daily Planet copyboy is moving up the ranks, with a prime-time special scheduled at his old newpaper's competitors, GBS. And he's got a bombshell to drop: Superman's secret identity. In-universe, most people didn't think Superman had a secret identity, but after seeing three people escape a burning building, it all fell into place for Jimmy. Superman was either publisher (and goatee enthusiast) Collin Thornton, former pro quarterback Johnny Dakota, or reporter Clark Kent. Jimmy also seems to have convinced himself that outing Supes would be doing him a favor: since this was the electric-blue era of Superman, he didn't have old powers like super-hearing; and Jimmy thinks it might be easier for people to come to him for help.

Jimmy and GBS hadn't announced what their big reveal on Superman was going to be, and while Cat Grant wonders if this isn't a terrible idea, her boss Mr. Zeller pushes it. Partly, because his boss pushes it: Lex Luthor. He has a court date regarding involvement with the Superman Revenge Squad (the name's a throwback to old Supes stories, this particular incarnation was nowhere near as wacky) and knows Jimmy's special will draw press and attention off of him. That's how it works today, too...

Jimmy invites Lois and Clark to his live special, but they weren't expecting to be on camera. Lois, having no patience for this brand of "gotcha" journalism, gives him an earful live on-air, while Clark seems far more relaxed: he wants to see where Jimmy was going with this. Clark patiently reminds Jimmy, that Superman not only does the right thing, but takes responsibility for his actions, and if anyone would be hurt, he'll do something else, no matter the cost. Looking like a deer in the headlights, Jimmy realizes he messed up, bad. After a little speech about how Superman is just a guy, Jimmy reveals, Superman's secret identity is, in reality...

While Lex has a laugh at being proved right--he never thought Superman had a secret identity--Jimmy is fired, with cause. Lois and Clark are proud of him, though, and offer to put in a word for him at the Planet, but Jimmy plans on taking a break. Still, he knows he's taking valuable lessons from his time at GBS...and a videotape with Superman's secret identity, Collin Thornton--oh, goddamnit Jimmy.

Meanwhile, in the back-up feature "The Touch of Evil" (Story by Karl Kesel, layouts by Tom Grummett, finishes by Denis Rodier.) after a scuffle with Guardian, cloned mobster Boss Moxie catches the tailend of Jimmy's special, and figures Jimmy does know, but backed down; and decides to get the answer out of him. Setting up another few weeks of comics!
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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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