Friday, June 24, 2016

I kind of thought this would be one of those "I hit you, you hit the ground" fights.

From 1994, G.I. Joe #150, "Slam Dance in the Cyber Castle!" Written by Larry Hama, pencils by Phil Gosier, inks by Crusher Wallace. The cover proclaims "The Battle You demanded...Snake-Eyes vs. Cobra Commander!" If readers were demanding it, they must have been ready to see Snake-Eyes beat Cobra Commander's mask in, since the Commander was by no means a match for the Joes' premier commando. By this point, Snake-Eyes was like Conan, or full-prep time Batman: pretty much unstoppable.

Still, CC has done his best to level the playing field, by which I mean stack the deck in his favor: Storm Shadow tries a run at him, and gets utterly crushed by the combination of "Dr. Mindbender's Cyber-Space Matrix" and the Commander's new, improved, sword-proof battle armor. (He had another armored suit earlier in the series, this one looks like he's wearing his old hood and uniform over it.) The matrix used holograms and real traps, while the new armor was packed with weapons...yeah, Snake-Eyes still rolls over that without breaking stride.

On the other hand, Dr. Mindbender has had time to brainwash Cobra Commander's son Billy, Storm Shadow, and the Baroness; putting them all on Cobra's side again; the next issue blurb implies Snake-Eyes might not have such an easy time with them! Also, Snake-Eyes spends much of this issue--and possibly the rest of the series--without his iconic mask. His face was scarred up, but not like Jonah Hex level or Deadpool or anything, so I could see why not try a bit without it; but the mask was cooler. There were five issues left from Marvel, and I'm thinking the distribution from here out might make those tough to stumble across.

Bonus: this issue also featured some pin-ups, including one you may have seen, a Sal Buscema one of Cobra Commander kicking a dog.

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Thursday, June 23, 2016

I feel like someone in the X-editorial offices was listening to SERIOUS metal in 2001.

Dan Abnett and his old writing partner Andy Lanning are guys whose names I've seen on a number of books over the years: not to the point where I'm signing up in advance for their work, but I usually enjoy whatever I get from them. And they have a pretty massive list of credits, like Annihilation: Nova, Legion of Super-Heroes or old Punisher comics or a pretty great issue of Creeper or Star Trek: Early Voyages. Today, they've got my favorite character, in a weird place, figuratively and literally; in 2001's X-Men: Magik #3, "The Fall of Hades" Written by Abnett and Lanning, art by Liam McCormack Sharp.

Previously, Magik had been Illyana Rasputin, and well, she is again today as well. But she was de-powered, de-aged, and then dead for some time in between; and I suspect Marvel didn't want the trademark on the name to go without a fight. They could've made longtime supporting character Stevie Hunter the new Magik if they'd wanted probably wouldn't have made any more or less sense, honestly. Instead, longtime supporting character Amanda Sefton gets the title, the Soulsword, the stewardship of Limbo. (Not the same Limbo Rom's neutralizer sent the Dire Wraiths...although I don't know why.) The little origin box mentions "Black Sun," which was a pretty dire crossover from 2000; guess D&A got the task of seeing what they could do with it.

This was during the stretch where Nightcrawler was training to be a priest (a plotline I hate with all the bile in my heart) so why not put him in a leather vest so he can hang out with his ex in hell? Or hell-adjacent Limbo, I suppose. Y'know, it was probably better than whatever they had him doing in the regular X-titles, so I'd just go with it. Most of this issue was Amanda rescuing Mephisto from being destroyed by the same unnameable force that had already destroyed Muspelheim, as well as Dormammu and Nightmare's realms. All of Marvel's assorted hells had been splintered off into their own long ago; and to fight the newcomers, Amanda gets them to agree to unite. One big, happy, hell; as it were. But this may have played into the enemy's hands, as Kurt discovers one of Amanda's aides had been replaced by longtime supporting demon S'ym! If you don't recognize the name, S'ym was one of Illyana's main demons, played a big part in Inferno, and checks a box for X-Men fans.

The art is...interesting. This had to be pretty early going for some of the computer stuff that's going on here. And now I need to find my copies so I can see how this ended. Amanda would no longer be Magik well before she was killed in Claremont's Nightcrawler since Illyana's taken the name back, but I still like Amanda better.

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Wednesday, June 22, 2016


That's brief as in briefing, not brief as in short; today's strip is wordy as hell.

I really, really wanted to swipe some proper art for the Rigellian ship, but held off. Pity. There's a Carmine Infantino bulk cruiser from an obscure Star Wars comic that might have worked.
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Tuesday, June 21, 2016

I don't know why Simon is rocking the Cable/Longshot one glowy eye, though.

Even though I think the first two issues were stronger than the rest of the series, Infinity War remains one of my favorite Marvel crossovers. So much so, that I'm still picking up tie-in issues for it twenty-some years later; albeit out of the severely discounted bin. From 1992, Wonder Man #14, "Infinite Memory" Written by Gerard Jones, pencils by Jeff Johnson, inks by Dan Panosian.

One of the things I love about the Infinity War tie-ins, is seeing the events from the main series through the lens of the hero of the tie-in. Before this issue, I could barely have confirmed Wonder Man was in Infinity War--I actually had to go back through the tag, and sure enough, he's in the background or the group shots more than once. But I definitely didn't think he did much more than throw a punch or two, and yeah, in the main story he probably didn't. Here, though, we see what those punches, and the whole experience, meant for Simon Williams. More than you'd think!

Along with being a long-time Avenger with powers near the level of Thor or Hercules, Simon Williams also wanted to be an actor in Hollywood. Which makes it seem like he was acting the role of invulnerable flying brick--in the regular title, Wonder Man seemed fine--while up close in this issue the cracks are far more apparent. His ionic powers had been erratic, seemingly affected by his moods, which were also erratic. Simon also seemed to wonder (so to speak) if he was still human, or something less, since gaining his powers and returning from the dead; while at the same time feeling all-too-human remorse over his past. His encounter with an Infinity Doppelganger earlier has him questioning, is he really Simon Williams, or just energy in his shape pretending to be human?

Simon even drags Wanda, the Scarlet Witch, away to ask her about it. In a panicked, dickish fashion.

Somehow, the next panel isn't Wanda bitch-slapping Simon; but I kind of have the feeling she was less a character in this series than a crush-object, a goal. This was Simon's title, not hers.

With the bulk of the crossover moving along without him, all Simon can do is resolve to settle things with the Magus and his Doppelganger. Elsewhere, a group of people exposed to ionic energy are starting to come together; a subplot that I know would come back years later in Kurt Busiek's Avengers. This wasn't my favorite IW crossover--and how weird would that be, if it had been, so many years later? But there was more going on with Wonder Man than you would guess at first glance.

An unexpected bonus: Lorna Dane, Polaris, in her X-Factor uniform from my favorite run of that character: when she seemed settled and ready for full-time super-heroing, without being mind-controlled or obsessed with Havok or bulimic or any other nonsense. I wouldn't have considered that she and Simon would be on a first-name basis, unless they were introduced during this event. Simon has a moment of guilt when he worries how he would feel if Warlock killed Lorna, or Storm, or Wanda...they aren't exactly helpless little flowers, man. It would be fun to write Simon being interested in Lorna, then finding out her relation to Wanda: that would generate some drama, I think.
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Monday, June 20, 2016

Got this issue (or another copy of it!) for 12 cents, and even on that sliding's still not very good. From 1991, Avengers Annual #20, "A Storm in Subterranea part 1: Of Moles and Mutates" Story by Roy and Dann Thomas, pencils by Kevin West, inks by Fred Fredericks.

This issue's lineup of Avengers seems odd to me, like it was the roster for about 20 minutes in the 90's: maybe it was longer, but I don't recollect seeing this particular grouping again! It's also surprisingly overpowered for an Avengers roster. Hercules had even been powered down at that point, but the Eternal Sersi more than makes up for that. There was also Quasar, in his masked costume: if you read his comic, that outfit was a retroactive addition to the timeline; but it was also pretty short-lived. There's the (white, emotionless) Vision; She-Hulk, probationary members Sandman and Rage; and Captain America and Black Widow. And the Widow has a white costume, for some reason. (Coloring failure? I thought her outfit at the time was more dark grey in the coloring of the era.)

This was the kickoff for Subterranean Wars, and tries to set up Brutus as the big-bad, since he has the usual underground rulers Tyrannus, Grotesk, and the Mole Man on the run. Instead, the effect is more like "Oooh, someone scared the Mole Man? Why, they must be hardcore!" Actually, as far as guys living underground, Moley seems pretty reasonable: after getting trounced repeatedly trying to take over the world, he's somewhat resigned to keeping his little Moloid subjects and assorted Kirby monsters safe. He's certainly more personable than Tyrannus or Grotesk. (That might even be Grotesk II, I think the original died hassling the original X-Men?)

While Cap and Widow tag out, ostensibly to get the Fantastic Four in on this thing (Spoiler: they don't!) the rest of the Avengers are somehow captured, where they would spend most of the rest of this crossover. Previously, we saw Namor was about to try and get them, but got sidetracked. Oof, we're actually over halfway through this thing: we took a peek at the Hulk's chapter years ago, without mentioning Subterranean Wars at all...time to update the tags!
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Friday, June 17, 2016

He used to do friendly little Speedball stories, before Ellis and Ennis got ahold of him.

From 1993, New Warriors Annual #3, "Tough Choices" Story and art by Darick Robertson, inks by Ian Akin. In the lead story, Speedball exclaims how great it is to have more control over his powers, and not just be bouncing around "like a complete feeb!" That way lies Penance, you know...I rather prefer Speedball as well-meaning yet somewhat hapless, so it's weird to see him as somewhat competent; but that would get rolled back eventually.

Robertson would go on to do Transmetropolitan, the Boys, and Ballistic; so this is pretty early work for him. In "Tough Choices" Speedball has to stand up to a bully without blowing his secret identity, which means turning the other cheek no matter how much he'd rather not. In the next year's annual's back-up, he seems to have given up on that, and resolves to give his bully an Speedball!

From 1994, New Warriors Annual #4, "Two Sides" Written by Robertson, pencils by Stephen (J. B.) Jones, inks by Ron Boyd. Following his bully home, Speedball eventually realizes his bully lives in the bad end of town, and is getting a heaping helping of abuse from his father. I think Speedball's still considering beating his ass until he sees him bawling.

Just recently acquiring these again (EDIT: these two might have been new to me...) I read both these annuals and one of their appearances in the Kings of Pain crossover; all three had a ton of guest-stars. And the Warriors were a fair-sized team, so they were crowded books!
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Thursday, June 16, 2016

Ah, nothing like a satisfying conclusion. No, I mean nothing like a satisfying conclusion.

I had actually intended to re-read this series one of these days; but found a cheap copy of the last one. And now I can't remember if this was intended as a mini-series from the start, or if the writing was on the wall and the bloom off the rose by this point...From 2003, Battle of the Planets #12, "Destroy All Monsters, part 2" Written by Munier Sharrieff, pencils by Wilson Tortosa, cover and art direction by Alex Ross.

This was of course based on the classic cartoon, which was a dubbed and edited version of the original Japanese Kagaku Ninja Tai Gatchaman. Five teenaged ninjas with bird costumes and individualized weapons and vehicles are earth's only real line of defense against the invading alien Galactor. That's breaking it down to its most basic elements, but the series is still much beloved to this day by old men who watched it in the 70's fans and influenced numerous other series: any Power Rangers thing you see with five team members probably descended from here.

The title page proclaims "The Explosive Conclusion!" and there is a good chunk of action to be had here; but there's also a lot of open plot threads. More than just leaving the door open for a sequel, like followup was all but certain. And yet I think this was about it, and I'm not sure why: it may have gotten the ball rolling for more profitable DVD sales (I bought the box set with Jason figure advertised in the back!) or the license cost may have been more than Top Cow was willing to pay. I didn't think this was a bad little series, since I fall squarely into the target audience for it, but wish there was a bit more closure here.

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