Friday, December 31, 2010

"The End" Week: Thor #502!

OK, one quick one while I'm waiting for my camera to charge: Thor #502, "Putting on the Bear Shirt" Written by William Messner-Loebs, pencils by Mike Deodato Jr, and inks by Deodato Studios. Thor was just about to wrap up, during the Onslaught crossover, and there wouldn't be a new Thor book for some time to come.

Onslaught had defeated the Avengers, X-Men, and Fantastic Four; and had control of New York City. With spare-Thor Red Norvell (and don't ask where he came from, I think it had been well over two-hundred issues since he last appeared, and Red would show up as 'Thor' in Incredible Hulk #422; with the Hulk having no idea why either) Thor thinks he's become too human, and is trying to "invoke a berserker's rage" to better fight Onslaught, but can't. Meanwhile, Odin's a useless drunk, and Amora the Enchantress is still stuck in Asgard with no memory.

Reminiscing with Red, Thor tells him a story about his childhood with Loki; with Loki in blonde drag as they trick a band of frost giants and steal their horses and booty. Thor says he was never happier, which makes his current maudlin state over Loki's death more understandable: I always just remember the many, many, many times Loki dicked him over...

The frogs (from Thor #364) stop by to say goodbye, and so does Jane Foster. The one-time nurse for Thor's old alter ego Dr. Donald Blake has been treating the wounded, and when Red finds a wounded man, Jane and Thor perform emergency surgery. Afterwards, Thor realizes if he had been able to go berserker, he wouldn't have been able to save that man's life.

Next, Hela appears to Thor and Red; without speaking, she offers Thor an out: go with her, become her Prince of the Dead. Or, he dies tomorrow. He thinks it over, or at least pretends to, but passes. As they get some rest for the night, Red asks Thor if he would do anything differently. "Not a thing."

We've seen a few of these Onslaught issues before, and I have to wonder if at the time, it seemed like they were really building him up: everyone in this issue seems convinced Onslaught is the biggest of big bads ever. Bigger than Galactus, bigger than Thanos, bigger than the Beyonder...yeah, not really.

Read more!

"The End" Week: Force Works #22!

Did I load this upside down?  Eh.
We've been lucky on these last issues, that a lot of the creators and characters involved went on to bigger and better things. Case in point: Force Works #22, "Pain Threshold" Written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, who would go on to (among other things) Marvel's recent cosmic books like The Thanos Imperative; with pencils by Andrew Wildman, who would have a pretty good pile of Marvel credits himself. (Inks by Rey Garcia.)

With Tony Stark dead/replaced with a younger version, the Force Works team is fading fast, down to just Scarlet Witch, Century, USAgent, Spider-Woman, and some support staff. When a captured "time-gate" opens a portal to a dying continuum, they have to deal with alternate versions of Ultron and Simon Williams that escaped from a world doomed by Kang. I mention this in case you've ever been curious about a book where Ultron, any version of Ultron, would say "Don't get your panties in a bunch!"

Circumstantially, this issue reminds me a lot of the 90's Avengers cartoon, the one without Captain America, Iron Man, or Thor in leading roles. If Marvel ever opts for a Force Works movie...brace yourself for the imminent collapse.
Read more!

"The End" Week: Claw the Unconquered #12!

We were just talking about him the other day, but now we'll check out his last issue: Claw the Unconquered #12, "The Slayer" Written by David Michelinie, pencils by Keith Giffen, inks by Bob Layton.

Riding along, minding his own business, Claw stumbles into a border war between Boske and Kyfirth, getting attacked by a horde of Boskians. Claw slaughters the hell out of them, until getting his sword stuck in a corpse. A rider with a lance has Claw at his mercy, but finds it "unjust to skewer you like a snared rabbit!" and spares him.

Mercenaries for the Kyfirthians are cleaning up the battlefield, at least the ears: they get fifty gold pieces for every left ear they bring in. One tries to backstab Claw, but his demon hand saves him without Claw even looking.

Later, the remaining mercenaries drug Claw in an attempt to steal his metal gauntlet; not realizing it didn't protect him, the demon hand within did. Terrified, they flee with the gauntlet; and Claw decides not to go after them, as he's tired of the gauntlet's hold over him...

Claw rides to the Kyfirthians, and offers to teach swordsmanship. As a test, he faces the three best students, and smears them, unintentionally maiming one. Later, at dinner, the cook calls him on that, and Claw nearly twists his face off. Warned to cool it, Claw realizes the gauntlet was restricting the influence of his demon hand. (Interestingly, most seeing his hand assume him to be maimed himself, that he couldn't have two good hands.)

Claw is ordered to take his trainees on a patrol, which leads to battle. He then goes berserker, killing anyone in his path; and most of his trainees perhaps wisely run away. The last warrior, the same that spared Claw earlier, surrenders; but Claw guts him just the same. His dying words accuse Claw of having no honor, but Claw doesn't hear, doesn't even realize whom he killed, he just knows the hand has him.
'Next issue on sale during the second week of July'? No.
Reaching his breaking point, Claw finds a handy (as it were...) axe, and amputates the demon hand. The issue ends with Claw cauterizing his wound...and weeping.

Of course, like we said before, this may have been Claw's last issue, but his storyline wasn't quite through: he would get a little resolution in the pages of Warlord. Sadly, it would be with a different creative crew, but the effort to wrap things up has to be appreciated; and Claw's last story (for the time being) had the coolass title "Hands Across the Hells." In fact, I read it long before I ever realized Claw had his own book; I had thought it was the beginning of his story, not the end.

This comic had to be just before Giffen became the artist for Legion of Super-Heroes, and his art style has changed over the years, but it's still nice work. Michelinie would also go on to a ton of other books, in particular Iron Man with the inker here, Bob Layton. And I've been a fan of Layton's since his first Hercules mini-series.

We'll have at least one more "The End" post later today, maybe more if I get cracking! But I kinda need to finish tomorrow's post...
Read more!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

"The End" Week: Blood of the Demon #17!

I don't mention him often, but I usually enjoy John Byrne's work. Sometimes he seems a bit crabby, but then again, maybe he has reason to be. In recent years, Byrne did a few books for DC Comics: Doom Patrol, which has since been retconned. The All-New Atom, who has since been killed. And Blood of the Demon, which wasn't just retconned, it looks like Byrne pushed the button himself.

The story opens with a sunglasses-wearing, and oddly similar, couple in a diner, trying to put together recent events. Specifically, what Etrigan had done to them. And they start with three Etrigans: the original, one from the past possessed by the Lord of the Damned, and the spirit of the past version of Etrigan stuck in the body of said Lord. As the Demon's human allies Harry Matthews (who, I believe was turned by devils into a sentient seat cushion at one point, but has since gotten better) and inspector Jakob Kurtzberg (dur, Jack Kirby, the Demon's creator) watch, the three Etrigans have it out. After the Lord knocks out his old body, the 'good' version, our hero, stabs and kills 'himself.' The Etrigan in the Lord's body then begins to go power-mad, but burns himself out, still linked to the Lord's mind.

But the burnout catches the tower on fire, and Etrigan grabs his friends and runs, lamenting "how I wish you humans were less vulnerable to a few mere flames!" After their escape, however, the Demon fades and disappears.

Meanwhile, in Gotham City, the Demon's old friends Randu and Anjeli Singh are confronted by the mysterious sunglasses couple. They want to grant Anjeli's wish, but Randu warns of the consequences. Anjeli is a step ahead of them all, however: her wish brought the Demon there. Etrigan recognizes the couple as 'Wishmongers,' and forces them to grant his wish: Matthews and the Singhs are restored and made happy, in lives without Etrigan. Jason Blood is once again a paranormal investigator, but "ignorant of his own demonic legacy." And all of the toys...are back in their boxes.

The Wishmongers aren't quite as deus ex machina as they sound here: they had been causing trouble for a few issues prior, and the wishes came at the traditional terrible cost or whatever. Eh, still not as dumb an explanation as Superboy-punch.

From Blood of the Demon #17, "I Wish I Might..." Plot and pencils by John Byrne, script by Will Pfeifer, inks by Dan Green.
Read more!

"The End" Week: Stormwatch #50!

I dunno.  Mail?
This time, a 'last issue' that has the ad for the new number one right at the end of the story. "Volume Two," sure, but straight-up the same book: Stormwatch #50, "Change or Die, part three" Written by Warren Ellis, pencils by Tom Raney, inks by Randy Elliot.

Superman-analog the High, and his team of utopian-minded superhumans, are planning on saving the world by any means necessary. "Saving the world is no good, if we leave it the way we found it," the High explains. The Engineer and the Doctor--predecessors of those that would follow in the Authority--will use their nanotech and their magic, to eliminate any want. The Eidolon, a seemingly deathless goth crybaby, works to destroy any organized religion, proclaiming he's been there and there's nothing after death. And they're not alone.

But, one man's utopia is another's "vandalism on a monstrous scale." Stormwatch's head, Weatherman Henry Bendix will stop at nothing to prevent what he sees as the utter destruction of human society; and sends the whole of the UN's superhuman force "on a killing mission." Although some of the team had fought the High before, not all of them are on board with execution-style killing.

And one, Jenny Sparks, the Spirit of the 20th century, has been trying to talk to Bendix, since she knows the High. Sparks hasn't seen him for years, since her approach to superheroing was "deal with the horror as it comes," and the High wanted more. Bendix knew that, since Rose Tattoo, seemingly mute assassin, told him. Back when Bendix had been a sci-fi superhero, he met Rose when she worked for the High; the ageless Rose is described as "the spirit of murder."
Oddly, Rose had more costume five minutes ago...and this scene is why the Crow wouldn't be in the JLA.
Invading the High's giant underground complex, some of Stormwatch talks to some of the High's team; the more reasonable ones. They planned on giving humanity a gift, with which they could do what they wanted. Others on the team, however, planned on elevating humanity to an interesting level to screw around with; or had no higher motivation than killing criminals.

After Bendix has a captured woman killed, Sparks confronts him. Bendix wants change, but not that kind of change. More control. Less freedom. This being a superhero comic, it turns into a brawl. Bendix powers down Stormwatch's satellite HQ, to keep Sparks from using it's electricity; but that has the unintentional and grotesque effect of killing a number of prisoners in cryogenic freeze. Sparks tries to kill Bendix mid-transport, but isn't positive she succeeded.

The fight with the High's team escalates, with several dead, and Jack Hawksmoor kills Rose Tattoo after she casually murders a hero. But, it comes to a sudden end, when Bendix's airstrike takes out all of the High's remaining teammates; and the nanotechnology that would've given the world everything. Enraged, the High streaks into space, intent on destroying Bendix, not realizing that 1. Bendix was gone. 2. His old friend Jenny Sparks was on the satellite, along with hundreds of U.N. support crew. 3. The Stormwatch satellite had a "storm door," a really good force field. The High vaporizes upon impact, killed instantly. Volume 1 of Stormwatch closes with a crying Sparks putting her cigarette out on her fetish/badge.
If Jenny cries, you know things are messed up.
Helluva book. Ellis does a great job of presenting ideas that would inevitably turn up when dealing with superhumans. And this is a pretty lean issue, even extra-sized; a lot of the ideas from this three-parter could use more space. The Eidolon, whom I believe was an analogue version of the Crow, could've been expounded upon: he does a little denouncing of religion, cries a bit, and is killed. Ellis also did the analogue/pastiche thing in Planetary; and like Busiek in Astro City, he doesn't always do it, but does it very well. I thought Smoke, a Shadow-esque vigilante, was more interesting than the regular model; and probably would've read a book with him, Blind, Wish, and the others.

Likewise, I don't know if Bendix's descent of crazy works or not: in previous issues, he seemed to still be walking a fine line between pragmatic dick and rabid dog. (I liked a moment from a previous issue, when Bendix pulls a murderer from the aforementioned cryogenic prison for questioning, shoots him in the face, then puts him back in the freeze to finish his sentence.)

Stormwatch hadn't quite gotten into the "widescreen" that would be the trademark of the Authority, but Tom Raney and Randy Elliot nail the art here. They also have three pages of flashbacks done in retro styles that work very well. And I think all of "Change or Die" was presented with a black-and-white story page on the inside front cover; which makes it feel like an extra page, and gives it a sense of urgency, like things are happening quickly.
Are we done? Time for a drink!
Hmm. Looks like I thought this was going to be the closer in our festival of cancellation, but it's still rolling! More today and tomorrow!

Read more!

"The End" week: JLA #125!

Envy is a Skrull, apparently.
While most bloggers are working on their year-end "Best of" whatever list, or sharpening their knives for their "Worst of," I continue to plow through the pile of last issues I have. That seems fair, and I wouldn't have it any other way. This time: JLA #125, "Mind Field" Written by Bob Harras, pencils by Tom Derenick, inks by Dan Green.

The JLA had been spiralling for the last ten issues (possibly longer, depending on who you ask or what sales numbers you look at) since the fallout from Identity Crisis. Batman had realized that Zatanna had mindwiped him, with several of the other Leaguers being complicit in the act.

By this issue, this isn't the JLA; it's just Batman, Green Arrow, Black Canary, and Manitou Dawn. (Wife of deceased Leaguer Manitou Raven. Don't remember him, either? Sigh...he was Joe Kelly's callback to Apache Chief...and we're getting off topic, even for here.) Fighting old-school Justice League villain the Key, and pushed by the manifestation of the Seven Deadly Sins' Envy, the heroes spend most of the issue hitting each other instead.

Batman is pissed about the mindwiping, and will not just let it go; while Ollie is mad at Batman for being mad, and wrecking the JLA. And the girls are fighting over Ollie...yeah, that seems fair. To give him a little benefit of the doubt, I'm not positive Ollie was seeing Canary at the time, Dawn was definitely still married when they got together. Ollie, Ollie, Ollie...
Dawn seems to have the same handprint facepaint Echo would later have. Weird.
After the Key is defeated, Dawn explains his telepathy is wide open, with no shields or blockers to protect his mind from the thoughts of everyone. A glowering Batman wants to send him to Arkham, which seems like it would make him a worse menace, as well as being brutally inhumane. Instead, Dawn exiles the Key to an empty astral plane dimension, where his thoughts will be his own, and the Key seems content.

Aaaaaand...that might be the last appearance of Dawn, who goes into a cave, where she may remain to this day. (To the best of my knowledge, and hopefully Ollie didn't knock her up. Geez, Hal at least keeps it out of the League.) The rest of the League, what's left of it, goes their separate ways, although Dawn, and the readers, and DC, all know the Justice League will be back some day.
'I may have needed Dawn and Dinah, but I don't need you, Ollie.'
Ugh. I remember really enjoying Identity Crisis up until the end; but good grief it messed up the DCU. I don't know how long it took for Batman to stop moaning about being mindwiped, but it seemed like that storyline went forever. And while this issue isn't great, I think it continues a proud Justice League tradition of going out like losers in their last issue. Justice League of America #261 featured the end of the Detroit League; Justice League America #113 ended the book best known for the 'bwah-ha-ha' days with League luminaries like Blue Devil, Obsidian, and Nuklon about to be sent to the unemployment line. Well, JLA had a pretty good run: 125 issues, maybe 65, 70 pretty good ones? That's not too shabby. (I never read the short Kurt Busiek run; and he seems made for the book, but he was out about the time the Identity Crisis business started.) Read more!

"The End" Week: Bloodhound #10!

Do you remember, when Family Guy returned from cancellation, and Peter rattles off a bloody ream of cancelled Fox shows? Today's book is like one of those cancelled shows: you're vaguely aware of it coming and just as suddenly going. Maybe you liked it, maybe you watched one episode, maybe you only barely remember seeing it listed. Today we've got from 2005, Bloodhound #10, "Ashes to Ashes" Written by Dan Jolley, pencils by Leonard Kirk, inks by Robin Riggs.

This is one from the quarter bin, and I haven't read the prior issues, and there's not a lot of recap either. By this point, they may have figured you were reading it, or you won't. Clevenger (the Bloodhound) and Agent Saffron Bell (I'm not sure agent of what) are investigating mysterious arson, created by a metagene-positive abused boy. The mention of the metagene and of Gotham City later in the issue, tell you it's set in the DC Universe; but I'm not sure if any of the other characters appeared prior.
Clev was apparently unpowered, but those look like mighty severe burns...
DC gave it a shot, but I think there were more than a few books around that time that came and went. Well, they tried, and I think Jolley and Kirk both went on to a batch of other work.
Read more!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

"The End" Week: Agent X #15!

'Dooms codpiece is full of respect' is the best line you'll read today, I reckon.
Although it was rumored that Deadpool was changed to Agent X in an attempt to avoid paying royalties to Rob Liefeld, Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed debunked that one some time ago. Still, this was a cancellation that hurt at the time, and still stings a little now.

That said, this issue isn't quite as good as Gail Simone's previous two chapters in the conclusion of Agent X; since the preceding issues had the brain-dead (literally, at that time) Deadpool rediscovering his "winkie," his doppleganger Agent X first blowing Pool's brains out before trying to beat him to death, and a spirited discussion about magazines for dogs.

The conclusion is all Agent X and his crew, including Taskmaster, and Deadpool; in a final shoot-out against the telepathic assassin Black Swan. No, not Natalie Portman...although, I probably would've paid cash money for that.
Possibly the best Deadpool panel ever...maybe just behind 'my common sense is tingling.'
In the end, Agent X is if not himself, content with being "a corpse kept alive with a stolen healing factor." Although this issue features one of his most iconic panels, Deadpool is a little more nonsensical than usual here. (Of course, he seems relatively stable, compared to how he seems to be written now...) That could be because he just came back from the dead, or I suspect Simone may have actually been a little out of practice writing Wade: she does a better job on the rest of the cast.

Deadpool would go on to Cable & Deadpool, and Agent X would eventually make a couple of guest appearances there. I don't think writer Fabian Nicieza liked Agent X that much, though; since under his pen X would have his DNA altered by A.I.M. and end up with arthritis and chronic obesity...a shame, since I liked having him around as the Player 2 version of Deadpool.

From Agent X #15, "Deadpool Walkin', part three: A Means to an End" Gail Simone, 'eulogizer.' Alvin Lee and Udon, 'embalming artists.' Cory Petit, 'floral arrangements.'
Read more!

"The End" Week Addendum: I see dead comics, apparently...

This is only the second time I've done "The End" week specifically to look at last issues, but over the years and through that ever-popular happenstance I've hit a few other ones prior.
Lawdog #10
Morbius #32
Warlord #10 (The Bruce Jones series.)
Marc Spector: Moon Knight #60
Badger #70
La Cosa Nostroid IX (I may still do a longer post on that one someday.)
Avengers #402
Captain America #50
Star Trek: Early Voyages #17
Star Trek: Starfleet Academy #19
El Diablo #16 and Green Goblin #13, a double whammy!
Silver Surfer #18 (The Surfer's first last issue.)

Bloody hell, while some of those aren't full-on writeups, I think I've read more last issues than first issues for this blog. And I'm scratching the surface. Reckon I could do a week of Unknown Soldier, Doom Patrol, and Moon Knight alone. (Not counting limiteds, I know I have two last issues for each of those books! And they've had more!)

Of course, you may realize by now that comic book numbering is, at best, completely arbitrary. And some books are always going to sell about the same amount of copies, whether the number on the cover is #1, #97, #337, or #-π. Just a crapshoot on multiple levels; but that's to be expected around here.
Read more!

Why the hell did I shoot this on a green background?

GL Sinestro is in the background, behind Alan.
If I had to guess, I probably spent...maybe seven bucks on Green Lantern comics last year. Mostly issues of Blackest Night from the dollar bin; and maybe a quarter issue or two. And now I've spent about $43 on Green Lantern figures: the Wal-Mart exclusive box set, the also Wal-Mart exclusive DCUC Wave Golden Age GL (Alan Scott), and the DC Direct Justice League International G'Nort! (I thought G'Nort made entirely too many appearances in the 80's going into the 90's, but he's fun in small doses.)

My goal was not to pay full price for the box set, and while I succeeded, I think I got the very last one from the only Wal-Mart in town that had it! And they had a pretty good pile of 'em at one point, and I wonder how many sold at full price, and how many after Christmas at half-off. And how many are going to end up on eBay sometime this summer...or if I missed a pile of them somewhere. Alan was also marked down a bit.

The grey-haired Hal had a scrape or two, and I didn't care for Guy's hips; but still not bad. Alan had more stray paint scrapes on his cape, but not bad either. G'nort, however, has a few on his tail; and it is really tough to get it attached to him: the little hole on his back, is just small enough that it'll scrape the paint off the plug that goes in. And I think I'd forgotten G'nort even had a tail.

Poor G'nort is also shorted a power battery! For some reason, I'm almost positive his lantern was vaguely doghouse shaped. On the plus side, his mouth moves, which is just neat.

The only thing that would've improved this batch of purchases, would've been to get the new Kyle Rayner figure, since he might be the last GL I need. Ah, I say that, but I'd probably buy Stel given the chance. I doubt I'll get a lot of Sinestro Corps or Red Lanterns, but you never know.

G'nort was from my local Suncoast store, which is closing its doors. Although I haven't bought as much stuff from there in recent years, when I worked in the mall and got a discount there, I bought many the figure. I will be sorry to see them go, and wish their employees the best.
Read more!

"The End" Week: Silver Surfer #146!

Often, the final issue of a comic isn't as dramatic as all that: this may have been the last in a pretty lengthy run, but it's not like it was the end of the Silver Surfer. In fact, the letters page even has a teaser for the upcoming Galactus the Devourer mini-series. I liked that one. This issue, though...

Eh, it's pretty much fluff: Firelord, former herald of Galactus, and ostensibly a hero even though he's used as a villain in every other appearance, is chilling with the animals in the small nation of "Kakistia." Which is about to have their first nuclear bomb test...right where Firelord's sitting. (You would think they might clear out the bigger animals, but I'm more curious why the animals weren't really afraid of the guy with the head on fire.) Unharmed but pissed over the destruction, Firelord predictably starts wrecking up the country.

Meanwhile, the Silver Surfer is enjoying the sunrise (and other things, hey-o!) with his new girlfriend, Alicia Masters. The blind sculptress and former love of the Thing, there had been something between them probably ever since they first met in the original Galactus trilogy, and their relationship was my favorite part of the book at that time. Of course, it was back-pedaled later, because apparently some people can't stand the idea of Alicia not being with the Thing. Which is a load. (And it makes soooooo much more sense than Alicia and Johnny Storm, and I didn't even really have a problem with them as a couple, either.)
I really don't like it when the Surfer's board is smashed all willy-nilly, there.
As you'd expect, the Surfer ends up having to go take care of Firelord, first with his words, then blasting. Firelord smashes the Surfer's board; then the scientist in charge of the bomb test offers herself to take responsibility. The Surfer warns, if Firelord kills her, he and the heroes of earth won't stop until he's punished. Firelord seemingly incinerates her; but only "plants an image in her mind, Surfer--of the paradise her bomb destroyed!" The Surfer finds that a little drastic...but doesn't reverse it, either. Repairing his board, he muses to Alicia:

From Silver Surfer #146, "Fire in the Sky" (The cover title is "The Fury of Firelord!" which I believe is contractually obligated in every Firelord appearance.) Plot by Tom DeFalco, script by Glenn Greenberg, pencils by Denys Cowan, inks by John Floyd. Man, I've wanted to re-read the last year or two of the book; J.M. DeMatteis had some good issues there; but I think he was off the title before the end.

There's a Postal Service of Ownership statement in this one, line C of Total Paid and/or Requested Circulation averaged 46,142; with actual number of copies of single issue closest to filing date (around November 1998) being 43,567.
Read more!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

"The End" Week: Uncanny Origins #14!

Not a dramatic cancellation, but a book I'm sorry didn't stay for longer. GCD describes Uncanny Origins as "Marvel origin series done in animated style; 99 cent cover price." That pretty much sums it up; although there is something to be said for the hero selection: while opening with what I have to figure was the incredibly boring origin of Cyclops, later issues would feature more unusual characters like Firelord, Quicksilver, and the Black Cat. They were great, and I believe they were all closer to continuity than the recent Origins stuff Marvel's been doing. And I was positive I had scanned some from the Nightcrawler issue...

Anyway, this issue is a straight retelling of Iron Fist's origin; complete with second-person narrative captions. Didn't the old Iron Fist stories have a lot of that? A lot of 70's stuff did...While fighting the entire Wrecking Crew, Iron Fist has time to recollect his origin, before he gets around to kicking their asses. (Something to that effect happened in Iron Fist #11, but the Crew took hostages that time, which worked out a little better for them.)

A coherent, single-issue, under a buck comic anyone could enjoy, and it only made it fourteen issues? Oh, comics. This was from 1997, and I think it was around the time of Marvel's bankruptcy; when they would try something new and just as quickly back away from it. Also, some readers may have been put off by the animated style; which seems like something DC has always been able to sell better than Marvel.

From Uncanny Origins #14, "Fist of Iron, Heart of Fire!" Written by Len Wein, pencils by M.C. Wyman, and inks by Ralph Cabrera.

Read more!

"The End" Week: Marvel Universe #7!

Don't care much for the dad, but love his daughter...
I shouldn't like this one as much as I do: I don't have any great fondness for the characters here: Dr. Druid. Ulysses Bloodstone. Zawadi, a Wakandan warrior woman who may have not appeared before this storyline. (Yup!) Makkari, of the Eternals. (Actually, I did kinda like his appearances in Quasar.) And a couple of surprise reveals that make sense in the end.
I think I've seen that bit before, but in the Marvel Universe, Moby Dick is a helluva read.

But Roger Stern has a pretty good storyline, playing with some of the better toys and locations from the Marvel Universe; and a couple of good partners on the art front: Jason Armstrong and Mike Manley. They deliver a clean, Kirby-infused style, that's about perfect for this one.

This series had been intended as an ongoing anthology book, opening with an Invaders three-parter. While I like this issue, a four-issue Monster Hunters storyline may not have been the way to go there; unless you were going to throw Wolverine in there or some damn thing. Odds are the market wouldn't have supported it anyway, but maybe two issues, then something else, coming back to the Monster Hunters later, and we might've gotten to see more of the Marvel Universe as a title.
I would buy action figures of everyone involved here, to get a Build-a-Figure Tricephalous.
Marvel Universe #7, "Monsters Attack!" Written by Roger Stern, pencils by Jason Armstrong, inks by Mike Manley.

Read more!

"The End" Week: Manhunter #24!

Although Manhunter #24 opens with a cover tribute to Amazing Spider-Man #50, it's nowhere near as downbeat as that. Mark Shaw, the titular Manhunter, has just defeated his nemesis, the face-changing assassin Dumas. Even though he had stolen, under duress, the Japanese emperor Hirohito's sword; his contacts in the Yakuza got Shaw off, fulfilling their debt to his father.

Although he's been offered a job with a salvage company (which, apparently, isn't too shabby) and the magic space baton and legacy of the Manhunters of Oa (don't ask, even Geoff Johns wouldn't touch that one) Shaw is planning on running away to protect his family and friends. Somewhat surprisingly, they don't let him.
Captain Cold should be allowed to make more appearances drunk as a monkey.
In a callback to the first issue, Shaw again runs into a drunk Captain Cold, shooting up the town with his cold gun while lamenting another Cubs losing season. (This issue being from 1990.) Shaw takes him down easily, but Cold gets off with a book deal and a stern talking to. Finally, Shaw visits his potential girlfriend, Sylvia, who had salvaged his damaged Manhunter mask from his bombed apartment. Shaw considers it for a moment, then contacts space lion Shan, to give him his baton for safekeeping; so he can try a normal life with Sylvia.
Seriously, that breaks my mighty heart.
As sometimes happens in these last issue write-ups, this one doesn't make a helluva lot of sense without the previous issues for context. Especially since this issue was coming off a six-issue storyline called "Saints and Sinners." And as is pretty typical for a DC comic, once cancelled, I don't think Shaw's supporting cast was ever seen again. Mark Shaw would return, though. Maybe. He was supposedly killed in Eclipso, but that was a replacement, a ringer. He would return in Steven Grant's post-Zero Hour Manhunter, and then again in the Kate Spencer Manhunter. (Look, DC is not letting that name go without a fight.)
You thought I was joking about the space lion business.
Shaw's history is pretty jacked up at this point, even without getting into the Manhunters from Green Lantern. (I think some of the space lion stuff from this issue may have been written off as Shaw being brainwashed.) But, last I heard, he passed on taking the Azrael job; which I still think was a bit of a shame, since I love that mask.

Scans from Manhunter #24, "The Long Goodbye" Written by Kim Yale, art by Grant Miehm, inks by John Statema.

Read more!

Monday, December 27, 2010

"The End" Week: Eclipso #18!

I was thinking this one was going to be a cautionary tale about the hazards of giving a full-on unsympathetic capital-V villain his own comic. Instead, it might be about the dangers of escalation. Eclipso used to be a garden-variety villain, with a bit of Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde in there. In his limited series and annual crossover event "The Darkness Within," he was revealed/upgraded to demon, and possessed a number of super heroes in a battle royal on the moon. In his ongoing series, Eclipso killed a number of C-list heroes. (Kind of. The Creeper would come back, the Manhunter killed was a fake, and a lot of the names would come back as well.) By the last issue, Eclipso had taken over an entire South American country, and was fighting the Spectre; as it was revealed he wasn't just a demon, Eclipso had been God's own Angel of Vengeance before being cast down for being too hardcore. (Eclipso is given credit for Noah's flood, but would've killed everything if given the chance.)

Where else is there to go from here, but down? And down this last issue goes, partially because it features a cast of thousands and looks a bit rushed. As the giant Spectre and Eclipso tussle...and you know, if you're going to do this, you might as well go all out and have them be bigger than the earth and hitting each other with planets and comets and so forth. I know this was the 90's, and comics were all 'realistic,' but we're already looking at angels and demons and superheroes and time-travelling paradoxes and a big old deus ex machina from the Phantom Stranger; well, hell, go big or go home.

Earth's heroes use the solar weapons of Bruce Gordon (Eclipso's former unwilling alter ego) to fight back the possessed citizens and wildlife; the Spectre and the Phantom Stranger mash all of the black diamonds back into the single piece of the Heart of Darkness, Eclipso's prison. And longtime Flash supporting character Chunk delivers a crucial blow in the demon's defeat. Yeah, Chunk. I'm as surprised as you are.
That's enough art from this one, I think.
All over the world, the possessed are freed, while Eclipso swears to return. As Bruce Gordon and his girlfriend Mona Bennet embrace, a man approaches them, calling them mom and dad, before collapsing into ashes. That was apparently their time-travelling son, who had been the one to accidentally free Eclipso in the first place over a hundred years ago; but Mona thinks the poor man was merely deluded. She happily tells Bruce that she's pregnant...while somewhere else, Eclipso watches.

Cramming everything they could into this issue doesn't help it, but I kind of see why they would do that: you don't want Eclipso to go out like a punk, you want to make it look like it took everything to bring him down. Eclipso would of course return, going through versions in JSA and then Jean Loring; before ending up with Bruce Gordon again. (Because, comics. Name a character like this that's ever escaped from their unwanted alter ego once and for all.)

Eclipso #18, "Works of Darkness" Written by Robert Loren Fleming, pencils by Audwynn Jermaine Fleming, inks by Ray Kryssing and Luke McDonnell.
Read more!

"The End" Week: Micronauts #59!

It's the last week of the year, and our second annual "The End" week! All this week, we'll be looking at a pile of last issues, further proof that I've ridden a lot of comics into the ground. (Seriously, if there's a mid-tier book that you like, you might want to avoid recommending it to me...)

Some of these are books that were cancelled, some may have merely run their course. Some may have come back or been relaunched, and some may be almost completely forgotten. First: Micronauts #59, "Homeworld" Written by Peter B. Gillis, pencils by Kelley Jones, inks by Bruce Patterson.

Now, this was the last issue of Micronauts as a direct market exclusive book, and it would be relaunched in short order as Micronauts: the New Voyages. (Which wasn't as good of a book, but that's another story...) But it was also the first issue with new writer Peter B. Gillis, and he was setting up a new direction for the characters. The war with Baron Karza, the Big Bad of the entire series to that point, ended with Karza's death, in creator Bill Mantlo's last issue, #58. Sure, Karza was dead, but so was the Micronauts' homeworld, and just about everyone they'd ever known or fought for.

(Strictly speaking, Homeworld wasn't Bug or Acroyear's home planet, but that's where the team was formed, and neither of them would be going back to their homes anyway.)

As they prepare to leave in their new ship, Endeavor II, they want to leave a memorial to Homeworld's people, and their new Biotron suggests a telepathic beacon. But none of them are sure what to say.

Biotron and Microtron were replacements for their previously lost roboids, and are trying to understand their masters. Watching a tape made by Commander Rann on his thousand-year voyage, they struggle with some of the terms; so they ask the Micronauts to define 'love,' 'fear,' 'beauty,' 'hope,' and 'death.' This gives the Micronauts the spark they needed, to leave their own tributes.
Marionette is awesome; and the one to land the deathblow on Karza the prior issue.
Although there's a few lighter moments in there (most of them, surprisingly, in Huntaar's story) this was a gloomy issue, and a pretty big change of pace from the action-adventure nature of the book up until then. It would be a little less bombastic from then on, a little more philosophical; perhaps a little too philosophical for a comic based off a bunch of toys. But not unlike ROM, once the Micronauts got rid of their main villain, the book never really recovered. (And Karza would return; the only thing that would finally kill him off for good was Marvel losing the rights to the Mego characters like Karza and Acroyear.)

The last week of the year is traditionally a down time for the comics blogosphere, but not here! We'll have at least two "The End" posts a day for the rest of the week! It's a festival of cancellation! Be here!
Read more!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

"How Deadpool saved assisted didn't wreck had Christmas."

It's not a perennial holiday classic...yet; but I rerun this one every Christmas.

As usual, click to unwrap, er, enlarge. Not sure of the setup? The first strip's here.

Have a great Christmas, and remember, it's tacky to return gifts Christmas day, even if the stores are open...

Read more!

Friday, December 24, 2010

How big is that clubhouse, anyway?

For some time now, I've wanted to do a Legion of Super Heroes post, but have never had enough Legionnaires to pull it off. (The ones I have make appearances here and there, like giving Booster Gold the hassle or bravely facing Validus parts.

That line is how I always think of the Clubhouse, yes.
Still, even with a handful of Legionnaires, I still think it would be fun. I do wish I had a few more, like Mon-El. All the powers of Superboy, which meant the writers usually just sent him to the ass end of the galaxy to keep him busy. I know there's a new Mon-El coming from a recent, and terrible, and already finished and swept under the rug, Superman storyline; but...blah.

(I was trying to do a post on the end of War of the Supermen, but couldn't do it without it just being a full page of swearing. I paid a dollar for that book, and still feel cheated. Seriously, hated it, and not in the sense of 'this wasn't a comic for my tastes,' or, 'this comic was not executed well,' but in that I want everyone involved with it, from publishing down to printing, fired and blacklisted. You can't believe it's from the same company that brought you Grant Morrison's All-Star Superman: Morrison gives a bloody master class on how to write Superman, and no one at DC was paying attention. And WotS segues ever so well into future storylines: "100,000 Kryptonians and however many humans are dead!...guess I'll go for a walk.")

Anyway, where was I? Ah, this is reference, since I might try to build--build should be in quotes there, since I'd be using construction paper--a Legion Clubhouse backdrop. I'd also like to make a little voting desk for them, too. With light-up yes and no...OK, I don't know if I see that happening, but it's an idea.

Scans from Secret Origins #46, "The Little Clubhouse that Could," 'Word Kid' Gerald Jones, 'Pencil Lad' Curt Swan, 'Ink Boy' Ty Templeton. Thrill to the secret origin of Fortress Lad! Or not. Hey, this is the one with Arm-Fall-Off-Boy, though.

From Secret Origins #37, "The Secret Origin of the Legion of Super Substitute Heroes" Written and drawn by Ty Templeton, inked by Anthony Van Bruggen. A classic, and this issue also has the non-rapey origin of Dr. Light!

And lastly, a brief panel from DC Comics Presents #59, "Ambush Bug II" Story and breakdown by Keith Giffen, additional dialogue by Paul Levitz, finishes by Kurt Schaffenberger. Superman and the Legion of Substitute Heroes vs. Ambush Bug, and it's hilarious.
Read more!