Tuesday, May 31, 2011
...waking up next to your husband, who has been turned into a gorilla? Yeah, that's worth an "Eek!"
From Super-Team Family #3, written by Steve Skeates, pencils by Ric Estrada, inks by Wally Wood. This one has some just terrible chapter titles ("Gorilla My Dreams," "Six and Seven Apes," and "Planned it for the Apes") and the bad guy that you would expect, but there are some amusing bits. After Hawkman turns into a gorilla, he puts on his wings and takes off; but not before scuttling Hawkwoman's gear. Shiera goes to the nearest JLA member to her, the Flash; which doesn't sit real well with Iris West:
As you'd expect, it all comes out in the end. I don't know when in continuity all the JLA's spouses, friends, and neighbors were all on the same phone tree, as in Identity Crisis, but at this point Shiera didn't know Iris, so couldn't tell her who she was or why she wanted to see Barry...who's actually a bit of a tool to Black Canary in this issue, too:
So, the characters weren't as vanilla-bland has they had been for some time, but you'd have to say they weren't quite there yet.
Monday, May 30, 2011
Not too long ago, I got a new copy of another book I had as a kid, Iron Man #161, guest-starring Moon Knight. How does this issue hold up? Um...
The story opens with Iron Man testing his weapons underwater, at a Stark International lab. Tony wanted to make sure they were up to snuff just in case, since he was going to be taking a tour of Project Neptune, an experimental undersea power generating facility near NYC. Which is already being taken over by Advanced Idea Mechanics on the third page. Sadly, A.I.M. didn't bring MODOK on this one.
Tony takes a sub down to Neptune, with other potential investors Marc Spector (who refreshingly, confesses to not being in the same league financially) and old lady Sissy Host II, who claims to be richer than the others put together. A.I.M. holds the investors at gunpoint when they arrive, but Spector punches one out, giving Stark time to run off and change into Iron Man. He needn't have hurried, though, since A.I.M. takes the escape pods and leaves. They blow up the sub, leaving only one escape pod, and a batch of traps for Iron Man. (Or whoever, but one trap was a big electromagnet, which probably wouldn't have done much to say, Thor.)
A.I.M.'s last trap was a robot that rips open the airlock, and the habitat begins to flood. Iron Man takes out the robot, but the damage is done: in what seems like several design flaws at once, the airlock is part plastic and can't be welded shut, the electrical locking mechanism isn't engaging and Tony doesn't recognize it, and the designer was the only one that knew how it worked and he had been fired. Tony was holding the lock shut, but it wasn't watertight.
Mrs. Host has an asthma attack, and is offered the last escape pod. Which Spector promptly swipes for himself. Reaching the surface, Spector demands they take him back to Manhattan, where he makes his way to his cab, and turns into Moon Knight! (This wasn't the first Moon Knight story I'd ever read: he made the Avengers tryouts in Avengers #211) Although Spector tells himself Host probably wouldn't have survived the pressure change anyway, it's a ballsy, bastard-y move that is a step further than you could imagine Bruce Wayne or Clark Kent pulling.
Back under the sea, over radio the remaining hostages hear A.I.M.'s demands. Meanwhile, Moon Knight is on the trail of the airlock designer, who had lost his job when he became a junkie. (!) MK uses the Daredevil technique (i.e. go to the first bar you see, beat up everyone inside) to no avail, but gets a good tip from his usual informant Crawley. (He refers to Crawley as his last chance, but in his own book Crawley is pretty consistent with the goods, I'd go to him first!) Moon Knight arrives just in time to save the designer from a drug deal gone bad, and puts him through to the hostages. He may have been a junkie for some time, since "he'd put the airlock circuits in with the kitchen circuits so they'd be out of the way." I'm not a designer, or an electrician, but I'm pretty sure that doesn't happen no matter how much heroin you use.
When the airlock seals, Iron Man is saved (since he had been running out of oxygen in his armor) and he finds A.I.M.'s hideout in about thirty seconds (based on something someone overheard) and beats the hell out of them in less time. Look, A.I.M. guys are lab rats, not combat-hardened yahoo's, all right? Tony then hightails it back undersea, in time to change back and be rescued. The only casualty, appears to be Spector's reputation.
So, this is a fun little adventure, unless you take two seconds to think about it...which we did. Oops. Still, Iron Man and Moon Knight get a team-up without even meeting, which is always a fun touch; and it's always good to see the A.I.M. beekeepers. From Iron Man #161, "If the Moonman should Fail!" Script by Dennis O'Neil, pencils by Luke McDonnell, inks by Mike Esposito and Steve Mitchell.
Friday, May 27, 2011
This was a hole in my collection that I finally picked up, at the Spokane Comicon: Warlord #63. The main story doesn't move the plotline much, and a Masters of the Universe insert in the middle doesn't help. But, this issue features the first installment of The Barren Earth backup, "Stranded!" Written and co-created by Gary Cohn, art and co-created by Ron Randall.
Several thousand years in the future, earth's sun has become a red giant, which I'm pretty sure would just destroy earth outright...anyway, humanity has long colonized other worlds, but is currently at war with the insectoid Qlov. An expedition ship is sent to the outpost on Earth, which young crewman Jinal
Nameless? Yeah, he won't last out the installment. A Qlov battle-globe attacks, overpowering then boarding the ship. The humans fight valiantly, but are outnumbered and outgunned. The captain announces self-destruct, and manages to take out the Qlov ship; but out of a crew of 360, only six escape. (That we see; there could easily be a Lost-style whole other batch of crewmen escaping just off-panel. I don't think there is, but even so.) And one dies when the shuttle crash-lands, when Jinal gets her first glimpse of the desert of the Barren Earth...
...and she hasn't even hit bottom yet. Although Jinal mentions "being from a frontier world," as justification for her sidearms and the fighting skill she would display later, here Jinal seems like a redshirt ensign after the rest of the bridge crew, away team, everyone else is killed. Of course, she does have a lightsaber-y thing...
I still wish the Barren Earth would be collected--I've mentioned it before, but while it's a solid-if-standard adventure serial in the pages of Warlord, the follow-up limited series Conqueror of the Barren Earth takes a bit of a weird turn: how far is Jinal willing to go, to unite the Barren Earth and fight the Qlov? Pretty damn far, as it turns out...
Thursday, May 26, 2011
We mentioned this issue about a bazillion posts ago, but I found a slightly water-damaged copy of Conan the King #28 for fifty cents at the Comic Book Shop a bit ago...which makes me a little sad that I didn't pick it up earlier, since it appears to have been there for some time. I had this issue back in 1985, but my Conan comics were lent out a ton and often lost, so I hadn't read it in some time. Does it hold up to my recollections? Let's see!
The story opens with two riders looking for Conan the King...y'know, I always liked "King Conan" better. And he isn't at the palace or the throne room, he's pounding down a couple at the Black Boar Inn; incognito, with a fake beard. (In the original stories from Robert E. Howard, I believe Conan had a beard when he was king, but that would make him look like Grandpa Conan.) And I'm not sure how 'incognito' he was, drinking with his advisor Prospero and Black Dragon/bodyguard Tarquin. Tarquin, who may not have owned other clothes, was in full armor...
The riders storm into the bar, shouting for Conan, who isn't recognized but is pissed his undisclosed location was...disclosed. After a brawl, Conan clears the bar, notably having to bawl out a cloaked figure who is the last to leave. The riders bring news that the Queen of Shem has been abducted, and Conan damn near charges into action, before Prospero rains on his day: responsibilities, duties, his family. Conan orders Tarquin to take a squad of the elite Dragons and find the queen, then grumblingly heads back to the castle. Good to be the king? Meh.
Conan ditches Prospero, who was about to remind him of his daughter Radegund's birthday that evening. Instead, Conan pouts about his kingdom Aquilonia being a prison, until the cloaked figure from the bar sneaks up on him. "A careless man leads a short life,"the figure says; and Conan says the only one who's ever snuck up on him like that was "a flame-tressed devil from Hyrkania's steppes..."
Red Sonya, herself. She's not wearing the more recognizable chainmail bikini, but what looks pretty close to her outfit in Marvel's 80's book. She's still a mercenary, and actually on the clock; but confesses she couldn't resist following Conan to "greet him for old time's sake." Now, piss off: "Get back to your court or your harem or wherever you kings park your royal rumps all day long." I'm not going to scan the next panel, because it almost looks like Conan is about to cry there. Sonya relents, and says Conan can come with her, but not "outfitted like a royal peacock." She takes Conan's crown off with her sword--not sure how, yeah--and Conan himself ditches his other kingly accouterments to ride after her.
After a couple subplot pages, wherein Queen Zenobia perhaps flirts a little with her guard captain Lysander, Conan and "Son-ya" are rowing out to a "death barge." Conan clucks his tongue at her robbing the dead, but Sonja doesn't debate it, instead ordering Conan around. As they swim to the barge, Conan tries to get a little grabby, which doesn't go well:
As is typical for Sonja and Conan's capers, Sonja uses Conan as dumb muscle, leaving him to take care of the guards; while she tries to steal a jewel from a necromancer's corpse. Also typical: things go awry.
After defeating the smoke monster, Sonja takes the jewel, and Conan helps himself to a jeweled chain "for old time's sake." After they row back to shore, Conan wants to hit a bar and drink it dry while Sonja dances. Sonja asks Conan to get the grappling hook she left in the boat, then cuts the line and kicks the boat off the shore. Saying he has "no business with a sell-sword and a wanderer," Red Sonja rides out of Conan's life, possibly for the last time. Conan swims ashore and is about to ride after her, when he hears the bells of the temple of Mitra.
At said temple, Radegund is in tears at her father's absence; and his advisers are trying to cover with a story about fasting and meditating that even they know is weak. But Conan shows up just in time, with the chain as a present to boot.
This issue reads a lot differently, now that I'm old and while not king, have a lot of stupid, stupid responsibilities that I would just as soon throw away and ride off with an old girlfriend. (Pfft! There's no old girlfriend of mine dumb enough to take me back!) Conan and Zenobia's marriage seems to be in pretty bad shape here (not unlike the last time) and Conan doesn't seem especially close to his kids. (His oldest, Conn, was believed dead at the time.) The Queen of Shem plot wasn't touched on again this issue, either. But it's open to interpretation, how much this issue is about Conan's mid-life crisis, or about Sonja continuing to play him for a chump. Or if Sonja leads Conan on, or if he's really just always going to be a sap for her.
From Conan the King #28, "Call of the Wild" Per the GCD, since it doesn't seem to be credited in this issue, written by Alan Zelenetz, pencils by Marc Silvestri, inks by Geoff Isherwood. (Silvestri and Isherwood's signature is on the splash page, at any rate.)
EDIT: I had missed the ever-popular U.S. Postal Service Statement of Ownership. Line C Total Paid Circulation: average number of copies each issue during preceding 12 months: 141,537. Single issue nearest to filing date: 140,643. And an almost equal number of returns!
Wednesday, May 25, 2011
Yeah, I know Superman is more likely to run into Swamp Thing than Man-Thing, but when I got Manny over the weekend this was the first thing to get stuck in my head for a stupid amount of time. (And I'm serious about the 'super-fear thing, we saw it in Justice League of America #129 here way back when.)
I picked up Man-Thing, in package, at the Spokane Comicon last weekend; it was nice to have a Marvel Legends clamshell to hack open again. Of course, now I may be compelled to get the new DCUC Swamp Thing later so he has someone to hang out with. While I like them together, like in What The--?!, or mistaken for each other as in ToyFare; I've mentioned before that Man-Thing usually depresses the hell out of me: hey, kids! A mindless pile of swamp lurching around, scaring tourists and burning rednecks! Swampy is a bit more active a protagonist, in that he chooses to do things; Manny is a bit passive, he reacts. (P`Tor at Sanctum Sanctorum Comix and Mike Sterling's Progressive Ruin have sold me a bit more on Man-Thing.)
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
You really need to click to enlarge this one, sorry.
If Marvel's Fear Itself ends with the heroes defeating the Worthy with another batch of magic hammers, I'm going to be pissed. And DC should be pissed, since that would be pretty much the same ending as Blackest Night; if you substitute "Black Lanterns" for the Worthy and "a Skittles bag full of power rings" for magic hammers.
I know Bendis recently did an Avengers issue that was mostly talking heads (check out the preview for Avengers #13, where you see the Red Hulk eat eggs...) so I thought I'd give that a try. While I had a lot of Thor figures to borrow hammers from--the old Toy Biz Avengers series, Cap has the too big for him Famous Covers one, and various Marvel Legends versions--I did not have a lot of other hammers, which was kind of a surprise considering how many swords and guns are in the collection. (Stupidly, I realized later I forgot to give someone Ronan the Accuser's hammer.)
Why is this strip today, rather than the traditional Wednesday? Because I'm going to be out of the office all day? Well, I am, but no: May 24 is the fifth anniversary of Random Happenstance! Is there a five year chip for blogging? Well, I've had this blog longer than I've had my 401k, so it seems like I won't be done anytime soon.
A big thank you to everyone who's ever stopped by and said hi; and a tip of the hat to all the blogs on the sidebar, past and present. Up for another five? I could do that standing on my head.
Monday, May 23, 2011
OK, tell me I'm not the only one that thought Bluebeard was a pirate. Like Blackbeard's cousin or something. In actuality, it's a French fairy tale about a murderous nobleman, a houseful of locked doors, and a wife that pokes her nose where it doesn't belong. It's also been the subject of an opera, Bluebeard's Castle by Bela Bartók. Perhaps less famously, Bluebeard was also the subject of an issue of Fist of Khonshu: Moon Knight, #4, "Bluebeard's Castle" Story by Alan Zelenetz, breakdowns by Chris Warner and Larry Hama, and finishes by Danny Bulinadi.
In my defense, he does look pretty pirate-y there. Bluebeard drags another 'bride' into his dungeon-basement, chaining her up after somehow subduing her with his keys. He only needs one more for a full set, apparently, that he will then kill.
At the apartment of the most recently kidnapped woman, long-suffering supporting character Lt. Flint chases a reporter out of the crime scene before Moon Knight shows up. Stuck in his investigation, Flint tries to call in a favor, but MK cops out. After pulling a patented Batman/Commissioner Gordon exit, Spector admits to himself that he's in a weird place in his life: he currently has super-strength that waxes and wanes with the phases of the moon, every so often he gets weird messages from the priests of Khonshu, and he's pining for his ex, Marlene.
Unluckily for Spector, Bluebeard's next 'bride' is an old friend of his, a publisher of a New York tabloid. The priests of Khonshu put Moon Knight on the case, and Spector laments having to always learn things the hard way.
Since this is a comic book, though; it's not weird enough for Bluebeard to just be kidnapping women or being Bluebeard: his keys are actually a neuron-ray, which is a gimmicky twist that would've been too much for the old Batman TV show. Without that bit, this would've been an overall OK issue. Actually, that could apply to all six issues of this incarnation of Moon Knight: the Khonshu stuff and the gritty crime drama never gelled together. And I hate the altered costume: he should have gloves, but doesn't, except it might just be a coloring error...repeated many times.
To wrap this one up, expand your horizons just a smidge, and check out part of Bluebeard's Castle, the opera, after the break!
What do I know about opera? Just about nothing, so I couldn't tell you if this was good, bad, or other.
Friday, May 20, 2011
"Why 16 hours? Morrell explained that the massive doomsday earthquake will start at the International Date Line before moving west. New Zealand, he said, will get hit first – at 6 p.m. local time. And then that wave of destruction will roll around the world, wreaking havoc at 6 p.m. in each time zone."
Pfft. That's no way to run a rapture. Once news breaks that the endwave is coming, people would have all kinds of time to drop to their knees and "repent." Well, I guess New Zealanders might get caught with their pants down, but I'll have all day...never mind that I'm pretty sure God didn't set the International Date Line.
What kind of "loving God" makes you work all week and ends the world on a Saturday, anyway? End it Monday morning, maybe after Super Bowl Sunday. "Eh...good one to go out on, then." I do love how kids are described as "'...at an age where they love their lives. They don’t want this world to come to an end.'” As opposed to adults, who can't bloody wait for this crap to be over, apparently. This end of the world would be lame if it happened in an M. Night Shyamalan movie; and it would be lame if actually happened.
Anyway, we'll proceed under the assumption that the world doesn't end Saturday. I should make a list of the stuff I'm looking for, at the 'con. It's not a big show, but I'm ridiculously excited for it, just to dig in the long boxes, maybe find a figure or two.
A stupid grail, that I'm still looking way too hard for, is Marvel Age #31, which features a Dave Cockrum cover for the Nightcrawler limited series. (Interestingly, Marvel Age doesn't appear to be listed at the GCD, possibly because it was an ad that Marvel expected you to pay for...that's not fair, there was some nice art there. #23 has a sick Dire Wraith cover from Bill Sienkiewicz, for example.) Likewise, if I find a new Nightcrawler shirt, I wouldn't hesitate to pick it up...but with a few exceptions that I'd pay more for, my goal for this con is no less than 100 quarter books. If some vendors have books 3 for a buck, that is totally going to mess up my numbers...
Have a great weekend, all, and we'll see you next week!...or will we? Yes. Yes, we will.
Thursday, May 19, 2011
Over his career, Daredevil has beaten some opponents well out of his weight class: the Sub-Mariner. The Hulk. Ultron. (With a stick!) The Absorbing Man. And by beat I mean "stalled his opponent to a standstill but ended up in the hospital for his trouble," for the most part. Still, maybe Hogun the Grim shouldn't feel too bad for having so much trouble with DD in Thor #393, "The Blaze of Battle!" Written by Tom DeFalco, pencils by Ron Frenz, inks by Brett Breeding.
While Thor battles
When the nuclear plant threatens to go critical, Thor uses Mjolnir to spin the whole thing, "down to the foundations," into another dimension. How Thor and/or Mjolnir know a dimension is uninhabited is anyone's guess. Maybe Thor keeps track, as he comes across them in his travels, or just has a specific dumping ground: "Aye, nothing here...mayhap this would be a worthy place to dump a nuclear explosion, or Loki, or what have you." It's a very convenient, very Superman-style resolution to that problem, although Quicksand escapes.
In retrospect, though, DeFalco may have been planting seeds for the future: his Thor is on top of his game, one of the most powerful forces in the Marvel Universe. But, he would be replaced by the Eric Masterson-Thor, who tried hard but was generally clueless. (To his credit; and that's why Eric worked pretty well in stories like Infinity Gauntlet.) It's an interesting contrast, but I may be giving DeFalco too much credit, since Eric-as-Thor was still like three years away. (In 1991's Thor #433, per the GCD: "Synopsis: Thor is no longer the Shakespearean speaker, rather he is a streetwise smartass.")
Meanwhile, Hogun manages to put Daredevil on the canvas, just long enough...to get shot by a SWAT team. I bet Volstagg and Fandrall still give Hogun the hassle about that one. Every time he gets a little too grim, Fandrall goes "COUGH! Daredevil!" just to piss him off more...
I know I didn't like the DeFalco/Frenz run on Thor that much; although I admit a good chunk of that is because they were following Simonson, and I sure as hell wouldn't want to come on stage after that. There's also a doggedly retro, silver age style to most of their issues; which is good in some ways (the action keeps moving, in a bombastic, Kirby-style fashion) but not others. (The book felt dated and simple, even at the time. Subplots, especially romantic ones, were seemingly given one panel an issue and dragged forever.) But, in hindsight, I know I've read a lot worse Thor comics than Defalco and Frenz's.
I wanted to hit this issue since I saw it in the quarter boxes (I know I had it at some point...) but it's also a good excuse to give a shout-out to the Daily Thor! Covering an issue of Thor every day, from his first appearance in 1962's Journey into Mystery #83 to the present, which is a helluva goal and a helluva read. Check it out! Luckily, they won't get to this issue until, um, next March or so?
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
It's a rule for any alternate timeline stories, from "Yesterday's Enterprise" to Age of Apocalypse: no matter how crapsack the crapsack world, there's always someone who's better off there, than in the normal continuity. For Flashpoint, while the Thomas Wayne Batman may be perfectly happy with restoring normalcy and ceasing to exist, and Aquaman and Wonder Woman may be glad to hear they aren't usually genocidal murderers; it's going to be harder for guys like Cyborg and Captain Cold who are going to be downgraded again.
I'm being a little harsh on Flashpoint, and don't take that to be a blanket condemnation. Alternate timeline stories can be a lot of fun...although they usually don't cost $250 or so. That's my big complaint, there: I didn't read large chunks of Age of Apocalypse since I didn't care about Gambit and the X-Ternals, for example. The last comics alt-timeline thing I can remember being excited for, to the point of spending money on it, might've been Amalgam. And that was a lot less issues, even both times around.
I love Bleeding Cool, which is probably where I got most of my Flashpoint references; although Dale beat me to a Flashpoint-strip with a character I'd love to see return there. And Marvel, don't think you're off the hook: I have an even lower opinion of Fear Itself coming up...
Next Wednesday's post, though...will be on Tuesday. For some reason.
Duhr! I messed up a word, and painted Batman's oval red...then lost it. Fixed!
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Maybe? I know, or at least was pretty sure I've read Hawkworld, but it's been a while. For fifty cents an issue, hell, throw another one on the pile. I have to watch that, though: I think I saw a couple copies of Warlord #10 the other day, and that's a book I actually own a good percentage of the print run of. (Yeah, like .0001, but it's like a quest: gotta get 'em all! So no one else has to read it...)
Anyway, Timothy Truman writes and draws a pretty good, gritty sci-fi pulp version of Hawkman; even if it jacks up Hawkman's continuity for, um, ever. Although, I think it had been established even before then that Thanagarians, or at least the Hawk Police, are total dicks. Katar Hol's still the biggest asshole in the Justice League, but compared to the rest of his people, he's a hippie peacenik.
Man, I read this again, and can't believe DC tried to make Hawkworld in-continuity: it's kind of depressing. Katar abuses drugs, kills two innocent people including his own dad, and is about twenty years older than Shayera...and even Shayera's super-depressing, for reasons I won't spoil here. Plus, there's a line where Katar is surprised to see a human...which he should be, since he should say Thanagarian or something. Seems like this should've had an Elseworlds label on it and left it at that.
Monday, May 16, 2011
Any other time, I'd be pleased as punch to stumble across a Walt Simonson-drawn comic I haven't seen before. But this just makes me want to get the whole thing. From the first serialized chapter of Archie Goodwin and Walt Simonson's adaptation of Alien from Heavy Metal, volume 3, number 1. Looking at the notes from the GCD, Alien may not have been serialized, but a couple chapters may have been run as a 'teaser.' And it's teasing me, since we don't even get to see the facehuggers this chapter!
Although I was never a big reader of it, I remember the old Heavy Metal movie; so when I found a pile of issues for a quarter a pop at a yard sale, I bought a small pile of them. Sadly, while there's some creators I recognize like Richard Corben or Moebius; I'm a little ashamed that I recognize them more for their more mainstream work like Hellboy (Being Human comes out this week!) or the Silver Surfer.
There's a nice Walt Simonson interview at CBR, so keeping in the same vein, here's another quick Simonson bit, from Marvel Premiere #60 with the Tom Baker Dr. Who:
I had this post up last week, then Blogger seemed to have a little trouble. No big deal: I've been busy setting up Wednesday's strip, and this coming Saturday is the Spokane Comicon, which I'm really looking forward to. I may just buy three hundred quarter books, but we'll see...
Wednesday, May 11, 2011
Over at the Fwoosh, there's a pretty long thread on the Marvel Universe Gigantic Battles figures, which of course includes the Savage Frost Giant. Some of the discussion involves just finding the damn thing, but others who have managed to put together two or more Frosties together are now working on how to differentiate them a little. (Display them as is, and they look like identical toys; mix them up a bit and they look like a Frost Giant army.) The easiest, laziest way is to display one with the helmet, one without; and perhaps try and find a different accessory for one besides the axe.
This...is not how to do that. Although, now I'm convinced that after Batman, Inc. sets up Batmen in every country in the world, Grant Morrison will get around to giving aliens their own Batmen. I was being snarky, but actually now that sounds like a bit of fun. Adam Strange deserves the job for Rann, if Bruce will let him off the hook for using a (ray)gun; and Thanagar needs a Batman something fierce.
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
Over at Siskoid's Blog of Geekery, said Siskoid has been running down the "Retirement Files" for the Suicide Squad. And he mentioned a dropped subplot that still bugs me today: Sgt. Rock's postwar time with the Suicide Squad, and his reintroduction to the modern DCU as General Rock, from around Our World at War.
Or was it Rock? In the last issue of the Rock-centric Suicide Squad series, 'Rock' and 'Bulldozer' unmasked Mission: Impossible style and walked away. The theory has been that Nemesis was in disguise as Rock...for some undisclosed reason and purpose. But that leads us to today's scan, from Superman #182, "The Secret, part one: Dead Men" Written by Jeph Loeb, pencils by Ed McGuinness, inks by Cam Smith.
As Clark and Lois piece together the conspiracy behind the Luthor presidency, Amanda Waller sends the Suicide Squad (this time, Deadshot, Killer Frost, and Solomon Grundy) to try and scare Lois off the story. (Which, duh, is about the absolute worst way to get Lois to drop a story; which makes me suspect Waller knew how Lois would react. If you wanted Lois to drop a story, send her a typed, formatted narrative of your evil plan; she'll get bored and throw it away.)
And Rock calls Waller on it. Or 'Rock.' In fact, as the issue opens, Lois visit General Rock's grave in Arlington, after hitting a dead end in her investigation; but Rock looks fine here...if that was him. Was Rock killed, then Nemesis took his place? Or was Rock ever Rock? The thing is, Waller knew Nemesis. I'm pretty sure she knew his tricks--for example, that the masks he wore would make him itch at his collar after a while. I could see Nemesis fooling Waller short-term, maybe even more than once; but not for any extended period of time. So, I'm positive whatever was planned for General Rock was scrapped, possibly at the editorial level, and Nemesis was kludged in there to cover the plot hole.
I mentioned this in the comments at Siskoid's, but it's kind of sad that I find this more interesting than most of DC's current output. Sadly, I don't think Nemesis: the Impostors set any sales records, so I don't know when he'll return, either. Phooey.
Monday, May 09, 2011
That looks like a straight-up jacking, there. From Masters of the Universe: the Rock Warriors, written by Michael Kirschenbaum, illustrated by Fred Carrillo. What the hell, let's take a quick look at another page, where He-Man sells--I mean, uses, the Dragon Walker, a vehicle so impractical it makes an Imperial AT-AT seem like a reasonable around-town car.
Anyway, I saw Thor on Friday, and liked it quite a bit. Then on Saturday, I watched Almighty Thor on SyFy, and
If you are not familiar with the Asylum...you lucky bastard. They're a low-budget movie studio that gets a lot of play on SyFy and specializes in "mockbusters," thinly-veiled knockoffs of big-budget films. They've brought us such classics as Transmorphers, the Terminators, and Snakes on a Train...seriously? Since the films are made with exceedingly low-budgets, they inevitably turn a profit, usually when people accidentally rent them at Blockbuster.
But my intent wasn't to knock their business model (since it seems to be working for them) but their scripts. Their Wikipedia page points out that the Asylum's films are made under a tight turnaround time, and the "scripts take from an hour to a few weeks to write." And it shows. A lot. And I realize the story is going to have a number of constraints, from budget and CGI concerns to availability of cheap locations to how knock-offy they can get before any copyrights are infringed. I get that. But, I still think it's possible to work within that framework and not produce something you'll be ashamed to spend two hours
So, I was going to write an open letter to the Asylum: whatever their next mock-buster or tie-in or whatever was going to be, for twenty bucks and two cases of Guinness I would take a stab at re-writing it. I'd still work within the budget, I wouldn't write a part for a star or anything, and I'd keep my trap shut confidentiality-wise. Mainly, I would just try to remove plot holes and cliches and the crap dialog, but if asked I could serve up a new plot, too.
For example, for the next Trans-Morphers, which I imagine production is probably due to start on any day now; I had an idea for a plot that would involve surprisingly little CGI. Our plucky college-age antagonist finds evidence from a missing professor suggesting that alien robots are infiltrating the earth disguised as everyday machines. The student laughs it off, of course, until the hero's roommate is killed in a freak electrical accident in the dorms...an accident that may have been meant for the hero. (I'm trying to write this gender-neutral...) The hero still doesn't buy it, until a couple more of the professor's notes support the theory, maybe a couple more 'accidents,' and now our hero's wondering if the professor was crazy...or they are.
$20 bucks and some Guinness, Asylum...think it over.
Friday, May 06, 2011
Click pictures for Giant-size!
Even though I readily concede he's one of the Avengers' greatest bad guys, there's a couple of nagging questions I've always had about Ultron.
Since his outer shell is made of indestructible adamantium (which is what adamantium should be used for, killer robots, not cramming into hairy Canadians...) Ultron doesn't usually perish in the traditional explosion as you might expect. Instead, a lot of the time, some of his non-adamantium internal parts are damaged or destroyed, or his reactor goes all meltdown, or one of his creations turn on him: the Vision, Jocasta, War Toy, Aibo...
Of course, Ultron's returned several times, since he is just a robot and can be rebuilt, but here's the thing: on multiple occasions, Ultron's left brainwashing or reprogramming subliminal messages in the Vision, Iron Man, and his creator Hank Pym. Without them even knowing they were doing it, they were forced to reconstruct one of their greatest enemies.
Now, I'm pretty sure the Vision would do a good job of resurrecting Ultron. And since he doesn't sleep, he has a lot more free time to do it. But I'm 90% sure, the time Ultron made Tony Stark do it, was when he was a drunk; right around the classic "Demon in a Bottle" storyline. (Maybe. I could be off on this, and I'm pretty sure every issue immediately after didn't jump up and down on that point, either. And for a dissenting view on Tony's "alcoholism," check out this one from Ye Olde Comic Blogge.) I try to avoid the drunk Iron Man jokes--others have done them, better than I--but it is fun to consider a completely hammered Stark, hypnotized and drooling, slapping together a very shoddy Ultron.
Hank's almost in the same boat. He suffers from a whole mess of psychological problems, including but not limited to the physiological effects of size-changing, mental tampering from Kang and others, an inferiority complex, and the capricious whims of editorial mandate. And he was married at the time. (Which probably didn't help the inferiority thing...) So, how Hank was able to sneak away, and be together enough to put Ultron together, well, seems dicey, like not the best quality craftsmanship there. Hell, if you figure Hank's first Ultron went nuts and tried to kill him, why would you assume he could build a more advanced model? (I kid, I kid: I like Hank, and have already admitted wanting the Yellowjacket costume.)
Of course, if you assembled Ultron's CPU and an arm, he could probably rebuild the rest himself. Eventually. Which leads to the next point, materials. None of the crap you need to build Ultron is gonna be at Radio Shack. Most of it, even guys like Stark and Pym aren't going to have lying around, like adamantium resin. Is resin the right word? As I recall, you mix together the two compounds, stir well, bake at 400 for forty-five minutes, voila! Adamantium. (Not quite, but I think there's a Joe Casey Incredible Hulk issue that discusses it.)
Therefore, adamantium isn't going to be an over-the-counter kind of purchase. You have to figure the Avengers (and possibly Wolverine) would be curious as to who was buying it. Though, I suppose Ultron could have depots, little hidden stashes of it for his hypnotized lab rats to use later. ("Ultron Depot: For all your Ultron needs!")
No spoiler now, but after the female Ultron whatever in Mighty Avengers, he turned up as the big bad in the new Annihilation: Conquest series, leading the alien Phalanx, or "Marvel Borg." Is Ultron advanced enough technologically speaking for that? Or is it like your blender trying to download music?
Anyway, the bulk of the idea for this week's comic was the fact that I have the older, Marvel's Most Wanted Ultron; and not the Marvel Legends Ultron, which was part of the (not so) Legendary Riders and came with like an Ultron-faced Goblin Glider. I had thought my Ultron was a bit smaller, and had to cheat: he's on his knees in all the pictures. I think, although I'm not positive, there was one more in the Avengers cartoon toys; and I swear, I remember seeing an Ultron-5 (that's the robot upper torso, mounted on what looks like a jet engine desk) in Previews seven or eight years back, but I don't think it ever came out. If anyone else remembers even the solicit for it, let me know I didn't hallucinate that part of my life too...
From Thor #240, "When the Gods Make War!" Plotted by Roy Thomas, script by Bill Mantlo, pencils by Sal Buscema, inks by Klaus Janson. I have no idea what I did this week, but I didn't blog, that's for damn sure. Hoping to work a half-day today, then catch Thor...not sure if I'll spring for 3D or not, but we'll see.
We will have one more Thor rerun later, an old homemade strip that I still like. Have a good weekend, and a good free comic book day!
Thursday, May 05, 2011
In the same vein, the Youngest wanted this one, and still thinks that the cover is hilarious. It's not the best Simpsons Comics issue I've ever read: most of the story is about Homer drooling over "Pizza Day" at work (a distainful Lenny and Carl point out they can buy pizza, "but it's free!" Homer exclaims) then takes a swerve when Homer gets sick, has a nightmare about a world without beer, and spends the rest of the issue trying to reinvent beer...still, the kid liked it.
And...I spent a good chunk of today playing video games, sorry: we're still working on the Spongebob Squarepants Movie game, and I've been stuck on that one at different points for shamefully long periods of time...oh, but I also found Rogue Trooper (based, of course, on the classic 2000 AD character) for $2.99, and it's not bad. Except now, crap, I just looked up the Quality/Fleetway reprints on GCD, and I might have some of the missing issues to scan...of course, I'm also pretty sure I misspelled 'Rouge Trooper' several times on other posts here, anyway.
Wednesday, May 04, 2011
This was one of my earliest posts here, but the Thor movie is as good an excuse as any to
drag it out again recap it:
Thor Annual #9 was written by Chris Claremont, with art by Luke McDonnell. Now, I'm not saying Claremont is verbose (I got what, four posts out of one Moon Knight issue, so my stone throwing days may be over) but it took three letterers to do this issue...Again, I feel like I'm being harsh on Claremont, and I want to say I usually enjoy his work. It's just that he has a very set dialog and narration style, as well as certain themes that he comes back to over, and over, and over some more. (Slavery, mental control/domination, good characters turning evil, there's more and you know it.)
Oddly, I don't think I noticed, until I saw some of his non-X-Men work. Claremont used to do a fair number of the Marvel Annuals. Avengers Annual#10 is probably the best known, as it guests the X-Men and has Rouge and blah, blah, blah. But he also wrote the first Star Wars annual, and an issue of Savage Sword of Conan (issue #74, hit your local comic shop now! Or don't.) I really liked the Star Wars one as a kid, but reading it now, after I've read his other work, and it's like the framework of his style is painfully visible. A story by Claremont reads as a Claremont story, regardless of whether it has Thor, Luke Skywalker, or Wolverine. Sometimes, it totally works, sometimes it's completely obtrusive. But enough snark! On to this issue!
This was way back in the day, when Thor still had the secret identity of Dr. Donald Blake. Perhaps because there was the space for it in a "King-Sized Annual!" but the issue starts with the good doctor actually performing medicine! I've read a good chunk of Thor, and I think I've seen him use those skills more in Avengers than in his own book. Nineteen panels between the second and third pages, which I like. Afterwards, Dr. Blake turns down another doctor because he has plans to go skiing that weekend, leaving her to wonder how a lame man could go skiing in the middle of summer. Y'know, after they wrote off Jane Foster from his book, Thor got really halfassed about his secret identity. And since I just watched an episode of House, I'm glad Dr. Blake was phased out, because Marvel would totally turn him into House. No question.
But, when Thor says skiing, he means "racing bigass pseudo-Viking longboats through the ice floes of the Sea of Marmora, and fighting sea serpents, if need be." After the serpents unwisely attack the boat with Balder, Hogun, Sif, Fandral and Volstagg; Thor goes to help the other ships in the race. He's lured to help an illusion of Sif, and a falling mast knocks Thor out, and into the water. Thor's invulnerability is weird. Like Wonder Woman, Thor usually blocks bullets or lasers shot at him. (Thor with his hammer, of course.) He usually seems able to breathe in space, or at least not particularly bothered by it. Yet, for this story, the unconscious Thor would have drowned if not rescued by the real Sif.
In the same vein as Thor's on-off invulnerability, Sif has to fight hard through the ice-water, struggling for breath and weighed down by her armor...but if I recall my Marvel Handbooks, Sif can bench press at least 15 tons. Maybe more. She should've been strong enough to throw Thor from the bottom to the surface. We'll file that under "dramatic license" and leave it be.
Thor's crew takes him to the physician, and they and the other, lesser gods set sail for Asgard. The narration points out that there were many lost to the serpents, which is why the Norse no longer have deities for Interior Decorating, Investigative Telejournalism, and apparently Blogging. Plus, a Viking Physician, even a Viking God Physician, doesn't sound like a great deal. Nine times out of ten, he prescribes hallucinogenic mushrooms. The tenth time, grog.
You know, to wax nostalgic for a moment: I honestly think I miss the days when a hero could deliver a lengthy monologue, and a mighty punch, in the same panel. This panel's a little thick, to the extent it takes away from the action; but I almost prefer it to panel after panel of dialog with nothing happening. The "monologue punch," if you will, used to be more prevalent back when it was believed every comic could be someone's first comic, so you had to recap for the new kids. And recap. And recap. Read a few Marvel Essential volumes, and you'll see it. And see it. And see it. I suppose the problem there is, if you came up with a great expression for the character's powers like "Focused Totality" you are by god going to use it. And it's easier to reuse then come up with a new one every month.
By the way: Thor, next time you're going ice-longboat racing, you might wanna leave Volstagg at home. Although, winning with him on board would dramatically improve your bragging rights.
Lots more after the break!
This is one of those comic oddities that I thought was weird when I was 10; and is disturbing even today: why is Loki chained to his wife in bed? OK, you can probably think of a reason, but why? Why why why? Those aren't exactly "fun-cuffs" either, that's a fucking manacle. See, I would never do anything like that. I usually have to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, and my wife is not waking her ass up for that...
And Loki rocking the pointed ears, for some reason...
All right: Last time, a semi-concussed Thor was the only one in Asgard who noticed weird lights and new, demonic guards. After stomping a few guards, he goes to get his dad, All-Father Odin, to nip that in the bud.
Odin, however, is busy playing chess, like all old, crazily bearded coots. His opponent is long-time Dr. Strange (and Smokey the Bear) enemy the dread Dormammu, which isn't really a big surprise since it's on the cover. So, the art crew forgoes an establishing shot of him, to focus on the weird giant floating heads of Lord Chaos and Master Order over Dormammu and Odin, respectively. As Dormammu takes another of Odin's pieces, Thor realizes that Chaos grows and Order shrinks. Too bad this was 1981, otherwise ESPN 2 would be all over that.
No one else can see the chess match, just like the rest of the weirdness, so Thor jumps to the conclusion that this is Loki's doing. Admittedly, not a huge stretch. He shows up at Loki's, kicks down the door, and drags around Mr. and Mrs. Loki; who, based on this page, sleep handcuffed in their living room. Wrong, just wrong. Loki denies having anything to do with anything, and Thor grudgingly believes him. Mrs. Loki is concerned for her hubby, who wishes "Fell Damnation!" upon his brother. Maybe with reason that time, gotta admit.
But, I don't remember seeing Mrs. Loki--OK, her name's Sigyn--through Simonson's run on Thor, so I'm mildly curious what happened to her. Although, it's certainly possible that if you're sleeping chained to your wife, and your psycho brother busts in with a hammer and starts accusing you of insane gibberish, then leaves, and you don't kick his ass? Yeah, Asgardian Divorce Court. Probably involves some crazy hats and a quest for a Golden Grapefruit or some damn thing.
Meanwhile, back in the comic, Thor goes to Mimir, the Well of Wisdom; who's a big flaming face on a plate, and has a syndicated radio call-in show in 37 national markets. Even though Mimir admits hating Odin, he's still able to put Thor up to single-handedly invading Dormammu's Dark Dimension.
Odin's ravens tell him that Thor has left, and Odin sends the ravens to get Sif to head Thor off. Dormammu, however, has his head in the game, and has put Odin in check again. Which makes a lot more sense to me now, then it did to 1981-me that had never played chess, and could only assume: "Check=Bad." Which is why I don't spell-check to this day...
Last time, Thor was invading Dormammu's home, the Dark Dimension, in an effort to help his dad Odin not get beat at chess. Seems like a lot of work, doesn't it? How about for a cosmic chess game with serious, vague, possible repercussions for the entire universe? Thor mentions the Dark Dimension hasn't improved since the last time he was there; but really, did you expect it to? Like Dormammu was gonna put in hardwood floors or something?
I like this page: Luke McDonnell and Vince Colletta do a lot of smaller panels in this issue, so they deserve a big shot here. Plus, I like the idea of mixing the Ditko/Dr. Strange style landscape with the raw Kirby of Thor.
While Thor smashes the big green...whatsit...Sif has been captured by Dormammu's sister, the Unspeakable, Unmerciful, Unsatiable Umar. (I know it's spelled Insatiable, but it's almost funny the other way!) She recently had a memorable role in the last Defenders series, and that was pretty funny. Here she's straight up vampy extradimensional evil, and puts Sif under the "G'Uranthic Guardian." It's a big evil statue with one eye, six arms, and a blue mind-zapping light. In best serial villain tradition, Umar reveals that her spells and trickery made Thor aware of the Great Game, then leaves Sif under the zapper.
Sif manages to get out from under the blue light, but is drained. Thor hears her scream as demons attack her, but he ends up rescuing Jane Foster, his nurse/love interest from his early appearances. Sif and Jane had been merged into one sometime in the past, and to Claremont's credit he doesn't get really into it. Twenty-seven panels in the last three pages, by way.
Umar attacks and is defeated even though she uses/namechecks at least three of Dr. Strange's brandname spells. She reveals that any player that leaves the chess board before the game is over forfeits the game, so by now Odin is regretting finishing that Super Big Gulp Dormammu bought him. Ooh, evil. Umar suggests that releasing the Mindless One (and I thought it was Ones, and I think they'll be in Nextwave soon!) would bring Dormammu running.
Jane struggles to remember what happened to her, and what mission Odin set for Sif, and then is attacked by a leftover demon. Instead of screaming for Thor like she did in every other appearance ever, Jane kills the demon with Sif's sword, then uses it to stop Thor's hammer. Umar asks if Thor wants Lord Chaos to remake the universe, but Jane points out Odin wouldn't want to win by treachery. Thor shakes it off, and realizes what he's doing. Umar then tries to kill them again, but they escape to Chicago.
Thor and Jane take a moment at the World Trade Center. Jane laments that she loves Thor but couldn't live in Asgard, while Sif loves him as well, but couldn't live on earth. Thor's response is little more than, "Yeah, that sucks." Seriously. Jane reverts back to Sif. They return to Asgard, where the Great Game has ended.
Odin reveals that the game has once again ended in a draw, as it should every year, Order and Chaos both make up the circle of life, blah blah bearded manservant, prepare the Bedchamber Royal! In conclusion, Odin gives Thor and Sif commorative tokens of their roles in the Great Game: pawns, Sif's White, Odin's color; Thor's Black. Odin: total dick.
In the closer, Thor worries about next year's Great Game, and the year's after that. Maybe Zeus picked up next year's against Darkseid!
Summarizing the last bit here, it seems like a lot crammed into the last third of the annual; but I'd rather that than Claremont stretch it into four issues or longer. Not as many even unintentional laughs in the last stretch, though. Thor's been gone for a few years now, and I'm hoping a version pretty close to Walt Simonson's comes back. It just seems like Marvel doesn't want stories about far-flung dimensions and gods walking among men; when it can have issue after issue of heroes being dicks, and getting rid of the last few secret identities.
(EDIT: Man, cranky back then. So what if it still applies...)
Issue #2 of Herc comes out today, and you can check out the preview at CBR. I think I'll give it a shot...but I don't know if I like this run of Hercules as much as the classic Bob Layton version or the Incredible Hercules: the first issue started with a bit more humor, then swerved away to a more traditional vigilante tale.
And it looks like the Kingpin is being set up as the big bad for Herc's new status quo, which would be fine...if I thought that Herc was going to be able to take the Kingpin down once and for all, nobody's gonna pull that one off. I've seen the Kingpin fall and rise, what, four or nine times?
Still, if the book plays around a little with Herc as not fitting in his current setting at all but still stomping ass, well, it'd probably still be pretty entertaining. And if it delivers a Herc/Punisher team-up...so much the better.
Tuesday, May 03, 2011
Thank god this issue came out too early for a Hangover 2 reference...
I was pretty prepared to not like this issue: Avengers Prime #3. (God, putting up that link, I saw the variant cover, which I hate almost as much as I love the regular one.) Written by Brian Bendis, who I've been mostly unimpressed with since...oof, like Daredevil #50 or so? And this is a follow-up to umpteen bazillion issues of Civil Siege or some goddamn thing. Steve Rogers isn't Captain America right now, and he, Tony Stark, and Thor aren't the three best friends that anyone could ever have; they're generally pretty pissed off at each other. (Or, Cap and Thor are pissed at Tony, anyway. And I think Tony rebooted or regenerated or something, so I don't believe he even remembers half the crap everyone's so mad at him about.) This issue features Tony naked for most of it, and he's entirely too jokey, to boot.
But...Bendis has a couple aces up his sleeve: the story's set in the Nine Realms of Norse myth and promiently features Hela and Fafnir the dragon, which pleasantly reminds you of the glory days of Simonson's Thor. And best of all, Bendis gets Alan Davis and Mark Farmer on art, and they crush it, as per usual.
Davis (and Farmer) elevate the material: under another artist, there's no way I could've enjoyed this issue as much as I did. I found issues #3 and #4 for $.99 a piece, but I may have to cough up for the conclusion, or even the rest of the series.
We may try for a few more Thor-related posts the rest of this week, since I'm looking forward to catching the movie this weekend. Unfortunately, I worked overtime today, so I'm a bit behind. Still, something should jump out, and we may rerun some old ones as well. We'll see... Read more!