Thursday, October 21, 2021

80-Page Thursday: the House of Mystery #256!

We haven't seen an 80-pager since February's also-Halloween themed installment, but just in time for this week! From 1978, House of Mystery #256, featuring stories by Michael Fleisher, Paul Kupperberg, Jack C. Harris, and more; and art by Ernie Chan, Rubeny, Arthur Suydam, and more.
It feels like it's always Halloween at the House of Mystery, but it actually is tonight, and it's party time! Cain has a couple nice burns on his brother and hippie reporter Harvey H. Harvey--that sounds familiar somehow--but then has to tell stories to entertain his guests.
"Blood of the Vampire!" is a little gaslighting number, with a last-page twist that doesn't make any sense. "Perfect Poison" is a little better, as a dissatisfied wife plots to use voodoo poison on her herpetologist hubby. "Satan's Child" is both grotesque and minimalist, as a brutal swamp-dwelling miser abuses his wife for a son at all costs.
"Treats or Tricks" is more cheery, with Abel trying to guess the identity of some Halloween guests, featuring a cameo from editor Murray Boltinoff! In "Raise the Devil," two confidence men make their marks believe they've sold their souls to the devil, then clean out their material goods as they try to buy back their souls. Their comeuppance isn't from a dissatisfied customer, more like the better business bureau.
"Museum of Murder" starts with a wax museum, then swerves to a painter and his murderous works. Finally, "The Worm Turns!" tries to set up some EC-style revenge, as a grifter murders his bait-shop owning brother, but falls short. Little sparse this time around--I never expect the world from DC's horror books, but sometimes they still let you down. Read more!

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

"Ultimate."

My grandkids are currently in daycare, and now consistently have the daycare crud little kids get. It's not a 24-7 runny nose, but it's close; and I feel like I've had it for ever too. Between that and some mandatory overtime we've got a short one this week. I still have one week saved, but am having a hard time getting ahead.
We've seen Nightcrawler teleport the head off of a robot more than once, but I was thinking of this old Overpower card: I never played it, but had some of the cards. I misremembered that head as being more Ultron-like: it's got the can opener mouth, but lacks the distinctive antennae. And this newest Marvel Legends version nails both! Read more!

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

He was based in Montana? I call shenanigans, nothing has ever happened there...

I don't even know if Hasbro is doing more Legendary Riders figures, but I had been hoping for western themed ones, with horses. There's probably a dozen reasons not to do the Ghost Night Phantom Rider, though. Ghost Rider #50, "Manitou's Anger...Tarantula's Sting!" Written by Michael Fleisher, art by Don Perlin.
Last month, the Ghost Rider was caught in a dam explosion, and the ensuing floodwaters would wipe out a Commanche burial ground and a small town. It doesn't wash away Johnny Blaze, as he's confronted by a medicine woman, who seems to dial from old to young as she sends him back to western times, where Johnny promptly catches two arrows from the local tribe. For the first of multiple times this issue, Johnny uses his surprisingly effective stuntman training, to dismount a Commanche and then try to escape on his horse, but gets trapped in a box canyon. He is saved by the sudden appearance, as if from nowhere, of the Night Rider--that's kind of his gimmick, sure, but what was he doing out there? We then get a recap and possibly modernization (slightly, if so) of Carter Slade's origin: shot by outlaws and left for dead, saved by a medicine man who had a vision of a shooting star, that he used to trick out Carter as a masked hero. While Johnny recuperates, Carter leans into his cover story, that there's no such thing as the Night Rider, it was your imagination.
Later, when Johnny is well enough to visit the local cafe, Carter starts to ask about his odd clothes--mislettered as old there! But they're interrupted by the Tarantula and his gang blowing up the bank! (An unplanned theme this week!) The Tarantula looks like another Marvel western character, the Black Rider, except with a spider on his hat and a cat-of-nine-tails whip. Oh, and a Mexican accent that strikes me as phony. Johnny uses that stuntman training to rescue a child from a burning building in ludicriously acrobatic fashion: maybe he trained with Cirque de whatever, too.
Together Night Rider and Ghost Rider stop Tarantula, which includes foiling his on-the-fly kidnapping attempt of an Indian girl--the medicine woman from before, when she was young. Johnny warns her and the Commanche medicine man, that in a hundred years or so, some jerks were going to blow up a dam; they remedy that by sending Johnny back just before the explosion, so the Ghost Rider can stop it and hellfire-blast the perps. This is probably a time paradox, but they had magic and the Great Spirit on their side, so it's probably not jacking up the timeline.
Not only has "Phantom Rider" gone through a few names--first to differentiate him from the more popular Ghost Rider, then after somebody realized 'Night Rider' could have a very negative association in some parts of the country. No, not the one from Mad Max, that was Australia, I swear...The Phantom Rider legacy was also badly bemirched by the later version, Carter's brother Lincoln, who sexually assaulted Mockingbird There's been another Phantom Rider since, but like Hank Pym slapping Janet, the stain has stuck. Oh, and while the later versions of the Rider were more closely associated with the Initiative team for Texas, the Rangers; the original was based out of Bison Bend, Montana! Both it and the dam in this book seem to have been drawn with absolutely no reference to anything actually in Montana, a state that's only in the Marvel Database as it refers to the lariat-wielding member of the Enforcers. (He worked his way up to being the Kingpin's right hand man? I again call shenanigans.) And now I just killed a bunch of time reading about Montana's Initiative team, Freedom Force? Neat they had a seemingly reformed Equinox, since I've been a fan forever, but that's a secondhand name... Read more!

Monday, October 18, 2021


Today we've got an issue I know I had read, but not sure I'd ever owned. Also, it was annoying since I had pulled the rest of "Rocky Grimm, Space Ranger" from the quarterbins but not this one. From 1985, the Thing #22, "To All Things an Ending" Script by John Byrne, breakdowns by Ron Wilson, embellishment by Joe Sinnott.

The cover proclaims "The Final Chapter of Rocky Grimm, Space Ranger!" Also known as Ben's stay on Battleworld post-Secret Wars. (The original, back when that meant something...) And when Ben looks this chipper, but we still have a chapter to go, you know things are going to get rocky. (If I had more readers, I'd hear the boo's for that line from space.) A human Ben, still wearing his wrestler-like singlet, finally returns to Alicia with flowers and candy. He is not greeted warmly, as Alicia proclaims "(ordinary) men are a dime a dozen!" and that she loved the Thing. Even without the slightly distorted visuals, this is obviously Ben's nightmare: Alicia has never responded to Ben like that, no matter how much he's feared it happening.

As the Thing, he wakes up in a stone ring like a gladiatorial arena, faced off with a hooded figure who recaps some of Ben's problems before he's going to be destroyed. Ben thinks it's Reed Richards, since he's gotten into his head, but it's really the human Ben Grimm. Battleworld apparently responded to desire at this point, since the Beyonder had created it to study the concept alien to him, and created another Ben Grimm in response to Ben's frankly convoluted and conflicting subconsious wishes. Alt-Ben wanted to stay the human version of themselves, but while "Rocky Grimm" was having adventures on the other side of the planet, he often changed into the Thing to save himself, and Alt-Ben felt that as "(sacrificing) another tiny scrap of your true self." Alt-Ben also finds the severed head of Ultron, and puts into motion the killer robot's return. (Shouldn't the rest of Ultron be around there somewhere?)

With a suit of armor, sword, and frankly out-of-character ponytail, Alt-Ben declares "Long live Ben Grimm! Death to the Thing!" The Thing is less than impressed: he's heard all that super-villain balloon juice before, and also knows Ben Grimm never had the Thing's fighting chops. He does have the sinking feeling destroying his duplicate would leave him stuck as the Thing forever--again? That trick never works! Tarianna, warrior-woman love interest (and imaginary girl) tries to free herself; while elsewhere Ultron has built a massive robot army, and made a little flag with his face on it! I wish Marvel Legends would give us more weird accessories like that...

Alt-Ben slaps the Thing around a bit, claiming the right to live as a human being, but before the final deathblow Tarianna stabs him in the back. As he dies, most everything on Battleworld starts to fade away: Alt-Ben and his arena, Tarianna, Ultron's army, and even Ultron's body, leaving him a severed head again. Ben has what should be a tearful goodbye with Tarianna, but is instead a lengthy monologue about how maybe he'd always been able to change back into Ben Grimm, but subconsciously blocked it because he was afraid Alicia wouldn't love him unless he was the Thing. Moot point, since Tarianna had "killed" the Ben Grimm inside him, leaving him the Thing forever. (Moot moot point, since as we'd see the next issue, Alicia had not exactly just been waiting for him...)

Pacing around the now-empty Battleworld, Ben ponders that Tarianna was created from his thoughts, so by transference he somehow wanted to stay the Thing. Finding Ultron's head, Ben gathers up his litter, and says his goodbyes and transports home. Finally completely empty, the Battleworld breaks up.

A little maudlin this issue, but the next one would be outright grim; setting up Ben not rejoining the Fantastic Four right away. Read more!

Friday, October 15, 2021

As often happens around here, we saw the next issue some time back, but today we have from 2008, Jonah Hex #30, "Luck Runs Out" Written by ustin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti, art by Jordi Bernet. 

After a frontispiece with the title spelled out in empty bottles, this one opens with a silent two-page recap of Hex's life, up to his wife Mei Ling leaving him in the middle of the night and taking their son with her. Jonah appears to hit the sauce pretty hard after that.
Meanwhile, desperado Lucky Dave and his crew hijack a train to the town of Desperation. Lucky has it all planned out: steal the train, check. The town only had six people, but had a safe and a stable: blow the safe, hit the stable, ride off free and clear. Except...the stable wasn't there anymore. There were maybe two horses in the whole town, one of them belonging to a mean drunk...I foresee problems. Even drunk as a lemur, Jonah still kills the hell out of the first goon sent looking for him with a convenient broken bottle. Lucky Dave tries to blow the safe, with upwards of forty-some sticks of dynamite: two of his crew try to gently discourage from using that much, to no avail. They are then shot for laughing at Lucky launching the safe into orbit, and setting the train on fire.
After Hex kills another of the gang, it's down to Lucky and his girl Belle. They make for the horses, and only find one. One dead one. One extremely dead one. Enraged, Lucky kicks it, and gets stuck up to his knee.
Jonah shows up for the sight of Lucky still stuck in the horse, curious "what backwards fool named ya lucky?" All bluster, Lucky then asks his name, and doesn't have the good sense to be terrified. Belle and the locals are terrified enough for him: there's poking the bear, and then there's this. But the story ends abruptly--could Lucky survive for another day? I doubt it, but...
Read more!

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Kulan Gath has been giving Conan the hassle for like 25 issues of Savage Avengers, yet an all-but-forgotten Avenger wrapped him up in like three! Of course we're starting with the second one, from 2000, Avengers #29, "The Death-Song of Kulan Gath Part 2: A Dream of Bitter Ash" Written by Kurt Busiek, pencils by George PĂ©rez, inks by Al Vey and Dick Giordano. 

I'm not sure I've read this one before right now, and I'm not sure why not? I distinctly recall the "100 Page Monster" #27, in which (spoiler alert!) both Thor and Cap leave active membership. Previously, new member Silverclaw asked the team to go to Costa Verde, where they find her village transformed by Kulan Gath, and her mom, a seeming volcano goddess, under attack by Gath's men and hawk-riders. Iron Man, for one, is already creeped out and annoyed by the magic in play; but manages to capture a goon while Silverclaw's mom is abducted. The goon laughingly immolates himself rather than answer anything, though.
The Costa Verde army was trying to move in, but the Avengers knew from experience if they passed through Kulan Gath's field, they would be transformed into barbaric counterparts of themselves--they don't remember Uncanny X-Men #190-191, but you might. While She-Hulk and Warbird had been turned into amazon-types, Goliath had been transformed into a "bloodthirsty corsair" resembling Yellowjacket--that's a bit of foreshadowing! Scarlet Witch uses a bit of her "chaos magic" to adjust some of Iron Man's spare comm-chips, so they can communicate in Gath's field; then Wasp and Iron Man head out to stop the army.
Within the spell, Silverclaw can still recognize what was her village, even transformed; but curiously finds a gum wrapper, unchanged. A stoplight also remains, and a young woman follows the Avengers unseen, seemingly changing other items. In a D&D-like tavern, Warbird has a momentary fear of lapsing back into alcoholism, then takes Triathlon aside to advise him to maybe join in instead of just sniping. Silverclaw then has a bit of rage, remembering all the crap she took as a kid as "the daughter of the volcano goddess" when it was all true. That's interrupted by a barroom brawl, which is then interrupted by the bar patrons turning into demons, then snakes! Kulan Gath gives a bit of monologue there, making himself sound oh-so-put-upon, cheating death only to find the modern world so noisy and foul. If he could only die, he would go on to become something like a god, even if he had to sacrifice a god to do so...The Avengers are downed by gas, but a shadowy figure--not the mysterious woman--watches.

I think I'm still missing a couple of Busiek's Avengers, which just seems weird; but at least that means there's something fun out there waiting for me to read it.

Read more!

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

"Call."

A couple months back, I got some Collect-n-Connect Lobo pieces to @Lawfool85 on Twitter; and got a couple pieces I already had in exchange: the weapons for the Gladiator Hulk BaF, and a spare Sentry head. Which I wanted just because Kurt teleported the head off of one, then kept it for hacking purposes, as well as this nonsense from Twitter:
(Which, aside from being our usual brand of nonsense, is also a callback to Uncanny X-Men #149, one of the first Nightcrawler comics I remember reading!)

Then, at the Lilac City Comicon, I bought most of a Sentry for ten bucks. All I needed was a leg from eBay, and the Kree forces have almost doubled! I'm not sure he's the most in-demand Build-a-Figure, but why not?

Since we've got the Sentries out, we also have the leather jacket Captain Marvel figure, from what feels like the proverbial hundred years ago but was just early 2019, and weirdly, so was Everett Ross!
Read more!