Friday, December 08, 2023

I took Tuesday off this week, since my internet was going to be out, and then it was out part of the next day as well. So, I'm typing this during my downtime and don't have the internet next to me, and I wonder how many typos we'll end up with! From 1999, Action Comics #755, "Necropolis" Plot by Stuart Immonen, dialogue by Mark Millar, pencils by Shawn Martinbrough, inks by Jose Marzan Jr.
Superman rescues a little girl from a collapsing building, which I had thought was going to be from whatever happened in the previous issue, but it was a slumlord's side project. Still, the slumlord cuts back, with a comment about Superman's recent attempt to take over the world. Supes knows he's going to have to rebuild people's trust in him; but he's still mildly steamed here, since somebody who's obviously a super-dick is scoring points off him. 
"Mildly steamed" is probably, at best, Lex Luthor's default state; and there's a brief interlude with him yelling at some DEO agents that serve him an injunction. How they got all the way in to see Lex, is a fair question; but Lex's ego might've blind-sided him here: he thought the government would be a bit more supportive of his synthetic Kryptonite projects, after Superman's attempted world domination. The DEO maybe didn't see it that way, arguing that the project might have weakened Superman and made him vulnerable for Dominus to take over. Lex yells at the agents as they leave, claiming deep insights...that I'm not sure Lex would usually have. I just don't see Lex as that interested in people; he wouldn't care if that guy was still a bedwetter.
Meanwhile, the newly pregnant Lucy Lane was visiting with Lois and Clark; but not privy to Clark's secret identity: the captions characterize her as a screwup that does everything wrong, and everyone wanted her to be more like Lois...I don't know about that, either; I can't see a lot of authority figures like her parents or teachers wanting that, Lois could be a bit of a pain in the ass. Lucy was going to check out her boyfriend Ron Troupe's new job, post-Daily Planet, and Lois and Clark go with. They're headed for a not-great neighborhood, though: the cab driver advises them against it. The cabbie also has a bit of an anti-Superman tirade, triggered by a tailgating Porsche. This in turn triggers a bit of a dream sequence for Supes, imagining the world if he had taken over: great for nature, bad for people. Humanity would've resisted, gotten slapped down, and whoever survived the downfall of civilization never trusted him again.
Clark wakes up downtown, as they arrive at the new Fairmont House, which turns out to be a shelter run by Ron. He's glad to have a job where he's helping people again, and Lucy is proud of him. She stays to help out, while Lois and Clark take a walk: Lois can tell the cabbie's words hurt. Clark wonders if Superman maybe does more harm than good, interferes with humanity too much; but is interrupted by the little girl he saved earlier. He and Lois take the girl and her mother to Fairmont House, to help them out until they were back on their feet.

Mark Millar has written some very good Superman stories--mostly for the animated tie-in Superman Adventures--and a lot of try-too-hard-to-be-edgy crap designed to be turned into a movie or whatever. I didn't love this one, but this is far from the depths he would sink to, so there you go. 
Read more!

Thursday, December 07, 2023

I'm late, but a wordless comic should put me back on schedule...maybe.

Although I think I've mentioned it once or twice, going back through the blog, the only thing I see from Marvel's "'Nuff Said" month is from Busiek's Avengers, which was on a roll there. I know I was reading other Marvel titles at the time, but wasn't reading this one regularly: from 2002, Captain Marvel #26, "Quiet Miracles" Written by Peter David, pencils by Leonard Kirk, inks by Robin Riggs.
In a warm December, a young man hits a pawn shop and attempts to sell a bunch of watches that are pretty obviously stolen. When the pawnbroker doesn't go for them, the young man pulls out something else: one of Captain Marvel's nega-bands. How could he have gotten that...? Well, more easily than usual, I'll admit; as we cut away to Rick Jones, literally in the gutter. He's not quite himself today, though; older, scarred, and missing an arm: that was how he looked when he popped in from the future towards the end of Avengers Forever, but that future came much sooner than expected. Rick had aged in an accelerated manner, and a recent attempt at a cure had failed: worse, he remembers as Genis tries to reach him from the Negative Zone, Rick had gotten mugged at knifepoint, by the young man, who stole the band tied to Rick's waist. (Mugging a one-armed old man? Classy.) Still, the man dropped the knife, so...
Rick considers ending it all, which should feel way sadder, except he remembers all his friends, like the Hulk, Captain America, the original Captain Mar-vell, and ROM! Yay, ROM! I don't think he appeared anywhere for years there; I'm surprised they snuck him in--wait, Rick's suicide, right. With Genis unable to do anything but watch, Rick plunges the knife into his chest...where it bends nearly in two, it was a plastic toy. Ha, ha; but I think that was a serious attempt, and maybe shouldn't be just brushed off...? Wandering down an alley, Rick notices blood on the ground, and follows it back, to find a homeless woman, about to give birth.
Meanwhile, the young man makes it out of the pawn shop, before the guilt over what he had done stops him, and he goes back in. He misses his child's birth, though; as Rick has to deliver the baby, then give it CPR, all one-handed! In case you missed this was a Christmas issue, there's a star over them, albeit one that resembles Captain Marvel's chest symbol. When the young man sheepishly returns the nega-band, Rick uses it to change places with Genis, just as snow begins to fall. Genis and the cops get the couple set up at a local shelter, then flies home to Marlo. But, when he changes back to Rick, the transformation literally bowls her over, as Rick returns, young and whole again. (With killer sideburns! Mine never look that good, respect.) Delayed reaction, Christmas miracle, clearing up a continuity loose could be three things in one! Also, pretty sure the pawnbroker was a Peter David cameo! Read more!

Wednesday, December 06, 2023


Ugh, so much shiny black, on a shiny black set, great planning there. Who are our new Punishers? One is who you think, sure; the other probably isn't; neither are rocking their usual color schemes today.

Also, if the mobsters seem a little 'whatever' about Rose threatening them, they probably are; since they probably hear threats like that from each other all the time. 
Read more!

Tuesday, December 05, 2023

This just got retconned, better blog it now!

X-Men Blue: Origins just came out the other day, but I got another cheap copy of the old version recently: from 1994, X-Men Unlimited #4, "Theories of Relativity" Written by Scott Lobdell, pencils by Richard Bennett, inks by Steve Moncuse. Cover by Joe Madureira.
A while ago, we checked out the last issue of Generation X, which predated the White Queen's secondary mutation, relationship with Cyclops, etc; things that seem like they've been around forever but really weren't. Same with this issue! Mystique murders a U.S. general, as a message to the mutant-hating demagogue Graydon Creed, who had sent Sabretooth after her. Graydon is in France, at the mansion of a particularly vapid young woman, when a greasy-looking researcher visits with his findings: Mystique really was his mother, and even worse, he had a brother...Enraged. Graydon kills the messenger, then we get a rather lavishly rendered panel of his girl, for, um, reasons. (Well, I scanned her instead of Graydon; he sucks!) 
Flying into Dulles International, Nightcrawler laments having to travel commercial and incognito, using his image inducer; then almost immediately breaks cover to rough up a bad dad for hitting his kid. He gets a mild scolding from his ride, Rogue, but pretty easily smooth-talks his way out of it. Government mutant liaison Forge had requested the two check out the general's funeral; which Graydon is also attending, and Rogue wonders why they drew that assignment. They don't have time to question it, though; as the priest giving the service calls the general out as a racist and traitor, before kicking over the coffin! It's Mystique, and she's rigged the corpse into a bomb; claiming he had sold a bomb to the Friends of Humanity hate group three months ago, killing 17. Rogue swoops down to toss the corpse-bomb out of harm's way, but that's all part of Mystique's plan...
Nightcrawler teleports Mystique out of a firefight, but she seems a little disappointed that despite appearances, he had no idea what was going on: she straight-up told him back in Uncanny #142 to ask his adoptive mother Margali why they looked so much alike, but apparently he never did. (Yet!) She tells Kurt, they can discuss it at "home," Rogue would know where; then ditches him, changing into a bystander. Rogue and Kurt manage to escape, while Graydon is brought in for questioning by Forge, who acts like he's trying to be Nick Fury here. Forge had let Rogue and Kurt listen in, to show them how potentially dangerous Graydon was, and to own up to his mistake: Forge had thought he had been treating Mystique for "emotional problems," but in reality she played him as a chump to get intel. 

In a helicopter gunship, Graydon tails Rogue and Kurt as they fly to Caldecott County, Mississippi; Rogue's home when Mystique took her in, shortly after her mutant power had developed. Rogue explains to Kurt how her life with Mystique and Destiny was a happy one, right up to the point where Mystique starting using her as a weapon, against Ms. Marvel, Dazzler, and others. (It's not mentioned here, but Mystique had to have trained Rogue before throwing her in the deep end; and we've seen other stories in which an eager-to-please young Rogue was chomping at the bit to go into action for her 'mom.') Rogue drops Kurt off, then flies off to check something else out real quick; leaving Kurt to ponder a swing set. Was that simply window-dressing, to make Rogue feel like she had a home; or something Mystique did because she genuinely cared for her? Kurt has a brief flashback to his days in the circus, with his adopted sister (and later girlfriend!) Amanda, where he laments never having a family. A sentiment shared by Graydon, who confronts Kurt there: this should have been their house, they were brothers, and Mystique was their mother!
Now, I'm not sure how much credence I'd put in anything Graydon told me; even if he claims he spent three million to get that information. Years ago, Mystique was living the high life, having married a German count who then died under mysterious circumstances. But, she then gave birth to a blue, tailed baby; and the locals gathered up the torches and pitchforks pretty quick. Mystique revealed herself in the escape, but lost the baby, who was then thrown over a waterfall. Kurt doesn't really buy it: how would baby him have survived that? But Graydon doesn't go into that, because it's time to kill his brother! (To the tune of "Kill the wabbit," presumably.)
I forget how much of this next sequence was new to readers, since it's been a foundational part of Rogue's continuity for ever: she visits the old rope swing, with a hardy flashback to her childhood, and that time when her powers drained her crush Cody nearly to death, sucking all his memories into her head. She is then confronted by Cody in the flesh, an adult now, who forgives her; but Rogue is nowhere near gullible enough to buy that, she knows it's Mystique, and wonders why she won't stop. Mystique admits she would never hurt Rogue...on purpose; since she felt Rogue was just like her. Graydon then shows up, dragging the unconscious Kurt. Mystique admits she left Graydon for dead, after he turned 12 and it seemed obvious he wasn't a mutant. (An odd phrasing; Mystique certainly abandoned him, but she says it like she left him on the Oregon trail or something. Graydon does have a line that he had to "claw his way out of the gutters of Europe," but he still feels like such a trust fund baby.) Graydon asks if she did the same to Kurt, and Mystique reveals who threw Kurt over the waterfall: she had, while disguised as a villager, to save herself.
Mystique then tries to murder Graydon, but he teleports away: Kurt used his image inducer there, leaving the knocked-out Graydon in his costume. Which looks really weird on him, not just because the gloves seemingly fit, even though they would have the wrong number of fingers: unstable molecules do wonders, I guess?  Graydon wakes up, furious that no one has murdered anyone yet, and his helicopter attacks. Mystique and Kurt go over a cliff for cover, and while Rogue knocks a missile off course, she can't stop it completely. With Kurt stunned and unable to teleport, Rogue only has the chance to save one of them...sure. Mystique lets go, falling into a waterfall, seemingly sacrificing herself for her son and daughter.
So, the next time we see Nightcrawler's origin would be...ugh...the Draco, in which Mystique, in her usual form, throws Baby Kurt off the cliff because she's mad Azrael er, Azazel abandoned her and she was now on the run. That's even worse, but both those--and Azazel--have been retconned out, for the most part. (In the updated version, Mystique might have had a brief affair with Azazel; but it meant nothing to her and she might have left him crying.) I'm not sure we ever see Kurt interact with Graydon Creed again, since he's busy getting repeatedly killed while trying to murder his parents; but I don't think we saw Kurt with his Azazel half-siblings, or even Rogue, that often. (Kurt's also lost two adopted siblings, Margali's kids Stephan and Amanda!) Oh, and the last caption box mentions Nightcrawler's story continuing in Excalibur #76-77, in which Margali is a really, really good mom. For like the last time...
Read more!

Monday, December 04, 2023

These would've maybe felt like dad comics even at the time; feel like Marvel's marketing missed some opportunities.

I was being sarcastic on Twitter when I said Leonardo Manco drew about 90 different limited series for Marvel and I don't think any of them were huge books even if some of them probably should've been? I was 60% sure I had this series in the garage, but still bought the first two from a quarter bin the other day: from 2002, Apache Skies #1-2, written by John Ostrander, art by Leonardo Manco.
I had to research this a little, since I remembered Blaze of Glory getting a bit of a push from Marvel, but this would've been a couple years later. I also didn't remember offhand if the Apache Kid was a pre-existing Marvel western character or something created by Ostrander and Manco here: there had been an Apache Kid series in the fifties, although it may not have greatly resembled this version. That was okay, though: Marvel had long since established that the adventures of their western heroes were often adapted into dime novels, which explains why "historical accuracy" wasn't usually a buzzword for them. Regardless, this series opens with the death of the Apache Kid, and his wife Rosa and the Rawhide Kid are gunning to avenge his death, although neither knew the other at the start of their vendetta. ("Maybe you weren't so good a friend!" Rosa tells Rawhide, when that comes up.)
In the best western tradition, one of the skunks that gets gunned down is the son of a railroad baron, who starts a campaign of terror against Rawhide and Rosa; while Rosa had maybe a new mission to start on: to free the prisoner of war, Geronimo...!
I don't have Blaze of Glory right next to me, but I think this book was even better looking than that. I was mildly surprised this had been collected in a trade, but also feel like it would do better in a different format. Like, if it was a slightly smaller size, but shelved with other westerns, it might do some numbers. Also, while I know Manco did a long stint on Hellblazer, did Marvel make him sign a non-compete: it is a complete mystery why he doesn't appear to have done a Jonah Hex yet. Read more!

Friday, December 01, 2023

Wait, did Iron Mask have a secret identity?

This reminded me of something else I picked up again recently, but what the heck, we'll check it out first: from 1977, Kid Colt, Outlaw #215, reprinting "Iron Mask Strikes Again!" from 1965's Kid Colt, Outlaw #121, story by Stan Lee, art by Jack Keller.
Marshall Sam Hawk has orders to clear up the territory of outlaws, owlhoots, and gun sharks; and the first one his posse stumbles across is Kid Colt--the one with the spotted vest, if that helps. Hawk knows Colt isn't a bad guy, but orders were orders; and while Colt makes a daring escape, he's snagged in the end when they trip his horse Steel. The next day, the Rawhide Kid comes barrelling into town like Paul Revere, warning that Iron Mask and his gang had just taken over a nearby town. Unfortunately, Rawhide is recognized as an outlaw as well, and despite his warnings is thrown into the clink as well, in the cell next to Kid Colt. While they had heard of each other, neither had heard anything good, so their team-up isn't off to a flying start. Colt calls Steel over to the window, and uses the horse to pull out the bars: Rawhide implores him to free him as well, but nothing doing. Rawhide has to lure the jailer into tripping on a bandana to get himself out, but knows he's going to need help against Iron Mask, so he has to ride after Colt for the traditional pre-team up fight.
Meanwhile, Hawk had ridden to see if Rawhide was on the level or not, and had managed to disarm all of Iron Mask's gang, but wasn't able to stop the armored gunman. As the Kids ride in, guns blazing, one of them shoots Iron Mask in the head, which seems to just rattle him a little. Rawhide has a plan to take care of Iron Mask, luring him into chasing him into a dead-end, where he breaks the boards covering a hidden well, and his armor weighs him down so he nearly drowns and he has to surrender. Hawk brings in a whole mess of bad guys, while the Kids say so long and ride their separate ways.
There wasn't a lot of continuity in the old Marvel westerns, so these two could've met for the first time like five times before or after this. Marvel westerns were also traditionally much more G-rated than the DC westerns like Jonah Hex, so I don't think anybody is even killed in this one. But, this did remind me of another book, that I just got some spares of the other day... Read more!

Thursday, November 30, 2023

Neat cover, but maybe save that for when you don't have a good villain?

I read this back when it came out, and I appreciate the difficulties in creating a viable love interest for Cap, but the cover notwithstanding, this doesn't feel like the way to do it. From 2001, Captain America #44, "Conclusions" Story and pencils by Dan Jurgens, inks by Bob Layton.
So, not only do I not recall what happened the previous issue, I also would've lost this bet: I thought Jurgens had created Connie Ferrari, but no, she was from Mark Waid and Andy Kubert in Cap #15. Jurgens usually glammed her up, though: even in something she obviously threw on running out the door and with a suburban-mom short haircut, he always drew her as really pretty...and leggy; she and Cap have the longest legs in the splash page! But, Connie has just finally found out, her boyfriend was really Captain America, and she's not thrilled with the revelation: she was a defense attorney, and Cap had testified against one of her clients. Also, her brother had been believed dead but was now back...after trying to murder Nick Fury and Cap. Cap really wants to table the discussion, since he's not comfortable talking about his secret identity in a police station; which doesn't score him any points. Connie is crying her eyes out and puts together that Cap's ex Sharon both knew, and was an ex and not just a friend; so when cops attack them most people would probably be grateful, but Cap's too wholesome and professional for that.
The cops are pretty obviously fakes, but the side of the building is blown up, and Connie and Cap are snared by Doc Ock-knockoff tentacle-cables from a hovercraft. (Connie screams out "STEEEEEVE!" as they fall; she was not handling it well.) Cap knows somebody wants him, as a monologue starts up over loudspeakers; and throws his shield to free Connie, but is pulled inside the hovercraft before he can catch the rebound! Connie is left, in a suspiciously deserted street, with Cap's shield; and no idea who she could trust then. But, Cap doesn't have to wait long, as he's taken to face the mastermind behind this--Taskmaster! Wait, really?
This was back before Taskmaster got...kind of overplayed? Or, rather, used somewhat inconsistently. Here he was maybe a year out from his Udon update in Deadpool #68, and was still in his training goons for big bucks days. Tasky tells Cap, "when the hired help can't make the grade, the boss has to work the cash register!" He wanted back at the Avengers for their operations against his schools, and let's be honest: it's not like he was gonna pick a fight with Thor or Iron Man, right? With Cap shieldless, Tasky's pretty confident; while Connie narrates and feels petty for resenting every time Steve had been late because of what she now realizes was Cap-stuff. But, she also realizes Cap's always going to put the greater good...over her. That's kind of harsh, but you know what? It's fair: Connie knows she "can't be in a relationship where my needs are always secondary."
Cap is on the ropes, until he remembers a trick Taskmaster wouldn't have seen and thus couldn't imitate: Cap still had his photonic shield, the replacement from earlier this series. Cap knocks him off a bridge, but Tasky manages to take Cap with him--which, from the layouts, shouldn't have worked, but okay. Separated, the fight's over; and Cap returns to Connie's apartment, to find his shield, and a note: Cap knows it's a 'Dear John' letter from across the room, he's seen too many during the war! An interesting layout choice, there: the note and shield were on Connie's coffee table when he comes in, then Cap has the shield next to him while he sits and reads the note. Like the shield's there for him, at least. Also, Connie must write quick, Cap really wasn't gone that long.
"Connie's gone. And she's never coming back." Well, not to Cap, anyway; she would appear in Great Lakes Avengers #1, although she seemed to get...what's the opposite of a makeover there? Like, de-glammed. Diamondback was my favorite of Cap's love interests, although Bernie Rosenthal had character, much more than poor Connie. Also, for some reason, the fact that she was a defense lawyer was used to create friction, like Cap didn't care for her defending guys he knew were bad, due process or not. I kinda don't love "Connie Ferrari" as a name, that sounds like somebody's fake girlfriend from Canada. (Is Ferrari a common last name? Was Dolores Lamborghini taken?) Also, I didn't like the way Cap won: Tasky couldn't possibly take Cap. He's in good, fighting shape, compared to about anybody else; but Cap would've been able to outlast him. Read more!