Tuesday, June 30, 2009

If it takes me another twenty-seven years to get an action figure...well, I'll be OK with that.

Paul of Toy Bender recently posted a little heads-up over at Poe Ghostal's Points of Articulation, featuring a Wal-Mart exclusive Rebel Pilot three-pack. Now, I haven't bought a Star Wars figure in recent memory, so why do I mention it? One of the pilots is Shira Brie, from Marvel's Star Wars comic!
Does the thing on Luke's chest translate Artoo, or what?
Ah, that takes me back. From Star Wars #57, "Hello, Bespin, Good-bye!" Written (and plot) by David Michelinie, pencils (and plot) by Walter Simonson, inks by Tom Palmer. This was Shira's first appearance, and I was going to get into her further story, except A. I couldn't find issue #61, it's around here somewhere..., and B. There's about forty pages of write-up on Shira (and her future) over at Wookiepedia: spoilers ahoy, in case you were reading twenty-seven year old Star Wars comics. (Here's a hint: Shira's getting another action figure later as well...)

In that case, we won't go into Shira's story, except with this page, from "Shira's Story," Star Wars #60, again written (and plot) by David Michelinie, pencils (and plot) by Walter Simonson, inks by Tom Palmer.
On a day trip to Shira's homeworld, we discover A. her people were apparently at war with Beta Ray Bill's orange-skinned tribe, of Thor fame; and B. that guy with the beard looks kinda familiar...

I do believe Shira's second figure, under her later name, comes in a Comic Pack with Luke, and one of my favorite issues of the old Marvel series? Will I buy them? Hnnnh...maybe. I haven't bought a Star Wars figure for the proverbial dog's age, so we'll see if I crack.
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Monday, June 29, 2009

The copyright infringement lawsuit from the X-Men will be there shortly:

What do you call that, the Stranger Room?  Danger Tomb? So not prepared today: I don't think I've had time to even read a comic for a couple of days. So, we've got a couple panels from Timber Wolf #3, written and inked by Al Gordon, pencils by Joe Phillips. I've mentioned enjoying this Legion of Super-Heroes spin-off before, even if T-Wolf, and his guest-star this issue, the Creeper, have both been rebooted at least once since then. After smashing up their ersatz Danger Room there, Timber Wolf dukes it out with the Creeper. For some reason.
The Creeper's just messing around, although this may be the first issue to play Jack Ryder as less playing insane, and a little more actually insane: T-Wolf notes, though, that "It's not madness I sense...it's chemicals." Which would make a lot of sense, really.

Guh, I'd best get the rest of this week started now, the way it's going so far...
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Friday, June 26, 2009

Yes, I do feel my 'strongth' returning!

Really didn't need a flash there...
...or, maybe I just feel better because my thumbs stopped bleeding.

So, I did eventually finish Ghosts 'n Goblins last night, which is less a testament to my mad gaming skills than it is to a lot of continues. If this had been in the arcade, how many quarters would it have eaten, and how long would I have had to stay at that game? Too many, and too long.

I mentioned before that Ghosts 'n Goblins was thought to be the second-most difficult game, presumably of it's time or the arcades; but it didn't mention the most difficult one. Also, like I said, I had to go back to level four since I didn't have the shield as my weapon; then when you beat the last boss, the game tells you that was an illusion from Satan (!) and you have to play the whole game again to rescue the princess. Bastards! Level five is the killer, since there's no midpoint, and you have to finish it in one shot.

Well, I guess now I could start on the sequel, Ghouls 'n Ghosts. Uh, maybe later.
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No jokes about the essentialness of Essential Punisher here.

Even this early on, it's pretty well established that Frank can't take DD hand-to-hand.

Yeah, it needs a stronger title. Like Mandatory Punisher. No, that's terrible.

I picked up Essential Punisher, volume two the other day, trading in some old junk at the Comic Book Shop. It's twenty-plus issues or so, starting with Mike Baron and Klaus Janson's Punisher #1, Frank's first ongoing series issue. I've read all of those, of course, and some in black-and-white before as well, in the old Punisher Magazine reprints.

(Rather than try to cram that phone book into my scanner, the scans are from Punisher Magazine #8, reprinting Punisher #10, "The Creep" Written by Mike Baron, pencils by Whilce Portacio, inks by Scott Williams. Both the Essential and said Magazine are kind enough to include the Rashomon-style crossover with Daredevil #257, "The Bully" Written by Ann Nocenti, pencils by John Romita Jr. and inks by Al Williamson.)

I think I lost or sold off a lot of them back in the mid-late nineties when Punisher was just worn out and terrible; possibly before the angel nonsense, but definitely before Garth Ennis brought him back.

At the time, before he became swamped in the work that came with three books and myriad guest-spots, Frank was a little more human and a little less the unstoppable engine of destruction you might be used to seeing. (A little less...) He makes mistakes, he needs help, he loses like three battle-vans in this volume alone. By the second issue, Frank's ready to quit his war on crime: Baron may have played that card too soon, since it seems like the next issue backpedals that into a "break." It doesn't take: Frank can't not respond to crime, and doesn't seem to have anything else to do.
Ennis' Frank is so old, beaten, and brutal-looking, he'd never be able to pull this off.
Although, there is one scene, after hitting the Jehovah's Witnesses for leads while rocking the Clark Kent disguise (something the modern Punisher probably couldn't pull off...) he's left waiting on a tip, so Frank reads a novel. Not that Frank couldn't be a big reader, but how often do you see him do something besides shoot people and look sullen? It's one little panel, I love it, and really wouldn't mind reading that book sometime. (It's Poe Must Die by Mark Olden, and I may have to try Amazon later for it. EDIT: Yeah, good luck...) If it's good enough for Frank (and Baron, presumably) then it should be good enough for the likes of me.

Also: I know I had this one, but I had forgotten the first Punisher Annual, part of the Evolutionary Wars crossover. With the High Evolutionary, although he doesn't appear directly in this one; that's still two great tastes that taste weird together. H.E.'s armored soldiers are fighting a druglord in Central America, the Punisher gets involved via the Druglord's Innocent Daughter (a cliche so common it should have a trademark after it) and the Punisher and the druglord are forced to team-up. No points for guessing where that goes...
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Thursday, June 25, 2009

(Mostly) Off-topic:

I've been thinking about music a little more than usual, but unfortunately, it's about music I no longer have. Moreover, it's music I no longer have and am not about to pay for again; songs I had on tape or CD's that I've lost or had stolen over the course of years. It started when the Oldest liked the Talking Heads' "Take me to the River," and the Youngest loved "Psycho Killer" (the 'fa-fa-fa-fa" bit cracks him up) and I remembered I lost my old Stop Making Sense CD. The Sand in the Vaseline set doesn't have "Life During Wartime" on it? Did we lose said war? (No "Slippery People" either, and both were story titles in old Captain America issues by Mark Gruenwald.)

And that opened the floodgates: old Police stuff? Completely gone. The Deftones, Metallica, Iron Maiden, Anthrax (I went through a metal period...), David Bowie, the Breeders, Prince, Morphine, I think even the first They Might Be Giants album; those and dozens more not on my hard drive and hence nowhere.

Yes, I know I could use iTunes or some other silly thing to download anything I miss, but currently I'm standing by my guns; since I already paid for those damn songs once at least. I sure as hell don't need to pay for something like Bush twice, that's for damn certain. (I do appreciate "Glyercine" a lot more since Homer reworked it...I guess that episode wasn't popular, but I loved it.) Also, I don't want to rack up a huge bill...ala another Simpsons episode.

More unrelated nonsense after the break!

I'm a fairly healthy chap: I bike a lot, walk my dog, get a good night's sleep. (When I'm not immersed in a game or toiling away to bring you bloggy goodness.) But I also have, at best, a nodding familiarity with 'nutrition.' (Yeah, nodding at it as it leaves...) So, I've been trying to take advantage of the finally pleasant weather, and get more exercise; including getting back to the weights and sit-ups and whatnot.

So, I got the bright idea from some half-remembered tidbit from a magazine; that Britney Spears, when she's in shape, does 200 sit-ups a day. Well, I figured if she could do it...and maybe I couldn't do it all in one sitting, but if I did 200 sit-ups at some point during the day...currently, my abs might not be a six-pack, but that doesn't matter since I can't stand upright.

Maybe I should just, I dunno, eat a vegetable or something. By the way, don't you love supposedly helpful hints, for losing weight or saving cash or magically improving the marginal quality of your life, that you're already doing? Like when you hear someone say, like it's a state secret, that you can shave unwanted flab by taking the stairs instead of the elevator? Hey, great plan! I've been taking the stairs for years, but now that you've told me, I'm sure the flub will just melt off now!

Financial planning advice is in the same vein for me: ride a bike instead of paying for gas, make your own coffee instead of buying lattes, don't eat out? Hey, I do all that, and I still don't have enough cash for all the comics I want. It's just the kind of advice people parrot when they want to feel smart or empowered; or the crumbs of actual help those without financial problems deign to give those who do; and it's not really enough of either.

So whenever I get crappy advice like that, I feel like Joel, Crow, and Servo in the Mystery Science Theatre 3000 movie, as they try to get tech support for their Interocitor.

As alluded to above, I am in the middle of a game: Ghosts 'n Goblins, on the Capcom Classics Collection for PS2. I'm old enough to have played it in the arcades, but had never made it as far as I did yesterday, finishing level 5...only to be told I had to have the useless goddamn shield as a weapon and sent back to the start of four.

Per my long-standing attempt to eschew profanity here, I can not adequately describe how that made me feel. I also can't save on this game, so my PS2 is still on, as I sit here at work mentally berating myself for not calling in sick...

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...and that's exactly why I lose a lot of arguments.

To this day, Warlock visibly cringes whenever he hears the expression, 'get in touch with your feminine side.'
Say what you will about her--that she's a genocidal madwoman, that she's only a fragment of Warlock's psyche, that her Joan-of-Arc haircut (that she sports most of the series) isn't flattering--but the Goddess knows how to win arguments: by shouting, claiming divine right, and kicking out as needed. Fox News must teach a class or something.

From Infinity Crusade #6, "Rapture" Written by Jim Starlin, pencils by Ron Lim, inks by Al Milgrom. I mentioned last week not recalling some of Starlin's Infinity Trilogy, so I took a second to reread the last issue. This time, instead of universal holocaust or war, the Goddess crusades (duh) for universal peace, bringing many of earth's heroes under her control, and building up to another universal holocaust. It does have some fun with said universal holocaust, I'll give it that:
Life well spent!
Warlock and Thanos are master manipulators again here, and their saves are clever without seeming like the cheats they are. Earth's heroes are again for the most part left clueless and confused, but these things happen. I may need to flip through the whole series again, since I don't recall which heroes sided with the Goddess: I don't think a lot of characters previously shown to have strong religious faith, like Daredevil or Nightcrawler; fell under her sway; and they seem like the ones who would.

Perhaps I'll scan it later, but in the end, after cheating Mephisto out of a promised Cosmic Cube; Thanos sums up the moral of the series and a pretty good philosophy on religion. It's to the effect of, you'll never find fulfillment looking for it from without, it has to come from within. Of course, that might've sounded better coming from anyone besides Thanos, it's not like he seems super-fulfilled, is it?
Well, that sounds inspiring...wait, inner what?
One more thing: I love Ron Lim's art. Seriously.
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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

$30+ for a new MOTU figure, or fifty cents for...

Man, that mold line down the middle of Battle Cat's face is so bad, even he can't stop staring at it. The saddle-slash-missile launcher thing on his back is spring-loaded but latches poorly. I think I have it held on with putty there.

I haven't bought any of the new Masters of the Universe figures, but I did get yet another Battle Cat last weekend. This one is from a batch of McDonald's Happy Meal toys from around 2003; smaller, simpler versions of the new designs. You can see a couple of the Beast Men from that in the alternate banner I set up; and I know I have a couple of He-Men and Man-at-Arms; the He-Men sans weapons, and all from garage sales here and there.

More behind the bump! For a change...

I've had those figures out, since I've been cautiously dipping my toe into the three-and-three-quarter inch pool; and I wanted to set up a little comparison chart for sizing. The DC Infinite Heroes figures are a little puny compared to the Marvel ones I've got so far: Nightcrawler towers over Superman, there. But the DCIH look like superheroes compared to the tiny Star Trek figures. And all do they all match up with G.I. Joes or Star Wars figures?

Well, I haven't got it together yet, and it might take a bit: I had it in my head I needed the Marvel Universe Captain America figure, but that one is long gone in this neck of the woods. Ditto Moon Knight, who was tempting. Either would help my comparisons, since to nitpick, technically Nightcrawler is from the Wolverine and the X-Men animated and Pool from the Wolverine movie, two separate (but close enough) lines. I saw a good review of the Terminator: Salvation Hunter-Killer vehicle that came with a endoskeleton, worth getting if on sale, perhaps. There's also a Hellboy set floating around that I wouldn't mind; but then again, Hasbro is teasing the return of Marvel Legends, so I mind toss most of these figures back in a box and bag it. Relatively speaking, that is; since that probably wouldn't happen for a year, at least.

Ah, I'm glad I went with this one today: a little more cheery than the last one, there.
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Hey, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen opens today...

Next, Prime started yelling, 'Decepticon!' at his own arm and shot it...
...and yeah, I'll be waiting until it gets to the dollar theatre, yeah. Or, if the kids and I are lucky, the drive-in when we're on vacation! That won't really make the movie better, but yay, drive-in!

Come to think of it, the Oldest and I saw the first one at said dollar theatre, too. He's getting excited, and picked up a couple new figures last Friday: Bumblebee and a Brawl...I think he's Brawl, anyway. We laughed pretty hard at Wheelie, and I also did not care for the unicycle-bot, whatever the blue motorcycle one was called. And we watched the first Transformers DVD: I don't hate it, but I did have to fast-forward through Michael Bay's extended loving homages to Top Gun the military, any scenes with Anthony Anderson...or John Turturro...or most of the human characters. (Sam's arrest, and the intelligence agents' subplot, were especially painful.)

Also, if I hadn't been watching it with a minor, here's a little drinking game you can play: drink every time you see an actor from some Fox show! "Thas's...that's that guy...secret service guy on 24. Yay, Uncle Bernie! And that kid was on Buffy like twenny years ago...hey, it's Sucre! Was he killed on Prison Break? And why is this bottle empty?" (Was Buffy ever on Fox? Ah, whatever.)

No disrespect to Hugo Weaving, but Megatron's funnier if you read it in Frank Welker's voice, and I can almost hear it.

So, while I enjoy the toys and Slurpees and occasional jest at its expense, it's safe to say, I'm not overly excited for Revenge of the Fallen. I'm not as not excited as Topless Robot, though. Granted, they have a lot of valid reasons to be pissed; but it's an unfortunate effect of the internet: Look, I've never met Michael Bay. I think I've only seen one other of his films, Pearl Harbor, and I was drifting in and out of it. I've never listened to his director's commentary, haven't read or seen a lot of interviews with him, and am not positive I could pick him out of a line-up of directors. ("Wait, aren't you Uwe Boll?") And yet I'm 90, 95% positive Michael Bay is a colossal douchebag. That makes me a little sad, because I could be wrong prejudging him, and Bay the person could have nothing to do with his work. Maybe Bay supports orphans or saves puppies or meditates daily or knits. I don't know, so it doesn't seem fair to think that.

Still, 90, 95% positive. I'll see Transformers 2 when I see it, and I hope the Oldest likes it.

A question--non-snarky this time, 'kay? In interviews lately, Shia LeBeouf was talking about getting gouged in the head with a bigass spike during a stunt. According to the story, he walked it off, got some stitches, and was filming a couple hours later. The story sounds like a badge of honor for Shia, and that's great; but...shouldn't he be kind of pissed that he got hurt? I know there's a risk of danger in stunts for a movie like that, but don't they try to minimize the chance of face-stabbery? Plus, I'm sure most of you reading this, if you got stabbed in the face at work--hell, if I got poked a little--you would take the rest of the day off and possibly consider suing, depending on the degree and the circumstances. Of course, you say, you're in a field where workers can reasonably expect not to get face-stabbed...maybe I'm reading too much into this.

Two short ones this time, but maybe I'll have something up later. Actually, I'm planning that vacation, and trying to get some backlog stocked up...I didn't really talk about these figures, either, but I think we'll come back to them, OK?
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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Much like the Playboy Mansion, you're never getting past the door at Wayne Manor:

I freely confess to never having watched an entire episode of that show.  Now, if they had done a Fortress of Solitude episode...
Took a few minutes last night to try a few pictures with that Wayne Manor I picked up last weekend, and the DC Infinite Heroes Batman. I don't think he looks too bad with that, and I've been playing around with different things for the smaller scale: I keep meaning to try the Doomsday figure (from the pre-DCSH Superman line) that was a little small compared to the Superman in the same wave; with a DCIH Supes that he'll tower over. Doomsie will also be way more poseable, but still, worth a try.

I am also still really monkeying around with the lighting, especially with the smaller figures. It might be down to trial-and-error, but it's still fun.
Is there any way for Indy to hold that idol, or am I just lazy?
I don't know how Indiana Jones comics are selling--I've only read a few since the Marvel Super Special edition of Raiders of the Lost Ark. (And every time I remember that one, I wish I had it and the Blade Runner one again: not that they were all that great, but they remind me of my Grandpa on my mom's side, since I'm pretty sure that's where I read those...) But wouldn't a forties Batman/Indiana Jones crossover, not unlike the Byrne Captain America/Batman one-shot, be something? Hell, throw Cap in there. Why not?

Hmm. I probably should've saved this post, to cover while I'm on vacation next month. Well, I'm sure I'll come up with something else between now and then. Maybe.
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A Monark Starstalker timetable:

I suppose keeping a big robot falcon perched on it all day, would be one way to keep that pimp hand strong.
1976, cover date October: Howard Chaykin's creation, Monark Starstalker, debuts in Marvel Premiere #32. Whether successful or not, or whether Chaykin planned on another story or not, this is Monark's only appearance. I was probably five years old at the time.
Seriously, no idea. Was it in a quarter box? Did I swipe this from someone?
1986, cover date July: Portions of Marvel Premiere #32, along with numerous other examples of his work, appear in an Gary Groth interview with Chaykin in the Comics Journal #109. Starstalker is referred to, in editorial captions not directly from Chaykin, as "an abortive Marvel strip," but the reasons for its demise are not given. Even with illustrations, it's a thirty-three page interview.

Some time later, probably during the nineties: I somehow got a copy of Comics Journal #109. I have no idea how; I think I've maybe read the Journal in print twice in my life. That has nothing to do with the quality or attitude of the Journal, it was simply never readily available for me at comic shops or newstands. By the time I got this issue, I would've already been a fan of Chaykin's from the American Flagg! graphic novel Hard Times, his Blackhawk miniseries, maybe even Midnight Men for all I know.

June 1, 2009: I get a copy of Marvel Premiere #32, during a sale at the Comic Book Shop.
This is about as much of an origin as we've seen so far for Monark.
June 16, 2009: In Comic Book Resources' preview of Marvel's September 2009 solicitations, Monark Starstalker appears on the cover of Nova #29 Per the solicit:
NOVA #29
Penciled by Kevin Sharpe
"Starstalker" part 1 of 2! How has the aftermath of the War of Kings affected the newly reborn and viciously battered Nova Corps? When the universe is changed, who is left to protect and serve the innocents? Out of the devastation--and from Marvel's cosmic past--strides a mysterious new threat...and an unexpected ally! Find out who in the latest issue of the series that ComicPants.com calls, "a consistently entertaining and enjoyable read...If you haven't been reading Nova you are missing out on one of Marvels best written books."
32 PGS./Rated T+ ...$2.99

(Coincidentally enough, Howard Chaykin is in the same Marvel solicits, with a Dominic Fortune mini, a character that also appeared in Marvel Premiere and that I just bought recently!)

I'm looking forward to both of these; and I must confess, I like how Abnett and Lanning are expertly taking old Marvel sci-fi stuff like Starstalker, Bug of the Micronauts, Rocket Raccoon, Star-Lord, and more; folding them back into the Marvel Universe proper without wasting a lot of time on continuity issues. (You do have to wonder what happened to the rest of the Micronauts, or Rocket's old crew; or how Bug got big. Still, you tend to trust Abnett and Lanning not to pull a fast one and make Bug a Skrull or something...)

Monark Starstalker's next appearance will be just shy of thirty-three years from his last one. To put that into a little skewed perspective, from Marvel Premiere's tenure as a try-out book, everyone else from Woodgod to Seeker 3000 to Alice Cooper appeared more often since then.

Weirdworld fans, don't hold your breath...
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Monday, June 22, 2009

Misidentified robots, overambitious sharks, and the rest of last weekend.

Long time readers here will know I like hitting up yard sales for action figures and comic books, and am disappointed better than nine times out of ten. This weekend perseverance finally paid off, as I turned up multiple goodies, including a Wayne Manor/Batcave playset (from Batman: the Animated Series, not the Mego one that could be used to make a down payment on a real house...) a Jabba the Hutt; and this chap, whom I'm calling 'Fisty.'Fisty doubtless has a proper name. I don't care. He's some Gundam with four fists and four feet; although damned if I could tell you why. I don't think he's from that crazy one with the windmill and mermaid robots...EDIT: It just occurred to me, I could take those shoulder-pointy things out, get some nice pens, and make a kickass desk set out of Fisty.

Also, I did find just a few old comics: usually, I'd post a link to GCD, but this issue isn't GCD-pretty and needs to be seen. Plus, I suppose it's ironic that it's water-damaged:
Mike Grell? Really? This cover is barely a step removed from a Coppertone ad...
Look, I know full well Jaws was culturally huge in 1976--I was afraid of sharks, and I lived in Montana. (And was five, smartass.) But not only is that not a great cover, it only barely relates to the story within. I was kind of hoping a shark from Krypton made it's way to earth and super-powers. It's no worse an idea than Beppo...

Instead, it's Green Lantern bad guy the Shark, re-evolving himself back into his super-human form. Somehow. We've seen him before, facing off against most of the Justice League with a bunch of animal pals.

Uh, I'm not a scientist, but I'm pretty sure the Shark can't suck evolution juice or whatever out of a kid in order to re-power up. I was also unaware that Popeye-analog Captain Strong appeared in more than one issue, either. (Cap'n Strong is also accidentally called Superman during the denouement, too.) In the end, the Shark ends up back as an ordinary shark (an ordinary shark that will keep trying to re-evolve himself, though) and even then he still tries to take a final swipe at Supes.

Not a great comic, but still glad to have it. We'll probably look at more garage sale stuff later.
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Friday, June 19, 2009

Your Happenstance panel for today...

...is a recent one, a (maybe) spoiler-free panel from Final Crisis: Escape #2:

From "Pawns" Written by Ivan Brandon, pencils by Marco Rudy, inks by Mick Gray with Jack Purcell.

Even though I've not followed a lot of DC in a couple years, the premise for this one grabbed me. How do recap the first two issues of this one, since neither the readers, nor the main character, and possibly not the writer, have any idea where this is going? Here goes: Tom Tresser, a.k.a. Nemesis, master of disguise, former Suicide Squad operative, and current Wonder Woman boyfriend; is drugged and kidnapped. He wakes up in a mysterious faculty (that may or may not be named, "the Electric City"? Wasn't that in the solicits?) with faceless captors, OMAC-like watchers, and several other espionage agents, including Amanda Waller, Rick Flag, and Cameron Chase.

Or maybe he doesn't: people, places and things seem to shift from panel to panel. Nemesis may or may not even be Nemesis, or there might be more than one. Or he might be drugged to the gills and imagining most of this.

The Factual Opinion had a review, which among other things, pointed out "It's still got potential, which is weird, because it's a six issue mini-series and this is the second issue, so you'd imagine that it might be time for the potential to turn into pay-off, but hey, maybe that's just the way it's going to roll. " I think readers so far are giving this series a lot of rope, in the hopes that it pays off and doesn't hang itself. But it's early on, and there's still any number of ways it could stumble:
  • The whole series could be a drug trip halluncination, with Nemesis fighting his way out of it in the last issue; meaning you just dropped eightteen bucks you could've spent on actual drugs...
  • The whole series isn't an elaborate mindgame, it's an elaborate counter-mindgame; created out of Nemesis' imagination to keep his cover while being probed or interrogated.
  • "Nemesis" isn't really Nemesis, and neither is anyone else: they're all OMAC-created simulacrums designed for either testing or replacing those characters.
  • Every time the caption boxes use "Word Deleted" they're saying, "Beatrix Kiddo."
  • So far they've avoided the trap of "Nemesis keeps escaping, and when he thinks he's clear, bam! He's right back where he started!" But if Nemesis becomes the new warden or jailer or whatever, suck.
  • Three pages from the end, when things look darkest, the faceless keeper unmasks--gasp! Nemesis! He was three steps ahead all along!

Hopefully, I haven't guessed it, since those endings would be terrible.

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Thursday, June 18, 2009

It's too soon for a Robocop remake, but I'd watch this:

Thanks to the Youngest for 'Robot roll call!' Much as I love Robocop vs. Terminator, tell me the addition of a plucky little robot trash man wouldn't make it better. No? Well, this amused me, for some reason. The image of Wall*E crushing a T-800's metal skull in his compactor would make a great trailer, though...

I'm working on something else right now, but I need to make a note to try and find either new copies or the trade for Robocop vs. Terminator. I've mentioned it before, but still can't find it, so I'm positive I lent it out or something. Recently, there's been talk of remaking, probably rebooting, Robocop, but it feels premature. If they do go through with it, though, my gut feeling is that they absolutely can not have an American direct or write it. Seriously. Frank Miller did all right, but the satire aspect has to come from an outsider's point of view. How to put this? A foreigner can look at American commercials, then underline and exaggerate their worst aspects to mock them and the products they peddle. An American director would magnify and multiply those worst aspects, while still trying to place a product.

If there's a worse idea for a remake, it would be Blade Runner. On some news story at imdb.com somebody I'd never heard of said he wanted the Harrison Ford part. (Idiot! Rutger Hauer's character is the movie!) Bad, bad, bad idea. How could it be made better? You can't make it simpler, because that would destroy the mystique; and making it more complex would just be muddying the waters. It doesn't need more CGI or better production values: the city looks like hell and it should. What's left? More replicants? Deckard's troubled past? Explosions? Leave it be.

Shoot, wasn't I supposed to be working on something? Luckily, tomorrow's post is already done, so check back for a happenstance panel of a book you could and should run out and buy now...but don't blame me if it doesn't turn out...
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Re-evolution, killer shrews in space, and can I get a ride home?

Sinister had a goatee last issue, and now he looks too Tim Curry-like.

Last time: the High Evolutionary had turned all the mutants on earth into normal humans, but the procedure was going to cause wild mutation in all life on earth, thanks to the involvement of Mr. Sinister. The powerless X-Men have less than a week to stop him. (Since they figure the Avengers, Fantastic Four, Power Pack, etc. will have their own problems and don't need to be bothered with every little thing.)

Fortunately, the X-Men have big piles of stolen alien crap from the Skrulls, the Shi'ar, etc. (Which begs the question, every time the Sentinels attack, why don't the X-Men whip out some of the ray guns and whatnot?) While they get ready, Mr. Sinister makes his own preparations: he wants to use the High Evolutionary's tech to make an army of New Men, evolved animals. H.E. tells M.S. to suck it, but Sinister just says he'll figure it out. How hard could it be?

More after the bump!

I know you're falling apart, Wolvie, but you could change into a uniform that isn't full of blood...
Rogue calls the jailed Mystique, who gets steamed that her foster daughter is siding with the X-Men over her. As the team works on a ship, most are anxious to get their powers back, when Wolverine arrives. Or most of him, anyway. Still dying of "adamantium poisoning," Logan had been willing to take one for the team if it meant other mutants like Marrow would be happy, but he's also ready to die fighting.

'Oh, I'm sorry, Kitty: who here has multiple doctorates? Hmm?'
The ex-X-Men launch into space, and note that mutants apparently cope better with G-force nausea than normos do. Since the High Evolutionary is ostensibly peaceful, his satellite didn't have the weaponry to shoot them down, and Sinister is looking forward to comparing their powerless performance to previous records.
'Ha! What did the five fingers say to the face! I finally get that one!'
His New Men are supposedly mutated normal animals, but seem to include Gloop (or Gleep) from the Herculoids, Tweak from the classic Judge Dredd story "the Cursed Earth," and a snake-lizard guy in bright yellow pants and a big-S belt buckle. As everyone fights, Storm, Wolverine, and Kitty break away to try and find the station's power core; but Wolvie gets Sinister's scent--wait, did that still work?--and they decide to try to take him and the station's controls.
That's a puppy with a carpet remnant on it's back!
Sinister is pretty well prepared, though: he's got a Killer Shrew for Wolvie! (Or maybe a giant rat, but it's more fun to figure Sinister is an MST3K fan.) Wolvie fights his way to Sinister, who tries to burn him down with his nondescript ray-hands. Kitty realizes those blasts should've killed Wolvie outright, and deduces that nausea they all felt earlier wasn't g-forces, it was their powers starting back up. It dawns on Sinister that his powers still work there, maybe everyone else's would too...even scorched bald, Wolverine still has a prodigious amount of arm hair, and slices up an explody console.

The X-Men regroup to watch Logan heal slowly up, and the freed High Evolutionary says he's regressed all the New Men back into animals, Mr. Sinister just escaped in the X-Men's ship, and Wolverine didn't destroy the anti-mutation satellites: Wolvie just broke the Evolutionary out, and he destroyed his misused life's work. Back on earth, old mutants repower up: awkward for some like Jean Grey or the Blob, but awesome for others like Magneto or the now-incredibly pissed Mystique. And in space, the X-Men themselves return to normal, presumably as they wait to get a ride home.
If this had been a big crossover thing, Blob would've gotten a three-issue mini out of that...
It doesn't seem like the X-Men gave some of their depowered friends a heads-up: the sudden return of her powers could've very easily killed Jean, and it's likely Warren was in a public place when his powers came back. I like to think the Toad turned back into the Toad, in a scene reminiscent of the end of They Live...
My finger fell off, help me find it for my scrapbook!
Marrow sprouts horns from her forehead pretty quickly, and Nightcrawler looks like he's going to molt off his extra fingers, which is kind of gross. Did his tail just fall off when he lost his powers? This happens every once in a while at Marvel, like when Spidey grows or loses extra arms, and it's never quite clear.

Not a bad little yarn: entertaining, and relatively quick, even with a cast of dozens. Nowadays, a plot like this would be spun out into every book Marvel could, and then some miniseries tie-ins to boot; and while admittedly that might add some depth, or get to some characters and plots that got shortchanged (the Moonstar/Cable one is barely an afterthought) there is something to be said for the cheap, bare-bones and done story. If you can find it, all three issues were reprinted in X-Men Universe #8.
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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

If Blackest Night doesn't deliver some Hal vs. Guy fisticuffs, it has failed.

I recently picked up the Guy Gardner DC Infinite Heroes figure, at a substantial markdown: for $6.99 or more, you'd feel taken, but for $3.50 it's a lot more reasonable. It's in the three and three-quarter inch scale (or in that neighborhood) and not terrible, but certainly not amazing; but it has the virtue of being the first Guy Gardner figure for me.

Then, while reading some posts over at the ever-entertaining Green Lanterns' Butts Forever, I got to thinking about some old school Guy Gardner appearances. Not the oldest, but his return while Steve Englehart was writing the book. I've lost several of those issues, but to the best of my recollection, Englehart didn't give Guy a single redeeming, or endearing, characteristic. (Certainly not for a while, anyway; I don't think we saw other sides of Guy until his Justice League days.) While Guy may have had the excuse of being (quite literally) brain-damaged, he was a single-minded psychopath, willing to do anything in the service of the Guardians, in order to prove he was the greatest Green Lantern. And "anything" included working with super-villains, and attempting to murder Hal Jordan.

Sod, now I have to find that one: prior to becoming a Green Lantern again, Hal was using a power ring but not the costume. During the Crisis, Hal, Guy, and an army of super-villains attempt to destroy the positive matter spot on the moon of Qward in the anti-matter universe...yeah, that sounds more insane here. Doing so was supposed to destroy the Anti-Matter, but instead would've blown up reality or something. At one point, when Hal dissents, Guy takes his power ring, and leaves him to die in space. I don't remember it coming up much after that, and Hal was a lot less maverick in those issues, so it's not like he'd just let it slide; Englehart may have realized he went too far there.

Well, maybe we'll dig those up again sometime. These figures are all from the DC Infinite Heroes line, and as such are smaller than I usually work with. None of them are quite as poseable, either; and you can judge for yourself on the paint. But, I have been thinking about how these smaller figures are going to look as a group, and how they might look with other figures; which we might get to Friday. If we're lucky.

Oh, and Ollie socking Hawkman in the kisser? It's traditional. I don't know if they ever actually came to blows in the classic satellite era Justice League of America, but they did not get along. Carter was a conservative voice of reason, or a fascist just-following-orders tool; and Ollie was a liberal dreamer fighting for change, or a blowhard asshole. Depending on who was writing them, I suppose. We may come back to that, as well.
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The Enterprise doesn't carry enough red shirts to take on Rann.

Appropriately for new Trek, I think there's like two lens flares, or flash spots, in there...
In the new Star Trek movie, there could be any number of valid in-story reasons to use parachutes instead of jetpacks: their energy signature could be detected, they might not have the power to decelerate from orbit and still fly around, most humans may not have the necessary reflexes to use them effectively. That and if Kirk threw on a jetpack, it would have to be a pretty damn exciting scene or viewers are going to be thinking Buck Rogers or Rocketeer.

And although I like the idea of Adam Strange, I have relatively few of his appearances. I've read some of his most recent miniseries, and a good chunk of his Justice League showings; ranging all the way from Justice League of America to JLA to Justice League Adventures. I did enjoy his one-shot, where Grant Morrison points out that his adopted homeworld of Rann is ludicrously dangerous, but I've only seen a few of his 52 issues, and nothing since.

Both of these figures are three-and-three-quarter inch scale, or thereabouts; a scale I'm still resisting against. At least at full price. More on these figures tomorrow, though, and a new strip! See you then.
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Monday, June 15, 2009

In lieu of content, here's a panel from Quasar #38:

Buy Infinity War and it's crossovers, and you'll see this scene from several angles...
From "Who's War is This, Anyway?" Written by Mark Gruenwald, "penciler supreme" Greg Capullo, "inker supreme" Harry Candelario.

Busy, busy, busy; but Wednesday and Thursday's posts are good to go. And, I do so enjoy my Infinity War crossovers...well, the first couple months, anyway. Now that I think about it, I don't think I've re-read Infinity War, or Gauntlet, or Crusade, in quite some time. Partly because of the diminishing returns--I really liked the first two or three issues of War more than anything, but the rest and the ending are a bit less memorable--but also between the individual issues and the myriad crossovers, it's a tough one to pin down.

As I've stumbled across them in my boxes, we've previously had scans from Fantastic Four #367, New Warriors #27, Fantastic Four #367 again, and Infinity War #2. I'm pretty sure the Quasar appearance ties into a scene from Infinity War #3, where Captain America leads a contingent of earth's mightiest heroes (and some of Alpha Flight, for some reason) against Warlock, since they weren't sure of his intentions.

I might come back to this sometime, since while I've made a little fun at this crossover's tendency to repeat scenes from different angles in different issues; the better tie-ins gave more of what that particular comic's characters were doing or going through in the crossover. Infinity War proper may only devote a panel or two to Quasar, but in his own comic he gets to fight Warlock head on. Guess we can all be stars of our own stories, huh?

Tomorrow: Justice League! Or Robocop. Maybe Green Lantern? I have a vague idea, but, we'll see.
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Friday, June 12, 2009

Today's Happenstance panels...

...are late. Sorry. The one time I've had to blog all week, and my computer decides it's update-running time. I did finish most of next week's strip, though: I just have a little cut-and-paste left, and done, I think.

I'm not sure I've even read a comic this week, though. Busy, and I might not even get to the comic shop until Monday. Heck, even if I got in now, I wouldn't have the time to sit down and read them; especially Seaguy, since I want to read all three issues. (I enjoyed the first two more than most of Morrison's other recent work, though.) I saw the DC sales numbers yesterday over at the Beat (sorry, no link, just hit the sidebar) and they weren't great for Seaguy. Or the new Warlord either, which is discouraging. I don't know how either of those would stack up as trades, so again, discouraging.

I did get a bit of summer reading in, though. I re-read one of my favorite books, Haruki Murakami's The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. And although I'm not a follower of his work, I may as well mention Chris Ware of Acme Novelty Library did some design work for the book cover. I also read again, as I often do in the summer, some Hellboy novels. The Bones of Giants by Christopher Golden is my favorite, and I'm in the middle of On Earth as It Is in Hell (by Brian Hodge) now. May have to keep an eye out for a couple new ones.

So: hopefully, panels or something to come...later.
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Thursday, June 11, 2009

De-Evolution, 'Spiritual guys,' and Adamantium Poisoning.

Last week, The High Evolutionary had just used an energy wave to turn every mutant on earth into normal humans. What's he going to do for a follow-up? Um, how about mope about whether he had the right to do that? H.E. seems uncertain, but his old teacher Dr. Essex reassures that this is the best course of action. Although Essex looks like an Einstein-type, it's not clear why H.E. doesn't realize Essex should be really old, as in dead; unless he just figures all geneticists don't age.
Iceman's gun goes 'poom,' I gather.
Stuck in Genosha, Beast and Iceman have managed to find some action-heroey ensembles and guns, and are trying to protect some of the former mutates from the now-superior human forces. (The battle was pretty even when the mutates had powers and the humans had battlesuits and whatnot.) They are joined by gun-toting Magneto and his crew; who point out that the humans don't care how or why the mutates changed, they're just going to press the advantage and exterminate them.

More after the bump!
No one had the heart to tell Kurt to sew up his...tail-hole.
Meanwhile, the Xavier Institute...is closed until further notice. Nightcrawler has stayed behind to maintain the school, but it's more because he misses being Nightcrawler. As plain Kurt, he's not as agile, and had to relearn how to walk in a straight line without a tail, and has icky extra fingers. I thought his acrobatic ability was a learned skill, though, and not as much a power. Ex-Colossus Peter encourages Kurt to get out of the house and travel, since weeks have seemingly passed between the start of the issue and page eight. Kitty's back in school, and is enjoying her classes but also realizing most girls her age are "irritating. And that's the polite way of putting it." She reads a postcard from Warren and Betsy--the former Archangel and Psylocke--on vacation in St. Moritz, since Warren could never go to beaches before as he couldn't have his wings out. Peter doesn't think the beach is a fair trade for flying.
Girls, a friendly tip:  if you're seeing a guy that's 'spiritual,' he's not.
Storm and Marrow are volunteering at a children's park-ground in upstate New York. While Marrow is enjoying the hell out of not having extra bones sticking out of her and the dating opportunities that brings; Storm is struggling with this second loss of her powers. Rogue is able to touch people (and loss of her powers doesn't seem to have affected her legs, which are absurdly long...) Why is Rogue taking the subway?  Two steps with those legs, and she's there! but has to cope with the lack of personal space in the city. She's working on Mystique's case, as her foster mom faces an assload of charges while freaking out over being stuck with her old face.

Meanwhile, setting up Chris Claremont's run, the hidden community of the Neo is wrecked up when they lose their powers. But they're the suckiest of Marvel's several dozen hidden races, and we shall waste no more time with them. Somewhere else, not sure where; a street gang attacks Jubilee, then gets the beatdown by Wolverine. Who is not taking powerlessness well: Logan just got his adamantium back, the week before losing his healing factor, which he kinda needed to prevent adamantium poisoning...OK, Wolvie's not a doctor. He's probably dying of something else, like not being able to make blood cells, or rejection, or from taking stab wounds he thought he could heal from.

The former Mirage, Danielle Moonstar, gets a psychic vision from Cable, who may now be a techno-organic Alien egg at this point. She wonders if their powers aren't completely gone after all; and Genosha seems to back that up. Beast realizes some of the mutates have "stalled in mid-transformation" and their mutations are mutating, and that the rest of the planet will soon follow suit.

In space, the High Evolutionary is about to come to the same conclusion, when he's zapped and frozen by his teacher...revealed as Mr. Sinister! Duhn-duhn-duh! Concluded next week, in Uncanny X-Men #380, "Heaven's Shadow"!

All scans this time from X-Men #99, "Oh, the Humanity!" Plot by Alan Davis, pencils by Brett Booth, script by Terry Kavanagh, inks by Sal Regla. Like we said, Davis was on his way out, and these issues seem much wordier than previous ones: either Kavanagh was emulating a Claremont style to prep for his return, or he thought the letterer was getting lazy and needed to step up.
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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

On Punisher: War Zone.

This post has slid back a ways, but oh well. Anyway, like I said there, Judge Dredd is one of those movies I'll probably catch every decade or so, thinking, "Oh, there's no way it's as bad as I remember," and I'll be wrong every time.

Aside from Star Trek, I haven't dragged myself to any of the big summer films yet. The Youngest wants to see Up: he might not know Pixar, but he recognizes it. I like that they are almost the opposite of hype: every time their new movie is announced, I'll be thinking, "Gee, a cooking rat. That sounds...great." And it actually will be! Damnedest thing.

The Oldest wants to see Transformers, although we had a good laugh about the kid, Spike or whoever, going to college without his transforming car and his hot girlfriend. No, he won't need those, he's going to be busy studying, really buckling down...the Oldest also saw a G.I. Joe preview and it took him a bit to guess what it was. (Admittedly, we don't watch a ton of G.I. Joe, but he had seen a few of the old ones.)

Still behind this week: everything has been set up in advance, and I haven't really blogged in days. I am in the middle of next week's strip though, featuring not one but two Green Lanterns! We'll see why the Justice League should reconsider their non-duplication clause, no matter what Hawkgirl says...
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Tuesday, June 09, 2009

A Motivational Speech, from Outlaw Kid #12:

(Reprinted in Outlaw Kid #29, "In the Claws of Bounty-Hawk!" Written by Mike Friedrich, pencils by Dick Ayers, inks by Jack Abel.)

Swamped today. Be back soon!

Oh, all right: if you're at all curious about old western comics...go with DC. I admit I tend to favor Marvel, but their western books are G-rated cookie cutters; and even I can barely tell the Rawhide Kid from the Outlaw Kid from the Two-Gun Kid. Retroactively, one was gay, one went to the future with the Avengers once or twice, and one...I don't know, let's say...shot the guy that shot the guy that shot Liberty Valance. Bat Lash and Jonah Hex are way cooler. And even Bat had a higher body count...

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Friday, June 05, 2009

Most Riders?

I picked up the Playmates Terminator: Salvation T-R.I.P. figure the other day, almost hoping I could sub it in for a Ghost Rider 2099: no dice. He's in a six-inch scale, but closer to Playmate's other line, Star Trek, than Marvel Legends; and not super-poseable. The mass-market sculpt isn't as sharp as a "collectors" grade one (like NECA's) but I believe there are 3.75 inch versions of T-R.I.P. as well, and he may hold up better at that scale. (Guesswork: I can't recall if I've seen the 3.75's on the rack, let alone given them more than a passing glance.) And his facial expression is less scary and more "meh," which sums him up.

T-R.I.P. was on sale, which didn't hurt, and I think other retailers might be wise to do likewise: with new Transformers figures out, two scales of Star Trek, and a smattering of Wolverine toys still out there, competition could be fierce. I want to say there could be some great sales come fall, but then again, there are still stores in the neighborhood with full-price Indiana Jones figures on the racks collecting dust.

I don't do a lot of single-panel gags--you can hit OAFE.net, Articulated Discussion, or Poe Ghostal's Points of Articulation for a lot more--but here's probably the lot of them from here: for some reason, the Ghost Riders show up in the last two, Ghost Rider $20.99 and Test Yours Today.

The most recent snow day: You can't tell, but they have the heater going something fierce in there.

Burger King inappropriateness: I'm guessing, getting a converter box is the least of your worries here.

Batman pays the price for knowledge, in Sometimes, being the world's greatest detective kinda sucks.

This is why there's no Vulko figure: 90% of any give day in Atlantis.

He's wishing he was back at Vertigo now: Spear Carriers, Chair fillers, second bananas, what have you.

Man, Superhero Squad figures can be weird sometimes. Self-explanatory.

I'm about two green women away from a set: Cue fight music in three, two, one...

Cereal-prize nonsense: Dummies.

The title has nothing to do with this: If I had got Admiral Kirk, it would've been a very different strip. Somehow.

Hangover. Also self-explanatory.

More snow day "fun": Arctic Blast Batman?

A quick tribute to one of my favorite comics ever: Cretacious Sam.

This was going somewhere, then thankfully didn't: He-Men?

And one I did to celebrate a whole stretch of not-blogging: Give Thanks.

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Thursday, June 04, 2009

Evolution in comics, how old is Kitty Pryde, and what does 'statutory' mean?

Right up front: I didn't like Chris Claremont's return to the X-books. I thought Alan Davis had been doing a decent job, and the books were enjoyable reads, if not reinventing the wheel. And, this one has elements predating House of M and Secret Invasion!

Uncanny X-Men #379, "What Dreams May Come..." Story by Alan Davis, pencils by Tom Raney, inks by Scott Hanna. This issue opens with the aftermath of the Apocalypse: the Twelve storyline, where Cyclops sacrificed himself to defeat the Big A. Mulling over a "Shi'ar Holempathic Matrix Crystal" of Cyke, Professor X leaves earth with the Skrull mutants.

OK, even if the X-Men had a bunch of blank holempathic matrix crystals, and a holempathic surround recording studio; when would Cyclops have made that thing? Do all the X-Men make them, in case of their untimely demise? Or is that a special, favorite student thing? I still don't know how the Professor returned from space this time (he previously spent yeeeeears in space starting in UXM #200) or if the mutant Skrulls were ever brought up again, even in Secret Invasion where it would've made sense.

Way more after the bump!

That's either wrong, or wrong...
As she complains about Professor X abandoning them, and having her own hopes and dreams, Kitty says she's barely sixteen. Wha--? Really? Kitty first appeared in UXM #129 as a thirteen-year-old (in 1980), so the last two-hundred and fifty-one issues worth of Uncanny took place in a three year period? That would also include a hundred and twenty five or so issues of Excalibur, and her relationship with Peter Wisdom, which would be just wrong then...

At any rate, having lost two of the team's strongest leaders, it's time for Storm...to space out during a game of baseball. Logan saves her from a baseball to the noggin, and Storm admits she's already worrying about the next crisis; that the X-Men are "a fire brigade" and there's always another fire.

Meanwhile, tons of other mutants are going about their business: in Genosha, Polaris is shoring up Magneto's failing powers, in an attempt to bring peace to the region. Mystique is sneaking into the NSA to try to see how several of her cover identities have been blown. Phoenix sits on a mountaintop, and has a brief chat with X-Man. (The young version of Cable from the Age of Apocalypse, and that's as much as I'm going to get into that, although I know I liked the first issues of that book...) The current Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, a total sausage-fest with Blob, Toad, the somehow not-dead Mimic, and Post; plans a heist. And the Beast gets Iceman to give him a ride to Genosha to research the Legacy Virus.
I imagine anytime anything is lost or goes missing now, Gambit comes to mind.
The X-Men themselves are having a picnic, when the story starts moving: a hologram of the High Evolutionary appears, and promptly denounces mutants as a danger to the genetic potential of the world and its people. The High Evolutionary is probably one of the nicer, more well-meaning mad scientists in comics, but has rarely accomplished anything helpful. I think I've lost more comics than I have with him: those Evolutionary War annuals, a couple batches of Thor, Ka-Zar of all places. After a brief debate, what gives you the right, blah blah blah; H.E. declares he has an energy field that will neutralize their mutant genomes, and make them human. And just like that, every mutant on the planet is shut down.

The ones we care about--Jean, X-Man, Cannonball--are shown falling, but not too far. Someone off panel, still debating with the Evolutionary, points out the Avengers have several mutant members and won't take this lying down...which they totally do, since this storyline didn't cross over with even the other X-books, to say nothing of the larger Marvel U. (This, and Kurt Busiek's big Kang story in Avengers, are the best examples of the fragmented nature of Marvel at the time...there wasn't even a handwave explanation as to why no one else noticed.)
Watch the hands, bub!
Magneto falls, in a weird position with Polaris, and realizes old scores are going to be coming for him. Mystique turns blue, then powerless, mid-heist and is captured. The Brotherhood loses their powers, to varying effects:
So...the Toad's power was being an uggo?
Hey, isn't the Mimic a mutate, not strictly a mutant? Well, maybe he lost powers absorbed from mutants.
That would have to be more traumatic than Storm losing her powers, but you wouldn't know it to listen to her...
Beast and Iceman are stuck on Genosha, in their trunks, since that's all they wore as costumes. Mutants like Angel and Nightcrawler transform into ordinary humans--do not ask how that would work. The High Evolutionary feels bad for them, but points out all that silly human vs. mutant stuff is at least over.

Next week, next chapter: X-Men #99, "Oh, the Humanity!"

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Wednesday, June 03, 2009

And sometimes, I blog about the comics I find next to my desk:

Ultron is a pretty popular villain. And why not? He's perfect for comics, like a Terminator that also speechifys; and has endearingly insane evil plans and family issues. That said, not every Ultron appearance is going to be gold. Or adamantium. This one's barely mylar, and it came in a bag with a card--I wonder how many are still safely sealed away?

Avengers West Coast Annual #8, "If Volcanic Winter Comes..." Written by Roy Thomas, art by...good lord, six pencillers: Kris Renkewitz, Dave Ross, Scott Kolins, Larry Alexander, John Czop, and Vince Russell. "Starring War Machine!" reads the blurb right under the title; he was probably at his height of popularity at the time, but this issue isn't going to help.

Putting the titular West Coast front and center for a change, the AWC respond to an anonymous tip at San Francisco's Coit Tower, by charging in with a Quinjet, and running at the tower. Don't panic, citizens! Nothing to see here!
Next month, Gary accidentally throws away the cable bill before paying it, and has to risk incineration to get it back!
At least one bystander, 18-year-old Gary Wilton, realizes that all these superheroes suddenly arriving probably means imminent carnage, and runs like hell. He trips, and his pencil clip falls into an open manhole. The clip being a present from his stepdad, and drawn to look like the nerdiest pocket protector in comics history, Gary has to go down and get it. (Younger readers may think that a pencil clip might have been a perfectly acceptable gift, in the times before Xbox or fire. It was not. Ever. That pencil clip is the gift of someone who loathes you, Gary.) Of course, the drain leads to Ultron's hidden lair, because as we all know, it's absolutely vital for robots to have...access to plumbing.

More after the break!

Who would have thought sharing a simple goal, the goal of killing all humans, could cause so much friction in the relationship?
Gary is quickly captured by Ultron, and his current girlfriendbot, War Toy. Um, scratch that, she wants to be called Alkhema. Whatever that means. When your sexbot demands you change her name, that's probably a sign that the relationship isn't going to go the way you thought it would. I know Alkhema was based on Mockingbird's brain patterns, the same way last year's model Jocasta was based on Janet van Dyne (you can see the similarities in the headgear design) but I don't know why Ultron picked her to copy. Ultron and Alkhema are having a difference of opinion regarding the killing of all humans: Ultron wants to wipe them all out at once, while Alkhema wants to play it out for a while, since she enjoys the killing. It almost makes Ultron a tragic figure: he wants a family, but his creations keep betraying him, the same way he betrayed his own father. (Of course, this has been taken to the extreme of giving Ultron an Oedipal complex now, hasn't it?)

A panicked Gary starts to glow, but before anything happens with that, he's saved by Hawkeye and Mockingbird. Hmm. You wouldn't want to seem ungrateful, but if you had your pick of Avengers to save your ass from killer supermetal robots, no one would fault you for choosing one with powers. Gary manages to get clear, helping himself to Mockingbird's dropped communicard as the rest of the team shows up, and gets beat for a page or two. Ultron then uses his mesmeric ray to hypnotize all six Avengers; and Alkhema suggests why not make them do their dirty work, deploying Ultron's seismic activators, which would create an effect not unlike nuclear winter. Not a bad plan: Ultron sure as hell doesn't run on solar, so a little shade wouldn't bother him.
Even though Raptor's not a bad time, you just know people would be shouting out Birdman, Hawkman, Big Bird...
But what of Gary? He managed to avoid being hypnotized, so Ultron's about to finish him off, when he transforms into the Raptor. It's a big bird guy with a tail...or something. This would be more dramatic if the Marvel Universe wasn't crammed to the gills with things like this, Ultron even seems a little blase about "yet Another human mutation in our midst?" Before the robots can get him, Raptor flies off.

Outside, Raptor fields a call from Iron Man on the communicard. Tony's a bit skeptical of Big Bird's story, and destroys Mockingbird's card, but calls in another batch of Avengers to investigate. In the meantime, we get the Raptor's origin, which is pretty by-the-numbers but has a couple of touches: his parents were research scientists, and when they were told there was complications with their fetus they did a little experimenting. The dad died in a car wreck before Gary was born; the mom was understandably (but way) overprotective, the stepdad was a jerk to his timid son, and Gary was a mouse of a man who turns into Raptor when threatened. It's kinda like the Hulk, except the Hulk's pants are probably never full of urine like Raptor's doubtless are.

Oh, and Raptor has teeth. Creepy.

Next is the tried-and-true Avengers vs. Avengers matchups, and the hypnotized slaves beat Iron Man's squad--including IM and Raptor embarrassingly defeated by Spider-Woman and USAgent. To be fair, at the time Tony was bedridden and piloting his armor by remote control, and he was still the only one who did manage to disable Ultron's device. Which somehow keeps all of them from working, so Ultron has to make a service call.

Although he's a bit steamed at the quality of his slaves' work, Ultron still takes Alkhema's suggestion to hypnotize the rest of the Avengers as well. But, since he's not really there, the hypnosis doesn't affect Iron Man, and he tries to punch it out with Ultron. Not a great plan--the modular armor of the time wasn't Tony's strongest, and it was an empty suit to boot--but it does rally the Avengers to break free of the mesmeric ray.
Shortly after this, War Toy quotes Mickey Spillane, which is kind of hot.
Ultron must've just got that ray thing, since he's bound and determined to just use it again, as opposed to killing the Avengers some other way. Raptor throws himself against Ultron's shield...accomplishing nothing. Ultimately, Ultron's plan is derailed by Alkhema, who also was the one to tip the Avengers in the first place. In the end, Ultron is defeated, Raptor is injured trying to catch Alkhema and reverts to Gary, and eleven Avengers accomplished just about nothing. Less than usual, even. (You'll note they don't appear in the scans today!)

This isn't the most inspiring start of an origin story ever, and poor Raptor didn't 'take off' with fans (boo!), he hasn't been since since to the best of my knowledge. He does fare better than Bloodhawk, though, since from the cover I honestly thought Roy Thomas was going to tie Raptor into that forgotten gem. Surprisingly, Marvel has a far worse track record at these summer 'introduce a bunch of new heroes' annuals and events than DC does: on this list cribbed from the Absorbascon) several may not have set the world on fire, but at least appeared in comics again, plus they knocked one out of the park with Hitman. I was looking for a similar list of Marvel's 1993 annuals, since I know I had a bunch of them. I think Legacy (or Genis, or Captain Marvel) was the only one to go on to anything; but the Battling Bantam may have appeared again. Somewhere.

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