Friday, July 29, 2011

Nightcrawler shouldn't be here, but OK:

A little weird that Kurt'll try to kill Mojo, but wouldn't you?
From X-Men Annual #10, "Performance" Written by Chris Claremont, pencils by Art Adams, inks by Terry Austin.

The good: Art Adams art, duh. Cameo appearances from Walt and Louise Simonson, Puddlegulp (aka Frog Thor, now!) and in the page above, the Robot B-9 from Lost in Space!

The bad: Ugh, New Mutants! I just have never, ever liked them. Any of them. Mojo and Spiral...who turn the X-Men into kids...and the New Mutants have to step up to the a-team to rescue and/or avenge them. Longshot joins the team, and while he always looked sharp with Adams drawing him, for some reason Claremont wrote him as so dumb he didn't recognize water.
I don't know what Longshot's leather outfit is going to do in the pool...
Admittedly, Longshot was kind of an alien, but still. Also, Kurt and Kitty probably shouldn't even be in this issue: they were both injured in the Mutant Massacre crossover and weren't on the team when Longshot joined. Ah, if Art Adams wants to draw them, why not?

And that's it, I'm on vacation! There'll still be posts here next week, but I'll be in my ancestral homeland in Montana, so have fun!
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Thursday, July 28, 2011

More Pirate Kurt!

From Ultimate X-Men #50, "Cry Wolf" Written by Brian K. Vaughn, pencils by Andy Kubert, inks by Danny Miki. While most of the other X-Men can pass as normos and get to go to the carnival, Nightcrawler and Angel are left to play pirates in the holodeck Danger Room. Unfortunately, this issue also has Ultimate Gambit...

I read a bit of Ultimate X-Men, but after Ultimatum...yes, we shall speak no more of this.

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As usual, Alan Davis carries it...

Two-page shot, all that would fit in my scanner!
From Uncanny X-Men #450, "The Cruelest Cut, part 1" Written by Chris Claremont, pencils by Alan Davis, inks by Mark Farmer.

After the dark times of Chuck Austen, Chris Claremont came back to Uncanny X-Men in issue #444, and stayed until #473. Of course, this run wasn't anywhere near as good as his glory days on the book, but it beat the hell out of his first return, with the Neo and the Shockwave Riders and crap like that.

And Claremont got a lot of support from Alan Davis and Mark Farmer. For me, it was usually worth the price of admission to see them draw Nightcrawler and Phoenix/Rachel Summers Grey again. Rachel at the time was using the Marvel Girl codename as well as her mom's last name, since she was pissed at her dad, Cyclops...and you know I love that. This month, as Kurt and Rachel play pirates in the Danger Room, and they kiss once before being interrupted by Wolverine and Storm.

Storm hadn't gotten together with the Black Panther yet, and Claremont seemed to be teasing a possible relationship with her and Kurt, or her and Logan. Nothing would come of that, or of Kurt/Rachel. And the rest of this issue is pretty terrible, with murders in District X, Tessa wondering if she will leave the X-Men, an armored girl gang called the Bacchae, and Logan's first meeting with X-23. Look, the Danger Room sequence is nice, at least.
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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

"Doom Idol" may be "Doom Factor" by the time this is done...

Funny, I had written something up for this, but apparently lost it. Oh, well.

Odds of a Star Sapphire joining the Doom Patrol: 45-to-1.

Odds of that stopping me: 1000-to-1. (A sucker's bet!...especially since I have another one of these done.)

Odds of Matty's DC Universe subscription making an Elasti-Woman figure: Tough to put a number on it. How about, "no." Finishing up the Doom Patrol doesn't seem to be a priority, and she probably wouldn't make the lineup again until they push through a lot of the DC Reboot-look characters.

(It's All True has a post up on the DC sub, but I'm afraid I am by nature a cherry-picker, and don't have the cash to throw at that all at once. That said, if they did manage to get an Elasti-Woman made, I'd put some effort into getting her.)
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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Why shouldn't Nightcrawler stab people? The rest of the X-Men get to!

Only two scans from this issue today: it's a personal favorite, and there was the temptation to scan half the book. Excalibur #100, "London's Burning" Written by Warren Ellis, pencils by Casey Jones, Randy Green, and Rob Haynes; inks by Tom Simmons, Jason Martin, Rick Ketchum, and Rob Haynes.

As you can tell from the first scan there, it's a very Ellis book from the dialog alone; but I'm more than all right with it: some of my favorite characters, taking the lead, and acting like they have some sense? About time! And even though this issue was part of the Onslaught crossover, it doesn't take over the main plotline either.

(The crossover scenes do seem like something the editors gave to Ellis and he ran with that ball: the X-Men arrive on Moira MacTaggert's Muir Island, to tell her Professor Xavier has become part of the monster Onslaught. On the ropes, the X-Men are there for a secret room Xavier left. When Cyclops, Jean Grey, and Moira investigate the Xavier Protocols are unlocked: in case he went bad, the Professor left notes and equipment on how to kill him. Unfortunately, he also left notes on how to kill several of the other X-Men; based on which ones showed for the information...)

Meanwhile, Excalibur has their own problems: the London Hellfire Club, a rogue group of British intelligence called Black Air, and their attempt to use Douglock the cyborg to control a demon imprisoned under the city. Evil mutant time-travelers, horrible biting bullets, the heel turn of Kurt's adopted mom Margali; a ton of plotlines Ellis had been building since he started in Excalibur #83 come due here.

Sadly, it couldn't last: Ellis would finish with the book on #103, and eventually Nightcrawler, Colossus, Shadowcat, and even Wolfsbane would be sent back to the United States...and rolled back from the professionals seen here to backups for Wolverine, Cyclops, Storm, etc.

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The cover's pretty much the best thing about this one: blame Kevin Smith for Spider-Man and the Black Cat: the Evil that Men Do #5, "Trickle Down." Art by Terry and Rachel Dodson.

Spider-Man and Daredevil need some background on a teleporter, so they call in Nightcrawler to drop a ton of exposition about how this might be a mutant but probably isn't. He also lectures them about not knowing their mutant history and acts put out when they tell him they aren't mutants. Which is stupid, since even if that is something he'd say, I'm pretty sure Kurt would've known that, if for no other reason than Spidey and DD would've shown up on Cerebro all the time...

Worse, Spidey and DD take off at the end to deal with the creepy non-mutant teleporter/mind-controller/drug-pusher/rape-victim the Black Cat is dealing with; and Nightcrawler doesn't get to come help out! Yeah, I suppose Spidey and DD wouldn't want another guy coming with them on that one...

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As much of this one as would fit:

While I'm a big fan of Bill Sienkiewicz, I never warmed to the New Mutants. I think I read the "Demon Bear" issues at some point, probably. But, I did dig up New Mutants #22, "The Shadow Within" Written by Chris Claremont, art by Bill Sienkiewicz. Yeah, bought this just for the opening: Nightcrawler gives Cannonball some training in aerial acrobatics, then tries to win over the frightened tricking her, which doesn't seem like a good idea.

Every so often, an issue or two would make reference to the X-Men actually teaching the students at Xavier's; but I don't recall if Kurt ever had his own team of students like some of the other X-Men, like Rogue.

More later today!
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Monday, July 25, 2011

Well, that's a bit on the nose:

Nightcrawler may be dead in Marvel Comics today, but we still have time to check out a few of his old appearances. This time, from Marvel Team-Up #89, "Shoot-Out over Center Ring!" Written by Chris Claremont, pencils by Michael Nasser and Rich Buckler, inks by Josef Rubinstein.

Nightcrawler picks up his girlfriend Amanda Sefton at the airport, but sees an airplane with a big A on it, for Arcade. That's kind of jumping to conclusions, yeah, but Kurt checks it out and overhears Arcade quitting a job: the extravagant hitman had been hired by Amos Jardine to kill Spider-Man, then Jardine decided to go with a lower bidder. Kurt knows Jardine as well: the sleazy tycoon had bought the circus he grew up in, then tried to put him in the freakshow.

At the circus, Kurt tries to draw out the killer, who obligingly takes a shot at him; before Spider-Man shows up. Together, they face bargain-basement assassin Cutrate Cutthroat, who gives them the hassle for a few more pages.

Cutthroat was, like many villains for Marvel Team-Up, completely throwaway...but he would return, in Captain America years later, revealed to be the older brother of Diamondback. Then Cutthroat tried to take Crossbone's job as the Red Skull's right-hand man, which goes about as well as you'd guess...

Like a lot of Marvel Team-Up's, this isn't a stupendous issue, but it's fun enough.

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This doesn't happen in Uncanny X-Force #11:

...since Fantomex uses the mind-whammy to make Kurt think it's happening. This, though, does happen:

Ah, even though I'm not a fan of X-Force, that takes me back. From Uncanny X-Force #11, "The Dark Angel Saga, chapter one: Journey to the Age of Apocalypse" Written by Rick Remender, pencils by Mark Brooks, inks by Andrew Curreie and Mark Brooks.

With Warren Worthington taken over by Archangel, the X-Force team shakes down the Dark Beast for a cure. Dark Beast says he had one, in his old dimension, back in the Age of Apocalypse. X-Force heads over and runs into what's left of the AoA X-Men, including that world's Nightcrawler and Sunfire. Sunfire destroys the doohickey they came over for, and the Dark Beast ditches them there. While Logan is glad to see his lost friends Kurt and Jean again, and they're glad to see him since their Wolverine is dead; the rest of the team quite rightly complains the AoA sucks and they don't wanna be stuck there...

I'm getting ready to go on vacation, but as usual, we'll have posts running even when I'm gone. So, this week will be Nightcrawler week! We'll have a spot of scans from Kurt's old appearances, and probably "Doom Idol" on Wednesday. Or something else. As usual, your guess is as good as mine.
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Friday, July 22, 2011

Captain America vs. the Red Skull! Skulls.

Another one of the first Captain America comics I read as a kid: Captain America #227, "This Deadly Gauntlet!" Written by Roger McKenzie, pencils by Sal Buscema, inks by Mike Esposito and John Tartag. I know this was the first issue in a three-pack sold way back in 1978, but this issue is the conclusion of at least a couple issues of storyline.

Fortunately, the previous issues don't matter much here, since Cap recaps (as it were...) things on the splash page: the Red Skull has transformed every S.H.I.E.L.D. agent on the helicarrier into a duplicate Skull, all dead set on killing Captain America. The agents are dangerous, but Cap fights his way through them, forced to fight his way to the Skull and the captive Nick Fury, chained up under a big magnifying glass set to burn him to death.
No. No. No.
Cap tricks his way past one of the last guards, by putting his shield under his shirt. (Which would. Not. Work.) Facing the main Skull, Cap throws his shield, but it's trapped in a magnetic field. As Nick fries, the Skull tries to break Cap with the guilt of falling again and Bucky's death, but Cap's already put it together.

Namely, that Nick Fury wouldn't break even if he was being set on fire, but he would sweat! The Nick Fury under the magnifier was the ever-popular S.H.I.E.L.D. Life Model Decoy, while the head Red Skull was Nick. The plan was to trick Cap into beating Nick to death, but instead he destroys the Skull's satellite. Cap also realizes the satellite must not have had the power to turn earth into an army of slaves, or the Red Skull would've done it. You'd think a ray that could turn people into Red Skull slaves would get some more use at some later date, but no.

This is a pretty simple issue, and quick, even with only seventeen pages. And the art isn't overly deep or detailed, but again, it keeps things rolling. Please excuse the blocking on today's scans: my copy of this issue is over thirty years old and has been read many a time.

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Thursday, July 21, 2011

When Captain America throws his mighty shield (away)...

The old TV movie Captain America II: Death Too Soon is on SyFy right now, and I probably haven't seen it since it originally aired in 1979. I didn't recall the bits with the townspeople or Cap going over the side of a dam...or his transparent shield; but I know Christopher Lee has a pretty cool death scene coming up. (Oh, that's not a spoiler! He was the bad guy, and it's Christopher Lee! C'mon!)

So, I took a second to grab my beat old copy of Captain America: The Great Gold Steal, by Ted White. While Cap's origin in the book is comic-accurate (for the time, 1968) I believe there's a scene later where he loses his shield! Normally, that would be troubling, since in the traditional Marvel universe Cap's shield is an indestructible blend of vibranium and adamantium, unique and virtually irreplaceable. In this book, however, Cap's shield is well made, and tough, but neither unique nor invulnerable.

I'm curious if that won't be the case in the new movie; and I think the Ultimates Cap follows suit. (To the best of my recollection, anyway.)
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A sad Captain America rerun!

Captain America's funeral: Tragic. Heartbreaking. And yet really familiar...

So, the other day I re-read Punisher/Captain America: Blood & Glory, a three-issue prestige miniseries from 1992. Klaus Janson's art carries it, but D.G. Chichester turns in a right fine story as well. But one moment--well, more than one, we'll come back to it--stuck with me: the bad guys put together some evidence framing Cap, then get it to the Punisher, so Frank shoots him. (Just like he shot Nick Fury, but in Frank's defense, apparently he can shoot good guys and they'll be OK.) Cap's hurt, but he'll live; but he tells Nick Fury to let him die. As far as anyone knows.

Cap plays dead to go undercover, which lasts about nine pages before he's recognized. He's even recognized out of uniform, more than once. But that scene seemed familiar...
(Picture taken from USA Today, since I couldn't find the issue with the actual funeral.) OK, like Cap's most recent funeral, where he was 100%, absolutely, positively, irrevocably dead. Until he wasn't.

For his funeral in the classic "the strange death of captain america" Cap was faking again, this time to re-establish his secret identity. Which he then kept and fiercely protected, until he didn't. (From Captain America #112, "as reported by Lee-Steranko-Palmer-Simek.")

Now, this time Cap may have been kinda dead: frozen in a block of ice again, this time to buy time for the Red Skull to stop Cap's degenerating Super-Soldier Serum; so the Skull can use Cap in a gambit to claim the Cosmic Cube. And the whole issue reads faster than that last sentence, and I mean that in a good way. (Of course! It's Captain America #445, "Operation: Rebirth, chapter one: Old Soldiers Never Die" Written by Mark Waid, pencils by Ron Garney, inks by Scott Koblish.)

This time, Captain America was supposedly killed in an explosion--OK, a really big explosion, a small town blown up by a Nazi suicide cult--but why Cap allowed everyone to believe he was dead isn't really clear, except to get a grim-as-hell miniseries set in South America and then a new first issue out of the deal. (The credit box is right there! But it's from Captain America #50, "Stars & Stripes Forever" Written by Evan Dorkin, art by Kevin Maguire; and I would not have minded at all if they had done a ton more Cap stories.)

Is Cap's grave marker giving the thumbs up?...I'd kinda like that.
OK, now that's a What If? so it doesn't strictly count, but still. From #26, "What If Captain America had been elected president?" Written by Mike W. Barr, art by Herb Trimpe and Mike Esposito.

So, let's see here: we've got funerals from 1968, 1981 (with an asterisk, the What If?) 1992, 1995, 2002, and 2007. And while three of them are completely faked, with Cap's complicity; his friends grieve for real each time. I for one would be pretty damn thrilled to have the Thing as a pallbearer, but I think I'd just be happy to have more than one funeral...

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More Captain America...further down the page!

That's a sad Logan, there.
It's pretty traditional, and cliche, for comic book fans to complain about how much better comics were when they were kids. Sure, but I can't be the only one a little dismayed that more readers are probably used to Wolverine being in every third Marvel book, rather than a time where his appearances were fewer and farther between...and not completely played out. From Captain America Annual #8, "Tess-One" Written by Mark Gruenwald, pencils by Mike Zeck, inks by John Beatty.

An extraordinarily disgruntled-looking Logan is trying to have a nice beer at a friendly little dive, but the joint is being torn up by the locals attacking a large, simple bald man. While the patrons seem to think he's a mutant, Bob Frank (as he calls himself) claims to be "normal now." The name familiar to him, Logan sets out to follow Bob; he was the son of the Whizzer and had been a radioactive menace called Nuklo at one point.

Outside the bar, though, Bob is attacked by a robot and nearly killed. Wolverine attacks the robot, but it flies off, joined by a man on a flying platform. Wolvie considers pursuit, but decides to take Bob to the hospital first.
This probably scrapes up Cap's shield more than Wolvie does.
Meanwhile, Captain America investigates a cave-in outside a burger place off I-94, which leads to a mysterious underground boiler room. A boiler room that had been sealed for years, and guarded by gas, spikes, and machine guns. Elsewhere, the man with the robot introduces himself to a trucker, as Overrider, and hijacks the truck to take the robot, Tess-1, to the Adametco Metullurgy Company. Storming the factory, Overrider forces workers to coat the robot in adamantium.

Cap follows a tip to his national hotline to the factory; while Wolverine...follows his nose, I guess, finding a crate the robot tossed out of the truck to make room for itself. The two run into each other outside; and since Magneto was leading the X-Men at the time (around Uncanny X-Men #200 or so) Cap isn't thrilled to see him. Wolvie is just as unenthused to hear Cap's speechifying, and they throw down for a few minutes before Tess-1 smashes down a wall on his way out.
Ah, Marvel misunderstanding! Hope the movies get at least one of these...
Overrider recognizes both Cap and Wolvie; somewhat interestingly, since Wolverine wasn't a very public figure at the time. He's also having trouble regaining control of Tess-1, since the robot's primary target is right there. Still, Overrider does get control, and they take off. Cap and Wolvie grudgingly decide to work together.

Later that day, in his civilian identity, Overrider visits a children's psychiatric facility, and his son. Suffering from "nuclear psychosis," an overwhelming fear of possible atomic war, his son completely disassociated from reality; so Overrider is trying to get rid of the bombs and bring him back. Meanwhile, Cap and Wolverine do their homework: Overrider was a mutant, and Wolvie finds him in Cerebro's files; while Cap finds government records showing Tess as an anagram: Total Elimination of Super-Soldiers. The program was a contingency to keep an army of Super-Soldiers from taking power themselves, but was mothballed since Cap was the only one.

As Overrider heads for the nuclear command center in Hadley, Nebraska (no NORAD in the Marvel Universe?) Cap gets another tip on his hotline, and he and Wolverine get there as Tess-1 is tearing up the a diversion. Working together, they get the robot on it's back, and Wolvie gets his claws into the robot's neck, but Cap has to pound Wolverine's hands to drive them in. Inside, Overrider plans to launch all of America's nukes and bury them in the ocean, without detonating them. Cap knocks Overrider off his hovercraft, and Wolverine moves to "catch" him. Claws first. But instead, he decides to 'miss,' letting Overrider slam into the floor. Cap is less than thrilled.
Eat your words, Cap!
I had to go back for a scan of him, but Overrider seemed to bear at least a passing resemblance to his creator and longtime Captain America writer Mark Gruenwald. I don't think Overrider appeared again--he was mostly a sympathetic villain, and I don't think attacking Bob Frank was his idea--but I know Tess-One would show up a time or two as a robot jobber. Also, if you have a hankering for this issue, there's a Marvel Universe Wolverine/Captain America two-pack available with an edited version of this issue: the Captain America comes with a scratched-up shield!

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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Another Captain America rerun: "Glorious Nice Guy."

Yeah, we're not going for historical accuracy here either...
Turning your face into a Red Skull isn't torture if we classify it as an 'elective procedure.' As in, you elected not to get shot...
The Red Skull, both Baron Zemos, Baron Strucker...Marvel has a pretty good track record of scarifying Nazis too, eh?

As usual, I enjoyed the hell out of Tarentino's latest: Basterds probably won't supplant the first Kill Bill as my favorite of his films, but it's a good one. It's funny: I don't know if I'd ever want to meet Tarentino, for fear of having a bad experience that might put me off his work (maybe he's friendly and swell, but just in case); but I would love to steal his iPod. If he has one, it has to be jam-packed with the coolest songs you've either never heard of, somehow forgotten, or wouldn't have thought to use in that context.

If you don't like Tarentino films, though, let me know in the comments; because I have a blind spot to it. Inglourious Basterds was crazy fun, full of surprises and twists, and it's like three hours long! When I go to the theatres, I don't want to be in-and-out under two hours. I usually get there early for the terrible premovie stuff, of things I have no desire to ever see: there was only one chap in the theatre when I arrived, and I was almost hoping no one else would show. Reminded me of a scene from Preacher, that I was going to look up before this idea came to mind.

The German Soldier is from last year's Indiana Jones line, and not bad, but if you buy one, you kind of need more, right? Unless he's just going to be tied up and beaten...he was purchased specifically for this strip, but I was lucky enough to get him clearanced a bit. (There is a certain chain in my town, that has both the Indiana Jones and 3.75 inch Star Trek figures; pegs of them, still at full price. They aren't going anywhere, if I get a burning need to pay too much for one...) The little artifact the soldier came with, in the little crate he's sitting on in the strip, was a Sankara stone from Temple of Doom. A badly carved, and oversized Sankara stone. If you build a squad of Germans, you're going to be stuck with a mess of those.

Captain America was part of a Secret Wars two-pack with Klaw. Man, I am never gonna come up with a strip for Klaw, but I really wanted Cap and missed the Marvel Universe version the first time. (Here's a rule of thumb for me, OK? If I can get a Nightcrawler figure in a line, either right up front or relatively soon, I'll probably start collecting it. If it doesn't look like he's going to, I very well may skip it. Like the prior smaller-scale Superhero Showdown line.) Cap's not bad, but I am surprisingly being a stickler about the mask and belt, neither of which are quite on-model with his look from that time period, because they're using the mold for a more Ultimates style version.

I did another strip for Cap, that probably won't be posted until October now, but I used putty to hold Cap's shield to his back and give him both hands to gesture with. If Cap's shield is correctly scaled, and I believe it is, there is no way he was able to wear that under his shirt. It would be like wearing a shirt with the hanger still in it. If that hanger was huge, and circular.

And by the way: Ages 25 and Up had a strip of interest this week too. Go! Schnell!

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"Let's Rap with Cap...or not."

In terms of the Hero's Journey type business, Captain America gets the short stick compared to Iron Man and Thor, doesn't he? They get to lead happy, exciting lives before becoming superheroes and leading even more awesome and rewarding lives; while Cap had to suffer through the Depression as a weak and feeble man, before becoming a national symbol and shouldering that burden through the war. Not that it's not cool to be Captain America...but it can't be as much fun as being Thor or Iron Man, could it?

Anyway, if you click today's strip, you may notice a pair of green markers in the last panel; since I had to screen-print and paste. My system wouldn't run the PDF maker, since I'm still having a little trouble.
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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

If you asked me this morning if I needed Captain America fuzzy dice, I might've said no...

I'm not keeping them there, I like a little more vision than that.
...and now I can't imagine life without them. Well, I can, but it was dark and unpleasant. Pulled out of the crane machine at the grocery store this morning, so hit one up now. They're on a string, so if you have any crane skills at all, you should be OK.
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Another Captain America rerun!

Someday, we'll look back on this and laugh. Unless I can repress this out of my skull, of course. Or you're a false memory. Maybe a Skrull...

Per the recent events in Civil War and his uncharacteristic mood swings, crying jags, and lapses in judgement, I'm worried about Captain America. (Aside from everything else, if you bring the Punisher on board you'd best make some allowances for people getting shot, Cap.) I'm wondering if Cap isn't coming down with one of my personal fears, Alzheimer's.

Everyone gives Cap the respect he's due for his World War II service, but that was only a relatively short part of his life. Say Steve Rogers received the Super-Soldier in 1940 (his first issue came out March 1941) and was frozen in 1945. Yet based on his comic appearances, flashbacks, newsreel footage, and Bucky-Related-Trauma, for Captain America WWII lasted thirty years and may in fact still be going.

(I get the same effect if I read a lot of Sgt. Rock comics in one sitting, with the added bonus of destroying what little geography I know: "Huh, Rock's in North Africa today? Easy was in Belgium last issue, so they must be pretty close, I guess...")

Earlier, I was thinking, 'why don't I scan more from the trades?' And the blocking here is the answer.
With so much going on, and the fact that new things seem to still be happening to Cap in WWII ("I've never met Wolverine before...oh, wait.") Cap could probably be excused for being a little fuzzy memory-wise. Then, if being frozen wasn't bad enough on his head, Cap also had some half-assed attempts at memory implants, placed so he would give false information if he was ever captured. Incidentally, when Cap has memories that don't line up right, he investigates, gets to the bottom of it, and restores his own memory. Wolverine? Cries about it for going on what, 30 years? I think Logan likes 'implanted memories' as an excuse: "Oh, eh, yeah...I never called 'cause I didn't think you were real, honey..."
I never had a middle name? Cheapass Depression-era parents.

Still, and there's only been the barest of lip-service paid to this: why Captain America and the Sub-Mariner didn't recognize each other, after they fought together in the Invaders for most of WWII. OK, Cap was only recently thawed out, and Namor only recently had been living as a drunken derelict. Fair enough. But why didn't anyone else say anything? After all, based on old issues of Captain America there was enough newsreel footage of Cap and Bucky for a year's worth of the History Channel. Neither Namor's men nor the rest of the Avengers mention it either, and you might think they would have read about it in history books or something.

Oh, Namor remembers Cap, he just doesn't like him.
Of course, the real reason is because the Invaders, while being an idea that makes perfect sense, was a retroactive addition. Cap can't very well remember things from WWII that the writers add today, which lifts the curtain on the illusion of continuity. But moreover, the Marvel Universe seems less supporting of this sort of graft or add-on: how many additions or secrets have been revealed about Batman's origin? Yet they seem less damaging, because the base is strong, and because the add-ons are always extraneous and easily ignored.

On the other hand, Cap's origin has been retconned to include Isaiah Bradley and Protocide and Weapon I and probably Nazi scientists, Skrulls, and the lost colony of Roanoke by now. The Marvel Knights series had two separate retcons: Cap fighting in an alternate Marvel universe where the Nazis won, before Cap ended up back in his iceberg; and a secret government-Lemurian (?) joint experiment on the frozen Cap. Uh-huh. Neither is remembered as a high point for Captain America.

So, to haphazardly draw a metaphor here, Cap's origin is like a strong wooden mast. You can attach things to it, or nail boards to it, but when you take them off you're left with a strong mast with holes in it. Not saying Batman's origin is better, but it's more like a strong stone you can use as a base, that can be built on without damaging it, and the add-ons can be demolished and replaced later. Well, just a thought.

And with that, I may have worked out all of my Civil War complaining and moaning! Ah, it's like coming out of a long flu, or a bad breakup, or some poorly thought out comics. Today, Ed Brubaker's new (and delayed) issue of Captain America comes out, and I'm looking forward to seeing how Cap (and Bru, for that matter) get out of this one.

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Cap with an Uzi? What, no American made guns out there?

OK, there's probably something wrong with that, but it looks fun.
Today, it's pretty standard to see Captain America use a gun on occasion. A lot of the new figures for the movie come with guns, and he's even shooting at something in the new trailers. But for years, it was almost unheard of for Cap to use a firearm; which made today's book so striking: Captain America #321, "Ultimatum!" Written by Mark Gruenwald, pencils by Paul Neary, inks by John Beatty. (And that cover by Mike Zeck, fresh off his work on G.I. Joe and the Punisher, although Zeck had a run on Cap some time before.)

Terrorist group Ultimatum (or maybe ULTIMATUM, I suppose) makes its first appearance here, hijacking a jet in mid-air with rocket-powered skis. Led by the fanatic Flag-Smasher, the group's goal is the eradication of countries--as a concept. Rabid anti-nationalists, they believe all the world's people are one, and ought to act like it; seeking to erase national boundaries and identities and conflicts. (A noble goal, but they're dicks about it; and people would find a reason to hate each other regardless.) Defeated by Cap in his first showing, Flag-Smasher offers to trade the hostages for Captain America. So he can be executed on worldwide television.
Either Cap or Mrs. Riddley are a close-talker.
Meanwhile, Cap is enjoying a dinner with Ram, a young boy who had been helping Cap set up a nationwide hotline for emergencies for him; and Ram's rather fetching single (or divorced) mom. Unfortunately, Cap has to leap into action, taking an Avengers Quinjet to Europe. (But no Avengers! Buncha layabouts.) Reasoning Ultimatum may be too new of an organization to have constructed their own facilities, S.H.I.E.L.D. is investigating three of four possible sites, leaving Cap to check out the fourth.

Of course, Cap finds the Ultimatum base, and takes out a guard outpost. Disguising himself as an Ultimatum agent (with his shield under his coat, which should not work, at all) Cap works his way in, then takes a pair of the flying skis to follow Flag-Smasher to the hostages. The foreshadowing is a little heavy here: Cap not only nearly tosses out an Uzi before remembering he needs it for his disguise; and he also laments having to not fight fair by sucker-punching several agents.

Finding the hostages, Cap takes down three of four guards, but the fourth opens fire into the crowd. Having thrown his shield already, Cap has no choice but to gun down the last agent, killing him. With the hostages rescued (with four shot, although it's not clear if any were killed) Cap then sets his sights on Flag-Smasher...

Today, this issue probably seems as quaint as any from the sixties or seventies. But that's the way it was back then: Captain America may have been a soldier in World War II, but he was a superhero, a symbol, now; and did not kill. Cap would track down Flag-Smasher the next issue, while trying to impart the idea that life was sacred--even his. Corny? Old-fashioned? Hokey? Maybe a little, but not a bad notion to try to get across.

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Monday, July 18, 2011

The main reason I want a USAgent figure:

Over at It's All True, there's a look at Hasbro's new USAgent figure (and I imagine other sites will have reviews for him shortly, Poe's had a nice shot of USAgent, too) and while it looks like an all-right figure, I want a proper, Marvel Legends scale one!

I know there are some readers who don't care for a character like USAgent, specifically intended to be a replacement/rebuttal to a classic hero. Or, as I like to think of him, the Player 2 version. John Walker was occasionally written as having mental problems and probably a good chunk of post-traumatic stress disorder, but kind of like Guy Gardner, his sheer unfailing dickishness eventually wins you over a little. (I don't think I have it handy, but I'd love to dig up Avengers West Coast #69, where USAgent delivers a not-entirely-undeserved beating to Hawkeye.)

From What The--?! #22, "Captains Outrageous!" Written by Barry Dutter, art by Joe Quesada, inks by Joe Rubinstein.

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An old Cap post, from 2007:

Wait, Mark Waid screwed up the continuity? That's like the Pope dicking up mass, or whatever.

From Captain America, Sentinel of Liberty #12, "Brothers in Arms" Written by Mark Waid, pencils by Dougie Braithwaite and Anthony Williams, inks by Dan Green and Scott Koblish.

For the last issue of Cap's spin-off anthology, then-current Captain America writer Mark Waid delivered a different, more updated look at the origin of Cap's first partner, Bucky. It's a pretty definitive take on the character, at least until Ed Brubaker's retroactive upgrade/revival of Bucky into "orphan trained by Green Berets to do things that symbol of liberty Cap can't."

(Incidentally, when Bucky's return was first coming out, did anyone think it was going to work? Like even a little? At the very least, I was expecting fakeout, and at worst a longbox full of suck. Brubaker totally made it work, and a round of applause for him, the art crews, and the editorial staff for not laughing him out on his ass for saying 'I wanna bring back Bucky!' And somewhere, Jason Todd/Red Hood should be crying into a pillow...heh, his stupid mask is probably watertight, so I'd love to see that.)

Previously, you could probably be forgiven if your initial impression of Bucky was 'like Captain America's Robin, only less useful.' I always wondered how come Cap gets a shield, while Bucky's out there in the battlefields of World War II with a brightly colored yet non-representational costume and not much else. Other writers, and apparently Bucky himself wondered the same thing, and now you see him packing heat all the time. I don't know if he did in the wartime stories, but I don't remember seeing him with a gun in say, the Lee/Kirby issues, although I admit he might've.
'Yeah, a gun! That'll give me the feeling of invulnerability I need!'
Waid does some nice character work for Bucky, but, and this may be harsh, it's easy when all anyone knows about him is that he died. And Cap screams his name, like a lot. The young James Buchanan Barnes' father was killed in a training incident, and Waid expands on that little nugget of continuity: he died demonstrating parachute techniques, while his son watched, which is probably why 'take your kid to work day' still hasn't caught on with the armed services. Bucky picked up a fear of heights from the incident, which should be exactly the sort of thing that makes a person, oh, not jump onto a moving drone plane full of explosives. Well, that's what makes Bucky a hero, or at least a shining example of America's never-say-die, never-think-things-through attitude. (Or is that Springfield? Eh, same difference.)

Becoming a 'mascot,' or more-or-less ward of the Army, young Bucky, needing to feel useful, worked his way into a position as the camp 'go-to guy.' Or black marketeer. Whatever. After stumbling into Cap's secret identity, Bucky blackmails him to get a job as sidekick, Bucky enjoys the work and is shiftier, more crafty then Cap; which helps to differentiate him from other kid sidekicks and give him something to do in-story that Cap couldn't. But, when asked by Cap how it felt to do a good deed, he says it feels "like I didn't get all my change. What am I, a maroon? I'm not leaving without something."
Wait, is the tide going in or coming out? Oh sh--
Bucky's war chest: I'm almost positive there's a skull in there, somewhere.
Hmm. I'm suddenly suspicious Waid stole this from Superman II. I don't know enough about the army, wartime rules, or war profiteering to say if this is on the up-and-up or not. It's not like Bucky stole his watch or anything...

You know, Bucky, I've got German cash. Big fat wad of Deutschmarks here. You've got a problem.
Also, and maybe this editorial edict has been reversed, but for a couple of years there, were swastikas and Nazi-whatnot verboten over at Marvel? Look, it's not like they were presented in a flattering light, as nine times out of ten it was mid-beatdown from Cap. (The tenth time, the Red Skull swearing vengeance.)

Bucky proves himself as a hero time and again, although I suspect from this story, had he survived and been left to his own devices, he would've ended up more like Booster Gold than Captain America. He would have wanted the fame, the glory, and then the money and the women, all of which leads to Bucky becoming a sellout and probably going out like Elvis by the 70's, which means maybe the metal arm and Soviet brainwashing weren't such a bad deal after all.

(I wish I still drew even a little, because I can picture a bloated, 70's-mustached Bucky, still in costume and domino mask, passed out drunk or dead on a giant round bed full of hookers and blow...and there go my chances of professional comics writing. Meh. Still, it would be a good What If?, a reversal of It's a Wonderful Life, where Cap sees Bucky survive the war only to slander his good name, abuse power, drugs, and himself; maybe even sell state secrets or take dives for payoffs. Kind of like that What If? where Spidey saves Gwen and then everything sucks, except decent. And yeah, I do need to finish reading Brat Pack...)

However, Mark Waid makes a big drop at the end of this story: after getting knocked unconscious by Baron Zemo, Cap and Bucky wake up tied to the drone plane; changed out of their costumes and into ordinary army uniforms. Why? Ostensibly as revenge for the bag-glued-to-his-head thing, so Cap and Bucky would die as "ciphers, unmourned and forgotten." A pretty grim assessment of our troops there, Zemo. Why did he have U.S. army uniforms lying around anyway? Dressing them up in Nazi uniforms would probably made more sense, and caused them more suffering. And looked horrible later. The real reason, though, is because in Avengers #4, when Cap's found in the block of ice, he's wearing the remnants of an Army uniform.

Over his Cap outfit, and his shield on his chest.

In Waid's version, without his shield, Cap goes after Bucky to stop the drone plane. And although the story ends with the last instant of Bucky's life (pre-Brubaker) frozen in time, the drone plane would explode, and Cap would be dumped into the ocean and frozen. Minus his shield, and without his brightly colored costume, which showed poking through the tattered army uniform, I doubt the Eskimos would've fished him out and started worshipping him. Or that the Avengers would've stopped chasing the Sub-Mariner, in order to pull Cap into the sub.
Well, no wonder you fell off the drone Cap, with your shield on your chest...
(with Captain America uniform)
IRON MAN: There's a man outside, in a brightly colored costume!
GIANT-MAN: Let's bring it in!
THOR: Aye, verily!
Putting these two panels together is like watching El Mariachi and Desperado back to back: the same story, but with better production values and prettier actors, minus a certain charm.
(without Cap uniform)
IRON MAN: There's a man outside, in a soldier's uniform. Huh.
WASP: Gross! Don't bring a corpse in here! This sub smells like an oil can full of sweat already!
THOR: Forsooth, by Odin's troth!

Admittedly, Cap's revival has been ret-conned quite a bit, too: I tried re-reading 'Ice' a while back, and the Jae Lee art is pretty but the story doesn't make a lick of sense. And despite what you may occasionally see the *cough* sidebar...Cap was frozen with his mask off. (I knew I should'a bought that Faceoff two pack!) Also, not unlike other seminal events like Batman's parents getting shot, Bucky's death has been shown and re shown, from multiple angles, and any discrepancies could be written off to viewer error. After all, after getting thrown off a plane and frozen for...however many years he was frozen now, I can see how Cap's recollection might vary. In fact, a little later we'll look at how Cap doesn't remember much about WWII, except that Bucky blew up and he's sad.

Regardless, Waid screwed up, although I bet he noticed eventually, but I don't know if it was ever pointed out or brought up. To drop another Simpsons reference, I feel like Milhouse protesting to Bart that Santa's Little Helper did eat his fish: "You tried to say I never had a goldfish, but then why did I have the bowl, Bart? Why did I have the bowl?"

Man, feeling like Milhouse is never a good sign. Let's just say this was a good Bucky story, and maybe even set up him as being able to do things Cap, as a big patriotic symbol, couldn' steal Nazi uniforms, knife a sentry in the back, blow up a sub...
Cap's foiled Zemo's plans dozens of times, and made out with his wife, but it does kind of pale to the sack on the head.
Waid's story also makes a little more sense as far as the drone plane: supposedly, Zemo was going to send the stolen drone plane sent back to Hitler (apparently directly to Hitler, based on all the accounts I remember) where it would be reverse-engineered so Nazi Germany could produce enough drones to bomb England and America. A pretty optimistic plan, since I'm don't think they would've been able to produce enough planes or bombs at that point in the war; but I've never played Axis & Allies, so what do I know?

The drone was launched from an English airfield, supposedly towards Germany, yet Cap ends up dumped in the North Atlantic, which doesn't seem quite right, but I'm not going to Mapquest it right now either. Say either it launched over the ocean and blew up before turning back, or that Cap and Bucky knocked it off course. But the bomb on the drone also varies: sometimes it's internal, like a part of the drone's engine, and sometimes it's a big lump of dynamite Bucky finds right before it goes off.

Killing Cap and Bucky would not only be a feather in Zemo's sack, but it would also be a huge propaganda victory for the Nazis. Hitler would probably want to publicize, if not desecrate the corpses; but it wouldn't work if they were dressed as garden-variety G.I.'s. Sending Cap's shield back only makes sense if the Germans planned on reverse-engineering the metal; but since Zemo's their best scientist, it makes more sense for him to keep it; but then Cap wouldn't have it in Avengers #4.

There's probably more, but I'd have to really dig for it now. I may or may not be out for the rest of the week, so have fun, and keep your sidekick in check, for god's sake...
'Heh...all for Bucky, all for Bucky...'

Hell, before I forget: the Captain America and Avengers panels, the first is from Avengers #4, "Captain America joins the Avengers!" Written by Stan Lee, art by Jack Kirby. And it's damn expensive, so I just have it reprinted in Avengers Masterworks. The second is from Captain America #251, "The Mercenary and the Madman!" Written by Roger Stern, pencils by John Byrne, inks by Joe Rubinstein. Scanning out of a big thick trade is a pain, but Captain America: War & Remembrance is very much the first Cap trade you should buy. Or a Mark Waid one.

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