Monday, December 31, 2012

"The End" Week: Transformers: Generation 2 #12!

A couple of weeks ago, Battlegrip linked to "To Sell Toys" from If you've ever had a passing interest in the Transformers, and some of the contortions and hoops writers of fiction for licensed properties sometimes have to go through, it's a good read. This last issue is mentioned there, under the heading "Abrupt Conclusions." From 1994, Transformers: Generation 2 #12, "A Rage in Heaven!" Written by Simon Furman, art by Geoff Senior, Manny Galan, and Jim Amash.

Apparently, the Generation 2 comic was only intended to last twelve issues; although Hasbro probably would've green-lit more if it had been a sales behemoth. So, this was more like a chance for long-time TF writer Furman to play with some of the toys, as it were; in the hopes of doing something a little different. Which also means, where and how this fits into any Transformers continuity is anyone's guess; although that's often the case anyway.

The Autobots and Decepticons (at least most of the ones we know) have formed an alliance against the mysterious Swarm. Optimus Prime takes the Creation Matrix back from Starscream, then faces crazed Decepticon commander Jhiaxus, before being disassembled and rebuilt by the Swarm. (It's all in this issue, but Transformer fans know Optimus dies and comes back more than Jean Grey; and has more incarnations than Dr. Who.)
In the end, it looks like peace in our time for the survivors, although Optimus seems to also tell them all not to breed...however Transformers do that...and another threat, as always, still awaits. I'm a pretty casual Transformers fan--partly because I know whether you love any current version or hate it, another reboot or version is coming!--but I usually enjoy a random issue or episode of any given cartoon here or there.

Tomorrow: the Year in Toys!
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"The End" Week: Conan the King #55!

There are a few last issues I would dearly love to find for "The End" week but don't see happening anytime soon: ROM #75. (Incidentally, it's a pain to find ROM on the GCD!) Conan the Barbarian #275. Marvel's Star Trek #18. (Ooh, I had that one, and don't remember it as being good!) But instead, this time we'll check out Conan the King #55, "Nightmare" Written by James Owlsey (aka Priest!), art by Geof Isherwood; and "The Sword of the Elder Gods" Written by A.S. Blaustein, pencils by Dale Eaglesham, inks by Pat Redding.

This issue wraps up several years of plotlines, as the wizard Thoth-Amon has ruled Conan's former kingdom of Aquilonia for three seasons now. Conan's least favorite son, the young boy-wizard Taurus, has been serving Thoth for some time to keep his mom and sister safe; while Conn is dead, turned to stone. Or so everyone thinks, until Conn returns--apparently, his illegitimate brother is now a statue. Taurus is thought of as a traitor anyway, but is still hurt that everyone seems to love Conn best...
Thoth-Amon is less thrilled with his revenge over Conan, than bored out of his mind being king; so Conan's sudden arrival should be a welcome break from routine. Thoth's serpent ring has enough sorcerous juice to keep Conan from killing him outright, and eventually Conn, Taurus, and the witch Zandra help the king rally and finish Thoth-Amon once and for all. It's implied that peace once again returns to Aquilonia, while Taurus sulks but is secretly happy his dad is back.
How this fits into anyone's official Conan timeline, your guess is as good as mine, but it is pretty satisfying to see Conan finally finish off his longtime foe.
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"The End" Week: Two sort-of kinda but not really ends from Mighty Marvel!

Last year, I could've done a full "The End" week on the last issues created before the DC 52 relaunch; and this year I could've done much the same for Marvel pre-Marvel Now! We are going to glance at a couple "last issues" that are only last issues in name--of course they're being relaunched--but are an ending: both end long runs from popular writers: Ed Brubaker, ending his 100+ issues of Captain America with ...Captain America #19 (Thanks, Marvel numbering!) and Jonathan Hickman wrapping his Fantastic Four tenure with Fantastic Four #611.
We'll start with the better of the two, the Cap issue. I read Brubaker's Cap run for a long time, but I think I fell off around Reborn; but this is a good capper and a good single issue. At a secret S.H.I.E.L.D. hospital, Steve Rogers visits the injured William Burnside, a.k.a. the Captain America from the 1950's. Steve tells his life story to William, since he knows William knew the myth of Captain America, but perhaps not the sad facts. Steve had just wanted to do the right thing, which snowballed into him becoming a national symbol, and he couldn't let the people down. Steve knows the mission will never end; and if he isn't Cap, someone else would have to be. It's a melancholy end, but a great finish to a great run.
On the other hand, I had only been reading Hickman's Fantastic Four sporadically, and hadn't read FF...and this issue seems more like FF, since it's mostly about Valeria Richards. And Dr. Doom. Previously, the multiversal Council of Reed Richards had lobotomized most of their universes Dr. Dooms; but our world's Doom got his hand on another universe's Infinity Gauntlet. Taking that blank canvas of a universe as his own, Doom creates his own, in his own image. Unfortunately, Doom's kind of a bastard. (And sadly, even Doom knows it.) The future Valeria, Reed, and Nathaniel Richards rescue Doom, who may or may not have learned anything.

This is continued in the last issue of FF; but it didn't really do much for me. I get tired of Franklin being used as deus ex machina, and Valeria appears to be following in her brother's footsteps; only perhaps a bit more manipulative. And then I don't see the point of a redemption storyarc for Doctor friggin' Doom: not only will some later writer inevitably turn him back into a card-carrying villain, but it's a redemption storyarc for someone who killed an old girlfriend and wore her skin as armor. Yeah, I don't really see coming back from that.

Still, this doesn't mean I didn't like all of Hickman's run; just not as good of a closer as Brubaker's.

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Sunday, December 30, 2012

"The End" Week: Hawkgirl #66!

I know I picked up the first few issues of Hawkgirl based on the creators alone: written by Walt Simonson, with art by Howard Chaykin. But for some reason, it didn't seem to click for me, and I only stayed for four issues...and stumbled into the last one, Hawkgirl #66, "Dead or Undead!" Script by Walt Simonson, art by Renato Arlem.

We begin with a fight with a mummy, but the current Hawkgirl, Kendra, isn't home at the start of the issue; she currently seems to be possessed or channelling the spirit of Shiera, the original Hawkgirl. Shiera had been reincarnated dozens of times throughout history with her lover Katar/Carter Hall/Hawkman, usually to get killed by a similarly reincarnated Hath-Set. Hath-Set cursed the Hawks to continually reincarnate, have to find each other again, then die at his hands; although I'm not sure he's completely thrilled with always coming back himself.

Hath-Set orders his mummy kids (they may or may not be actual mummies, but whatever...) to kill Hawkman; they fail pretty miserably as Shiera "disarms" Hath-Set. On the ropes, HS drains the ka spirit-energy from his kids to power back up. He figures he can always have more...possibly by making Shiera their new mother!

Speaking more as Kendra here, Hawkgirl continues to fight, eventually cutting Hath-Set in half, then torching his mummy corpse. Shiera then says goodbye to Carter: she will be leaving, and Kendra will have her body to herself, although together they did break the curse of Hath-Set. Shiera also tells him that Kendra might love him, if he remembers that she is her own woman and not Shiera.
Arlem's art is pretty good, except he seems to draw Hawkgirl with the same yelling mouth two out of three times!

Kendra and Carter then escape Hath-Set's collapsing tomb, and while they're not a couple now, Kendra doesn't preclude the possibility later. This series seemed to be intended to capitalize on the popularity of the Justice League cartoon's Hawkgirl, but didn't quite get there. Still, not a bad ending, although I'm positive some other writer would jack it up later...

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"The End" Week: Area 88 #42!

I don't look at a lot of manga here, but today we have from Viz, 1989's Area 88 #42, story and art by Kaoru Shintani, translation by James D. Hudnall and Satoru Fujii.

Sheer happenstance I even have this issue; I think I picked it up because I liked the Area 88 anime. (The title of one was "The Blue Skies of Betrayal," which is great!) Somewhat unusually, the story takes place in the late 70's or early 80's. (There may be a ton of anime and manga set then, but it's not commonly thought of or imported here!) Young pilot Shin Kazama has it going on: hot rich girlfriend, great job at an airline, good best friend--whoa, not so fast on that last one. Bitterly jealous, Kazama's friend Satoru Kanzaki takes him out drinking, gets him hammered, and gets him to sign up as a mercenary fighter pilot for wartorn Middle Eastern country the Kingdom of Aslan. Wait, not that Aslan...

Betrayed and disraught, Kazama has three choices: desert, and be shot outright. Serve for three years. Or shoot down enough enemy planes to earn a $1.5 million dollar buyout. Over the course of the series, Kazama has to kill or be killed; meets his fellow mercenaries, and wonders if he could ever go home again, literally and metaphorically. Meanwhile, his girlfriend continues searching for him, while the scummy Kanzaki tries to "comfort" her...

I thought Area 88 had a pretty good hook, but it wasn't a big hit here--the manga/anime fans of the day probably didn't want a Vietnam War allegory that didn't have giant robots. #42 was the last issue of the adaptation, although it continued in Animerica; I don't think it was completed in America. Still, Area 88 did have a tie-in videogame, released in America as "U.N. Squadron." That's a pretty good legacy.

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Saturday, December 29, 2012

"The End" Week: Batgirl #24!

The last page of this issue almost perfectly encapsulates all of these "The End" issues: from 2011, Batgirl #24, "Unsinkable" Written by Bryan Q. Miller, art by Pere Perez.

Former Spoiler/Robin/dead Stephanie Brown, the current Batgirl, has just found her dad the Cluemaster isn't dead either, and has been responsible for most of the trouble she's faced recently. He's either legitimately concerned for his daughter and trying to make her a better Batgirl, or a bit of a nutball. Cluemaster mentions also picking up a new hobby, gardening. Namely, Black Mercy, as seen in "For the Man who has Everything..."!

Cluemaster doses Batgirl with the Mercy, but she manages to keep him from getting away before she goes under. Batgirl wakes up in a hospital, where her mom works as a nurse: Supergirl brought her in, while Dr. Mid-Nite set up a transfusion. Her mom says she's proud of her, as are the little kids of Gotham, and even a certain snotty Robin. Later, Stephanie visits former Batgirl/current Oracle/future Batgirl Barbara Gordon, who tells her she fought off the Mercy before the transfusion. Steph had several dreams while under the influence, which could also be seen as Miller burning off unused plotlines before the 52 reboot; but cleverly, they're all drawn with the Black Mercy somewhere in the picture!
I hadn't realized Miller wrote this whole run of Batgirl, but I think he'd been on fire since around #15. Of course, since Barbara's Batgirl again in the new 52, Stephanie (and Cassandra, the other other Batgirl) have either been shelved or demoted to other identities. I'm personally kicking myself that Stephanie won me over long after her DC Direct action figure--possibly the only one she'll ever get--became insanely expensive...

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"The End" Week: Warlock and the Infinity Watch #42!

We saw Malibu Comics Rune giving the Silver Surfer the hassle some time ago, and in passing the alien vampire jacked the Infinity Gems from Adam Warlock and the Infinity Watch. A scene sort of but not really reprised in their last issue, Warlock and the Infinity Watch #42, "Win, Lose, Draw!" Written by John Arcudi, pencils by Mike Gustovich, inks by Keith Williams.

Warlock's "landlord," the Mole Man, is moving his creatures to the caverns below Monster Island; since a tidal wave is coming from the Atlantis Rising crossover. That was one of several smaller Marvel crossovers of the day, and was about as popular as a rash. Luckily for him, Warlock says he has more important matters to attend to: his mysterious teammate, Maxam.

I think Maxam was seen here and there in the backgrounds in Infinity Crusade and "Blood and Thunder." Big guy, red and blue costume, inexplicable pink goggles? Ringing a bell? He had a grab bag of superpowers: increasing his mass for super-strength and invulnerability, resistance to telepathy. He now had the Time Gem that had formerly been carried by Gamora.

For her part, Gamora is being encouraged to get the gem back, by Thanos; who claims to have repented and wants to use the gem to correct his mistakes...a remark that is certainly open to interpretation. Gamora had also previously had a vision of Maxam killing Warlock, but no one was sure why he would do that, not even Maxam, until now: he remembers that he's from a future, where Warlock became the Magus, head of the Universal Church of Truth, a generally unpleasant galactic theocracy/cult. Maxam wants to kill Warlock, to preclude that possibility; but Warlock points out the Magus has been banished to the Soul World inside the Soul Gem. Not good enough for Maxam.
(My recollection was a little rusty on this point, since like Warlock, I thought he had prevented the Magus from forming the Church. Yes, but as Starlin revealed in Warlock #11, if Warlock/Magus didn't found the Church, some other asshole would've, and probably did. Like a bad penny or the "Days of Future Past" storyline, the Universal Church of Truth has turned up again and again...)

Although bedridden and possibly even comatose, Moondragon is still in telepathic contact with Warlock, and suggests leaving Maxam to the oncoming tidal wave. Unable to resolve the situation otherwise, Warlock reluctantly agrees that fate will have to decide the matter. Which it does, as all the Infinity Gems disappear! (As seen in Rune/Silver Surfer, although there we see Rune taking the Time Gem from Gamora, not Maxam...but we see the gem disappear from both here? Huh?) Without the Time Gem, Maxam is again immune to telepathy; and as he bellows, without the Soul Gem, Warlock doesn't have a prayer.
Still, Maxam is surprised that Warlock is a formidable, even fierce fighter; but Maxam far overpowers him. Warlock is on the ropes when the tidal wave hits, and Maxam recovers first. Finding Warlock's unconscious body, Maxam snaps his neck. I sometimes think you would be hard pressed to find a Warlock comic he doesn't die in...

Maxam obviously feels guilty over murdering his friend, but this was a kill-baby-Hitler thing for him. Afterwards, he disappears; possibly returning to his future...or maybe having corrected his timeline. Maybe not, since of course Warlock isn't dead: even without the gems, he and Moondragon had set up a "program" for Maxam. Which almost sorta-kinda explains Gamora's vision; she was seeing what Maxam saw, a dead Warlock.

Thanos decides to go looking for the gems, with Gamora reluctantly chaperoning him. I'm not sure they made any headway with that, but Warlock would follow the trail to the Ultraverse in Curse of Rune and Ultraverse Unlimited #1. I know I've read some of those, but couldn't tell you how it turned out off the top of my head...

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Friday, December 28, 2012

"The End" Week: Excalibur #125!

Ah, it wouldn't be "The End" week, if I didn't have a book with Nightcrawler. Or one I actively hated. From 1998, Excalibur #125, "Tying the Knot" Written by Ben Raab, pencils by Dale Eaglesham, inks by Scott Hanna.

The nicest thing I could say about Ben Raab is that he wasn't Chuck Austen. Close, though. He took over Excalibur after Warren Ellis, and was probably editorially mandated to roll back everything. It's not as bad as it could be; but bland and forgettable. This issue, Captain Britain marries Meggan; a hungover Douglock annoys Wolfsbane; and Nightcrawler, Colossus, and Kitty Pryde leave Excalibur to return to the X-Men. (To this day, I don't know if Excalibur's cancellation was due to sales, or re-consolidating the X-brand.)
The worst part about this issue, is catching up with dropped plotlines characters that hadn't been seen in the book for whatever reason, usually a change of writers. Micromax, Feron, Kylun, Cerise, all of whom are varying degrees of unsuccessful and/or pissed about falling off the team. Which isn't their fault, or Excalibur's, but probably the writers or the editors, I guess.

Excalibur was a book I was always glad to have, even though it's ratio of good/crap may not have been great. Claremont's issues were all pretty solid, any issue with Alan Davis writing or drawing were great, and Warren Ellis's were my favorite. The rest were spotty, and this one wasn't really a winner either.

More "The End" posts over the weekend! I plan on watching a lot of football Sunday, so that may mean even more than I have now, unless the Cowboys tank it and I spend the evening swearing at the TV...

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"The End" Week: Firestorm #100!

Huh, Firestorm, the Nuclear Man ran for a hundred issues. Weird, huh? Perhaps not as eyebrow-raising as this issue, though: Firestorm the Nuclear Man #100, "Blaze of Glory" Written by John Ostrander, art by Tom Mandrake; with special guests Gerry Conway, Al Milgrom, Joe Brozowski, J.J. Birch, and Tom Grindberg on the flashbacks!

Previously, the current Firestorm defeated Darkseid's creation Brimstone (best known from the Legends miniseries) and threw its "technoseed" heart into space. Unfortunately, the seed then fell into the sun and Brimstone reformed there, where Brimstone now plans on destroying earth to regain Darkseid's love. (Really? Good luck with that...)

This is a one-two punch to Firestorm, who was already feeling like a failure, since the earth spirit Maya told him he was a mistake: Professor Martin Stein, and he alone, was always intended to be Firestorm. Firestorm then wants to try to get to the sun and fight Brimstone, but he explains as an elemental, he's tied to the earth, and would not be able to survive the trip.
Meanwhile, the recently-returned Martin Stein (he had been believed killed in a nuclear explosion, that took him out of Firestorm) his apartment. He reads a forwarded letter from his original Firestorm partner, Ronnie Raymond; that recaps the last 100 issues. Originally, Ronnie was caught in an atomic accident while tried to rescue Stein; and the two were fused into Firestorm. But when they unfused, Stein would have no memory of it, experiencing only blackouts. Ronnie eventually told Stein what was happening, and charitably Stein is just happy he isn't insane.

Stein was later diagnosed with a brain tumor, and before he dies, he and Ronnie decide to pull a Superman IV and get rid of the earth's nuclear weapons. This leads to a battle with the radioactive Russian Polzar, Mikhail Arkadin. Polzar didn't really want to be there either, but ends up getting nuked with Firestorm. Stein is apparently killed, with Mikhail and Ronnie now forming a Firestorm with his own personality. That personality was actually an amnesiac Stein, and Mikhail and Ronnie then bond with a Russian clone of Firestorm, permanently, into the new fire-elemental Firestorm, freeing Stein again.

But, since Stein was apparently always meant to be Firestorm alone, he has an idea: guessing that if a Firestorm were to be created in space, it would then be able to travel to the sun, Stein plans on Firestorm taking him into orbit, then they set off enough explosives to kill the old one and turn Stein into a new one. As preparations are made, Stein has Firestorm split again, freeing Ronnie and Mikhail (who returns home to his family, apparently no longer radioactive as well) and then persuades the Firestorm clone into going along with the plan.

With Firehawk's help, Stein gets into orbit, and the Firestorm-clone explodes. Blowing his jet, Stein then reforms as the Firestorm he was always meant to be. Fighting Brimstone on the sun, FireStein manages to beat the creature, but that creates a black hole. Forced to go through the black hole, he closes it from the other side, but is then trapped either on the other side of the universe, or another one entirely. As Firehawk recovers, Ronnie visits her, and he knows Firestorm is still alive...

Even with like seven splash-pages, this is a remarkably dense issue, hitting a lot of points from the entire run of the series. "FireStein" was floating around out there for a while, but DC didn't get a ton of use out of him. Ronnie would get his own cancer, but become a more-classic Firestorm again in Extreme Justice.
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"The End" Week: Young Justice #55!

Like the DC Nation cartoon Young Justice? Then we'll see what looks familiar from this issue! From 2003, Young Justice #55, "I've Got a Secret" Written by Peter David, pencils by Todd Nauck, inks by Lary Stucker.
The gaseous, ghostly YJ member called Secret has been turned to the dark side...oh, I'm sorry, by Darkseid. Hmm...this predates Darkseid's attempts to corrupt Supergirl and Mary Marvel; what is up with Darkseid trying to turn underage girls? Gross.
Although she's now an angry personification of death, Secret is still a scared little girl; and allows herself to be talked down by Robin, who appears plainclothes as Tim Drake to underscore the fact that they're only human. Darkseid is disappointed that he invested all this time and effort in her, but has a specific punishment set aside for her. After zapping Slo-bo with his Omega Effect, he zaps Secret as well, turning her...into a normal, powerless girl; that will eventually grow old and die.
Wait, Slo-bo, you ask? Yeah, since this was David and Nauck's last issue, and the main characters were going to be rolled into Geoff John's Titans relaunch; there's a lot of wrap-up for characters like Empress, Secret, Arrowette, and the eyeless Lobo clone Slo-bo. Secret would return for a Young Justice episode, convienently written by Peter David; but I'm not sure the others have appeared anywhere since.

Although occasionally serious, the Young Justice book was never grim, since David's sense of humor was never too far away. It seemed like some of that might carry into John's Titans at first; but in pretty short order DC started running away from anything fun as fast as it could...

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Thursday, December 27, 2012

"The End" Week: Aztek #10!

Hey, remember Aztek? Big gold helmet, created by Grant Morrison and Mark Millar with artist N. Steven Harris? Even if you do, you might not recollect his solo series, which despite the creators and guest-spots by Green Lantern, the Joker, and Batman; only made it to issue #10: "a league of their own" Written by Grant Morrison and Mark Millar, art by N. Steven Harris and Keith Champagne.

Still, Aztek is going out strong, as he's up for membership in the Justice League of America! He's already impressed Kyle and Batman, and seems like a stable, level-headed guy...even if his equipment and training was provided by a mysterious organization...

Meanwhile, at Aztek's day job as Dr. Curt Falconer, Professor Ivo is brought to the hospital in bad shape. Ivo's immortality serum seems to be breaking down, and he's fading fast. Perhaps not fast enough for his creation Amazo (or a Amazo) who pins the JLA in their watchtower with a GL power bubble, then attacks the hospital.
Aztek takes a licking--there's a nice, subtle sequence of Amazo beating his ass from 21st to 281st street--but manages to stall the agitated android until the JLA arrives. Knowing he's beat, the rather-chatty Amazo says he wasn't there for a fight or even to kill Ivo: describing their relationship as like Tom and Jerry, Amazo doesn't want to lose Ivo, and brought a serum to save him. Which is actually poisoned, but Ivo had taken an anti-toxin...Aztek's love interest uninterested doctor friend notes they really are like Tom and Jerry.

Even though this is his last issue, several future plotlines for Aztek were teased, like encounters with the Puzzler and Patti Celeste, the Super-Groupie. With the hat and mask of the Crimson Avenger ("the first of our kind," J'onn J'onzz points out) the JLA initates Aztek onto the team. I wonder how that'll work out for him...oh, right.
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"The End" Week: PunisherMAX #22!

We said before, there's only one way Frank Castle's story ends: here's another. From earlier this year, PunisherMAX #22, "War's End" Written by Jason Aaron, art by Steve Dillon.

Wilson Fisk is dead, and after a shootout, so are a number of his employees...and Frank Castle, the Punisher. Nick Fury ID's the body, and while the detectives at the morgue claim Frank had gone crazy--tortured a cop, killed the "respected businessman" Fisk--Fury calls that the crap it is. Next, Fury visits the Castle home: Frank had been forced to hole up in the abandoned house he lived in with his family, before they were murdered. A stack of Frank's war journals is found; Nick clears the building before examining one:
Finding a flame-thrower, Nick torches the house. An underling (either one of Fury's men, or a cop or fed) protests that was a crime scene; Nick points out anyone dead there had been so for years.
After a few pages to check on Vanessa "Madame Kingpin" Fisk and the paralyzed Elektra, we check in on the Punisher's funeral. The press questions Fury on his way out, but he's got nothing to say to them. While he kills Vanessa, Fury muses that Frank didn't really accomplish anything: all the murdering and suffering, for nothing. Later, in a bar, as Nick begins his labor-intensive drinking, a news report catches his eye: across the city, vigilantes are rising up against gang members, ponzi schemers, and so on. Nick figures Frank got his eulogy after all...
I hadn't been reading Punisher regularly since Garth Ennis finished his run; I may not have been the only one, since I don't think sales ever recovered. Still, this was a solid finish to the series; although I wonder how long it would be before the Punisher-inspired vigilantes abused the authority they retook. After all, we saw Steve Dillon draw bad vigilantes the Holy, Mr. Payback, and Elite back in the Garth Ennis/Marvel Knights Punisher series!

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"The End" Week: Doom #44!

This issue: future-maybe Doom versus legally-distinct-from-the-Borg!
Man, I hope everyone was wrong about that Mayan Apocalypse business, since I'm writing this post in December 2011! I just didn't want to post two 2099 last issues the same week. From 1996, Doom 2099 #44, "Entangling Alliances" Written by John Francis Moore, pencils by Jeff Lafferty, inks by Russell, Rubinstein, Pepoy, and Panosian.

The 2099 books were winding down: they would be conglomerated into 2099: World of Tomorrow, which would not set the sales charts on fire. As they were released, I read Spider-Man 2099 the whole run of the book, and the brief runs of Fantastic Four 2099 and Ghost Rider 2099. I read Punisher 2099 and Doom 2099 sporadically, since even when they weren't great, they usually had their moments. Maybe.

By this point in the 2099 world, things were starting to fall apart even more than usual: Attuma (who had to be pretty old by then, since he fought the FF and Avengers of the present many times) invades the surface world, Atlantis Attacks 2099. Marvel was not cheeky enough to use that title...climate change was wreaking havok on the planet, aliens were arriving; also, during Doom's term as President of the United States, most of Latveria's citizenry were turned into a fine meat paste; so Doom had been back in time to try to instill some genetic resistance to the poisons that killed his people. Oh, and then the Borg Phalanx show up...

I think the Phalanx were of, or related to, Warlock from the New Mutants; before they became a lemon-flavored Borg knockoff. Regardless, they suck, which is why it's discouraging for the book to end with a quote from Thomas Jefferson (it includes the issue's title) as Doom makes a deal with the Phalanx. Ostensibly it's to save Latveria, and it's pretty obvious Doom'll double-cross the hell out of them, but still.

Moore had written some other books--off the top of my head, I'm pretty sure he wrote some X-Men 2099--but Jeff Lafferty brought a surprisingly...idiosyncratic style to the title. It would've been a dramatic departure from every other Marvel title on the racks at the time, but I'm still not sure it's any good...not my taste, at any rate.

Well, here's hoping this one stays fresh for a year...
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80-Page Thursdays: Superboy #138!

Since we're busy looking at last issues, we'll sneak a quick one in for the last 80-Page Thursday for the year: Superboy #138, featuring reprint stories from Jerry Siegel and Otto Binder, and art from John Sikela, George Papp, and Curt Swan.

This issue features "Superboy and Krypto's Most Terrific Battles!" and honestly? It kind of does! Including a Bizarro-Krypto, Dev-Em (the Douchebag from Krypton...the NuDC should bring him back as a hipster or something), an alien horse, literally tons of Kryptonite, a surprising police cover-up in Smallville, and Lex Luthor! In flashback, we see how young Lex lost his hair, right before he tries to abuse his dog...
Animal protective services must've taken poor Destructo away, since I don't think we see him again. Very sad...I don't know who would volunteer to take in Lex Luthor's dog, but that may be neither here nor there. More "The End" posts later today!

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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

"The End" Week: Firearm #18!

Most people would probably strongly disagree, but for James Robinson? I preferred Firearm to Starman. Yeah, I said it.

Firearm #18, "The Rafferty Saga, Finale: Alec Swan's Worst Day" Written by James Robinson, pencils by Arnie Jorgenson and Keith Conroy, inks by Mike Christian and Larry Welch. This issue is an old fashioned church shoot-out, just like John Woo used to make! Why, there's even a baby to rescue!

Swan, the former British agent codenamed "Firearm," has been playing a game of cat-and-mouse with Rafferty, the psychotic serial killer of Ultras--the Ultraverse's super-powered types. Swan doesn't have any powers, and has even lost his namesake gun; while Rafferty has a small army of backup, and a churchload of hostages, including a baby Ultra who was being heralded as the Second Coming...
Although he was being paid by a self-loathing Ultra, Rafferty had his own reasons for his murders (over the last few issues and a couple crossovers, we see a lot of them, although in the best comic book tradition, maybe not anyone we know...) and had been stringing Swan along for his own amusement, describing him as "comic relief...postively vaudevillian." Rafferty also had set up Ultra-sensitive bombs outside to keep out the powered heroes, but lets Swan come right in, and that's where the shooting starts.

If you liked Jack Knight's internal monologue in Starman; I think Swan's is actually better. Both hint at rich lives outside of the nonsense we see on the comic pages: reading, being lazy, and recently married. Rafferty gets his own caption boxes as well, but his are mostly to the effect of "don't get too attached to Swan, gentle readers..."

Although he brings knives and a crossbow to a gunfight, Rafferty also brings bombs; blowing up the church when Swan surprises him with a backup gun. Miraculously, Swan survives, protecting the baby; but Rafferty does as well, throwing his last knife in a final try at the baby. Swan takes the knife, putting a last bullet in Rafferty's head, then stumbles out of the flaming church. Luckily for the dying Swan, the baby had been heralded as the Second Coming for at least one good reason, and heals Swan; at least enough that he survives.

Before the Ultraverse completely disappeared, Swan would return as a backup feature, to the rather charmless Codename: Firearm. Read this series instead.
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"The End" Week: Wonder Woman #329!

This is a "48-Page Final Issue!" but it still reads pretty quickly: Wonder Woman #329, "Of Gods and Men" Written by Gerry Conway, art by Don Heck.

It's a Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover issue, but it's more than just red skies here: Ares and Hades unite against Olympus, but Hades has a secret partner: the Anti-Monitor himself, who oddly seems to be sneaking around behind Ares' back.
Queen Hippolyta is losing faith, partially because the Anti-Monitor's shadow demons have wrecked up Paradise Island and a number of Amazons; but also because she feels guilty about trying to take away Diana's memory of Steve Trevor. Somewhat uncharactistically, Hippolyta seems to want the release of death, but Hades' wife Kore tells her it's not that great. (I thought it was Persephone, but Kore is a shorter alternate name!)

Wonder Woman is more than willing to forgive her mom, if she'll suck it up. They're interrupted by zombie Amazons...actually, it's more like shades of the fallen Amazon soldiers. "Zombie Amazons" would've been cooler. Eventually, Kore sends them back to the underworld, after Diana fights them for a couple pages.
Meanwhile, Washington DC is not weathering the Crisis that well. With what I first thought was Diana's magic lasso, Steve Trevor is trying to rescue Lauren Haley from a crevice, but she falls to her death. (Presumably, she was a recently introduced character.) Howard Huckaby and Etta Candy catch up with Steve, just in time for Diana to arrive. Even though things are pretty bad in DC, Diana describes it as "just a shadow of what the gods face above," and Steve joins her to scout the battlefield in Olympus. Etta has a feeling she'll never see them again, but not necessarily in a bad way...

Although two separate armies of Amazons are preparing for battle, Diana and Steve face a giant that takes down the invisible jet, before the arrival of Ares and Hades and their army. A number of the shades are namechecked, like Agamemnon and Odysseus, but they're just soulless automatons. The other gods are nowhere to be found, and Ares describes them as "bloodless and without passion" three times, which may be a clue.

The Amazons of Paradise Island, and the "mortal" Amazons of South America, then arrive; catching the army of the dead in a pincer. Ares seems mortified at the "tactical disaster!" but this is a pretty standard army of the dead scenario: the dead don't die easily, and any they kill join their army. Still, Ares plans to assure victory by killing Diana himself.

While Kore reconciles with Hades, and Ares and Diana fight; Steve realizes Ares was being ironic, and had turned the gods to stone statues. As Diana has Ares beat, Steve drops one of the statues on him, freeing the gods and ending Ares. Hades returns the dead to peace--apparently, the Anti-Monitor convinced him Kore never loved him? An odd plot from him...but even the gods seem to fear old A-M.
But if the future is uncertain, Diana isn't; and she wants to marry Steve. Zeus performs the ceremony, and Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor will "be together till the end of time." Pre-Crisis, anyway.

Sight unseen, this issue had to be more fun than any of Wonder Woman's other last issues. But the printing this issue isn't great: I want to guess this was when DC was upgrading to "flexographic" printing, and it was rough for a bit.
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"The End" Week: Power of the Atom #18!

Sometimes, a last issue will feature a character acting like he's going away forever, never to return or be seen again. Which may often be the case, but not for a superhero like the Atom. No matter how many times he does that...From 1988, Power of the Atom #18, "Life after Death!" Written by Tom Peyer, pencils by Graham Nolan, inks by K.S. Wilson.

Previously, the Atom took his revenge on a group of CIA agents responsible for the destruction of the alien village in the Amazon (from Sword of the Atom) and his beloved Laethwen. Although he didn't plan on saying goodbye, as Ray drops off a promised manuscript, his friends Professor Hyatt and writer Norm Brawler confront him on his latest plan to disappear forever...and the apparent murder of five agents.
Still, Ray tells them they just need to finish reading before jumping to any conclusions: Ray didn't kill them, merely shrunk them to a couple inches tall. Then, he confronted the head of the CIA about their actions, which were disavowed, but Ray did get a hearty thank-you for delivering the miniature spies they wanted in the first place.

Saying goodbye to his friends, Ray plans to disappear, create a new identity, get a new face if he has to. Which makes this awful similar to Ray's leaving society in Sword of the Atom, or shrinking out of the world in Identity Crisis...when the going gets tough, the Atom is out of there, then. That's not entirely true, but the trend remains. Power of the Atom wasn't a flashy series, but I thought it was well-written at least.

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My nephews and the Youngest love those little Marvel capsule toys; although I think I got Doctor Doom every time I tried a machine. Anyway, short one today, and more last issues as the day goes on. With a little luck, I'm still working on those now...

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Tuesday, December 25, 2012

"How Deadpool saved assisted didn't wreck had Christmas."

It's not a perennial holiday classic...yet; but I rerun this one every Christmas.

As usual, click to unwrap, er, enlarge. Not sure of the setup? The first strip's here.

Have a great Christmas, and remember, it's tacky to return gifts Christmas day, even if the stores are open...
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