Wednesday, December 31, 2014

"The End" Week: Super-Villain Team-Up #17!

I wish I could remember how I got most of a run of this series--probably some from the quarter bins, some from here and there. From 1980, Super-Villain Team-Up #17, "Dark Victory" Written by Peter B. Gillis, art by Arvell Jones and Bruce Patterson.

Actually, I missed the previous issue, with the Red Skull and the Hate-Monger (the cloned Hitler version) up to something; and they bring in some A.I.M. scientists to recreate the Cosmic Cube. Both the Skull and Hitler know one of them is going to have to go, since only one of them can wield the Cube: for his part, the somewhat glum-seeming Skull feels the vestigial pains of guilt over betraying his teacher. Not that that would stop him, but still.

The Hate-Monger had a telepathic link with one of the agents working against them, but as S.H.I.E.L.D. assaults Skull Island, the Hate-Monger tries to become one with the Cosmic Cube. But A.I.M. hadn't made that much progress on the Cube, so it doesn't have power, it's merely a prison. This was the last appearance of H-M for several years, since by this point a Hitler clone would've been pretty cliche; but like most things in comics it would resurface again.
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"The End" Week: Strikeforce Morituri #31!

Almost three years into the series, and by this point the original writer and artist were gone, the original cast gone, even the original bad guys were gone. So, what was left? Um...from 1989, Strikeforce Morituri #31, "The Bitter End" Written by James D. Hudnall, art by John Calimee Mark Bagley (it's mis-credited in the issue!) and inks by Carlos Garzon.

We checked out the first issue a couple of years back, from Peter B. Gillis and Brent Anderson, with an uncredited bit by Whilce Portacio. The invading alien Horde are picking earth to pieces, until a scientist invents the Morituri Process, which can give a human super-powers...but will kill them within a year. So by issue #31, the original cast was long dead, but apparently defeated the Horde; as a new alien narrates their plan proceeding. And it seems a bit overly complicated a plan: after Andre Lamont came to power by having the previous leader assassinated, the aliens use a clone to sex him up and implant a psychic command to blame the assassination on the Morituri agents. One of whom actually was the killer, while two others are seeking revenge for botched genetic engineering that was going to kill them. The non-conspiratorial Morituri heroes are trying to stop the killer and expose Lamont, which they do; but it's all part of the alien's larger plan...

The alien seems to imply having an employer, which would be at least the third separate alien race in the series with sinister designs on earth. If you watch the TV show Falling Skies, it tends to do the same: introduce new aliens every season finale...

Strikeforce: Morituri would continue, since these heroes were able to use a cure that kept them from exploding like their predecessors, in a "prestige format" limited, Electric Undertow. Haven't read that one, but every couple of years it seems like there's a rumor of either the book being revived or optioned for TV. Hasn't happened yet, but maybe someday: I suspect there are TV producers who wouldn't mind being able to replace cast members every year.
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I am not entirely positive how long Kurt and Pool have been in space at this point; since this plotline's been going forever. Are they finally on the home stretch?...I wouldn't bet the farm on it.

At least one more "The End" post over the course of the day, and the Ninth Annual Year in Toys tomorrow!
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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

"The End" Week: Static #45!

The title seems to imply they saw it coming, but I don't think they did: from 1997, Static #45, "...Gone." Written by M.D. Bright, pencils by Jeff Moore, inks by Hector Collazo. With a cover by Moebius!

The latest super-villain to give Static the hassle, Laserjet, continues to display new powers: appearing in multiple places at once, he takes a few shots at the hero with a stolen laser gun, before seeming to disappear at super-speed. But after class the next day, Virgil realizes something about Laserjet...while not noticing his friend Chuck's problem.

Static's electrical powers probably aren't that dissimilar to those of Marvel's Electro; except that even though he was only 15, Virgil is a million times smarter than Electro, and used his powers in subtle, more clever ways. Here, he sets a trap for Laserjet, covering the floor in paper and holding it down with a static charge; since he realized Laserjet wasn't super-fast, he was invisible.

The next day at school, though, someone gets shot...and although the cover and next issue teaser are on the letters page, this was the last issue. The Milestone Media editoral page even celebrates the line's 250th issue, Icon #43--and I don't think it even came out! Hardware #50 may have been Milestone's last regular book, and the line would be dead in the water until a brief revival with 2001's Static Shock! Rebirth of the Cool limited.

I had been mildly worried that some issues of Static weren't going to be as good as I remembered, and was a little concerned that Bright was writing and not drawing this one, but it's fine. Milestone deserved much better than it got; here's hoping it gets some respect in the future.
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"The End" Week: Weird War Tales #124!

From 1983, Weird War Tales #124, featuring the lead story "Old Enemies Never Die!" Written by Robert Kanigher, pencils by Topper Helmers, inks by Gary Martin.

The lead is a pretty standard piece for the long-running war anthology, as two foes battle over a woman over and over again, reincarnating and battling in different times. But there's a more personal page where longtime WWT stalwarts the Creature Commandos, G.I. Robot, and "R.K." are sentenced to death by General Paul Levitz "for rebelliously displaying signs of humanity." Their sentence is commuted, in that they're launched in an I.C.B.M. at Hitler's bunker, but instead disappear into space. I'm guessing Kanigher wasn't thrilled about the book being cancelled. But I wonder how he would feel knowing DC would to this day still bring them out every now and again, and G.I. Robot and the Creature Commandos would both appear in cartoons like Batman: the Brave and the Bold...I hope he'd approve.

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"The End" Week: Superior Foes of Spider-Man #17!

This was definitely a book more about the journey, than the destination; but where did it end up? From a couple of weeks ago, Superior Foes of Spider-Man #17, written by Nick Spencer, art by Steve Lieber, color art by Rachelle Rosenberg.

Previously, the increasingly misnamed Sinister Six—at this point, Speed Demon, the Beetle, and Overdrive-- had the series’ latest Macguffin, the cybernetic head of Mafia Maggia boss Silvermane; which they could use to catapult themselves into success, if they hadn’t all turned on each other and each sold the head to a rival gang. The Shocker had been double-crossed and left buried alive (for being a chump who believed in “honor among thieves”) but Hydro-Man digs him up, only to find Shocker’s a little steamed. The Six’s former leader Boomerang is on the outs with the team, but dosed former Thunderbolt/super-villain parole officer/series' punching bag Mach VII with the Chameleon’s shape-changing serum and left him to take the beating; while Boomerang disguises himself and replaces Mets pitcher Demang Pendak. Pendak was the rookie sensation on the verge of breaking Boomerang’s strikeout record, and Boomerang took his place because baseball was “the last time something meant anything.” And to impress a girl. Whom he maybe shouldn’t have told about the series’ other Macguffin, the portrait of an unmasked Doctor Doom…Worse, crime boss the Owl has also figured out Boomerang’s scheme, and now wants to muscle him into fixing the game.

So…what happened? We cut away to a plainclothes Boomerang in a crummy bar, telling his tale to an obscured figure. Well, if you must know, Speed Demon won a court case against Iron Fist, Mach VII got his team-up with Iron Man, Overdrive and Beetle try to get out with a copy of the portrait but run into its owner, and as the Punisher (!) is about to murder every gang member in NYC a not-unentirely-unexpected cavalry arrives.

Boomerang wraps up his story…sort of; with how he’s actually a little proud of how things turned out. OK, not great, but they had to fight like hell for anything they got. Probably not unlike the book’s creators! And Boomerang admits he may have made up half of it…probably not unlike the book’s creators. But did Boomerang throw the game--in the sense of cheating, that is--or did he win, in which case the Owl would be out for his head? It's up to you, but only Spencer and Lieber may know for sure. I still wonder, since I thought Boomerang was sleazy enough he might've bushwhacked Pendak specifically so Pendak couldn't break his record!

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Monday, December 29, 2014

Usually, when I enjoy a comic enough to add it to my pull list or follow it regularly, that’s the kiss of death and it’ll be cancelled within eight issues. Eight issues on the outside. But did I have any comics I was reading cancelled this year?...I think not! It helps that several of the titles I read are rotating limited series (like Atomic Robo, Baltimore, Lobster Johnson; a lot of the Mignola books, really) and not “ongoing.”

I know Nightcrawler is slated to end with #12, but maybe that should've been a limited as well: I’ve enjoyed it, even if it hasn’t been entirely the book I wanted; although the art is great. And I didn't see Silver Surfer in the last solicits, although maybe Allred needed a month off.

The only book I’m reading regularly from DC isn't even a proper DC Universe book; it’s Astro City, which is pretty consistently great. But I did see a whole slew of cancellations coming down the “New 52” pike, including Swamp Thing, Batwoman, Trinity of Sin, the surprisingly readable Red Lanterns, and both Green Lantern Corps and Green Lantern: New Guardians. Rumor has it, or at least vile speculation, that DC may consolidate the GL titles, perhaps into a weekly. That may not appeal to readers who are lean more to a particular character over the whole, but the books have probably been strongest when they were most interconnected.

Let’s take a look at two Green Lantern “last” issues: from 2011, Green Lantern #67, “War of the Green Lanterns: Conclusion.” Written by Geoff Johns, pencils by Doug Mahnke, inks by Christian Alamy, Tom Nguyen, Keith Champagne, and Mark Irwin; and Green Lantern Corps #63, “Now and Forever” Written by Scott Kolins, with art by Kolins, Joe Prado, Freddie Williams II, and Daniel HDR. Both of these are pre-New 52, but the reboot affected the GL titles much less than most other books: like the Batman books, the continuity continues, for the most part. Even though they would get new first issues out of the deal.

Johns was the primary architect of Hal Jordan’s return to prominence, as well as responsible for most of the multicolored ring corps. This issue, the GLC, led by earth boys Hal, John, Guy, and Kyle; try to free the Guardians possessed by the emotional spectrum entities controlled by Krona. Kyle frees the (so-called) New Guardians—including Sinestro, Atrocitus, and Carol Ferris—from the Book of Oa, and they get their rings back…except for Sinestro, whose yellow fear ring is taken by Krona!

Krona has Hal on the ropes, and asks why Hal defends the Guardians; who over the course of several retcons, had been revealed to have done several questionable things. Hal concedes the Guardians may need help, but he believes in the Corps. Oddly, so does Sinestro, who receives a new Green Lantern ring! Sinestro frees Hal, who then kills Krona, releasing the emotional entities and reinstating the New Guardians. Strangely, Larfleeze doesn't seem happy to get his precious orange greed ring back; but he’s not the only ungrateful one: Hal yells at Sinestro to take the green ring off, but the Guardians are somewhat dismayed that Hal managed to kill Krona, since the rings are programmed to be incapable of killing a Guardian. In short order, the New Guardians are booted off Oa; as is the “discharged and dismissed” Hal Jordan!

I'm mildly surprised Hal was wearing clothes before ringing up his GL suit, honestly.

The last issue of Green Lantern Corps is a little more episodic, featuring four chapters catching up with various ring-welders in the aftermath of the “War of the Green Lanterns” crossover. And a lot of them are rather messed up, traumatized, or angry. Alpha Lantern Boodikka is brought back online, but does she have the will to go on after losing so much? With their friend Ry’jll suffering severe PTSD, G’hu and Voz wonder if they can still work for the Guardians; but Salaak sets them straight. And Kyle Rayner is accosted in the cafeteria as several GL’s are pretty sick of earthmen. But when a disaster strikes, the Lanterns come together.

Salaak’s speech is pretty great, actually; if not inspiring in a traditional sense. I suspect a lot of cops feel the same way. Boodikka isn't a character I follow, but had come a long way from her early appearances; and I think this would be Kyle last regular appearance in this book, since he’d be spun off to the New Guardians title.

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"The End" Week: Booster Gold #25!

I actually read DC's Millennium crossover when it came out, but had to look it up since I didn't recall if any other books were cancelled during it: from 1988, Booster Gold #25, "The End" Story and pencils by Booster's creator Dan Jurgens, inks by Robert Campanella.

To infiltrate the Manhunters (who were maybe 90% alien robots, 7% human agents, 3% brainwashed pawns) Booster Gold went undercover. He may have wanted to tell someone first, since most of earth's heroes and the general public think Booster is a traitor that betrayed them all. While escorting Xiang, one of the Chosen from the crossover; Booster blows up his house, since he felt the Manhunters ruined it for him: his agent Dirk Davis was a Manhunter, who wrecked his career and fortune. Booster takes off his costume, and even deactivates his robot sidekick Skeets.

Booster had planned on taking his private jet, but Davis had sold it to LexCorp. Pissed since he'd recently had a run-in with Luthor, Booster steals the jet, but he and Xiang are shot down. Booster had kept his Legion flight ring, though; and the pair make their way to Rip Hunter, Time Master. (A couple of decades later, Rip would be revealed to be Booster's son; but I don't know if Jurgens already had that in mind!) Booster wants to see if he can use his time machine to go back to the future. Maybe even a couple decades past that...unfortunately, Rip didn't even have a working time machine right then, and Xiang suggests maybe Booster has a responsibility to make things there better if he can.

The JLI shows up then, telling Booster they never thought he was a traitor. (Harbinger also had told J'onn J'onzz that Booster was important, as a descendant of the Chosen, and an important link in human evolution, although J'onn keeps that to himself.) Recovering Skeets and his costume, Booster then says goodbye to the love interest of his series, Trixie; and closes with the affirmation that he was going to find a place he wanted to be...then attack that market for all it was worth.
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"The End" Week: Star Trek #80!

A licensed book can be cancelled any number of times, since the license can lapse and be picked up by another publisher, multiple times. This would be the title's second last issue at DC, yet it would still return for one-shots and limited series later: from 1996, Star Trek #80, "The Chosen, part three: Collision Course!" Written by Kevin J. Ryan, pencils by Rachel Forbes-Seese, inks by Pablo Marcos.

For some time, this incarnation of Star Trek ran with stories set around the fourth through sixth movies with the original crew; before going back to the original five-year mission. This three-parter involved attacks on the Federation, Romulans, and the Klingons; all of which looked like the other had done it, yet all of them denied it. With a pretty alien ambassador, Julia Bertrand; Captain Kirk tries to both keep the peace and find the real culprits. Facing the Romulans, Kirk plays a hunch: a third party is involved (or rather fourth, I suppose) trying to play them all against each other. Later, the Romulan commander reveals to Kirk a coded transmission was detected from the Enterprise...and not a Federation code, either. Kirk confronts Bertrand, who tries to kill herself, but is stopped by Spock.

Bertrand explains her people believed themselves the Chosen: "the center of all creation and the only known living beings in the universe." When a small ship crashed on their planet, they used its technology and realized they weren't alone. During the ensuing crisis of faith, the Chosen decided this was a test of said faith, that the larger universe was not real, and that they should destroy all other intelligent life. Bertrand admits that after her people murdered hundreds of innocents her faith had begun to waver, and tries to kill herself again, but McCoy had taken away the poison she kept in a hatpin.

With the Romulans at their side, Kirk manages to convince the Klingons of the alien Chosen's manipulation. Using the Romulans' cloaking device, the three ships wait for the Chosen, who don't have a chance. Evidence is discovered, and Kirk says the Chosen will be quarantined, either until they accept the rest of the universe, or forever, as needed. The Klingons and Romulans aren't as forgiving, and blast the Chosen ship apart. The alliance between Federation, Romulan and Klingon is over almost as soon as it began, and Spock muses they have probably seen the last of the Chosen. Since it's the last issue, well, yeah. Not a bad plot, if a bit talky in the conclusion, but the art's a little off and the whole thing feels like limping across the finish line.
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Sunday, December 28, 2014

Got my Christmas present up!

My wife got me this Marvel Universe print for Christmas, and I love it! Damn, Colossus is tall...
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"The End" Week: Exiles #100!

The Malibu title with this name ended far earlier (as we saw last year!) but with more surprises: from 2008, Exiles #100, "Home is Where the Heart Is" Written by Chris Claremont, pencils by Tom Grummett, inks by Scott Hanna.

If you're not up on this book's premise, luckily for you, it included a reprint of the Judd Winick/Mike McKone first issue: the team was comprised of mutants pulled from alternate realities, put together to try and contain "damaged" realities before other timelines were infected. Fan favorite Blink from Age of Apocalypse was the first recruit; followed by Nocturne, daughter of an alternate Nightcrawler, and a Thunderbird that had been mutated by Apocalypse. And in the hundredth issue, all three leave the team. Morph (also from the AoA, except not) was the only original Exile remaining. It's up to you if the characters leaving had earned their happy endings, or if Claremont was clearing house and stacking the books with characters he wanted, like an alt-Shadowcat, and Psylocke and Sage from the 616-Marvel Universe proper.

A hundred issues is a pretty solid run, and this wasn't the end of the book: it would get a new first issue with New Exiles #1. (The latter would run for eighteen issues.)

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"The End" Week: Masters of the Universe #13!

We saw part one earlier this year so why not the last issue conclusion? From 1988, Masters of the Universe #13, "Lifetime, part 2" Written by George Caragonne, art by Ron Wilson, inks by Danny Bulanadi.

After losing his Power Sword to the future, Prince Adam finds himself in the new timeline ruled by Skeletor; as the older Prince Adam, Teela, Clamp Champ and new Man-at-Arms are the last of the resistance. When Teela is captured, the heroes make a last desperate assault on Skeletor's forces, which seems doomed to failure until they find the Power Sword, mounted on a wall like a trophy. Both past and future Adams power up into He-Man, and the future Adam and Skeletor fight to the death as Castle Grayskull collapses around them.

Even with the sword, Adam feels that by neglecting his responsibilities he caused all of this; but he's trapped in the future until Teela finds a spare homing device for the time machine, left by Man-at-Arms just in case. Given a second chance, Prince Adam returns to his time, and to the mantle of He-Man. "He-Man is here to stay!" he proclaims...on the last page of his last Marvel issue. Well, he'd be back in comics later.

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Saturday, December 27, 2014

"The End" Week: Moon Knight #38!

Somewhat surprisingly, the most current series of Moon Knight has not been cancelled: after the excellent revamp by Warren Ellis and Declan Shalvey, Brian Wood and Greg Smallwood took over for six more issues,and Cullen Bunn and Ron Ackins will have five after that. I'm saying surprisingly even as someone who likes Moon Knight, since he's had like three last issues within the last five years: #30 was the end of the 2006 series, Vengeance of the Moon Knight ended with #10, and even the much hyped Bendis/Maleev series only limped to #12. If cancellations were bankruptcies, Moon Knight's credit score would be pretty low; but so far he always seems to get another shot.

All of the above is because I don't have a helluva lot to say about this last issue, his first cancellation: Moon Knight #38, "Final Rest" Written by Alan Zelenetz, pencils by Bo Hampton, inks by Armando Gil. Well, the cover by Mike Kaluta is pretty great; but the rest of the issue is pretty blah: Marc Spector's father dies, but a sorceror named Zohar steals the body, which he resurrects as a golem. Was this the first issue that established Moon Knight was Jewish? Or at least lapsed.

Spector wasn't using that name at the time, at all: he was mostly millionaire Steven Grant, occasionally cab driver Jake Lockley, and costumed up as Moon Knight. I don't know who started the idea that Spector had multiple personalities, but that became the standard for most of his writers later. The problem had been established before this issue, but I don't know if it ever rang true for me: A guy can put on a different hat without having MPD...Here, even though long-time girlfriend Marlene treats him (and seemingly prefers him) as Grant, he knows he is Spector.

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Friday, December 26, 2014

"The End" Week: Kamandi #59!

We checked out Kamandi #50 a couple of months back, but now the conclusion of Kamandi's saga--more or less! From 1978, Kamandi #59, "The Wonderous Western Wall" Written by Jack C. Harris, pencils by Dick Ayers, inks by Danny Bulanadi.

By this point in the series, Sherlock and Watson-types Mylock Bloodstalker and Doile have caught up with and joined Kamandi and his crew, as they quest to find the power source behind the Great Disaster. The alien Pyra hoped to use that power to restore her homeworld; but it's supposed to be some kind of vortex, and it's blocked off by a gigantic wall. And the wall is locked, by a "radiation-powered" lock.

Before Pyra can state her plan for the lock, they are beset by "the Kangarat Murder Society," the locals who maintain and guard the wall. With murder! While the Kangarats have a bolo contest to see who gets to murder them, Kamandi's girl Spirit uses her newfound "fiber-spinning" powers to tie them up, and they escape in the Kangarats' hopping-ship.

To get through the lock, Kamandi plans to use radiation from his mutant friends Ben, Renzi, and Steve; who are expelling a ton of it right now. With Spirit and the Kangarats' equipment, he creates radiation suits so he and Dr. Canus can pick them up in Pyra's ship. Great plan, except the Kangarats seem pretty convinced opening the wall will end the world; and Kamandi is sucked in, to hear a strange voice...

The cancellation was a surprise--again, two issues were already completed but not released--and Kamandi may not have been seen again properly until DC Comics Presents #64 in 1983. I may have to look again for scans of Kamandi #60-61, I'm not sure that link is still good.

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Beginning "the End" Week!

Woof, we're up to six years of this, and comics keep getting cancelled! Man, I'm never gonna finish at this rate; but we'll play some catch-up ball with our annual "The End" week, and check out some more last issues. We'll start with a two-fer: from 1985, Jonah Hex #92, "A Blaze of Glory!" Written by Michael Fleisher, art by Gray Morrow; and from 2014 All Star Western #34, "The Final Curtain" Written by Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti, pencils by Darwyn Cooke. (As is always the case for last issues, there may be spoilers; so no complaining!)

This one isn't as good as that cover. Fleisher's last issue of Jonah Hex leads into the first issue of Hex, but not really: only the last page, where Jonah disappears from his book's traditional western setting (around the end of the 1880's or so) into a post apocalyptic future. The rest of this issue is Hex saving a little girl from some bank robbers, then giving the runaway back to her parents without so much as a pat on the head; while in six pages of subplot (out of 24) Emmy finally catches up with Jonah in a bar, bank robbers on the verge of killing her...just in time for Jonah to disappear. Bad luck, Emmy.

Jonah also somehow cashes in on a bounty that just seems massive--upwards of five grand--especially considering he did most of the gang in with dynamite, in an explosion that looked like it wouldn't have left enough of their bodies to fill a mason jar...

Counting Hex and specials, Fleisher wrote Jonah's adventures for over a hundred issues: so did Jonah's most recent writers, Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti. They had a seventy-issue Jonah Hex book then 34 issues of All Star Western, among others. Gray and Palmiotti's last issue ties into Fleisher's Jonah Hex Spectacular, where Jonah is murdered in 1904 by George Barrow, and his body stuffed and mounted for a Wild West show's travelling exhibit. Or was he?

By this point in the series, Jonah had been back and forth to various points in the future more than once, and had recently had his trademark facial scars repaired with plastic surgery. Now pretty handsome, Jonah and his on-again, off-again love interest Tallulah Black are in Wyoming; on the trail of a gang whose leader has been impersonating Jonah! Jonah checks into a hotel under the name "George Barrow," after seeing a brand of flour sacks in a wheelbarrow; and after the inevitable shootout with the gang, "Barrow" has again killed "Hex." The gangleader's body is taken by the Wild West show and headed for some taxidermy, as Jonah and Tallulah sail off into the sunset, towards a happy ending.

Fleisher's original end for Jonah was strikingly powerful; but over the course of the years, I'd have to say he more than earned a better fate. That and having knowledge of his future, I like that Jonah was smart enough to take advantage of it.
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