Friday, June 29, 2018

A face only a mother could love...ooh, too soon.

The back-up feature takes a few pages, and splash pages a bit more; so maybe not as much as could have happens this month. But it's so good! From 2000, Orion #3, "For Purple Mountain's Majesties..." Story and art by Walter Simonson, letters by John Workman, colors by Sherilyn Van Valkenburgh; and "Nativity" Script by Walter Simonson, art by Frank Miller.

Possessed by the Anti-Life Equation, the townspeople of Main Line, Nebraska are about to kill Orion, and his mother Tigra (no, not that one!) is already mortally wounded. Only an overzealous "Apokoliptian suicide jockey" gives Orion the opportunity to get free and to his dying mom, and he changes his face from handsome to "the true visage of Orion" so she can recognize him in her last moments. Using his Mother Box to send her body to the Source, Orion then calls out Darkseid, a message that could be heard across the universe. He just has to get through the zombie-like townsfolk, and does to an underground base, where Darkseid himself may be...maybe.

Also this issue: the Newsboy Legion and Jimmy Olsen visit New Genesis! And Takion and Lightray summon all the citizens to see a message from the Source, telling them to go to Apokolips, to "bear the firepits a great warrior will fall." And, the aforementioned back-up, with art by Frank Miller in very, very much 300 mode, featuring the birth of Orion! Darkseid takes the baby away from Tigra almost immediately, but Tigra is positive Darkseid is digging his own grave, raising the weapon that will eventually kill him.

I know I don't have all of Orion, which is nice since that still means there's an issue or three left to read. Which three, well, that's a good question. Huh, I've only blogged the last issue so far? Maybe we'll fix that over time.
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Thursday, June 28, 2018

The subtle difference between "free" and "not trapped."

We looked at the concluding chapter...some eight years ago, and I know I have the second part somewhere, but today we finally have from 1988, Detective Comics Annual #1, "The Monkey Trap" Written by Dennis O'Neal, pencils by Klaus Janson, inks by Tony Dezuniga.

In Manchuria, 1895, a Japanese army captain faces off against a Chinese monk, waiting for their moment to strike. Waiting so long that one of the captain's troops takes the initiative and shoots the monk; infuriating and dishonoring the captain, who makes the dying monk a promise: to take his place. That captain would go on, over the decades, to become the Sensei. In the present (of 1988...) the Sensei and Lady Shiva set sail with smugglers for America, where he will seek out three of whom Shiva had told him, to give them a gift, to help him fulfill a promise, before he died. Shiva goes to one of those three, the Question, to set up a meeting with the second: Batman.

Meanwhile, Batman is about to have his hands full, as R'as al Ghul sends his daughter Talia to America, to deal with the Penguin, assuring her she wouldn't encounter Batman on this trip. Sure...Penguin, for his part, was working on a meet with an African chemist, for an "innnn-teresting drug," a poison that attacked the kidneys, but only killed women and children, since testosterone stopped it. Penguin seems unusually bloodthirsty today, which I have to admit I think I say every other Penguin appearance we see around here. But Batman gets the message from Vic Sage (a "very good mask on a bad crimefighter," since he wasn't impressed on their first meeting) and meets Sensei and Shiva on the docks. Shiva does take a couple swipes at him, unable to resist the temptation to test herself against him, before the Sensei tells her to stop, and gives Batman his gift, a parable:

Batman is completely, almost violently, unimpressed; declaring himself "one of the freest men on earth" and "an expert on getting out of traps." Those two things may not be directly related, though...

The Penguin purchases the formula, which has the added bonus of driving birds almost rabid, and infected ones could spread it. (Wait, it's described as a virus here, but I thought it was a chemical formula? Those aren't the same things!) Penguin has his trained birds Shoe and Perfesser kill the chemist, but examining the body in the morgue, Batman is able to figure out where Penguin is hiding out. Before leaving the morgue, Talia greets him, saying they need to work together here, even though Bats is still pissed at her from the last time they met. (And he says he already knew the drug, since he was "afraid somebody would figure that out sooner or later," indicating it was a chemical mix again!) As Penguin injects some birds and prepares to ask for his ransom, Batman and Talia storm his hideout, and while he's fighting the birds, she gets injected with the poison. Batman scolds her slightly, since the poison wouldn't have hurt him, but seems to appreciate the thought as he gets her to the hospital for a testosterone shot to save her.

In her hospital bed, Talia asks if she can say something to Batman: she offers to go with him, forsaking her father and under whatever conditions he chooses. Batman shuts her down cold, saying he could never forget who's daughter she was, but more importantly, "I would have to stop being who I am." He leaves her without as much as a kiss goodbye, then in the Batcave has a message sent for the Sensei, acknowledging the debt now owed.

As I write this, the Batman/Catwoman wedding is still coming up; although it's probably even money as to if it actually happens or not. Can there be a happily married Batman? Or is a certain baseline of misery necessary for him to function? Only a couple days will tell! And we'll get to the second chapter of this little crossover, Fables, later. Hopefully within eight years.
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Wednesday, June 27, 2018


Ugh, the many fills. After the break there's a few saved without them. As I do these, my rickety old computer is mightily struggling when asked to do...anything really, it's embarrassingly old. But one of the reasons I haven't upgraded is because the software I use is no longer supported, and I might have to get and learn a new one if I got a new computer. (And I did just get a new computer...)

"Ficky ficky booly booly" is from an Evan Dorkin comic--I think--but I have no idea if it's a reference to anything.

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Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Traditionally, no one's happy about a fill-in issue, but this time...

This was a comicon pickup that I was pretty sure was going to be a reprint of some sort, but no! It's burning off a fill-in issue, but with somewhat higher production values than usual, and a better story behind it. From 2011, Defenders: From the Marvel Vault #1, "Mind Slam" Plot by Fabian Nicieza, script by Kurt Busiek, pencils by Mark Bagley, inks by Andrew Hennessy.

In more ways than one, this was set during Kurt Busiek and Erik Larsen's Defenders run, wherein the curse of Yandroth forced Dr. Strange, the Hulk, the Sub-Mariner and (usually) the Silver Surfer together whenever there was an emergency. Behind the scenes, in case Busiek or Larsen fell behind, a fill-in issue was commissioned; plotted by Nicieza and drawn by Bagley...and left in a drawer, since they managed to stay on schedule! So, it was finally scheduled for this Vault event with similar unpublished stories, but Nicieza didn't have time to script it, and had lost the original plot! Which thus left Busiek to figure something out, and he did!

The Defenders are called together once again, but this time...they're Jerry, Nicholls, Ramona and Tyler? It's our usual heroes, but with the minds of four college students after a night of Red Bull and Pathfinder. You'd think D&D kids would know better, but they immediately split the party, looking around on their own; and Jerry the Surfer quickly finds his heart's desire: Shalla Bal and the Shi'ar homeworld! Man, the Surfer has weird, as Shalla explains, he would have love and not have to give up journeying, the best of both worlds. Ramona the Hulk finds a happy place as well: a beach day, with all his old villains now his friends! Nicholls/Strange thinks this might be a trap, for about one second before joining Eternity--with an old joke!

Tyler/Namor is left to his own fondest wish: an underwater picnic with a fabulous blue babe, who he wouldn't know was Lady Dorma. Namor's happy place also appears to involve killing all humans, since their picnic ground is the sunken Statue of Liberty, but that's not what snaps Tyler out of it...

I won't spoil the rest, but it's a solid, fun issue that fits easily into the original run. Which I still need to finish, come to think of it...I wonder if any of the other Vault issues were this good.
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Monday, June 25, 2018

I'm blogging this one 'cause I think I've bought it twice, but still a good lesson.

From 2013, Avengers Assemble Annual #1, "Company Man" Written by Christos Gage, art by Tomm Coker.

The "company man" of the title is sporadic Iron Man antagonist Sunturion, a loyal Roxxon employee turned into living energy, who had toed the company line for many years even though I'm pretty sure they had betrayed him multiple times up to this point. Today, having been told his energy form was losing cohesion and he was dying, he starts a rampage to wipe Roxxon off the map. (Iron Man guesses saving Sunturion wasn't "cost effective," and he's hit the nail on the head there.)

But the Vision is, in his own way, as much a company man as Sunturion; and tries to get that across to him. Vision is working through a lot himself: his false sons seemingly returned as the Young Avengers Wiccan and Speed; and what could be PTSD after his 'death' in Avengers Disassembled. Although he manages to convince Sunturion to "come in" and let the Avengers help him; it doesn't last, and Sunturion attacks a Roxxon faculty in the middle of putting volunteers through the same process that gave him powers--even though it would kill them as well. Vision captures the microwave-based Sunturion in his solar jewel, but mad that Roxxon could continue without so much as a slap on the wrist, he disintegrates the machinery they were using. Then the equation changes: if they can't make new Sunturions, suddenly it's cost-effective to save the old one. Iron Man is outraged, but Sunturion goes back to Roxxon! After all, it's as much as the only home he has.

After the mission, Vision resigns from the team, wanting to take some time for himself, a life outside the Avengers. Somewhat heartwarmingly, his former brother-in-law, Quicksilver, offers his help; even though he had zinged him more than once this issue. (Seriously, Pietro only has a couple lines this one, but they are savage.) And Vision visits Wiccan, so you can see he's on the right track.

Searching the GCD for Sunturion, there were slightly more appearances for him than I had thought: Iron Man #143 and Annual #9 are the two I remember. He's far more powerful than Iron Man--possibly more in line with the Monica Rambeau Captain Marvel. Which is why I think he might not appear that often; since his powers seem tough to nail down. But his corporate, today it reminds me of fans who are just rabid about the subject of their devotion, even though it owes them nothing in turn.
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Friday, June 22, 2018

The cover gives away the cliffhanger, and I think this was too early to do this story, but turns out I'm glad they did when they did. Huh? Oh, let's just look at 1994's Superboy #4, "Superboy: the Animated Series" Written by Karl Kesel, pencils by Tom Grummett and Mike Parobeck, inks by Doug Hazlewood and Ande Parks.
This was early in the series for the new, clone Superboy from Reign of the Supermen; and he was already taking a sick day. While he thought he was just under the weather from "inhaling volcanic gases" and overwork, telepathic D.N.Alien Dubbilex suggests maybe it might be this disease that was attacking clones? But he's shouted down by S.B.'s business manager Rex Leech (what, Funky Flashman wasn't available?) since it's time for cartoons! Namely, an early cut of a pilot for a Superboy cartoon!

The cartoon portions of the issue are of course in the style of Batman: the Animated Series...okay, with a lot less black, but still. And they're done by the Batman Adventures great penciler, Mike Parobeck! This issue would be the same month as Batman Adventures #20.

Superboy's supporting cast has a bone to pick with Rex, though: while he's portrayed as a billionaire philanthropist, Dubbilex is now his telepathic butler; and his daughter Roxy is currently "primordial slime." Although calmer about it, Dubbilex may actually be more upset, since he doesn't recall signing away his likeness rights. Superboy's actually wondering if he's even in the cartoon by the fifteen minute mark or so, but is told that's to build anticipation. And in the cartoon, he does have a cool cave, so there's that.

Superboy's other love interest, reporter Tana Moon, points out that no network would touch that cartoon, as it was far too violent. It may not matter, though, since Superboy has just passed out in the kitchen, and may have stopped breathing...also, from the way he landed, S.B. was very obviously drinking milk out of the carton, while sick. Well, he wasn't quite the hero he would be, at this point.

It seemed way too soon for the cartoon, but it does fit with a huckster like Rex trying to cash in quick. And this way, we got to see Parobeck do it, which works for me. We just saw the Harley Quinn pitch for Catwoman's cartoon, and No Man's Land: the Animated Series some time back, and I could've sworn there were other in-story B:TAS homages as well.

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Thursday, June 21, 2018

80-Page Thursdays: Justice League Quarterly #1!

It's been six months since our last 80-page Thursday--a whole month of Sundays, as Ben Grimm might've said. Today we've got a recent pick-up, that I'm pretty sure I've had at some point; that I've read but still have trouble remembering. Well, maybe this'll help! From 1990, Justice League Quarterly #1, "Corporate Maneuvers (and Leveraged Buyouts)" Written by Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis, pencils by Keith Giffen (layouts) and Chris Sprouse, inks by Bruce Patterson.

Maxwell Lord (long before his heel-turn) has noticed, in the course of observing former JLI member Booster Gold, that public relations "hard case" Claire Montgomery has approached several unknown or obscure superhero types: Gypsy, Vibe's brother Reverb, the recently introduced super-boy scout Maxi-Man, and others. (Including Praxis, who would get a serial in later issues; he amusingly doesn't show up on film...which makes him an odd choice for this particular team.) She's putting together a corporate-sponsored super-hero team; and unlike some previous attempt at that sort of thing, this Conglomerate is sponsored by multiple corporations, including LexCorp, Ferris Air, S.T.A.R. Labs, Stagg Chemicals...and some others I don't recognize. And at least two of those are evil, but okay. They make their first appearance stopping a rogue telekinetic from destroying a chemical plant of one of their sponsors; not realizing he may have been experimented upon there.

Somewhat surprisingly, Booster is the largest gloryhound of the group, but largely plays it straight; and even he gets fed up with being trotted out at parties and ad campaigns. After a coup in a South American country to put a ruler more amenable to corporate interests in power, and a standoff against the JLI; Booster is hoping for a mission he can be proud of, which turns out to be cleaning up a sponsor's oil spill; and he goes off on them to the press. The team's corporate liaison, to in turn 'clean up' after them, turns to longtime Green Lantern bad guy, Hector Hammond, to set up an unfortunate "accident."

There are a few interesting character bits in here, but maybe not enough: on the cover, Gypsy is giving J'onn an epic "Yes, dad" eyeroll; but I don't think they actually interact in the issue! But we know the Conglomerate wouldn't stick around long--at least, not with this lineup. And everyone involved seems really (perhaps willfully) naïve in thinking they can sell out to the man and still do good. (Perhaps slightly less so than it would in the Marvel Universe, where something like this would've been sponsored by Roxxon, Oscorp, Trask Industries...)
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Wednesday, June 20, 2018


I think Gwen referred to Pool's space trip as "dicking around" last week as well; and if I had been a little more on the ball editorially I would've changed the wording for one of them. Drawing a blank as to what right this second, though: I don't usually use "farting around," and "gadding about" doesn't quite fit. Anyway.

Deadpool's "There is a man with a typewriter" was of course from Christopher Priest's run, which I'm not sure gets the love it deserves. It does raise the ever-popular question, just how crazy is Deadpool? It can run from moderately insane, to it being an act or brave front that he puts on to deal with his problems, to multiple levels of brainwashing and/or PTSD. And that's before you get to the third wall breaking. When I play with him, Pool's a well-meaning if completely unhelpful goof with not a lot of impulse control. Which may not be how he's usually portrayed today, but eh, the wheel will spin again, I'm sure.

Pool also acts like he can see italics in the word balloons, but Gwen can definitely see the captions...

Oh, and don't search "X-Men World Tour" because you'll get some Mark Millar Ultimate thing, but back in the early Claremont day travel seemed to be a bigger deal for them than most other superhero teams. Sure, in a Justice League comic team members might go to Easter Island or whatever, but never for long...or with a lot of reference. I remember Steven T. Seagle specifically referencing that he was going to do the tour in his Uncanny X-Men run.
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Tuesday, June 19, 2018

This one didn't feel like snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, it felt like going even more out of your way to lose than that. Like helping load defeat in your own car...From 1985, Warlord #100, "Skartaris Unchained" Written by Michael Fleisher, art by Adam Kubert.

The Skartarans' war with New Atlantis had been running since 1983's Warlord Annual #2 and Warlord #74, but this would be the first issue with new writer Michael Fleisher, so I have to wonder if there was some editorial mandate to change directions. Still, there were elements like the cyclops wizard-king "Cycroth" (previously Cykroth) from previous writer Cary Burkett, so perhaps this was a planned conclusion.

At various points during the war, Travis's forces had included a pirate captain, oversized horned horses, and futuristic weapons; none of which come into play today! Instead, while Travis and Krystovar try to infiltrate New Atlantis; Mariah, Machiste, and Shakira do the same in Shamballah. The former fight past a giant crab, while the latter gain entrance in disguise. Mariah is recognized as "one of the Warlord's wenches!" but they're still able to disable the New Atlanteans' laser cannons. Travis's plan is to face Cycroth directly, but the bard Graemore, Tara's childhood love, follows in an attempt to help and instead is discovered and alerts the guards. Travis and Krystovar are forced to fight through, with Krystovar sacrificing himself so Travis could make it. (Krystovar had been introduced in Warlord Annual #2 as well, so him getting got really feels like they were trying to draw a line under this and close it off...)

Back at the base camp, Travis's daughter Jennifer prepared to help him with a "sorcerous shield to protect him against Cycroth's evil magic!" She's at a disadvantage working from a distance, but her shield keeps Cycroth from being able to kill Travis immediately. As Tara leads her forces to retake their home, Cycroth is forced to draw power from his subjects, sucking their lifeforce into himself, leaving them aged and presumably decrepit, easy prey. Travis catches a mystic blast that knocks out Jennifer--and his shield! And he already emptied his .44 Automag! Luckily, the already mortally wounded Graemore takes a stand against Cycroth, and immediately gets incinerated, but gives Travis the opening to throw his sword through Cycroth's eye. Well, he seemed more concerned about that than it sticking out of the back of his head.

The New Atlanteans are aged to death--or, presumably, to the point where they are easily murdered by the Skartarans they intended to enslave or slaughter. The beast-man Sabretooth--whose design I like better than Marvel's Sabretooth--is the last to go, killed by Machiste. Who seems really proud of it, holding up his decapitated head. How he did it with a mace hand, I'm not sure. But what should be a major triumph is immediately undercut, as Travis rides to the base camp, which is now overgrown and aged--as is Jennifer, now a withered crone!

Which would set up "Morgan's Quest," for the next sixteen issues. They were a little episodic, and hit-or-miss at best; although I have a soft spot for "Bride of Yaug!" We'll see if we get to that one, at least. Reading this has really made me want to sit down and read Cary Burkett's run straight through, though: the sci-fi elements were a little stronger, the dialogue a bit less purple...

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