Friday, August 31, 2018

Today's book was ninety-nine cents in 1996, and a buck last week! Over the Edge #6, "Of Kings...and Bright, Shiny Things" Written by Ralph Macchio, pencils by Robert Brown, inks by Mike Witherby.

This was one of Marvel's ninety-nine cent books, like Avengers Unplugged or Fantastic Four...Unplugged. Arguably a better name; but none of those lasted as long as the excellent Untold Tales of Spider-Man. Still, I kinda liked this one: I didn't recognize his name, but Robert Brown's art wasn't bad. And it wouldn't have been a big deal at the time, but this issue features the return of Killmonger! And also retcons his last appearance, Iron Man Annual #5, as a ploy cooked up with the Mandarin, to see how T'Challa would react to his return. Um, okay. (I haven't read that annual, so maybe his death there was going to be a tough one to get out of!)

Daredevil appears, in a relatively rare less grim-n-gritty period, right before Karl Kesel's very good run; although I think this was a bit of a fallow stretch for Black Panther. He is sporting...some kind of braid? Blame the 90's. This issue also features Klaw, who I remember giving DD a much harder time years later somewhere in Mark Waid's run; but DD seems to have his number here. He does get his costume surprisingly shredded, though. Killmonger is seemingly killed at the end here, just like most of his appearances. It hasn't kept him down!
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Thursday, August 30, 2018

A formula that makes vampires more emo? Better put a stop to that.

Vampires always were a bit emotional, though, weren't they? Throw in some gruffness from Blade and season with the usual Spidey responsibility and guilt, and you get this issue! From 1998, Marvel Team-Up #7, "Sun-Walkers!" Written by Marv Wolfman, pencils by Thomas Derenick, inks by Tom Palmer.

At Empire State University, a vampire kills a janitor, a friend of Peter's; and Spidey beats the stuffing out of him. But the next day, the vampire is busted out of Riker's Island, by Blade! Why? Well, the vampires had been running a long-term research project, into eliminating their weakness to sunlight, and this was their first test subject, Henry Sage. Blade takes the captured Sage to New Orleans to be studied, but notices him beginning to show uncharacteristic emotions like remorse.

Meanwhile, shortly after the janitor's funeral, Spidey has to say so long to Mary Jane, so he can get to New Orleans "with only ten dollars and a coupla tuna fish sandwiches" to his name. Spidey's mad at Blade, but Blade rightly notes if Sage had been left in prison, he would've turned everyone there into vampires soon enough. During Blade and Spidey's fight, Sage escapes, but only as far as a cemetery: the sun-walker treatment was bringing back memories and feelings that he couldn't live with, and Sage attacks Spidey to force Blade to kill him. Blade decides the treatment wasn't going to turn the tide against the humans, he might even let the vampires keep trying it.

One thing that doesn't quite line up: Sage had been turned into a vampire by Dracula himself, who had also killed his family. So...wouldn't they have all been turned into vampires? What's he complaining about, then?

This was the last Spider-Man team-up of this short series; next issue Namor would take over until the book ended with #11.
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Wednesday, August 29, 2018


"Generic prophecy," or something close to it, was a Badger line in an issue of Nexus. Blah, blah, chosen one; they all run together after a while.

I think Kurt, and the rest of the X-Men, have had the misfortune of being on Gladiator's bad side; because he has often stayed loyal to the throne even when he probably shouldn't. Otherwise he's probably pretty trustworthy. Maybe.
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Tuesday, August 28, 2018

The real star is that epic codpiece-face.

How that never caught on, I don't know. From 1993, Warlock and the Infinity Watch #19, "True Believers" Created and written by Jim Starlin, pencils by Tom Grindberg, inks by Keith Williams.

This is somewhere in the middle of the Infinity Crusade crossover: I liked Infinity War better, but this is still pretty good. Pip the Troll is comic relief as usual, as he is chased down by earth's heroes...and forcibly bathed. The end of the issue implies Pip may hold a grudge, though. Elsewhere, the Celestials, Galactus, and Adam Warlock all seem uneasy: they know there's more to the Goddess and her plan than they can presently see. Thanos may be in that same boat, but more proactive, as he's doing the math and bringing in "storage unit #D-666." (The D is for Dreadnaught!) And in her realm, Death seems to be watching the Goddess as well and pieced together her endgame, and laughs...

On the Goddess's side, Sister Moondragon administers a little tough love on Gamora, for the crime of being a Doubting Thomas. The Silver Surfer visits Titan to convert them to the Goddess, but finds Eros, Mentor, and the other Eternals there seemingly entranced. Moondragon calls the Surfer back, for a mission, seemingly unconcerned to that mystery.

I don't know if I would have appreciated this issue's art at the time: Grindberg's Mike Mignola-style was far afield from Ron Lim's work on Infinity Crusade. I like it now, though!
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Monday, August 27, 2018

I honestly thought I had mentioned this character before, or more like Reed Richards had; since this bad guy was responsible for his and Doctor Doom's apparent deaths, and I seem to recall Reed saying they weren't ready to face him like eight million times. From 1996, Fantastic Four #408, "Unbeatable is My Foe!" Written by Tom DeFalco, pencils by Paul Ryan, inks by Dan Bulanadi.

Intent on recovering his master Doom, Kristoff has brought Reed, Sue, and Ben--and Namor and Lyja--to the distant future ruled by Hyperstorm. Reed had been trapped in the prehistoric past (possibly the Hyperborean age of old Conan!) and seemed both gunshy of facing him again, as well as depressed at the way his wife and family have seemingly moved on without him. Elsewhere, Nathaniel Richards and Zarrko the Tomorrow Man are fighting Hyperstorm's forces: Zarrko had been a time-travelling foe of Thor, like a low-rent version of Kang; but here Doctor Doom was inhabiting his body! For his part, Hyperstorm seems to know where all the pieces are on the board, and everything is going as planned, even if we're still not sure what that plan is or why he's doing it.

Back in the 20th century, the Human Torch has just gotten the news about Reed, and huffs over to Four Freedoms Plaza to have Ant-Man send him to the future with the time platform. Nathaniel also goes to join the heroes in battle against Hyperstorm's "Destructoid!" robots, leaving Zarrko/Doom to his own devices. With the Fantastic Four reunited--for the first time since Fantastic Four #381 in 1993--Nathaniel is able to coach Sue on how to use her force field powers to vibrate on the right chord to destroy the Destructoids. Reed is concerned about the dangers of that, and her power's relationship to hyperspace is mentioned, then mentioned again by Hyperstorm when he attacks Sue. Furious, Reed lets his fists do the thinking, as he throws down with Hyperstorm, who continues to act like he's got a secret, and still seems too powerful for the heroes to take...

Nearby, Doom has returned to his own body (or a body, that's a whole kettle of fish) leaving an unconscious Zarrko where he lay; and as Kristoff watches Doom rebuilds an old favorite: a variation of the machine he used to steal the Silver Surfer's power cosmic way back in Fantastic Four #57!

I didn't read this issue at the time, and I know it was nowhere near as long as I think, but it feels like Hyperstorm's plotline ran forever. Reed's actions could be interpreted as trauma, PTSD; but he also seems like he's just dying to get back into the lab and build something to beat Hyperstorm's ass. The letter's page also includes a Statement of Ownership, Management, and Circulation: Paid circulation, actual number of copies of single issue published nearest to filing date, 97,624.
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Friday, August 24, 2018

I've fallen behind in my reading, but currently I'm midway through Showcase Presents: the Great Disaster, possibly because there were seemingly a hundred issues of the Atomic Knights. They're early sixties DC sci-fi fare, scientifically more than a little iffy, but fun enough. There's also a string of "The Day After Doomsday!" Short horror tales, that remind me of a sequence in Stephen King's expanded the Stand: here's a bunch of people that miraculously survived the apocalypse, only to immediately die of stupid right after. I haven't gotten to Hercules Unbound or the Kamandi reprints, but I did read 1976's Superman #295, which ties in to all this...somehow. All right, that one doesn't make a lick of sense, and I'd have to have a copy to get into it proper; but conveniently enough I have Superman #294 next to me, and the cover almost looks like it should be the Great Disaster tie-in!

"The Man Who Slept the World Away!" Written by Cary Bates, pencils by Curt Swan, inks by Tex Blaisdell. The splash page gives too much of the game away, as Superman faces Brain Storm, whom you may recall...if at all...from Justice League America #43, where he lost his helmet in a card game! With everyone on earth disappeared, Clark Kent makes a desperate solo newscast, explaining how he and Superman had been on the moon when whatever happened, happened. It's a good cover, but makes Clark a target, as Brain Storm takes him out with an atomic bazooka! Fighting Superman, B.S. explains earth's entire population--some four billion at the time--was locked away in his helmet, so he could absorb the stellar energy from a quasar, to make his helmet even more powerful. (He already wiped everyone off the planet, and needs more power?) If even one human was left, though, their mental patterns would interfere...somehow...and the quasar energy wouldn't be usable. (Superman didn't count!)

Superman tricks Brain Storm, by disguising himself as Clark Kent: when B.S. tries to kill "Kent" and reveals him as Superman, he assumes he's been fooled; and Supes is able to get in close and punch him until his helmet does stuff. Brain Storm brings back everyone, except the "murdered" Kent; but Supes tells him he saved Kent as well...and that Brain Storm was looking at "four billion counts of kidnapping!"

Also this issue: a "Private Life of Clark Kent" story, "The Tattoo Switcheroo!" Among other shenanigans, Supes has to compress his costume down to pill-size, then eat it to avoid discovery. And yes, retrieve it later. I guess his super-digestive system can't break down his indestructible costume; he's not Matter-Eater Lad, after all.
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Thursday, August 23, 2018

Along with an inexplicably large collection of Venom figures, I also have a curiously large pile of Venom comics. (Somewhere.) But like a lot of villains (and heroes, for that matter) he moves forward for several years, then gets put right back on square one, more or less. Or does he? From 2017, Venom #150, "Heart of Darkness" Written by Mike Costa, art by Tradd Moore, color art by Felipe Sobreiro; "Dependence Day" Written by Robbie Thompson, art by Gerardo Sandoval, color art by Dono Sanchez-Almara; and "Malled!" Written by David Michelinie (Venom's co-creator!) pencils by Ron Lim, inks by John Livesay.

Eddie Brock and the Venom symbiote are together again: they're happy about it, but very obviously co-dependent as hell. Out for an evening swing, they stop some armored goons breaking into a biotech firm to steal a proprietary tomato, with what Eddie has to admit is excessive force. Unsure in himself and his "reunion," Eddie returns to the church where he first met the symbiote. He tells the priest there he no longer believes in God, but after discussing his "relationship" in broad strokes, the priest recognizes an unhealthy obsession. The symbiote doesn't care to hear that, and tells Eddie he wants to hurt anyone who comes between them. Like maybe Scorpion, who attacks wanting revenge on "that nightmare inside of you," that he used to wear!

The Scorpion has some add-ons to his usual look, courtesy of his employer Alchemax. Despite knowing the symbiote's sonic weakness, he gets outmaneuvered by it getting inside his own suit, and punched out by Eddie. Eddie passes out, with the symbiote assuring him it will take care of him...which it does, taking him back to the church, and attacking the priest!

The next story takes place sometime earlier, when Flash Thompson still had the suit: back in NYC, Agent Venom is attacked by an armored foe that separates them with a sonic weapon. Flash is then unable to calm the symbiote down, and it takes off. Flash stops the armored guy, but leaves him to go after the symbiote...and doesn't find him. Consumed by anger again, the symbiote seems to fall back into old habits, and takes over a bum in the sewers, presumably on his way to Eddie.

The next story is even further back, a flashback to Venom's early days hunting Spider-Man. Staking out a mall, they figure Spidey might show up to stop a gang; then ends up stopping them...themselves. Still, when a security guard freaks out and tries to give up an innocent to protect himself from Venom, they kill him, and muse about how betrayal is good, since it gives them a target.

Like Silver Surfer #200, this issue has the cover gallery of Venom's 150 issues; largely the string of miniseries he had in the 90's. And if you look for this in trade, the next issue has the great title, The Land Before Crime, featuring Venom vs. Stegron the Dinosaur Man!
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Wednesday, August 22, 2018


Despite the mohawk, Gladiator is in many ways Superboy: his Imperial Guard was a riff on the Legion of Super-Heroes. And famously, Dave Cockrum pitched Nightcrawler when he was doing Legion, but was told he was "too weird." And I bet neither of them got the flight belt Legion rejects traditionally received as a parting gift...I don't think Kurt sees Gladiator as an enemy; not quite anyway. But probably not someone he's ever going to be thrilled to run into.

Twelve years ago (!) I blogged this panel from Uncanny X-Men #479, written by Ed Brubaker, pencils by Billy Tan, inks by Danny Miki and Allen Martinez. Havok, Polaris, Nightcrawler, Rachel, and Thunderbird were going into space; while Vulcan was taking over the Shi'ar empire. I have only the vaguest recollection of what happened during that like twelve issue stretch...

If you've never seen it, Seven Samurai is a no-fooling, honest-to-goodness classic. Super influential. If you don't like samurai (GET. OUT.) or don't have three-and-a-half hours to spare, the 1960 The Magnificent Seven is a vastly watchable western and a good hour and change shorter. 1980's Battle Beyond the Stars has the same basic plot (and Robert Vaughn in largely the same role he played in the Magnificent Seven!) and is a big, cheerful bowl of cheese. The 2016 Magnificent Seven remake wastes a good cast and is bland as hell: there's a CGI shot of a tombstone at the end that just kills me. It would've been cheaper, and looked better, to carve a real one. We'll be discussing them more later.
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Tuesday, August 21, 2018

We looked at the What If? version some time back, but I'm not sure I had seen the original before; or in this case the reprint: from 1974, Marvel Spectacular #7, reprinting 1967's Thor #136, "To Become an Immortal!" Written by Stan Lee, pencils by Jack Kirby, inks by Vince Colletta.

Thor has finally gotten the okay from Big Daddy Odin, to marry his long-standing girlfriend Jane Foster; and takes her to scenic Asgard. Which is probably like going from Kansas to Oz, since the colors of the Rainbow Bridge alone seem like they're a bit much for her; but there's also a troll invasion going on as well. (When isn't there a troll invasion, am I right?) Odin seems pretty cool at first, bestowing upon Jane a new outfit and the power of flight; but when she doesn't seem to immediately take to it, Odin opts to throw her in the deep end and decrees she will have to face "the Unknown." Not a figurative unknown either, this was a mysterious thing that most of the locals seemed afraid of, yet Odin acts like Jane should take it. Instead, Jane again freaks out, and calls for Thor to save her.

Odin explains the Unknown doth feed on fear, which is why it never invaded Asgard...then why was it there, and why was the underling Odin sent to get it terrified as well? Nevertheless, Jane has failed, and is sent back to earth, for a regular ol' mortal life with consolation prize Dr. Kincaid. Odin knows, and suspects Thor knew as well, that Jane wasn't cut out for godhood; all of which seems super-patronizing, especially when you consider Jane's later years...Odin then sends Thor to face the Unknown, since the trolls just summoned it; Thor is more than a bit down, and hints maybe he'll get lucky and get killed or something. Before that can happen, another joins Thor in battle: Sif, in her first appearance in the book! Together they defeat the Unknown, but mainly Odin is aiming Thor at Sif to get his mind of Jane, and I think it works, by and large.

The original featured the back-up "There Shall Come a Miracle!" but this reprint gets, for some reason, "The Grim Specter of Mutiny!" Lee/Kirby/Colletta from Thor Journey Into Mystery #122. Sailing the Sea of Fear, and approaching the grim Pillars of Utgard, Loki leads a mutiny to turn back. Thor and the Warriors Three fight back, including killing some of the mutineers, although I know darn well Loki will get away without a scratch. It does feature some nice smack talk from Fandral, though.

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Monday, August 20, 2018

Well, as I write this, I just got pissed and logged off Twitter; so I'm doubtless in a perfect mood for blogging. What's within arm's about Avengers Spotlight #34, featuring "Ashes" Written by Steve Gerber, pencils by Al Milgrom, inks by Don Heck; and "The Xenophobic Man: The Ends and the Means" Written by Fabian Nicieza, pencils by Dan Lawlis, inks by Keith Williams.

This was the penultimate chapter of the Hawkeye serial where he got an armored version of his costume, and we saw the conclusion some time back. Hawkeye, with Mockingbird tagging along, is more or less at war with street gang "the Stone Perfs," who are themselves also being hunted by unseen murder vigilante "the Terminizer." Unbeknownst to any of them, they have a third enemy, drug lord/femme fatale/empowered female entrepreneur Lotus, who has the Perfs' meeting firebombed! Hawkeye and Mockingbird are fine on his little skycycle, and Mockingbird manages to punch the bombers up to the point their helicopter crashes, killing the bombers. All wrapped up then, right? No, there's another chapter of this, since Lotus's boy toy lackey Prince Charming was instructed to tag the massacre with the Terminizer's mark, and Hawkeye still wants to figure out who that was.

Next, the conclusion of a USAgent serial, with John Walker versus the titular Xenophobic Man, who was really a border patrolman turned killer attacking illegal immigrants. And seems to be wearing a Dallas Cowboys helmet. Super. Maybe there's more nuance in the prior chapters, but this one does have USAgent literally carrying a cross; which I'm not entirely sure was meant as symbolic in any way and may have just been a set piece. Not a very good one, though: the Agent was more than strong enough to throw that cross into the next county if he wanted to. There's also the standoff traditional to so many action and thriller movies of the 90's, where the hero refuses to kill the beaten bad guy, who then goes for a gun or otherwise tries to kill him, then gets shot or otherwise killed. It's like the end of every movie Ashley Judd was in that decade, I swear.
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Friday, August 17, 2018

My figures not only wouldn't help clean up, they'd probably take a two-block radius down with them.

I don't think Dr. Strange got an action figure until '96; and Dormammu and Destroyer wouldn't get figures until long after that. And is that a Mimic head there? I recognize the weird glasses, and am totally jealous of Billy's collection now. From 1991, Marvel Fanfare #56, featuring "Toys Night Out!" Written by Bill Mantlo, art by Don Heck; and "Crimes of Pride! Book One" Written by Steve Gerber, pencils by Carmine Infantino, inks by Bret Blevins.

Bill Mantlo beats Toy Story to the punch by a few years; as a young boy tries to clean his room in time to save his beloved action figures from getting thrown out by his mom. The boy fails, falls asleep, and the toys go on a battle royale; but clean up in time to save the day. I'm scowling at my lazy, non-cleaning action figures now.

The lead feature this month was the first part of a Shanna, the She-Devil serial that would go four issues, almost to the end of the series. These issues all had striking Joe Chiodo covers, and some might not care for going from that to Carmine Infantino. I didn't think Marvel Fanfare ran inventory stories like the 80-page Marvel Super-Heroes often did, but I wonder if this wasn't an unused filler: the next chapter featured early Bret Blevin's work under a pseudonym. And the "Editori-Al"page is cramped with the inclusion of a Statement of Ownership, Management, and Circulation: Paid circulation, actual number of copies of single issue published nearest to filing date, 38,852.

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Thursday, August 16, 2018

The next-issue box at the end of the story proclaims Mark Texeira was going to be the regular artist next month, which seemed like a weird announcement. Not just because he had been inking the book for the last year, or because his influence was really strong this issue; but I was thinking of those Punisher: War Journal issues he did. Anyway, from 1991, Ghost Rider #12, "Strange Tales" Written by Howard Mackie, pencils by Javier Saltares, inks by Mark Texeira.

The Ghost Rider had been on the trail of "the Zodiak killer," but is interrupted by Doctor Strange! With his apprentice Rintrah (a big green minotaur guy, who was a fixture for some stretch but I think killed off in a bad way) Strange is trying to help old Werewolf By Night supporting character Topaz to rid herself of a spirit within her body; and if he gets rid of Zarathos so much the better. But the Ghost Rider doesn't answer to that name, at least today anyway. Escaping from Strange (but leaving a flaming motorcycle trail that he can follow!) the Ghost Rider finds Zodiak's headquarters, which has some elaborate machinery that seems to be draining children. Zodiak also has some magic guns for his guys, and they at least hold GR, until Strange shows up. There's a demon, and what might be at least the second doppelganger decoy for Zodiak; and in the end Ghost Rider seems willing to help Strange, which is nice of him.

Meanwhile, Johnny Blaze is getting closer to town, although at this point I'm not sure we know why yet.
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