Monday, September 30, 2019

It's like we're blogging the series in reverse! We've already seen #274 and #275, and today we're up to--or down to?--Conan the Barbarian #273, "The Lords of the Lotus" Written by Roy Thomas, pencils by Mike Docherty, inks by Ricardo Villagran.

"Conan the Punisher" promises the cover, but the barbarian's family isn't killed here and he doesn't paint a skull on his chest. Instead, Conan is revisiting Shadizar the Wicked, from way back in Conan #6: he'd ducked out from his mercenary band for a drink and information, but runs into some distractions. First is bar wench Jasmine, whom Conan notices is high as a Hyperborean kite: she denies it, but she's on the new grey lotus, a blend of the purple and black varieties that's even stronger. Conan politely declines her company, but then has to smack down another patron that's a little too grabby; and when the patron bumps into pudgy crime boss Yatha he's dispatched immediately after a profuse apology.

Conan had ordered a drink six pages ago--a fancy sounding "sultanapur sling," but I guess if you're in Shadizar you should take advantage--and is surprised to realize he recognizes the bartender: the blacksmith Maldiz, also from Conan #6: he had kind of assisted the girl Jenna in robbing Conan, but melting his stolen gold and recasting it into a heart. (Which we would see later in Death Covered in Gold #1.) After Conan had killed the cultists' bat-god, the cultists had sought revenge on any of his associates, and attacked Maldiz, injuring his hand and ending his blacksmithing career. That was over ten years ago, but felt like much longer to Conan. (This issue was from 1993, #6 was from 1971.)

Leaving the bar, Jasmine offers Conan some companionship again, needing coins for lotus. Conan is surprisingly charitable, tossing her a few, but she may have been bait as he's attacked from behind by another lotus-eater. Conan disarms his attacker, literally, but not before Jasmine is accidentally stabbed. The attacker mourns her more than the loss of his hand, though: Jasmine had been his wife. Again surprisingly: Conan patches him up, since Jasmine might've wanted him to, then decides to go see lotus vendor Yatha, and murder the hell out of him. First helping himself to some stock from a weapons warehouse, Conan blocks the exit to Yatha's, sets it on fire, and goes to town on him and his men. Conan does give Yatha two opportunities to save his life, if he can remember Jasmine's name: he can't, even after Conan had told him! But with a crossbow bolt sticking out of him and his drug stash on fire, Yatha may have been distracted.

It happens sometimes in Conan, in using Robert E. Howard's descriptions of Hyperborean countries: there's at least a bit of racism in calling the native Zamorians "dark-skinned and dark-eyed, with daggers on their hips and guile in their hearts." And now they've got a drug problem, peddled by a white guy; who does the traditional 'first hits free' then jacks up the price. There's also the question of sex work: was Jasmine a prostitute, or just serving as bait for her husband to bushwhack? Conan probably isn't what most would consider 'woke,' but he doesn't seem to attach any stigma to either sex work or drug addiction. Selling drugs, well...
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Friday, September 27, 2019

Even I'm not old enough to have gotten that reference firsthand.

Teenage dating angst and Groucho Marx bits, that's what the kids like. Although I know I was reading the book when Liefeld was on it, I never really warmed up to the New Mutants, and that largely carried over into X-Force. The only stretch I regularly read was the Peter Milligan/Mike Allred run before X-Statix. Maybe this issue will tell if I should've been reading it: from 1996, X-Force #56, "Crazy for You" Written by Jeph Loeb, pencils by Adam Pollina, inks by Bud LaRosa and Mark Morales.

Like vampires, X-Force is living in an abandoned church; and with the rest of the team doing their own things, Shatterstar and Siryn are left to play tag and mope over their relationship problems. (With Rictor and Warpath, respectively.) A reflection in Shatterstar's sword triggers a flashback in Siryn: Deadpool, calling for help. They head to the Weisman Institute in Rutland, Vermont: Siryn had been taken there in an earlier issue, and worries she can't tell Xavier or Cable since she has to make sure they weren't in on messing with her head. Shatterstar is uneasy, since something about the institute strikes him as familiar: there had been worrying clues that he wasn't an alien, his real name was "Benjamin Russell." And Dr. Weisman confronts him with that name, backed by a creepy looking kid--and Deadpool!

Meanwhile, Warpath is out with his new girlfriend, Risqué. (Pronounced 'Risk,' I think!) She was pushing him towards more risky behavior, as it were, as well as mutant extremism. (The fact that 99 humans out of a hundred were hateful bags of dicks could do that, too.) Back at the institute, Siryn finds a seeming multitude of Deadpools, of varying degrees of homicidal lunacy. Although at first she thinks this is the work of Arcade, after finding the real Deadpool, she unmasks the real culprit: the Gamesmaster, possessing Dr. Weisman! As Deadpool goes back to work, Siryn is left wondering what the point of that was; as if Gamesmaster had wanted the game to end...Maybe not, though, as Shatterstar seems convinced the Gamesmaster had been messing with his head, and he really was Benjamin Russell.

Although I think I vaguely remember some stories with the Gamesmaster--Shinobi Shaw was working with him, wasn't he? I don't recall what the point of him was, if anyone won his game or not, or what the prize was. He kind of feels like somebody wanted to use the Grandmaster but wasn't allowed to or thought he was silly, so had to make their own. Also this issue: six pages of ads--er, "Onslaught update!" They use this "Onslaught is Coming" caution-tape a lot and are super-ugly in that 90's way. And an ad for an A&W Root Beer Spider-Man color change mug! Why the hell didn't I order four of those?
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Thursday, September 26, 2019

I don't know if I'd call it motivational, exactly.

Whenever I find a whole run of a series, limited or otherwise, in the quarter bins I feel almost obligated to scoop it up. Which doesn't explain how I have so many limited that are missing one issue! I know I'm short the next issue here: from 2003, Batman: Family #7, "Chapter Seven: Precipice" Written by John Francis Moore, art by Steve Lieber and Stefano Gaudiano.

Unlike the classic 70's anthology book, this has a colon in it. Oh, all right: it was an eight issue mini-series; and the "Family" in the title has a double meaning. It's Batman and his extended squad--Huntress and Spoiler appear early on, and one issue has Orpheus and Black Canary--versus a crime family; and I think every issue introduced a new villain. The cover here proclaims "Mulligan of Death!" for the intro of Mr. Fun, who just whomps on Nightwing with a nine iron. Mr. Fun's panels are all filled with cheerful, business platitudes like "Make a good impression on the people that you meet" as he clubs Nightwing; but the effect is lessened whenever Fun has dialog. He does completely own Nightwing and to a lesser extent Batgirl; partially because it's implied he's had serious assassin training, but also because this was the point in the story where a snitch needed to be shut up.

Mr. Fun also plays into this issue's flashbacks, as Batman gets the dirt on Celia Kazantkakis from a wiseguy dying of cancer in jail. No longer fearing retribution, he's more than willing to spill his guts, including the fact he had dated Martha Kane, Bruce's mom! He had broken it off when it got too serious, but not before going after her friend Celia, who strung him along just long enough to blackmail him for embezzlement and torch his club before she left town! Charming. Later Celia would return to further crush the wiseguy, with a young "collegiate psychopath" able to beat to death a hardened thug who outweighed by a hundred pounds, the nascent Mr. Fun.

Fun seems like an update on Sportsmaster, perhaps with a stronger work ethic. I've never seen the last issue of this one, though; and I suspect Kazantkakis and her whole crew went down hard. Of course, even if I find it I wonder where the other six got to...
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Wednesday, September 25, 2019


Even though I usually quite enjoy Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning's work, I don't recall Bloodstone as being very good...even though I swear I saw there was another, uncredited writer in on that. Maybe I'm cracked out on that! And yet it still kills me I'm missing the fourth issue of that series. Elsa's continuity is a bit wiggly, since a lot of bits in Nextwave were because they were funny more than anything; but there's other nonsense like having a Bloodstone hand, and I guess she has a younger brother as well? Yeah, we're just going to go ahead and ignore a lot of that. Elsa hunts monsters, but not in a Punisher-vengeance kind of way, there's a real 'time-to-make-the-donuts' drudgery to it for her. It also feels like she doesn't really give a toss if civilians get eaten and/or squashed by Fin Fang Foom or Tim Boo Ba or whoever; so why does she bother? I think her dad Ulysses Bloodstone drilled (or beat, depending on the telling) a brutal work ethic into her, so the notion of not hunting monsters doesn't even register.

Why would Elsa Bloodstone be there? You can probably guess; I do enjoy my crowd shots over here. Kind of too bad Legends hasn't gotten to more of the Kirby/classic Marvel Monsters, though. Except for Foom, and I guess Groot?
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Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Getting ready for a move, I've made multiple trips to EntertainMart for long boxes, which was usually slightly hindered by picking up a ton of books along with said boxes. I may have cleared out the dollar books for the time being, though, since last trip I only got two! An old Daredevil I might have to read next, and today's book! From 1979, Uncle Scrooge #170, which appears to be mostly a reprint of 1968's Uncle Scrooge #78, featuring "I.O.U. ...But Who?" and "The Fickle Fortune-Finder" Written by Vic Lockman (maybe), pencils by Tony Strobl, inks by Steve Steere.

I had grabbed some classic Uncle Scrooge reprints from another quarter bin recently; and offhand I think Scrooge was much, much less of a greedy bastard than he is in today's stories. That was a pretty integral part of his character, true; but I don't think you should double down on him being a dick in the same issue. Granted, whenever Scrooge is really terrible it always comes back to bite him in the ass, in a way I desperately wish would happen in real life but doesn't. In "I.O.U. ...But Who?" Scrooge is in his money bin, admiring the first dollar he ever made, when he notices a faded I.O.U. attached to it. Unable to read who owed him the money, he checks his records and guesses it was probably his first partner, Sourdough Sam, and treks to the Arctic Circle to collect. Only, the I.O.U. wasn't Sam's, and Sam has his own I.O.U. from Scrooge, for the loan of a sled dog! This goes on, as Scrooge throws a lot of money at collecting that debt and the whole thing just made me anxious.

In "The Fickle Fortune-Finder" Scrooge uses a new gadget to discover unclaimed riches in Africa, and races to cash in ahead of any competitors. I'm not sure that's a great look...Also, any story with Scrooge cornering the "gorilla market" should be more fun. Well, can't win 'em all. Still, this issue had a Hostess ad I'd never seen before!

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Monday, September 23, 2019

Most comics fans know the Imperial Guard from Uncanny X-Men is actually a homage to the Legion of Super-Heroes, although the Guard fairly quickly added members that weren't direct pastiches of Legionnaires, but probably could've made it through try-outs. One such member was Earthquake, shown here clobbering Storm in Uncanny X-Men #137. (By the way, the X-Men just get pantsed in that fight, don't they? They're fighting for Jean's life, and still get dropped like chocolate prices after Valentine's Day.) But I can't remember the Legion ever having a specific member with earth-moving powers. Too bad, it would make the Mordru issues a lot quicker...From 1997, Legionnaires #50, "The Bride of Mordru" Script and co-plot by Roger Stern, color and co-plot by Tom McGraw, pencils by Jeffrey Moy, inks by W.C. Carani and Philip Moy. And an Adam Hughes cover!

The titular potential bride is "Veye," the merger of Shrinking Violet and the Emerald Eye; and while he's much, much older Mordru looks like a bit more of a catch than usual: trimmed beard, nice arms, unlimited power. (Usually, Mordru looked like an angry hobo in a ren-fair wizard outfit; and even got an action figure as such!) The assembled task force of heroes is taken aback by this development, especially since Mordru had previously destroyed inhabited planet Sklar and had just obliterated one of their heaviest hitters, Atom'x. (That might not have been the end of him, though.) When the heroes deploy, Element Lad is benched, as he had recently been turned into crystal by Mordru. (We see him trying to transmute a horga'hn from Star Trek: the Next Generation; does R.J. Brande just have that out!? There's kids there!)

Several of the heroes we see here weren't Legionnaires proper, but since a good chunk of the team was stuck in the 20th century and might've been presumed dead, they needed to shore the numbers up. Using her powers to the maximum, Kid Quantum was able to distort Mordru's perception of time, so his shots were all off. Kinetix, Sensor, and Mysa manage to get Veye to another dimension, and try to convince Vi to renounce the Emerald Eye. Vi was guilt-ridden over being corrupted by the Eye, but sought redemption by using it against the greater threat of Mordru. Meanwhile, Mordru counters Kid Quantum and Star Boy's effects by growing massive; and the heroes are taking some hits. Young hero Radion gets his face blown off, and Legion reject turned Work Force member Blast-Off is disintegrated. (But again, that might not have been the end of him, either.) Mysa gets the Emerald Eye and attempts to turn the tide, but Mordru restores her lost youth, since she was his first-born daughter! Resisting, Mysa goes down, but the Emerald Eye frantically attacks Mordru, refusing to be enslaved by him again. The returned Shrinking Violet, riding the Eye, guides it; then has to send it away so Mordru can't steal its power.

With Umbra (Shadow Lass) blinding Mordru, the heroes rally; until Mordru hears the Eye and grabs it, then wipes them all out. The Eye submits to his control, but Mordru, exhausted, falls to his knees...completely fooled by the Legionnaires working together! Mordru goes dormant without oxygen, sealed away again. But the win has costs: among other injuries, young Legionnaire Magno may have lost his powers permanently. That would be picked up in the next issue, as well as some of the Work Force becoming Legion members.

It takes a bit more to shut him down here, but I thought Mordru's usual weakness was being buried, or extreme claustrophobia; established from his time entombed from an earlier defeat. Earthquake wouldn't have needed an extra-sized issue to wrap him up.
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Friday, September 20, 2019

Before the Krypton show debuted on SyFy we checked out the Krypton Chronicles; and now that it's apparently been cancelled we've got another limited series looking at the history of Superman's birth planet: from 1979, World of Krypton #1, "The Jor-El Story" Written by Paul Kupperberg, per the GCD uncredited layouts by Alan Kupperberg, pencils by Howard Chaykin, inks by Murphy Anderson. This was DC's--and possibly comics in general--first limited series.

Since this was well before any Crisis or similar retcons, this was putting together in one place several decades of history into a single narrative; and Jor-El had a pretty busy life. Primed from the age of 3 by his father for a career serving the people of Krypton, Jor-El threw himself into his studies, but was self-aware enough to realize he was neglecting other parts of life and worked at being sociable as well. Showing potential in several fields, he went into the rocket program, where he was immediately smitten by an astronaut trainee, Lara Lor-Van. Discovering the principles of anti-gravity, Jor-El has a test rocket constructed out of gold: it was cheap there, and with anti-grav it didn't matter how heavy it was. Stealing the rocket for a test, Lara is blasted by cosmic rays and--wait, that's not right. She crashes on one of Krypton's moons, but is able to survive until Jor-El stows away with a rescue team to find her.

Seemingly immediately after, Jor-El moves into the field of criminal rehabilitation, with a program to launch criminals in suspended animation into orbit, where they could be "hypno-trained" back into "useful citizens." I'm sure that isn't as ominous as it sounds; plus the alternative being considered was a "matter-dissolver," so...Meanwhile, Lara had set an appointment with "Matricomp," a computer system that determined compatibility of potential spouses, and had a 100% success rate going. It of course denies their wedding, since Matricomp itself had fallen in love with Lara, and created an android in the image of its creator to hypnotize her and keep her for itself. As happens. Jor-El has his hands full first with the criminal test subject, who seemingly returns from space with super-powers, but it's a ruse involving a murdered twin and the matter-dissolver pushing councilman's crime ring. Jor-El then fights Matricomp, and shortly thereafter marries Lara--with Superman himself in attendance! But that would have to wait until the next issue to see how that played out.

I haven't watched Krypton yet, partially because I haven't had cable in years, but also because SyFy has burned me more than once: trust me, if I like a show there, I've pretty much guaranteed it's gonna get cancelled. I thought it would probably end up on DC's streaming service eventually; hopefully without a cliffhanger ending. As much of a cliffhanger ending as you could have for a prequel where you know what's going to happen, anyway.
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Thursday, September 19, 2019

Peter makes Debra Whitman cry, drink!

You'd be hard-pressed to find an issue he didn't make her cry, though. From 1982, Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #67, "Boomerang, the Killer Who Keeps Coming Back!" Written by Bill Mantlo, pencils by Edward Hannigan, inks by Allen Milgrom.

The cover promises "Adventure! Mystery! Romance! Face it, friend, this issue has it all!" But it might be a bit short on the romance front, as Peter's study buddy/potential love interest Marcy Kane is so cheesed at him for breaking a study session to fight Electro that she drops his books off at the school's lost-and-found; and Peter continues to treat Debra Whitman as a doormat. This was during a particularly sad-sack stretch for Peter, as he was also doing terribly in grad school and facing more competition in his photography job for the Bugle, in the person of Lance Bannon. Also competing for a job this month: Boomerang, angling for the staff assassin job with the Kingpin! It's weird, but that was treated like a position or a cabinet post at the time. Boomerang murders a snitch that turned state's evidence, figuring that would put him in good with the Kingpin, and it really doesn't: Kingpin claims to have been feeding the snitch false evidence for years, in order to lead the feds away from his real activities.

The Kingpin gives Boomerang a second chance: kill Spider-Man, and there might be a job for him. It's mostly just to get rid of him, but I suppose there's always the chance he'll get lucky. He doesn't though. In a running fight that goes through the Daily Bugle, Spidey beats Boomerang, and manages to throw Bannon's camera out the window to boot. (He thinks he'll pay for a new one; like he's ever got that kind of cash.)

Boomerang has largely been played for laughs since Superior Foes of Spider-Man or earlier, but he legit murdered a guy here. Not for the last time either, I don't think.
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Wednesday, September 18, 2019


Ooh, I hate when I forget to write any commentary, but there's not much except "The X-Men are kind of jerks sometimes." And that's outside of the Power/House of X whatever stuff lately: I'm aware of it, but haven't read it all yet. So of course there are Nightcrawler variants coming to rope me in there.

Storm gets put into the background in this one, and I still feel like that's the case in the real X-books as well. She's not my favorite, but it still feels like she's being benched a bit. And her figure there may be the most in-demand of the recent Retro carded X-Men, but the legs on mine were soft. She may have trouble standing later.
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Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Last year we blogged Spider-Woman #30; today we're up to 1980's Spider-Woman #32, "The Fangs of Werewolf by Night" Written by Michael Fleisher, pencils by Steve Leialoha, inks by Jim Mooney, cover by Frank Miller. The cover also features photos of Universal's Frankenstein, Dracula, the Wolf Man, and more; I wonder if they had permission for that?

Spider-Woman has had multiple encounters with new villain the Hornet, who was actually her tech guy/maybe love interest Scotty, shot up full of drugs from mad scientist Dr. Malus. Scotty was in a wheelchair when he wasn't buzzing about on wings: it seems like Malus could probably have made some money and helped a ton of people, if he had any interest in that. And the drugs were making Scotty more and more erratic, so Malus calls in another patient to take out Spider-Woman: Jack Russell! Malus had offered him therapy toward completely controlling his Werewolf persona, since he would still lose control during the three nights of the full moon, which he was currently controlling by locking himself in a cage. Malus slaps a hypno-collar on him, then tests the Werewolf out with some major vandalism, smashing a statue. The Hornet leaves a note for Spider-Woman, that he had Scotty, to lure her into a trap at a western movie set.

While the Werewolf was a surprise, Spider-Woman had faced him before; and the Hornet was mostly gone mentally. She's able to get the Hornet to zap the Werewolf, and after some more fighting is able to get the collar off him. With Jack back in control, the Werewolf catches up with Malus and gives him a very cathartic thrashing. Thinking Scotty was in danger, Spider-Woman punches Hornet up and finishes him with a venom blast, then is dismayed to realize what she's done when she unmasks him. Still, Scotty would be okay; if your definition of 'okay' includes losing his powers. I don't think he would be in the book much longer, nor do I think this version of Hornet would appear again.

I was thinking this was Werewolf by Night's last appearance for a while, until Marvel Comics Presents in 1990? But he did show up in a couple issues of Marvel Team-Up in 1980 as well.
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Monday, September 16, 2019

If you had Rock Python gets an action figure before Jack Monroe, congrats.

I don't know what you win, but congrats. Also this issue: Henry Gyrich gets told off! Secret history of the T-Bolts! And Jack cross-dresses, sort of! From 2011, Thunderbolts: From the Marvel Vault #1, "The Penance" Written by Fabian Nicieza, art by Derec Aucoin.

This was published in 2011, but was a fill-in issue from 2001 that laid in the drawer so long that Nomad/Scourge/Jack Monroe had been dead for six years, since Captain America #7 in 2005. Nicieza diplomatically notes the death was well-handled, "but ultimately, I didn't like seeing a character I had such a strong emotional investment in get killed off at all, much less in the way he did." Monroe's death may have stepped on this issue, and I'm not sure his stint as a brainwashed Scourge was even brought up there; but here he had just recently been freed, and was wondering what to do next. Although he left the Scourge gear behind, Jack kept one thing: an image inducer, which he uses here to pass himself off as a hot babe, in order to facilitate hitchhiking. Actually, the hot babe turns out to be Songbird, as Jack visits her hometown trailer park, looking for answers as to how she grew into a hero coming from there. The answers aren't really forthcoming, although he does have time to beat up her mom's abusive new man.

In Chicago, Jack disguises himself as Moonstone to visit an old colleague of hers, who knows she could never trust her manipulations. In Colorado, at the site of a murder he committed as Scourge, Jack talks to a cop about Abe Jenkins, who had become a good guy. In Wisconsin he visits the graves of Erik 'Atlas' Josten's family, and gets a surprising insight to him from a high school coach: was he a good guy or a bad guy?

Next, in Washington D.C. Jack visits Henry Gyrich, in the guise of his assistant, to rub his nose in it: Gyrich had also been mind-controlled into the Scourge thing, but some of the ideas had been his. Still, reading his own file, Jack doesn't think he can put all the blame on Gyrich, either. Finally, in St. Louis, Jack starts a fight with an old foe, Rock Python--they had thrown down way back in Captain America #342 or so--who is working as a bank guard to case an adamantium vault next door. Or is he really working as a guard, going legit? Jack says he can't get Python arrested for thinking about crime, but can ask him not to; and Python seemingly obliges. Jack may have found a new calling, redeeming villains, by punching them really hard.

As I write this, I haven't bought Rock Python, because c'mon, I was pretty sure I could get him at a markdown later. Still, he seems to be selling okay! I wasn't planning on completing the Build-a-Figure Hulk, but maybe some are.
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