Tuesday, December 31, 2019

"The End" Week: Justice League 3001 #12!

Man, when even Larfleeze has checked out, you know it's over! From 2016, Justice League 3001, "Cancelled!" Written by Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis, pencils by Colleen Doran, inks by Timothy Green II.

If there's an unintentional theme to this year's batch of last issues here, it's last issues that steadfastly refuse to wrap up anything. Part of that may be wishful thinking--if we leave it open-ended, maybe reader hue and outcry will bring us back!--and part may be stubbornness: we're not cancelled, you are! Or maybe there wasn't enough time to drop plotlines and finish up. I may be guessing, because while I know I read other issues of this series--we had seen the last issue of the previous one some time back--it's tough to parse through.

So, the titular Justice League were in fact clones, created by "Wonder Twin" scientists Teri and Terry Magnus: actually, they may have been less clones than people genetically re-engineered to emulate the classic team's powers and mindset. Their goal was to defeat the evil Commonwealth and their rulers, the Five--who were in fact led by Terry. Teri goes on to become the Flash, and Terry is Eclipso at this point. Suffice to say, they aren't close. Some other heroes had turned up as well, particularly Supergirl, who may or may not be the original; and some Giffen/DeMatteis favorites like Blue Beetle, Booster Gold, Fire, Ice, and Guy Gardner. The latter of whom was a woman now. The Legion of Super-Heroes may also all be dead, and the JL3001 was still fighting evil versions of the Legion here, which is also not finished. Series big-bad Lady Styx, who was Teri and Terry's mother, decides Teri was a threat to her empire, and her plan to handle her wasn't quite ready, so to take her off the board she sends Teri and 'Batgirl' (an overenthusiastic wannabe with a Robin outfit) back to the 21st century! "To be continued...?" Not yet, anyway.

All told there would've been something like 28 issues between JL3000 and JL3001, and I feel like there was even more going on that was never necessarily given any sort of conclusion. There was an evil (or at least, aggressively pissed-off) Lois Lane, Sinestro working at a strip club, G'Nort and Larfleeze, who knows what else. I know I have a chunk of those issues, but am torn between eyeballing the quarter bins for the rest, or worrying that then I'd get into to it and this cancellation would really sting.
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"The End" Week: All-Star Squadron #67!

Aw, I almost missed this one, and it has an incredibly important message for the new year: namely, punch Nazis as many times as you have to. From 1987, All-Star Squadron #67, "The First Case of the Justice Society" Written and edited by Roy Thomas, pencils by Arvell Jones, inks by Tony DeZuñiga.

This one is pretty much what it says on the tin, as Thomas adapts Gardner Fox's story from 1941's All-Star Comics #4: the newly formed Justice Society of America gets a mission from J.Edgar Hoover himself, to fight Axis spies and saboteurs. Hoover describes them as "hiding behind our Bill of Rights," which is a little troubling; but the team goes after those Fifth Columnists with gusto. Even the Spectre, the embodiment of God's wrath, is all "USA! USA! USA!" which leads me to believe God didn't know a ton about US history; even if Nazis totally have it coming.

The Atom gets a longer, and great, sequence: he had been sent undercover to a Midwest college to stop Nazi sympathizers from intimidating other students. (It's implied these were students sent from Germany; I have no idea if this actually happened.) Atom suits up to beat the crap out of the "junior Ratzis," who then look for a fight they can win, and try to gang up on a smaller fellow--Al Pratt, the plainclothes Atom again, who beats them up again! Getting word later they were looking for revenge, Al suits up to mess them up a third time at their "Fatherland club." The Atom doesn't just wreck them, he does a number on their building, and he didn't even have powers then! His luck runs out when he follows a clue to the main Nazi hideout and gets held at gunpoint, but Johnny Thunder and the rest of the JSA weren't far behind. When the case is all but over, an offhand remark by Johnny Thunder prompts his Thunderbolt to deliver the Nazis to Hoover, house and all.

Sadly, Sandman and Jay Garrick and the rest aren't around today to punch Nazis for us; so it's up to each and every one of us. Here's hoping to see more of that in 2020!
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"The End" Week: Star Wars #107!

Was this my first last issue? The first of oh-so-many comic titles cancelled out from under me? Technically I must've read my sister's copy of Savage She-Hulk #25 prior, but still. From 1986, Star Wars #107, "All Together Now" Written by Jo Duffy, pencils by Cynthia Martin, inks by Whilce Portacio. (Scans from the True Believers reprint so I didn't have to cram mine in the scanner, or one of the other reprint trades!)

After the Battle of Endor in Return of the Jedi, the sadistic alien Nagai allied with what was left off the Empire as they moved into their old turf. (Named Nagai of course after the great Go Nagai!) But the Nagai may not have been as bad as they seemed: they had been on the run from the even-worse Tofs. The Tofs, who look like green-skinned obese Victorians, hadn't been fleshed out a great deal, but were good enough villains for everyone to have to team up against, regardless of their personal feelings. So many feelings...

Former Rebel pilot and love interest for Luke Shira Brie returns as Dark Lady Lumiya, only to be shot in the back by the Rebels' spy in the Tofs, Han's childhood idol Bey. I don't know about Bey, but this was far from the end for Lumiya in the old Expanded Universe fiction; her Wookiepedia entry is a mile long. In the end, Luke is confident this victory is an opportunity for them all, to make a lasting peace. Maybe they did in the comics continuity. Maybe not, it's sure as hell not called Star Peace, now is it?

The next Star Wars comic would be Dark Horse's Star Wars: Dark Empire #1 in 1991; which I don't think I read until I got the trades cheap. I may have even listened to the audio adaptation before I read those! And since regaining the license, Marvel has had a one-shot #108 set back in the old continuity and wrapped up their current pre-Empire series with #75. Which wasn't bad, I'm just not as attached to that version as to the old days. I still miss Plif...
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"The End" Week: Doctor Strange #81!

The opening makes it seem that Strange has been abducted; and his Cloak of Levitation stolen. But I should have recognized his 'abductor.' From 1987, Doctor Strange #81, "The Tongues of Men and Angels...!" Written by Peter B. Gillis, pencils by Chris Warner, inks by Randy Emberlin.

Alien sorcerer Urthona has not only stolen Strange's Santum Sanctorum--the entire building!--and the mystical objects within; he's also kidnapped Wong and Topaz. Wong faces this bravely, while Topaz is having a rougher time: half of her soul had been taken from her, and there it was, on a table not ten feet away. The good Doctor follows into deep space, and has two unexpected allies: Mr. Fantastic, who loans him the Skrull saucer he'd had for years; and Rintrah, who had been delivering the repaired Cloak of Levitation but joins the quest. He was an alien mystic, who looked like a big, green, bull man; but was generally just as nice as could be. Injured, Strange spends most of the issue in Rintrah's body, while Rintrah switches to Strange's later.

Strange fights hard, even when Wong is sacrificed by Urthona to cast "the dark blood-hunger of the night!" Rintah, in Strange's body, frees Topaz's soul, making her whole once more. Before Urthona can use another stolen power, Strange destroys all of the stolen objects--including the Book of the Vishanti and the Orb of Agamotto, and the Darkhold! Strange tells Urthona he's beaten, but he flees with the indestructible Darkhold, claiming "you have broken the bonds on a hundred darknesses by your victory!" Even though Wong wasn't really dead, this hardly feels like a victory to the battered Strange, but Topaz tries to console him.

Topaz had been a supporting character in Werewolf by Night, and I thought she had lost her soul (or part of it) in that book; so that was a long-dangling plot thread. Dr. Strange would next appear in Strange Tales, splitting that title with Cloak and Dagger, then getting a new book in 1988: Doctor Strange, Sorcerer Supreme. Rintrah would be Strange's apprentice for most of that, until DS,SS #51, when he would be killed off, or at least written out. He had only gotten cuddlier and nicer over that time, and I think a push to make the book more edgy was coming.
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"The End" Week: Sam Slade, Robohunter #31!

This barely counts since it was a reprint book, but I'm including it: from 1989, Sam Slade, Robohunter #31, "Farewell, My Billions" Written by Alan Grant and John Wagner (as T. B. Grover), pencils by Ian Gibson. Reprinted from 2000 AD #441-#443 from 1985, and that first prog also includes one of the stories from Judge Dredd vs. the Fatties!

On Twitter, 2000 AD asked if you could break your favorite storyline down to six words, and I described Robohunter as "Blade Runner, but hard-boiled slapstick." Case in point: Sam is an ex-Robohunter by this point, old as hell and super-retired, but why not? He'd amassed a fortune of 27 billion credits! But he's forced to get back in the game when his old sidekicks, Hoagy and Stogie, start gambling his fortune away. Or did he? Waking up in the hospital surrounded by Hoagies and Stogies, his doctor Hoagy tells him that was all a dream, but he's cracked, gone loco, lost the reality knob, and so forth. Why, he's seeing those stupid robots everywhere!

Something doesn't feel right, though: checking the nurse's station, Sam notices he's the only patient getting medication--and it's a brainwashing drug! Robots wouldn't need medication, though: pulling the arm off one of them, he realizes they really are duplicates of Hoagy! Hoagy and Stogie then decide it's time to get serious about killing Sam, although 100 Hoagies really aren't that threatening.

In the end, Sam tracks his rebellious robots to his old private eye-style office, where they've laid an ambush...surprise party? After Sam had 'rejuvenated' a bit (he still looked old) Stogie set up the whole plot as a ploy to get Sam off his ass and back into business, which necessitated blowing all his cash! Furious, Sam has to admit he's back in the robo-hunting game, since he didn't have much choice otherwise; but can barely restrain himself from murdering Hoagy and Stogie. Reasoning he needed capital, and they were worth more alive, he hocks them both! An optimistic Hoagy thinks Sam will get them out of it, but I wouldn't hold my breath.

I thought it might be here, but this predates the 1991 revival of the character with Mark Millar, and that may have been rolled back to a more traditional version anyway. Also this issue: a 15-page Tharg the Mighty story, with art by Eric Bradbury.
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Monday, December 30, 2019

"The End" Week: Elektra #19!

We mentioned Frank Miller wasn't going to be a fan of this one, but how was it? This issue seems like it would've been a good starting point, if it hadn't been the last one. From 1998, Elektra #19, "A Promise to Keep" Written by Larry Hama, pencils by Mike Deodato, Jr, inks by Scott Koblish.

As might seem typical for a superhero comic's last issue, Elektra is starting in a pretty bad place: her old apartment. It had been gutted by fire, she had been beaten by the Hand's Kuroyama, and her roommate/ward Nina had her heart cut out there. The Hand "put her back together again," much as they had to Elektra; and she had taken Nina to the Chaste. So why does her former master Stick silently appear to her like Obi-Wan Kenobi with bad reception? Because, as an acolyte of the Chaste will shortly explain, Nina betrayed them all; letting Kuroyama into their stronghold to murder many if not all of them.

Elektra thinks the Hand may have followed to finish the job, but instead it's common thugs: the Kingpin had put a contract out on her. He may not have really expected any of his hired guns to have a prayer against her, but had to call in the hit for appearances' sake: he might've seemed weak if he hadn't. The cops also have a dragnet going, referring to her as a serial killer...which is by and large correct, I suppose. One of her other supporting cast members had been beat into a coma, with that also pinned on her; leaving Elektra to complain to the silent Stick how she was supposed to make things right without resorting to vengeance. Nina and Kuroyama even ride by on motorcycles to taunt her; with Nina tarted up as the kind of 'bad girl' that only 90's comics could deliver, and the giant Kuroyama making his chopper look like a scooter. They don't even have to go after her, they were good citizens and called the cops!

She might be down, but hardly out: Elekta solemnly swears to clear her name, restore the Chaste, reform Nina, and presumably kill a lot of ninjas. Great premise, if this wasn't the last issue! Without having read the rest of the series, I wonder if maybe this one didn't hit it big less due to fanboy loyalty to Frank Miller and creator's rights, and more to Deodato's art being good but not necessarily as, ahem, titillating, as the typical 'bad girl' book of the time. Or, maybe you the reader aren't meant to get into Elektra's head: when Miller wrote her, I don't think you did. Of course, she was also basically magic then, too.
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"The End" Week: Marvel Spotlight #33!

The traditional "Marvel misunderstanding," where any two heroes first meeting has to be a brawl before they team up, stops making sense after a while: everybody ought to recognize Spider-Man, right? But these two getting into it seems pretty understandable: from 1977, Marvel Spotlight #33, "(Don't Fear) the Reaper!" Written by David Anthony Kraft, pencils by Rich Buckler, Mike Nasser, and Arvell Jones; inks by Klaus Janson.

The mysterious (and apparently, perpetually shirtless) Godwulf has cast the cyborg Deathlok out of their post-apocalyptic future of 1990, back to the present of 1976. There, Deathlok's about to have a run-in with the understandably paranoid Devil-Slayer: a former soldier turned hitman, sucked into a cult that had been trying to bring an ancient race of demons back to power. D-S turned on the cult for trying to deceive him, and struggled to use his new skills and weapons to stop them; and maybe get over his ex-wife Cory as well. He wanted to tell her goodbye, but meeting the confused Deathlok at her hospital, he assumes the cyborg is a demon. Cue four page fight, interrupted only by Deathlok thinking the horrified Cory was his own lost love, Janice.

His onboard computer not up to par yet, Deathlok still realizes he's in pre-apocalypse New York City. Eventually, Devil-Slayer and Deathlok realize even if they aren't on the same team, their fight is only mistaken identity; as the demons make a grab for Cory. Deathlok has to ask, are the demons immune to lasers? No? Too bad for them, then! Cory is saved, if moderately traumatized, and reunited with Devil-Slayer; and Deathlok disappears, for...

I had thought, or perhaps hoped, that Marvel would publish a cheap Essential Deathlok trade; and there is a Deathlok the Demolisher: the Complete Collection. It would have to be easier than trying to run down his appearances! Prior to this issue, he had last appeared in Astonishing Tales #36, the last issue of that series; and would next appear in Marvel Two-in-One #27, where Mentallo and the Fixer control Deathlok and try to use him to kill President Jimmy Carter. The first Deathlok appearance I would read would be Captain America #289, which isn't included in that collection even though the three prior issues are! In #289, Cap returns from Deathlok's horrible 1993 to 1983, to stop the Brand Corporation's Nth Project from murdering the world's superheroes and dooming the future. That seems kind of important, even if '1993' had been saved prior and Deathlok only appears in flashback here. Godwulf and bad guy Hellinger are kept quite close to their look from this issue, though.

In the interest of fairness, Devil-Slayer would next appear in Defenders #58.
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"The End" Week: Fear #31!

I thought this had been reprinted, but maybe not? No, it was, as Morbius Revisited #5. Well, I guess we have the original, so here we go! From 1975, Fear #31, "The End of a Vampire!" Written by Bill Mantlo, pencils by Frank Robbins, inks by Vince Colletta. (On the Gil Kane cover, the full title reads as "Adventure Into Fear with the Man Called Morbius--the Living Vampire.")

Thanks to the fact I've been blogging forever, we've seen the prior issues #30, #29, and #28...spread out over ten years. Morbius's fiancé Martine has been transformed into a vampire, and has seemingly killed the police commissioner: Martine cops to being a vampire, but only finished off whatever blood was left in the poor sod after the vampire that turned her killed him. Be that as it may, Morbius is horrified, and Martine is a little put out that he finds her "repugnant." (Female vampires are often portrayed as seductive and alluring, Martine seems rabid and bitey.) She manages to escape out a window, as a lab coat tells CIA agent Stroud the vampire blood sample they had tested highly radioactive. Although they didn't think the recent vampire murders had been Morbius's doing, he was still directly responsible, even if something in his blood kept him from disintegrating like they did. But that only meant Martine was doomed.

Stroud hunts down Martine, armed with silver bullets; while Morbius tries to formulate a cure. The silver bullets do as little as the regular ones had, and the hypodermic with the cure is knocked away; worse, the bloodlust strikes Morbius, and he fights as hard as Martine does to keep her newfound power. Stroud gets the hypo, as he and Morbius turn on each other. The three-way fight goes on, until Stroud gets the needle into Martine's neck--followed shortly by Morbius's fangs!

Furious, Stroud pummels Morbius, but he hadn't completely drained Martine. Still, Morbius knows his bloodlust is a degrading, horrible addiction; that he may never be free of. Recovering in the hospital, Martine also knows she may never be able to share his life. Stroud figures Morbius will have to plead insanity to this whole mess and hope for the best, but he's already taken off.

Martine would become a vampire again, at some point--in the 90's book, which I read a lot of yet still don't recall how exactly that happened. Stroud had faced Man-Wolf and Morbius; I don't think he's shown up in years, but I'd love it if those guys still hassled him. I'd also like to find the couple issues of the first She-Hulk series, where she manages to help Morbius beat the rap for murder. I could also use the last issue of that book, since I think that was my first last issue. Some other time, maybe.

Conveniently, the Marvel Value Stamp this issue is Morbius!

I did get Morbius's most recent number one the other day--it's dated 2020, but you could probably find one at your local comic shop. In fact, this shop may have bought a bunch for a discount, and were selling it half-price. And...it was okay? I wasn't real up on where Morby was prior: it seemed like maybe he had his bloodlust under control, but that was probably getting rolled back. Also, the villain is the Melter? Or a Melter? I know the original was killed by Scourge, but he might've been brought back by the Hood; or maybe somebody just found his melt gun. He's very obviously not the big boss, but it feels like it had been forever since I read a Marvel comic with just a plain supervillain like that.
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"The End" Week: Superboy!

Even though we're checking out an example from DC, I'm going to say Marvel is usually worse about this: flooding the market with another book for a character that can barely carry one, and hopping on a trend waaaaaaay after its expiration date. Ah, not like DC's blameless on either, true. From 1998, Superboy and the Ravers #19, "Love is All That Anti-Matters, Part 3: Last Dance" Written by Steve Mattsson and Karl Kesel, pencils by Josh Hood and Todd Nauck, inks by Dan Davis.

If Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes sounds stodgy and dull, it was probably hoped that a new title with new heroic teens would seem new and hip. Except I'm not sure "raver" was ever used unironically; and I'm guessing this wasn't the full rave experience of crappy EDM and pills you hoped were X but were probably baby laxative and No-Doz. And even though I appreciate what they were trying to do, I'm still going to be mean here: if you're trying to make your book 'modern,' maybe including an update of Dial H For Hero (from 1966) and Rex the Wonder Dog (from 1952) isn't a great idea. (For some reason, Rex appears to be the size of a horse or more in some panels; which I think DC had tried with Krypto a couple times as well; like no one there knows how big a dog is.)

Since this is the last issue of the series, plotlines for several heroes and heroines are wrapped up: blind Qwardian Kaliber saves his people, with the help of his dead friend Half-Life. The homophobic Sparx, alienated from her teammates, may have burnt out her powers for good. The intergalactic rave's founder, Kindred Marx, closes up shop since it had done its job and found him a mate; and he leaves his Mother Box with Aura, so she could reopen it someday if she wanted. And Superboy returns to Hawaii, in time for a Kamandi riff in Superboy #50. Which I don't have, but...

I had never seen this next one, then found two this year! From 2002, Superboy #100, "A Boy's Life" Written by Karl Kesel, pencils by Tom Grummett, finishes by Wade von Grawbadger; and "Goin' Out with a Bang!" Written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Dan DiDio, pencils by John McCrea, inks by James Hodgkins. And a cover by the great Bill Sienkiewicz!

Kesel and Grummett were the co-creators of the modern Kon-El Superboy, and came back for a final eight page story, with the DNAlien Dubbilex looking back over his time with the Boy of Steel. He had telepathically felt Superboy had been in trouble, and considered leaving the Zen monastery he was in to help. Nah, I'm sure he'll be fine. Tough kid.

This would be the end of Superboy's time as the 'super' of a rattrap apartment complex in Metropolis's Suicide Slum. I don't think it took off, and this story didn't gel for me, either; even though again some plotlines are wrapped up. His 'will-they/won't-they' new love interest Trixie is turned down, although she was very interested, and they leave it open for her return to possibly a new setting. Recurring villain Scavenger gets a satisfying punch in the mush, which helps him realize S-B isn't working for whoever his "eternal enemy" was, since he's an immature clod. Former minor armored villain Cooper was on the verge of turning over a new leaf, thanks to his friendship with Superboy; but then Superboy feels betrayed when his past was revealed. Cooper gains redemption sacrificing himself to warn the tenants of a bomb, planted by another disgruntled low-level nobody; and the complex is leveled.

While Superboy feels like he brings misery to those around him, Superman shows up to give him a lecture, but a moderately encouraging one. If exceedingly long...Superboy is taken to Smallville and the Kents, to settle down, start a new life, get his act together. Waitaminute: this creative team started with the premise that Superboy should move out on his own, be his own man, now he's moving back in with the parents? Not his parents, but still.

Bother, thought I could go for the trifecta here, since I know I have Superboy #11, his next last issue. Per the GCD, nominated for an Eisner for 'Best New Series' and cancelled the same year. I'll schedule this out and look...
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"The End" Week: Astro City #52!

I thought this issue was older, but it was only a year and a half ago: from 2018, Astro City #52, "And, In the End" Written by Kurt Busiek, art by Brent Anderson, cover by Alex Ross.

The last three issues of this volume of Astro City tied back to one of its best, and best-known, stories, "The Nearness of You," from Astro City #1/2. (Free to read on Comixology if you haven't already.) Michael Tenicek is being driven mad by recurring dreams of a woman he seemingly knows but can't remember. Nearing his limits, he receives help from an unexpected source: mystic hero-slash-mysterious force of nature, the Hanged Man. (Think a gloomier, more cryptic Spectre.) The Hanged Man tells Michael he's dreaming of his wife, Miranda; who was lost in a Crisis-like event. The timeline was altered just enough that her parents never met, and she was never born. But Michael still remembers. The Hanged Man offers to take his memory of her, but Michael declines.

Twenty years later, Michael still lived in Astro City, maintaining a survivors' group for superhuman incidents, and serving as a volunteer emergency responder. When the nature of his loss comes forward, some feel like it doesn't count: they lost spouses, friends, children; while Michael lost someone who was never there. But she was real to him. Michael also notices he hasn't had any bills for a few years--they've been getting paid somehow--and realizes he may not have moved on as much as he might have. Should he move on?

It might not look it, but this falls strongly in the hero-considers-quitting vein: must there be a Batman, or a Spider-Man, or a Michael Tenicek? Well, yes. It's a bit sad to realize full-on happiness is far out of Michael's reach, but there's still something, and sometimes that's the best you can hope for. The issue ends with a bit of a teaser for an upcoming graphic novel featuring the N-Forcer, an armored hero that I don't recall getting a lot of focus in the series before. It looks like a bit of a spin on an Iron Man-type, something Busiek had experience with; but it hasn't shown up on the schedule yet. Hopefully soon!
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Sunday, December 29, 2019

"The End" Week: Marvel Adventures Fantastic Four #48!

A sad goodbye this issue, but not just because it was the final issue: from 2009, Marvel Adventures: Fantastic Four #48, "Moving Day" Written by Paul Tobin, art by Denis Medri, colors by Sotocolor.

Tobin does something you might not see in some other writers' entire run with the team: shows them having fun, and wanting to be around each other. It might not be as dramatic, but it's nice. Meanwhile, at the end of time, Galactus makes a call, to the present day FF. He hates to lower himself to asking for help, but he needs assistance...moving.

Billions of years in the future, the universe is collapsing and will end soon. Galactus will once again be pushing through to the next universe, after the next big bang: he was originally from the universe before this one, so he knew he could do it; but a cult called Black End wanted to stop him. Their argument was if the universe is ending, everything should die; Galactus believed they were just being babies because they were going to die. Since Black End includes Annihilus, a four-armed thing that stole the Silver Surfer's powers, the Supreme Intelligence, and one of Thanos's kids; they probably are being dicks about it. Galactus offers to feed the team power for the fight, and Sue extracts a promise from him: next universe, only eat uninhabited planets.

The fight with Black End goes okay, but not great: they don't have a counter to the Supreme Intelligence's mental attacks, and supercharging Reed's powers just makes them hard to control. The FF is forced to retreat to Galactus, who simply teleports what's left of Black End to their homes, where the universe will end for them soon enough. The team realizes Galactus could've done that at any time and didn't need them at all, but Reed is the first to realize why Galactus brought them there: he was lonely. Galactus hadn't been super-popular in this universe, and it would be billions of years before any life to talk to evolves in the next one. It's understandable that he might want to see the closest thing he has to friends before that; and Reed tells Galactus he will miss him too, before returning home. (Before you suggest, what about Galactus's heralds? I'd say even the best of them, he still kept a boss/employee relationship...)

This was the last issue of this series, although Fantastic Four Giant-Size Adventures would come next month. Tobin was going to Marvel Adventures Spider-Man (with #53), which would be a bit of restructure for that book: instead of one-and-done adventures, there would be a bit more continuity for young Spidey's adventures, featuring Emma Frost as a recurring guest-star.
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"The End" Week: X-Men Evolution #9!

Man, if you thought I hated Cyclops before, imagine how I felt to see him mugging the Home Alone face: from 2002, X-Men Evolution #9, "House Party" Written by Jay Faerber (per the GCD, misspelled Farber in the comic) art by J. J. Kirby.

This was based on the animated series, so most of the X-Men here were high school-aged; and the adults (Beast, Wolverine and Storm) were conveniently taking the younger kids on a "training jaunt" when Professor Xavier needs to go to Oregon to investigate a mutant sighting. He's forced to leave a batch of mutant teens alone in a mansion for the weekend, what could possibly go wrong? Traditionally, probably a huge spike in the teen pregnancy rate, but this is a Marvel comic...

Word gets out the cat's away, so naturally it's party time at the X-mansion: it seems pretty out of hand to me, but I grew up in a town with a graduating class of 42, so that feels like four counties worth of people to me. The party isn't complete until the Brotherhood of Dick Mutants, Avalanche, Toad, and Blob; crash the joint. The X-Men control that damage fairly well: Kitty steers the Blob to the kitchen, where snack time takes priority; and Kurt teleports Avalanche and Toad into the woods and ditches them. (I would love it if Kurt did that every time he saw them. Like, really ditched them. Blair Witch style.) Still, once a kid starts playing in one of the professor's wheelchairs, they're about partied out. A small fire started while killing the tunes clears everyone out, leaving the team to start cleaning up.

Everything's back to normal when Professor X returns, but Cyclops still confesses. Still, that just proves the professor could trust him. As the second-biggest narc in the X-Men.

Nine issues is actually a long run for a Marvel animated tie-in. (Avengers: United We Stand got seven; I need to add that to the index...) A lot of their series wouldn't even get one; but I don't know why they've had so much trouble getting those going.
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Saturday, December 28, 2019

"The End" Week: Iron Man #89/434!

We had checked out the two prior issues of this storyline earlier, and I had even said I did just that so I could blog the last one year-end. And I not only completely forgot about it, I really don't remember how this one ends, now: from 2004, Iron Man #89/434, "The Singularity, part 4" Written by Mark Ricketts, art by Scott Kolins, color art by J.D. Mettlier.

Arms dealer Clarence Ward has almost completed his plot of revenge against Tony Stark: Clarence seems more upset about Tony destroying his inventory, then the fact that he looks like Jigsaw now. Tony may not even remember the guy; and Clarence responds Rumiko didn't either: she may have died thinking Tony was killing her. Ooh, them's fightin' words. Meanwhile, in older models of Iron Man suits, the army is waiting to take out whichever one wins; and in New York, at Stark International headquarters, Pepper Potts explains to Happy Hogan how they can shut down all of Tony's proprietary technology. Especially Iron Man. Happy points out, maybe you don't wanna shut down Stark technology at hospitals, airports, maybe even Tony's artificial heart? Pepper seems confident she can narrow the focus down a bit. (Pepper also brought her dog to work, which I don't think would have been super-common at the time.)

And she does! While the armor just falls off of Tony and the army guys, Clarence is frozen in his suit. Tony is just as pissed at himself as he is with everyone else there, and stomps off telling them to get off his lawn. The general, who resembles ol' Thunderbolt Ross but I don't think was, gives Clarence a little speech about how super-heroes won't kill, but a soldier will finish the job, and shoots him in the face. The next week, in Japan, Tony visits Rumiko's grave. He admits how relieved he was the last time she broke up with him, because while he would miss her, he thought she would be safe. The guilt is eating him up pretty bad. I'm not sure Rumiko would ever be brought up again.

Next, at what used to be Avengers Mansion, in front of a statue of the then-late Ant-Man, Tony makes a public apology, and quits. He resigns from being secretary of defense, from the Avengers, from public service at all. He says he'll only go by one name, Tony Stark...but there will always be an Iron Man. Wink! Tony's pulled this one many a time. When you're a super-genius, maybe it's easy to think everyone else is real dumb; but if the world can be convinced Iron Man is a separate person, he might be right. Then, he tries to convince Pepper and Happy to step off of the bullseye, go somewhere else; they aren't having it. Tony's back at Stark International, all is right in the world; while deep in China, word of Clarence Ward's failure reaches the Mandarin, as he sits astride a robot grasshopper. (He had been Clarence's supplier; he also doesn't look right clean-shaven.)

Is it weird that the whole point of these four 'Disassembled' issues was a colossal reset? There was also a U.S. Postal Service Statement of Ownership here, too: Average number of copies each issue during preceding 12 months: 40,446. Actual number copies of single issue published nearest to filing date: 44,509. The next issue would be Warren Ellis's Iron Man #1; which per Comichron would just make the top twenty for November 2004, with 68,989 sold. That both does and doesn't seem like a big enough bump in the numbers: it would be an influential issue, setting the tone for the run, even giving some inspiration to the movie; and would be reprinted and get a motion-comic adaptation. But I still don't think it moved Iron Man out of the mid-tier range; and if that didn't...what would?
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