Thursday, December 31, 2020

"The End" Week: DC Super-Stars #18!

The joke has been made before, but they are probably more than a few people legitimately afraid the clock is going to roll over to 13 o'clock or December 32 tonight. Maybe the Phantom Stranger and Deadman can help! From 1978, DC Super-Stars #18, written by Martin Pasko and Gerry Conway, pencils by Romeo Tanghal, inks by Dick Giordano and Bob Layton.
Phrasing, Deadman! I know nobody can hear you, but come on. 

This wasn't set on New Year's, but Halloween: another one set during the annual costume parade at Rutland, Vermont. The festivities may be dampened by the kidnapping of a local girl, but they get an extra hour to party! As the gargoyles create a 13th hour to open the gates of hell, which honestly seems almost inevitable at this point. Rama Kushna puts Deadman on the case, but his powers may be limited: he's still able to fly and possess people, but is no longer an intangible ghost, which would hamper his search for the gargoyles' lair. He does get there, but only after some had already hatched: a search party, that had been looking for the girl, gets torn up by the gargoyles. Deadman becomes intangible again before he can grab the girl, so he tries to possess one of the searchers--who had already been mortally wounded, and dies after Deadman enters him!
Deadman is barely able to move his corpse-host, but manages to get it into position that the demon Qabal thinks he is the sacrifice, and feeds on it instead of the girl. Qabal enjoys it at first, but then realizes it was a trick with no life for him, and seemingly dissipates. Free to possess the girl, Deadman frees her with his gymnastic skill, then gets a torch to a convenient natural gas source, blowing up the cave and the gargoyle eggs. The girl is returned to her family, while Rama explains the 13th hour business disturbed the dimensional alignment or whatever, making Deadman exist in two planes at one, but that wouldn't happen again. Neither of them seem to realize, Qabal still lives.
Elsewhere in Rutland, 'ghostbreaker' Dr. Terrance Thirteen and his wife Marie have arrived late; although the Phantom Stranger arrived ahead of them and suggests they consider themselves lucky. Dr. Thirteen isn't having it, since he had long before lost any patience for the Stranger's schtick. Marie tries to make apologies for him, but the Stranger warns her to leave that place, or her husband could get involved in something that could lead to his death. Of course, he also promptly disappears without explaining any of that. The Stranger may have a good reason for a change, as he is then confronted by a mysterious woman, who had plans for Qabal, and would not let "her love" interfere!
Dr. Thirteen had a meeting scheduled with some "disreputable folks," namely Tom Fagan, Gerry and Carla Conway, Marty Pasko, Paul Levitz, and Romeo Tanghal! They had seen weird crap in Rutland before, but don't agree with Thirteen that the Stranger was behind it. They are interrupted by a local cop, warning Tom of doings up at his place: lightning striking his house, and the Stranger seemingly hanging in midair somehow! Thirteen doesn't believe in any of this, so charges in headlong, even as the Stranger warns him. Tom is dismayed to find his house transformed inside, but perhaps it's not his house: the hypnotic Quinton Abel greets them, and asks them to join him for a drink. Thirteen realizes the drink is blood, then notices a dark mirror, showing the truth of Qabal! With Fagan and the cop hypnotized, the Stranger tells Thirteen it's up to him to act: he may have meant to show Qabal the mirror, not smash it over his head, but that works too. Qabal dissolves again; as the cop and Fagan return to normal (with Fagan again dismayed, this time that the lightning destroyed his house!) and Thirteen tries to convince himself this was just a hallucination, a lightning induced nightmare.
Deadman returns to Rutland, and isn't pleased to see the Stranger, apparently having a beef with him from an earlier issue. (Per the footnotes, Phantom Stranger #41, the last issue of that series.) The Stranger calms him down since he knows Rama Kushna had just sent Deadman back there, and while Qabal was gone, they had a greater threat: "Tala! Queen of darkness, mistress of the macabre!" Neat; I remember her from episodes of Justice League Unlimited, but I'm not sure I've ever read a comic with her. Dr. Thirteen had inadvertently freed her, and she had clashed with the Stranger many times since. She had built up more power, and had planned on sending Qabal to torment the earth, then offer herself as earth's savior in exchange for eternal worship. Still, it's a much-too-quick fight, with Tala unable to comprehend how she isn't winning: with Deadman giving his strength to the Stranger, they were able to imprison Tala again. Deadman splits, creeped out by the Stranger, but both their battles would and there. We mentioned before, this was another casualty of the DC Implosion, but it was by no means the last time we'd see of either of them.

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"The End" Week: Spongebob Comics #85!

Every year we probably have at least one cancellation that seems to have come out of nowhere, and here's one: from 2018, SpongeBob Comics #85, featuring "The Creature from Goo Lagoon!" Story and art by Graham Annable; and "Dutchman Went Down to Bikini Bottom" Story and layout by Derek Drymon, pencils and inks by Jacob Chabot.
I got this series for my son from the first issue, and while I'm not sure it sold a ton in comic shops, it was available at other locations and presumably doing all right. Maybe not as good as on Free Comic Book Day: like their Bongo linemates the Simpsons, I feel like it gave away way more issues than it ever sold. But, the Wikipedia page reminds us Bongo shut down in October 2018, and SpongeBob creator Stephen Hillenburg died two months later; and I don't think Nickelodeon has bothered to bring it back since.
Your mileage for nautical nonsense may vary, but these are never too bad. "Dutchman Went Down to Bikini Bottom," for instance, is a "Devil Went Down to Georgia" riff with Squidward. I may have to help out with the GCD, they were missing this issue; but if you're a more traditonal comic fan, this series featured covers (and occasionally other work) from artists like Jerry Ordway, Bill Sienkiewicz, and Kelley Jones! Read more!

"The End" Week: Flinch #16!

Sometimes I'll grab a last issue when I find it; and sometimes I'll randomly find one already in my collection, like today's book: From 2001, Flinch #16, with "The Wedding Breakfast" Written by Mike Carey, art by Craig Hamilton; "a temporary life." Written by Charlie Boatner, art by Philip Bond; and "Descent" Written by Guy Gonzalez, art by Danijel Zezelj. Cover by Richard Corben.
This was Vertigo's short-lived horror anthology: they had done more themed mini-series like Weird War Tales, Weird Western Tales, and Strange Adventures; but Flinch was a little more free-form. Vertigo was pretty good about getting names for those; but I don't know if 8-page stories were big enough draws.
In "The Wedding Breakfast," a shifty Victorian plots to use the poorhouse his father sponsored, to get a new downstairs maid. That's his cover story anyway, he's just looking for a suitable human sacrifice to the lords of hell; and young, naive Mala seems tailor-made for it: no close friends, prone to fantastic stories, and seemingly convinced her lost father would find her. The lamb is led to the slaughter sure enough, but of course there's a twist. "a temporary life." finds a young temp worker, smitten and grateful to his lovely supervisor Tina for the job, who volunteers for a metabolic study that gives him super-speed. Less like the Flash, more like "Wink of an Eye." He would do anything for her, but what can he do at invisible speed and aging rapidly? Lastly, in "Descent" a young man checking out a sleazy live sex show gets more than he bargained for...and then more still. Zezelj's art makes it creepy as hell; I'd seen his work in Captain America: Dead Man Running. Read more!

"The End" Week: Deadpool #63!

I honestly thought I had done this one already: from 2012, Deadpool #63, "The Salted Earth, part three: Conclusion" Written by Daniel Way, pencils by Filipe Andrade, inks by Sean Parsons and Jeff Huet.

Deadpool had often lamented his burden of being potentially unkillable, so he jumped at the chance to take a serum that would remove his healing factor: it worked on Evil Deadpool, a Bizarro-version of him made of collected bits that had been chopped off of him over the years. While it had brought back his pretty face, he had got a pinky shot off and burned quite a bit, as T-Ray, Slayback, and Allison Kemp had banded together to finish him for good. (Hey, Pool lost a pinky when his healing factor wasn't working way back in Joe Kelly's Deadpool #2!

Who, who, and who? T-Ray may or may not be the Seymour Skinner to Wade's Armin Tamzarian: Deadpool may or may not have stolen his identity, and no one likes to talk about that! Slayback was another psycho from a Weapon H program that hated Pool; but Allison Kemp was an undercover fed paralyzed after an encounter with Pool. She was the brains of the operation: when Wade sabotages their helicarrier-style ship, she lets Slayback make a run for the parachutes. When he pulls his ripcord, it's the pin to a grenade! T-Ray is furious at the sacrifice of his partner, but Allison notes "he was going to die, regardless." She knew Wade would restore the helicarrier, since without his healing factor, he wouldn't survive a crash, and T-Ray goes to beat his ass in with a barbell.
Pool looks like a 98-pound weakling that lost weight next to the massive T-Ray, but is nonchalant as usual. "Funny you should mention 'working out,' he says; leading T-Ray to realize his weight bar was a pipe bomb. With his finger on the detonator, Pool tries to get the name of the boss out of T-Ray. T-Ray realizes, Pool can't blow him up that close, and beats the tar out of him and takes the detonator.

Bringing him up top so Allison could see and confront Pool, T-Ray wraps Pool up in the barbell, then T-Ray clicks the detonator--which was actually the bomb! Psych! Allison had not been fooled, but is more than willing to die to kill Pool. Questioning her story, Pool wonders how the hell he was supposed to know she was a cop? He's not particularly sympathetic, but she seemingly relents, disarming her bomb, lamenting it had all been for nothing. Not because revenge is inherently a futile pursuit, but because Evil Deadpool was there: "Even if she killed you, sooner or later, you'd just come back. Y' herpes."
The serum that had disabled his healing factor was temporary: Evil Deadpool had come back, and Deadpool was realizing, so would he. Which means...what? Evil Deadpool wonders what's in his counterpart's head, and opts to take a look. 

The issue ends with a text page from Daniel Way, who notes when he was given the title, Deadpool's profile was at a record low; and both he and Pool were gung-ho for attention. I've read a good chunk of it, but not quite all. The Institutionalized/Evil Deadpool run wasn't bad.
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"The End" Week: Batman #713!

Oh, I see what they're trying to do here, and I hate it. From 2011, Batman #713, "Storybook Endings" Written by Fabian Nicieza, pencils by Steve Scott, Daniel Sampere, Andrei Bressan; inks by Walden Wong, Rich Perrotta, Andrei Bressan, and Rodney Ramos.
Even though the previous issue ended with the Riddler finding "the tools of my restoration," he's jobbed out here in flashback; as an unseen narrator gives us the history of Batman and Robin. He has a particularly trenchant insight as to the purpose of Robin, namely clowning henchmen with the shame of getting beat up by a kid. Robin checks one's ID, so we know he's important to the story: years later, as Nightwing he busts the guy's kid. Years after that--just how many years exactly? Ten? A rolling ten? Anyway, as Dick/Batman and Damien/Robin bust up a hostage situation, the kid is there again, but as the victim: once he had been paroled, Dick got him a job through the Wayne Foundation; where Damien is telling this story to three kids, Bob, Jerry, and Bill. Those names sound familiar, like maybe one of them does all the work.
The message doesn't really land for me: this might've worked for me sometimes, but just feels like it was thrown out there to fill time before the new number one. Also, while this makes Dick look compassionate, it makes it look like Bruce was burnt out years ago...well, maybe.

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Wednesday, December 30, 2020

"The End" Week: Adventures of the X-Men #12!

I knew about this issue before fishing it out of a quarter bin; and was prepared to not like it. From 1997, Adventures of the X-Men #12, "Better to Light a Small Candle..." Written by Ralph Macchio, pencils by Yancey Labat, inks by Ralph Cabrera.
We just saw the prior issue, but this one opens with the Watcher viewing a familiar scene...for Fantastic Four fans, maybe: the explorer Galen of the planet Taa, preparing for the end of the universe. Meanwhile, the Shi'ar Empress Lilandra reaches out to the X-Men: the M'Kraan Crystal was threatening the entire universe, and only the Phoenix might save them, but the cosmic entity hadn't appeared. Jean Grey was willing to risk taking the Phoenix again, even if Scott tries to forbid it. Phoenix manifests in the red outfit; traditionally the dark version. Meanwhile, D'spayre and the Dweller in Darkness plot the destruction of that reality, which takes the Dweller to the Living Tribunal. Who is busy, apparently watching the cosmic entities of the DC vs. Marvel crossover.
Teleporting inside the M'Kraan Crystal, Phoenix, Gladiator, and the X-Men are faced with the insane and somewhat zombified former Emperor D'Ken and the demonic N'garai. While they are defeated, when the heroes gather to restore the Crystal, Jean recalls the message she received from the Man-Thing--how to defeat the Dweller in Darkness. Namely, by letting this universe end, as a cosmic reset! While the entire universe dies, at peace and knowing their time would come again, they still die. The last ship of Taa may be the last to go, as Galen goes on to become Galactus. The Dweller is stricken, since with the universe gone there was nothing for him to feed on; but D'spayre is pleased that he can now feed on his former master.
And over the countless eons, the universe proceeds along in a familiar fashion, the story ending with the original X-Men awaiting the arrival of new student Jean Grey. So, this issue implies that X-Men: the Animated Series--and the other animated series it crossed over with--would all be rebooted into the Marvel universe proper. (Also, if you wanna get really nitpicky, I don't think the Living Tribunal or D'spayre had been around from the previous universe like Galactus; the Watcher either, unless he rebooted as well and knows it.) I don't know if I'd be thrilled with that, although that is largely what passes for an ending in superhero books. Read more!

"The End" Week: Marvel Tales #291!

An unexpected find; but in its way the end of an era: from 1994, Marvel Tales #291, reprinting Amazing Spider-Man #283 from 1986: "With Foes Like These..." Written by Tom DeFalco, pencils, Ron Frenz, inks by Bob Layton.

Marvel Tales had always been a reprint title, and for most readers it's mainly remembered for Spider-Man reprints. It was a great way for new readers to be able to get classic stories without access to a comic shop or back issues. This one ends with a brief note from reprint editor Mark Powers that it was the end of the series for now; unless readers wrote in demanding more. But, with the state of the comic industry around then, Marvel probably had other fish to fry.

Still, this was an issue I don't recall reading the original of: Flash Thompson was on the run from the law, since he was still believed to be the Hobgoblin. With Mary Jane's encouragement, Spidey was on the verge of quitting. And this issue ties into the classic Avengers "Under Siege" with the Masters of Evil Absorbing Man and Titania! Titania was still spooked of Spidey, since he clobbered her in the first Secret Wars, a win Spidey himself had chalked up to luck. When Spidey gets dragged into trying to stop their airport pickup of another Master, Crusher throws the fight, forcing Titania to face her fear to save him. Then, he threatens a jet full of passengers, forcing Spidey to withdraw. Still, the Bugle headline the next day--"Spider-Man Coward!"--gives Flash the courage to face his problems.

I know I usually harp on about how Spidey's Kryptonite is guilt, but I didn't like this stretch where he was trying to quit, would inevitably get pulled back in, and would end the issue more defeated and dejected than ever before. I don't think it was a long stretch, either; even though it feels like it and "Flash on the run" lasted longer than the Hobgoblin storyline itself. Also, I suspected this but had to look it up: Absorbing Man and Titania were supposed to pick up the Mongoose, who then doesn't join the Masters and wouldn't make his first full appearance until DeFalco had left the book, with Thor #391 two years later! Zemo's Masters' lineup was pretty stacked with bruisers; I wonder if the addition of a quicker guy or two would've made the difference.
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"The End" Week: Green Arrow #50!

This is a more recent last issue that I had wanted to check out, and...whoo. It's, um, a last issue, I guess. From 2019, Green Arrow #50, "zero." Written by Collin Kelly and Jackson Lanzing, art by Javier Fernandez.
This series began in 2016 under the 'Rebirth' banner, and managed to get 50 issues out inside of three years? None of which I've read! Lanzing and Kelly had been writing since #39, although I'm not sure it had all been building up to this. In the No Justice event, the Justice League and other heroes had been, as Ollie testily puts it, "space kidnapped" leaving him earth's last line of defense. Pissed that it had come to that, he let the League have it, and J'onn J'onzz gave him a secret box, a weapon that could destroy the League. The government forces Dinah, Ollie's beloved Black Canary, to bring him in and get the box. Failing that, a ton of government special forces teams are ready to try to bring him down.
Ollie manages to get to his Arrowplane, and tries to bluff the pursuing fighters: maybe he does have a weapon the JL is afraid of, and maybe shooting him down wouldn't be good for it? He still gets his plane shot out from under him and has to bail out, but loses his chute (it may catch fire, but it's not clear there) and is only saved by Dinah's Canary Cry. She then takes down a squad for him, but won't run away with him: new vigilante Riot races through on her motorcycle to drag Ollie and his box away. She's going to be the new guardian of Seattle, Ollie is O-U-T. Ollie tries to give her some serious advice, and what I hope is a joke:
In the end, alone in the rain, his old life probably wrecked beyond repair (until the next reboot, anyway!) Ollie opens the box. And finds nothing. After going through most of the stages of grief--disbelief, fury, grief--Ollie calls out to J'onn, presuming the Martian could hear him. (Could he, though?) He knows, politeness aside, what J'onn thinks of him: "...a loose cannon...the loud rich brat who ruined every party by bringing up racial profiling statistics. The guy you invited out of obligation." Ollie may have even believed that, for a while, but he's something else. A survivor. And he promises J'onn, "when you do overstep your bounds--and you will--it won't be an empty box you're facing."
After Ollie walks away, the discarded box glows green.
Whoo. I know I'm coming in at the end, but I...did not care for that. I don't know how planned this was, or if I missed all the set-up previously, but if Ollie is going to spend the last four pages of his series yelling at someone, maybe they should've appeared in the issue? Even in flashback? And I grew up on Oreo-eating JLI J'onn; it is virtually impossible for me to believe he would be this kind of dick. Unless Ollie was somehow more annoying than Blue Beetle, Booster Gold, and Guy Gardner at their worst. ("This is an ancient Martian artifact. It is imperative you keep it out of enemy hands. Now go! Run!" "...this looks like your coffee cup, J'onn." "I could make you believe it, or you could get out of my office.") Either J'onn thinks Ollie is less than useless and gave him a busy-box; or he gave him an invisible super-weapon that Ollie then threw away...

I think at some point since the TV show, DC tried to bring Felicity Smoak into the comics series, but comic fans refuse to have him with anybody except Black Canary. And I think Canary has a lot of fans that prefer her with the Birds of Prey or solo or the JSA or the JLA; just without Ollie. Probably some subset of both want Ollie to have a sidekick or partner like Roy or Emiko, while another insist he be a solo act...somewhere in that Venn diagram is a smaller group of "people paying money for Green Arrow comics," which probably explains this last issue as well as anything.

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If you've been reading these for a while, you may have noticed the post title and the picture file names, are usually some word from the first panel that I haven't used before. In this case, meatloaf! Which I've rarely eaten, Madagascan or otherwise. Not a dinnertime favorite growing up, although Dad did like a thick-ass burger...

I make these to amuse myself, but rarely ever used Spidey as a character. Partially because to me that would mean competing with the great Twisted Toyfare Theater. The other reason is, unlike some other superheroes that are probably in the same boat, Spidey makes me sad a little: he's so rarely allowed to make his life better, in the slightest. When he did the wrong thing by letting the burglar pass, he was immediately punished with the death of his Uncle Ben. Conversely, Spidey pretty consistently does the right thing now...and is also punished for it, also pretty consistently. Also, by Spidey's standards, Kurt and Sat seem to be living a cheery, carefree life.

I was also going to phase Deadpool out a bit because, well, he doesn't need the spotlight, does he? But I love Venompool! There is a reason for him being scary to Spidey, too. Aside from him having the poor impulse control and murdery tendencies of both Pool and Venom...

And I was scratching my head on a bit of actual Marvel continuity: does Kurt (and by extension, most of the other X-Men) have a proper driver's license? I think back in the day, when the Professor was a little more about integration into normo society, he made sure his students had proper documentation...which he either got by mind control, or working through a sympathetic contact, either would be a cheat! Come to think of it, would even a straight-arrow like Cyclops be able to navigate the DMV? Good luck with the eye test! (There's an issue of X-Men: First Class with Jean trying to learn how to drive, and having a hard time doing it as a normal girl rather than telepathically copying the knowledge!) Read more!

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

"The End" Week: X-Men Gold #36!

I'm almost positive there's at least one of these last issues this year where the heroes win in dramatic fashion, then go on to bigger and better adventures. It's not this one, but maybe it's around somewhere. From 2018, X-Men Gold #36, "Feared and Hated" Written by Marc Guggenheim, art by Pere PĂ©rez.
This was from late 2018, but still feels like a million years ago from the current X-books. Part of that was by design: on the closing letters page, Guggenheim mentions the book "was conceived as a love letter to that era. Sometimes at the expense of some originality, I admit..." It may have been a bit more retro, but I did like this series more than the previous Extraordinary X-Men. On the other hand, I'm hard pressed to tell you what stuck from this run: Storm had a magic hammer, oops, lost it. Rachel Grey had a new codename--Prestige--and costume; I don't think they stuck. Nightcrawler was unkillable for a bit, that plot was just dropped. There was a replacement Pyro, but don't we have the old one back? Kitty and Colossus were about to get married, didn't; but Rogue and Gambit did, and that may be what stuck?
Kitty, Storm, Kurt, and Rachel get called on a mission, the manifestation of a new Omega-level mutant. There's a bit of the usual soap opera first: Kurt still sad Rachel declined his proposal, Storm missing the extra oomph of her lost hammer, Kitty wondering if being an X-Man is mostly just loss. The Omega kid, scared and throwing random energy blasts all over, is panicked; but Kitty talks him down to a powered-off state. He is then promptly shot by a bystander. Kurt ports them to the nearest hospital, where in the same vein, the doctor refuses to treat him: if the kid's powers went off during surgery, he could destroy the entire hospital.
Furious, Kitty runs down her options: have Kurt get Cecilia Reyes, too far. Have Rachel psychically make the doctor do it; Rachel points out that's a bit too far. Kitty's still willing, but another doctor steps up: she had met Kitty back in the first issue, when Kitty said they were going to earn back people's trust. Surprisingly, here at least, they did. The X-Men wait, into the night...and since I don't think we've seen this kid again, he maybe didn't make it. I haven't been paying enough attention, I don't know if the Krakoa mutants have brought back the forty or so Omega mutants that went out like that.

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"The End" Week: Thunderbolts #32!

This is another one I thought we had seen already; but I could probably get two or three more out of this series! From 2014, Thunderbolts #32, "Punisher vs. Thunderbolts, part six" Written by Ben Acker and Ben Blacker, art by Kim Jacinto.
Previously, the Punisher had gotten fed up with the Thunderbolts (for not killing Cap villain Dr. Faustus) and quit; only to find a bomb led in lieu of severence from the Red Hulk. Frank then took down his former team one by one, even though the bomb had actually been planted by the Red Leader! Red Hulk had thought he had him under control, and I believe Red Leader had acted like a scared doofus most of the series as a cover. Six months after the Thunderbolts fell, Red Leader rules the island of Kata Jaya, with an army of gamma-irradiated guards and Crimson Dynamo suits. (I was thinking Titanium Man, but he has to lean into the color scheme!) It seems like he should be having more fun with his endangered species banquet, mutated knockoff bloodsports, and portal to hell; but he's putting a lot of mental effort into winning over the heart of his assistant Caitlin. Tough to run the numbers on making someone love you, but giving a panda fur coat to a vegan isn't a winning strategy.
The Thunderbolts get the band back together (with a lot of Avengers behind them) to clean up Red Hulk's mess. Hawkeye--himself a longtime former Thunderbolt, remember!--comes across as only mildly disappointed in RH: his Thunderbolts weren't about redemption, were they? Frank, while still furious, carries himself like a professional; Elektra still holds a grudge, and does give him an incidental stabbing. Using Faustus's gas, Red Leader turns the locals there into violent psychopaths; some innocent, others not. Deadpool nearly gets the Red Leader, but gets jumped by a pair of hallucinating pandas. In the end, before he can escape, Red Leader is brought down by Caitlin, Agent Cross of...something! S.H.I.E.L.D. maybe?
Red Leader is imprisoned, with the decapitated skull of the Ghost Rider: Frank explains, the Penance Stare still works. That's cruel and unusual, but he probably wasn't going to trial anytime soon; and at any rate Mephisto shows up to renegotiate their deal, so being dragged to hell was the best he could hope for. (The Leader would be back, with his usual green hue!) Amusingly, that also resets Johnny Blaze, who had peaceably been enjoying a book when his head catches fire...While Hawkeye is letting the Thunderbolts go, they've had more than enough togetherness: Red Hulk doesn't hold a grudge with Frank, but Frank still walks away from him. Pool, as you'd expect, goes on about what a terrible idea this had all been; while Elektra merely disappears; leaving Red Hulk wondering where he went wrong. Read more!

"The End" Week: Vigilante #50!

I knew where this was going ahead of time, and had been looking for it for quite a while. Now I think I've found it three times this year...from 1988, Vigilante #50, "A Life!" Written by Paul Kupperberg, pencils by Steve Erwin, inks by Jack Torrance.

I also don't have cause to do this often, but this one's going after the break: WARNING: Suicide.
This version of the Vigilante is probably the closest DC would ever come to a Punisher-style character, even to this day: gangsters had attempted to bomb District Attorney Adrian Chase, but only got his wife and kids, leaving him to take up guns and a mask. It hadn't gone especially well for him: recently, he had abandoned the so-called 'homeless avenger' to get beat to death by a mob. That was after beating up his girlfriend/fellow vigilante Black Thorn to keep her from killing said homeless avenger. Thorn's ready to get back at him, but Adrian slaps her down and heads out. (Black Thorn is supposed to be a hardened crimefighter herself, but in a bathrobe and sporting a black eye, it makes Adrian look really bad.)

Meanwhile, police Captain Hall was still searching the streets for the Vigilante, even though he was reported killed in Gotham. He's got 30 days to find him or give up, but he's not going to have to wait. At a movie, Adrian is plagued by flashbacks, of those who died before and after he began his crusade. He then proceeds to beat the crap out of some punks, which he finds a bit excessive but can't stop himself. Black Thorn meets with Harry Stein (a cop who had been hunting Adrian, but seems to be on his side here) and they both worry about him.
Hitting the streets in costume, Adrian comes across an alarming number of crimes, and shoots them up. A scumbag in an apartment-turned "opium den" takes a potshot at him while he's on the fire escape--not because it was the Vigilante, because there was some nut on his fire escape!--starting a fire fight that ends with multiple goons and junkies killed. Adrian is also having flashbacks to two associates who took the Vigilante mantle when he wasn't using it, one of whom was killed by Peacemaker. The cops have set a trap for Vigilante, who returns fire, not realizing they were cops: he shoots Captain Hall, presumably killing him.
Black Thorn gets a ride from Harry back to her apartment, as upstairs Adrian decides he was the only one that could do this for him, and shoots himself moments before she arrives. At the funeral, Harry gives Thorn the ashes, suggesting "nothing's ever so bad that being dead's gonna make it better--but sometimes it's gonna look that way to some people." Which seems a half-hearted rebuttal: there's no way this one would be told like this today, and it would probably be crammed full of PSA's and warnings if a character even considered it.

The editorial page mentions the Checkmate series, which would feature Harry Stein, Black Thorn, and Peacemaker. A new Vigilante would appear in 1992's Deathstroke the Terminator #10. (Nine out of ten superhero outfits look better on a woman; but this one...maybe without the vest.) Most surprising of all, Vigilante would get a DC Universe Classics action figure in 2009! I paid $6.99 for him, which seems cheap as hell even for then.
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