Monday, October 31, 2022

Klarion goes evil? How would you tell?

The Demon's second annual is far better known for introducing Hitman, but this one's got Klarion and Teekl, Eclipso, and mushrooms! So...yeah. From 1992, the Demon Annual #1, "Ex-Nihilo...Death!" Written by Alan Grant, pencils by Joe Phillips and David Johnson, inks by John Dell.
Jason Blood and his pal-turned-seat cushion Harry Matthews fly into San Francisco, summoned by a note that claims "Xavier Nihilo" can free him from being bound to Etrigan. Making their way through the city, they are attacked by a scorpion monster, and wreck up what I think is a thinly-veiled version of Comix Experience! But meanwhile, next door at an occult bookstore, the owner tries and fails to throw out a browser: Teekl, the cat familiar of Klarion the Witch Boy! (First, it would take some nerve to try and take on a cat reading a spell book; second, take some pictures and coast on internet cred forever!)
After Etrigan defeats the scorpion, Jason and Harry continue to Nihilo's castle outside of town; followed by Klarion and Teekl, who have stolen a motorcycle. They have fun! Xavier Nihilo is of course a nut, who had sent the scorpion to test Etrigan; but he has an excuse: he was like 9000 years old! Nihilo had survived the Great Deluge, the Biblical flood, which in DC continuity had been Eclipso's work: God may have fired him after that for being a little too into his work. Nihilo tried to save his family in a little boat, but Eclipso kills them, then curses Nihilo to walk the earth until he came again. Only his precious "amanita" kept him going, but he also had a piece of Eclipso's black diamond: that power could free Jason of Etrigan, if he will only kill Nihilo. Jason balks at that, and gets clobbered by a largish brute; while Harry is stuffed full of mushrooms and goes on a little trip.
Before Nihilo can turn Jason into Etrigan--everybody knows the words!--Klarion steals the diamond, Eclipsing himself and Teekl. Eclipso remembers Nihilo, but can't really play with him until he takes care of "the rage that drew me here" by wiping out Etrigan, and the fight goes back and forth for a while: even lashing Klarion to a flagpole in a lightning storm won't get rid of Eclipso! He was vulnerable to sunlight, and dawn was a ways away...! And Nihilo tries to keep the fight going, since he can't trust Eclipso to kill him. 

I got this one on the strength of Joe Phillips art--around the same time, he did the Timber Wolf mini-series I love. I know I didn't read all of the "The Darkness Within" crossover annuals; mostly just whatever titles I was reading at the time. I remember being mildly annoyed Anarky took a loss in the Robin Annual, also written by Alan Grant.
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Friday, October 28, 2022


Some time back, we mentioned how Chris Giarusso's Mini-Marvels gave me that "feeling of injustice making your tummy hurt," and so does today's book! From 1978, Walt Disney's Comics and Stories #v38#6/450, reprinting "The Jinxed Jalopy Race" from 1963's Walt Disney's Comics and Stories #v23#6 (270). Story and art by Carl Barks. 

Pretty straightforward start: Daisy Duck is named queen of this year's Mistletoe Ball. To win the right to kiss her under the mistletoe, contestants have to win "the grueling fetch-the-mistletoe jalopy race," which would actually be a rather leisurely drive if cheating didn't appear to be actively encouraged. Even lucky Cousin Gladstone isn't immune, as his entire engine has been swiped: Donald manages only because the nephews had "lived" in his car for weeks to guard it. (This would've been long before living in your car would have a much more negative implication.) Gladstone won't quit, though; counting on his good luck to hex Donald, and brother, he put the whammy on him. 

A nervous Donald tries to guard against bad luck, so is of course immediately pulled over and ticketed by a motorcycle cop for throwing out a gum wrapper. He's forced to head into town to pay his fine, and nervously drinks a bottle of soda, then accidentally drops it out of the car when a wasp comes for it. The judge drives over the broken bottle, blows his tire, and gets further scraped up by the garbage on the side of the road, but he had seen the "litterbug's" plates. And when said litterbug turns up in his court...

Sentenced to pick up all the roadside trash for a stretch of highway, Donald is going nowhere fast; as Daisy wonders why he wasn't back with the mistletoe yet. She isn't thrilled to see Gladstone get another car and take off, either. Gladstone sees Donald and quickly realizes what must've happened, and dumps some more litter for him; which of course the cop doesn't see, he was taking a nap. Donald, knowing he's licked, stops breaking his legs picking up trash, since there wasn't a reason to hurry anymore. Gladstone wins, and tells Daisy that Donald was just napping by the roadside, which is not met with calm reason...There's a happy ending, sure; but still: don't trust cops! Or judges. Or luck.
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Thursday, October 27, 2022

I got the Walgreens exclusive Baron Zemo last week, because it was basically free after getting too many shots, but also to keep my streak of Walgreens figures going. Then, conveniently enough, I picked up what I thought was a spare copy of this one, but now I'm not positve I had read it! From 1986, Avengers #273, "Rites of Conquest!" Written by Roger Stern, breakdowns by John Buscema, finishes by Tom Palmer. This was the one with the Black Knight on the 25th anniversary bordered cover! 

This seems like a fun opening, but with troubling undertones: Hercules is playing to the crowds at a local bar, when a barfly needles him about "takin' orders from a dame," current Avengers chairwoman the Wasp. Said barfly gets thrown out a window and nearly hit by a truck, before Herc realizes his error and saves him; but he needn't have rushed: the barfly was actually the Wrecker! Not unlike Juggernaut, readers wouldn't recognize him unmasked in a bar. He had been gathering information, wearing a wire designed by the villainous Yellowjacket: 9 out of 10 superhero costumes look better on a girl, but that might be the exception. Or maybe I'm just sour, since I want the Yellowjacket suit! Wrecker and Yellowjacket report in, to Moonstone, who wasn't supposed to be monitoring: Baron Zemo had other work for her, and knew she'd be a troublemaker. But he needed her, because he needed the paranoid Darkforce user Blackout as a counter for one of the Avengers' mightiest, Captain Marvel. Zemo's Masters of Evil was an exercise in herding cats: he has Piledriver start a fight with Mr. Hyde, then surreptitiously sedates Hyde to make it seem like he was in the driver's seat to Moonstone. 

Since Herc had let slip that Namor had left the team, Zemo tips that to the news, prompting a reporter to ambush Jan at a charity gala with questions about his departure. The cocky Paladin swoops in to 'save' her, much to the Black Knight's chagrin. (He may have had a crush on Jan, although I don't think that would go much longer.) Zemo also gets word that Captain America was in Florida, and Whirlwind is sent to intercept him. (Setting up Cap #324, a pretty fun issue with a pretty lasting upgrade for Whirlwind.) Calling a meeting, we see Zemo has put together a solid roster of hitters. Moonstone suggests, perhaps a leader should be elected: Zemo turns Blackout on her, since he had Fixer duplicate the tech she used to control him. Still, Zemo knows Moonstone's power was useful; he just had to keep her in her place. 

That night, the Masters attack Avengers Mansion: they had arranged for Hercules to be distracted with a date, so only Jarvis was in, and the Mansion is taken easily. Phase one complete...This would of course be collected later as "Under Siege," running through #277: a highwater point for the book, and things would get much worse for the heroes before they got better.  
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Wednesday, October 26, 2022

"Pour."

I don't know if I had this planned when I started the 3D-printed Sentinel plot, but we're managing to finally work Bastion in here! About a year after getting him. I just got Galactus on Saturday, but I wasn't sold on Ghost Rider even with Mephisto and Goblin Queen--Madelyne Pryor would've been the selling point, really. Read more!

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

It's a goddamn What If? and it's STILL a Doombot?! Mother--

I wasn't being productive, so why not take a moment to read a What If? I hadn't read before? (Five minutes later.) I had read it before, and I hate it. From 1991, What If #31, "What If Spider-Man had kept his cosmic powers?" Written by Glenn Herdling, pencils by Scott McDaniel (with some corrections by John Romita), inks by "Col." Jim Sanders III and Sam de la Rosa.
We all know where this one's going, right? Captain America even says it six pages in: "Absolute power corrupts absolutely." And of course that means even corrupting our boy Peter, even though in this universe the Uni-Power stays with him, due to his heightened sense of responsibility. While he stops Nebula cold, he does mess up trying to help the Hobgoblin, and inadvertently changes his face to look like Peter Parker's! Already under a spell and mentally unstable, Hobby thinks Spidey made him a demon again, so is a bit peeved. Spidey does beat an outclassed Venom, challenging him to protect the city; but Venom notes his symbiote didn't think he was himself.
Much to Mary Jane's dismay, Spidey continues to escalate, stopping the Gulf War and bringing in a thinly-veiled Saddam-alike. He then tries to make Thor help him turn the Sahara desert into a garden, then Thor is dropped from behind by Doctor Doom, who wants the Uni-Power and has the first Captain Universe, Ray Coffin (from early Micronauts, which isn't mentioned here!) as a hostage. Spidey, now identifying solely as Captain Universe, refuses to negotiate, and Ray is killed. This triggers a metaphysical/astral-form fight between Spidey and the Uni-Power: Spidey's responsibility won't let him go with sacrificing any "trees" to save the "forest." The Uni-Power leaves him for Doom, but only for a moment, since it was only a Doombot--ah, that's the last straw! If you can't use the real, proper Doctor Doom in a bloody What If? where can you? Phooey on this one. Read more!

Monday, October 24, 2022

The JLA has to have a class or seminar on alien courtroom etiquette.

"...you're inevitably going to end up facing an alien court scenario. Try and at least look like you respect their backwards-ass legal precepts..." That's pretty standard for the JLA, but today they're judged more in the court of public opinion. From 2020, Justice League #50, "The Rule, finale" Written by Si Spurrier, pencils by Aaron Lopresti, inks by Matt Ryan.
It's the League in space, as they have been asked to help the planet Trotha, first by overthrowing their tyrannical Empress Siddinix, then defending the planet against the invading Vermidiim. The Trothans were not a unified front, either: the planet had a number of rival factions, which Siddinix had played against each other for years. And the Vermidiim invaders apparently have little-to-no concept of 'past' or 'future,' they were pissed at the Trothans now, that was all that mattered to them. The League also seemed less than united, as Batman seemed to have had enough alien crap and was itching to get back to Gotham, even if that meant using a little mind-control for the Trothans' own good.
Diana had been trying to research the Trothans' political history, which the help of two little aliens, who used to be friends: one had joined the Cyborg-like "Way of the Spark," and meatbags and sparkheads obviously couldn't get along, right? Diana has to set them straight, since there were bigger issues and a bigger bad involved; but it has a nice wrap-up.
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Friday, October 21, 2022

I feel like Superman was on more of this series' covers than Black Adam was.

Black Adam appears on the cover of #28, but Superman was on #1, #15, and this issue: from 1977, Shazam! #30, "Captain Marvel Fights the Man of Steel" Written by E. Nelson Bridwell, pencils by Kurt Schaffenburger, inks by Vince Colletta.
The cover does have a clue, for the colossal bait-and-switch here: Sivana steals a copy of Action Comics #467, which inspires him to create his own man of steel. Sneaking into a Pittsburgh steel mill, he dumps his invention into the molten steel, creating...famed folklore hero Joe Magarac?! He may or may not have been actual folklore, but was like Paul Bunyon for steelworkers. "Magarac" means "donkey" or "jackass" in Serbo-Croatian languages; which is either a commentary on how steelworkers were worked, or on his intelligence: because he doesn't speak good English, he's portrayed as slow. Or, at least Sivana's version is; he's probably not super culturally sensitive.
Joe gags Billy Batson at one point, but Billy is able to write a note taunting him into punching the steel gag off him. Captain Marvel smashes him, but Sivana made a bunch of steel animals, and set them to smash up steel mills. Cap gets advice from Atlas--I think asking the gods for advice was a recurring bit from his TV show--who suggests getting help. Time to bring in the full Marvel Family: Cap Jr, Mary, Fat, Hill, and Tall Marvels! They do a song while smashing up the steel animals and seem to be enjoying themselves. But, Captain Marvel opts to face the last one himself: a steel Superman!
Victorious, the faux Supes returns to the gloating Sivana, who gloats about his new super-steel formula--which the disguised Captain Marvel promptly takes away "for use by the U.S.A.!" Is...is that OK? It may also be almost a recurring plot point in Shazam! stories of the time, that while Sivana may have been an evil loon, a lot of his inventions could be repurposed for good... 

Black Adam is out today, although I'll wait for it to get to the cheap theatre. It'll be an excuse for some popcorn! That...that is about as high as my expectations go for it; I don't have much attachment to the character, despite remembering him from the Viewmaster reels "The Return of Black Adam," which features a memorable demise for him.
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Thursday, October 20, 2022

I want to say American audiences discovered this, after it had been dead for two years...

We've established that I'll always pick up Quality 2000 AD and Judge Dredd reprints; and today's book is allegedly an in-demand one. From 1988, Halo Jones #6, reprinting "Puppy Love" from 1985's 2000 AD #412 and #413, written by Alan Moore, art by Ian Gibson. 

In the 50th century, the adventures of Halo Jones begin after an unfortunate shopping trip, when she returns to her apartment to find one of her roommates has joined a cult, and the other has been murdered. She leaves earth, taking a job as a stewardess on a year-long trip, but this issue she finds her roommate's murderer: Halo's own robot dog, Toby! Toby may have been her roommate's before, but wants Halo for himself, to get a human body and be "just like a regular boyfriend." Halo tries to stall, but Toby can see she's lying, and sadly knows he'll have to kill her...! (Toby is largely a cutesy design, gone bad; the effect is like if G'nort was trying to kill you!)
Unfortunately, by the time this issue was published, the third and to-date final Halo Jones book had already been published; as Moore had fought with Fleetway over the property rights. Is it weird that kind of like Watchmen, Moore would never come back to work for them, but the artist would? Gibson's done a British tonne of 2000 AD since. Much as I'd have loved to see it continue, I imagine Fleetway or IPC or whoever owns it now are afraid if they give Moore any slack, it would open the door for other creators to get rights, and we can't have that...
I know I've read all of the Ballad of Halo Jones from one of the 2000 AD Humble Bundles; but as was pretty typical for the Quality reprints, she only gets 10 pages in her own book! Psi-Judge Anderson gets 10 pages, surprisingly tense even though she spends the bulk of it in a coma! The East-Meg's deadliest agent, Orlok, plots his escape, which feels like an inevitability. (Written by Alan Grant and John Wagner, pencils by Barry Kitson, inks by Jeff Anderson.) The rest is the Dave Angus/Kevin O'Neill Flash Gordon spoof Dash Decent. I'm trying to remember if any of the comedy 2000 AD strips have ever worked for me, and most of them were short runs that still outlasted any jokes.
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Wednesday, October 19, 2022

"Four Shots."

I don't have the exact issue in front of me, but I know there was a stretch in Uncanny X-Men where the NRA was on the same side as the mutants: by their reasoning, it was too short a slope from registering mutants to registering handguns. This was back in the late 80's or so, when the NRA still had vestiges of being a sportsman's organization, and not solely interested in selling as many guns as possible by any means necessary. But it does foresee them being more interested in gun rights that human--or mutant--ones.

We mentioned Kurt's guest-appearance in a recent issue of She-Hulk last time, where he hires Jen and her firm, under retainer, for Krakoa and their oh-so-many legal problems. Cyclops having trouble renewing his driver's license is mentioned, which would require legal help but is relatively minor; which makes me suspect Kurt was downplaying it. The mutants had parleyed their Krakoan drugs into piles of cash, so they've got the green to get...the green, in this case; but I think you could get an entire book of Jen having to deal with their docket. (Probably a mini, rather than derailing her own book!)

In Marvel time, how long have the Sentinels been around? Ten years, maybe? I don't think they've been retconned to appear earlier than the original five X-Men. I'm just wondering about the relative level of technology. 
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Tuesday, October 18, 2022

I'd schedule this for 10:17 at night, except...


Thanks to Day of the Triffids, the BBC's Day of the Triffids, and Night of the Comet; I have an irrational aversion to watching any big astronomical events. Would I have made an exception for this one? Mmm, no. From 1978, Action Comics #489, "Krypton Dies Again!" Written by Cary Bates, pencils by Curt Swan, inks by Frank Chiaramonte.
I honestly thought if I searched that title in the GCD, I'd get twenty results--I'm pretty sure this was a plot point in the post-Crisis Action #600--but the light of Krypton's explosion was about to reach earth. And Superman doesn't seem to be taking it well, as he's thrown himself into saving people and fighting disasters right and left. Seems like a lot of accidents all at once, though: a nuclear missile is launched from a sub as an oopsie, for one. After that, Supes gets grabbed by a yellow beam--miscolored? Since it's Green Lantern, as the JLA wanted to have a word with him. Superman answers in Kryptonese, which out of the heroes there, only Batman spoke fluently--I am not sure if that was seen before, probably in World's Finest, or pulled out of nowhere; but Bats says Superman has another reason for pushing himself like that, and the Kryptonese was to honor the tragedy of Krypton.
Meanwhile, in Kandor, Supergirl has to defend her cousin, who is seen as maybe not mourning in the proscribed manner, but has a reason the Kandorians should know. It's Brainiac, who has challenged Superman to battle and "pre-set cosmic bombs" to preclude interference from the JLA. Brainiac, somewhat snarkier than usual, also does a lot of talking since he knows Supes would only answer in Kryptonian; but he started the fight fourteen minutes before Krypton's light was set to reach earth, mocking that he will be "too occupied with me to pay your proper respects when the big burst finally arrives!" Thoughtfully, Brainiac makes sure Superman gets to see the explosion--by forcing him too, magnetizing him to his ship, since he has calculated the light will blind him! It's a cliffhanger ending, since the rest of the issue is an Atom story. Read more!

Monday, October 17, 2022

Yeesh, kinda manspreading there, Conan.

In the original Robert E. Howard Conan stories, magic is exceedingly rare, and Conan had a superstitous revulsion towards it. Probably a bit of mission-creep over the years at Marvel, since there's more than usual in today's book, but it's still a favorite: from 1984, Conan #164, "Jeweled Sword of Kem" Written by Larry Yakata, art by Gary Kwapisz.
Camping out in Zamora, Conan knows he's being stalked, but isn't in the least bit of danger; as his stalker is a boy, seemingly less than half his size. Slapped down with a boar bone (not a metaphor!) the boy introduces himself as Vedan Kamal. Conan killed his three brothers, prepare to die! Conan somehow restrains himself from outright murdering the kid, telling him anyone that goes into battle--particularly against him, is left unsaid--should know the score. Go lead a good life, or come back when you've got the skills. Vedan asks if Conan would train him; Conan can't think of any reason why he would choose to do that; but the boy claims to have a line on the magic Jeweled Sword of Kem. Which, magic or not, was jeweled, right? Vedan introduces Conan to the wizard Maheeva, who claims to be cursed, trapped in his lair and only the sword could free him. He gives the location, asking only for the sword, they could keep the jewels.
Vedan still wants Conan's training, although Conan points out with his share of the loot he could hire assassins to take him out. Still, he picks up a lot travelling with Conan: fighting wolves and snow-apes, cooking, navigating by the stars, and Cimmerian philosophy. What is it like to kill a man? "Just another chore."
Climbing to the "Tomb of the Dark Angels," Conan is nearly killed when his rope breaks, but manages to save himself. Following frozen 'dragons,' dinosaurs pointing the route; they find the sword frozen in a block of ice, along with the Dark Angels, beautiful but "frightening" women. Conan chops the sword out of the ice and let's Vedan grab it: maybe letting the murderous kid have the magic invincibility sword was a tactical error, Conan. Still, while invincible, he wasn't much of a swordsman, and Conan dodges the chop, until the Dark Angels rise up. In about the skimpiest outfits I've ever seen in a comic!
The Angels burn Vedan down, but Conan is quick enough to grab the sword, then get to the water when they try the same with him. Conan's also not dumb enough to be hypnotized in the open like that, and kills one that tries it. The other decides to tear up the world and then come back for him, but Conan gets her with a sword-toss. Dying, she says they'll be back when someone else tries for the sword, and Conan agrees: he didn't trust Maheeva either, so he torches the sword and the fallen Angels in a massive pyre. On his way out, Conan is accosted by the well-done Vedan, who begs Conan to put him out of his misery: killing was nothing to the barbarian, right? Just another chore? Yeah, Conan's not having it. One try to kill him per apprentice! Read more!

Friday, October 14, 2022

I suppose eventually he would've ran out of his teammates' descendants...

Somebody on Twitter posted this issue's cover, and I didn't recall having seen it before, even as part of Legends of the Dead Earth! From 1996, Legion of Super-Heroes Annual #7, "One Shot" Co-plotted and scripted by Tom Peyer, co-plotted and colored by Tom McCraw, pencils by Mike Collins, inks by Mark Farmer and Robin Riggs. Cover by Alan Davis!
Legion stories traditionally took place in the 30th century, but we're up to the 75th today; as Wildfire passes out rings to the newest Legionnaires, as they're about to face off against an alien threat he had faced multiple times before--failing every time! The aliens were destroying stars every century or so, which would be bad enough, but seemed secondary to their main goal: isolating the former worlds of the United Planets. This batch of Legionnaires doesn't have the team spirit of the classic team: xenophobic and distrustful, they all seem to suspect each other of being allied with the alien foe, and get disintegrated pretty quickly. Wildfire's containment suit is destroyed, but his energy and the flight rings are gathered by the oddball brain-jellyfish member, Membrain.
In a new containment suit, Wildfire is distraught, not over losing his teammates, but for dooming the galaxy to another century of distrust and isolationism. Membrain had noticed something, when Wildfire was briefly blinded and deafened, and suggests a sensory-deprivation experiment for Wildfire to try and recall some of the memories he had lost over the centuries. Like his real name, Drake Burroughs, or the accident that turned him into energy. The next spot has to almost be torture, remembering the good days with the Legion, and his fondness for Jenni, the speedster XS. But it gives him an idea, and starting with Durla, he begins recruiting pairs of teenagers: Durlan shape-shifters, Braalian magnetics, Carggite triplicators, and winged Reniians. He went with pairs, telling them it's in case one dies he has a spare; but along with his training also tells them there's no fraternizing allowed. None! None of that! Yeah, because telling teenagers not to do something is a deterrent, at all...
After the rookie team stops a whalelike alien from stealing Rimbor's oceans (which felt like a callback to something, like an old Weird War Stories maybe?) the shadowy aliens behind the sun-destroyer decide to move up their timetable, and take out Rimbor's sun now. Wildfire is forced to play the cards he has: he had planned a longer game, with their grandkids; since he knew by telling them not to he guaranteed they absolutely would...No spoilers for the rest, but longtime Legion readers might guess the culprits. Now if I could find Legionnaires Annual #3, which appears to be mostly an XS solo story. Read more!