Tuesday, February 28, 2023

There can be only some!

Putting aside the big guns like the Asgardians and Olympians and Eternals, how many immortals/extremely long-lived types are there in the Marvel Universe? Apocalypse was five thousand years old, even if he wasn't up and around for all that time; the vampire Varnae was around in 10,000 BC, there was Alpha Flight's Master of the World, and I know there are others; even if we set aside relative "upstarts" like Puck, Mystique, Wolverine, or Mys-Tech. We said "Mys-Tech," must be a Marvel UK book! From 1993, Black Axe #1, "The Immortality Gambit" Written by Simon Jowett, pencils by Edmund Perryman, inks by Rod Ramos. Cover by John Romita Jr.
There's an unfortunate typo, in the text box of his first issue, claiming the title character had "50,000 years of practice." That should be 10,000, which would still make him older than dirt; but the immortal mercenary known as Black Axe is still putting in the work, today chopping up a bunch of HYDRA goons that strongly resemble the jet-cycle riding Intergang of the recent Black Adam flick: they seem like they should be a threat, and get torn up like junk mail. More of a challenge: Marvel UK's Wolverine character, Death's Head II, who was seemingly contractually obligated to appear in all of their titles. DH II took a job bodyguarding a scientist, because he wanted to meet an unbeaten "legend in my line of work" and throw down against him. He puts some pep behind his first shot; which Black Axe isn't able to immediately counter, and is forced to teleport away. Many miles away, there's a shadow on the door, of a castle on the shore, of a dark Scottish lake...wait, that's not quite right! Caretaker Emily Hall is surprised by the sudden return of the man she knew as Mister Hyde, who hasn't aged since she met him, possibly in WW II. "Hyde" had allegedly died in 1961 and left her the castle to maintain, and had hidden sci-fi equipment there that he uses to heal up. He also considers the job he had taken, at the behest of Mys-Tech; who he considered "...youngsters" since they had only become immortal around 987 AD. They had recently heard word of a HYDRA scientist who could be close to halting the aging process; and they had no interest in letting just anybody become immortal. BA isn't interested until Mys-Tech mentions something had already demolished the troops they sent for the scientist, presumably Death's Head II. Dismayed over his lack of progress, Mys-Tech sends another batch of mercs, the Sisters of Mercy, to ask what was the holdup; and they kidnap Emily to get him back on mission. (The Sisters come in a variety of sizes, albeit in a different way than they might have today!) But first, Black Axe is going to have to make a side trip to Japan, to repair his namesake axe...
Tegan had hyped up this book; which I had probably seen in the quarter bins a million times before trying it! It's a solid first issue, that maybe steals a little from Highlander, although BA seems like he's going to be a colder character than Connor MacLeod and such. This also I think had the misfortune of coming out about the absolute worst time a new comic could've launched...There was more good stuff on this list of 1993 comics debuts than I would've expected, but I'm not sure much went on to long-term success. (Hellboy is on that list, but just for his four-page promo debut!) Read more!

Monday, February 27, 2023

Never occurred to me they would get figures, yeah!

So I got these figures about the same time, and thought Fortnite's Renegade Shadow might be a good bad guy for the Hawkeyes, since it's not like they would make Tracksuit Mafia figures, right? Well, time makes fools of us all, I guess! Unfortunately, I think the pre-orders sold out before I even heard about it...I also think I said Target exclusives were relatively easy to find; compared to Wal-Mart or Walgreens'. And since Walgreens doesn't have Marvel Legends anymore, I haven't been in one for a month or so? I know I bought a spare Nightcrawler Funko and ML Sentry with some vodka at some point...

<sigh> I bought a little dry erase board specifically to track pre-orders, but apparently buried it under a pile of quarter books. I did pre-order the classic Yondu from Target, but didn't order the classic Ant-Man: he'll probably be findable, and may or may not be a deal at some point. Yondu brings the classic Guardians roster to, what, two? I really thought we'd get Martinex in the third-movie wave, but they were all movie figures. Which I held off on for now, even if Cosmo is a strong selling point.

The Wal-Mart exclusive classic comics Star-Lord might turn up in April. That might be when Dark Phoenix and Spiral turn up for me, too. And I also just pre-ordered the Blob and two waves that I kinda want the Build-a-Figure more than any of the other figures, which seems to be happening with alarming frequency lately.

Oh, and Cosmo isn't the first dog to get a Marvel Legend, but he does beat Pizza Dog, who really should've been included with a Hawkeye. Instead, I've got the unnamed or nameless dog from the Road Warrior! One of the best dogs.  
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Friday, February 24, 2023

This issue, the Massachusetts Academy loses their accreditation, from the looks of it.



It feels like three distinct circles: writers Marvel would like to write Howard the Duck, writers that would like to write Howard the Duck, and then writers that'll actually get to write Howard the Duck. It also feels like there should be maybe some overlap in those three circles, somewhere maybe? And yet, here we are: from 1996, Generation X #21, "To Live and Die and Molt in L.A." Written by Scott Lobdell, pencils by Chris Bachalo, inks by Joe Pimentel. 


Ugh, that title...I don't know if Lobdell was jumping up and down to use Howard, or if somebody in editorial decided he was no longer radioactive from his movie and should appear somewhere? Howard seems a little crankier than usual here, as he picks a fight in a dive bar that "don't serve ducks or muties," but he's being antagonistic on purpose, as he and Chamber are running a distraction for Skin. This was probably set up the previous issue, so it's not super clear here. 


Meanwhile, back at school, the rest of Generation X is taking a test, proctored by guest-star the Beast. M finishes her test early, but then spaces out, tears her test into pieces, and makes a remarkably detailed little origami house out of it. Beast suspects this isn't related to her mutant powers, as Sean and Emma had thought, but that M was autistic. Which, from the time this issue was published, is probably going to be played off as some Rain Man baloney.

An old man, which is pretty obviously Skin using his powers to disguise himself, visits his own grave to watch his mom and his gang boss mourn him. He doesn't elaborate to Chamber or Howard, though. Sure, whatever.

Also this issue: another U.S. Postal Service statement of ownership: Average number of copies each issue during preceding 12 months: 296,414. Single issue nearest to filing date: 304,658. And the credits note "In memory of Mark Gruenwald, dearly missed."
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Thursday, February 23, 2023

Dallan and Sepsis, that's a cover!



It's entirely possible that I buy this every time I see it in the quarter bins, but it's a stone classic: from 1979, the Micronauts #7, "Adventure into Fear!" Plot and script by Bill Mantlo, plot and breakdowns by Michael Golden, finishes by Josef Rubinstein. 


The Micronauts were still trapped on earth, staying with their young friend Steve Coffin, whose dad Ray had fallen into the Prometheus Pit, a gateway to the Microverse. After a Star Trek rerun, they catch a news broadcast noting Project H.E.L.L. was still sealed off by a force-field, but not mentioning Ray or any tiny aliens. No one knows that Ray was currently having a conversation with the mysterious Time Traveller; but Steve was distraught, and strong emotions in a Florida swamp...you know what that means: the macabre Man-Thing! Cementing the Micronauts in the Marvel Universe! 


Steve is understandably, pants-crappingly terrified; while the Micros are mildly concerned, what kind of planet was this? They have a hard time doing any damage to the swamp monster, so Steve fires up the airboat, chopping the Man-Thing into slimy mulch! Oh, he's fine. While not being aware or sentient, there's still the sense the Man-Thing kinda threw that fight, rather than hurt the kid, and gives him the win he needed to keep going. The Micronauts regroup, to begin their search for Ray and a way back to their battle with Baron Karza...not realizing, the Baron was now arriving on earth! 


Even if you somehow weren't reading Micronauts at the time, you might recall this one, since there was a full page house ad for it.
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Wednesday, February 22, 2023

"First Name."

Typhoid Mary mentioned, some time back, that Face ID couldn't tell the difference between her, or Mary Walker; but does Moon Knight always have the same phone? Or does each persona have their own phone, own contacts, possibly even own account? Jake almost certainly has the phone the other guys know about, and three secret burners.

Yay, Speedball! Who I don't think we've seen before now, and with Steven there, seems alarmingly tall. Feel like he could've used some extra hands; or maybe just not both fists, even if he's not a big accessory user. 

I did do about three seconds of searching, and I think there is a Crescent Street in NYC. And possibly a dumpling house. I don't get dumplings often enough...
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Tuesday, February 21, 2023

The other day on Twitter, it came up that Disney told Don Rosa they were no longer going to reprint two of his Uncle Scrooge stories, which is going to mean future editions of the Complete Times of Scrooge McDuck would not be complete. I ordered a cheap used one right away for myself; even though hard-core Scrooge fans seem mildly confused as to what that's about. (There's a character called "Bombie" who might possibly be, or be construed as, some kind of ethnic stereotype or mockery.) But, it seemed like those are comics that I should appreciate while I can, right? Kind of like the recent Groo books;  he said to transition to it somehow, so why not look at a random old one in my pile here? 

From 1993, Groo the Wanderer #103, "Jailbirds" Story and art by Sergio Aragon├ęs, with co-plot and dialog by Mark Evanier, letters by Stan Sakai, colors by Tom Luth. (I don't always mention letters and colors credits, but Sakai and Luth were still usually on Groo now! Luth wasn't on the current Gods Against Groo, but had been on the Groo meets Tarzan book in 2021.) 

As was fairly common for Groo, he was lost, which implies he was heading somewhere with purpose. Although he's too slow to catch any lizards for supper, his trusty companion Rufferto catches several; and they meet some fellow travelers, who have their own dog, Oso. What kind of dog Rufferto was supposed to be, I don't recall; but Oso is obviously a pit bull-ish type, and seems a bit quick-tempered.
Dinner is interrupted by a fray, as a posse has caught up with the travelers, who were a band of bandits. Groo restrains himself from hurting the posse, since he was no criminal, and then captures the bandits. Rufferto and Oso had been hunting lizards, and are separated from their masters, and have to track them down. 

In the usual roundabout fashion, Groo ends up with a new job, taking the bandits to another town's jail. That jail was full up though, so Groo was going to have to take them back. Eventually realizing Groo was somehow too stupid to be talked into letting them go, and so dumb tricking him would only backfire, the bandits lament their life of crime. Which gives Groo a surprisingly decent idea!
Groo eventually is found by Rufferto and Oso, the latter of whom would stick around for another issue or two. 

I don't always buy Groo new off the racks, but picked up the last few issues: it's damning with faint praise, but it's consistent as all get out. I don't think I've ever read a really off one, and they're up to what Marvel legacy numbering would ballpark as #196! Man, I hope they've got another couple hundred in them.
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Monday, February 20, 2023

The real spiral here is probably the sales numbers.

I'm still waiting for my new Marvel Legends Spiral to ship: it's by all accounts, a pretty well done figure. Particularly since her old one wasn't that great; although I think I probably still have it in the garage. Still, it seemed like a good excuse to pull this one from the quarter bins: from 1997, Excalibur #109, "Dragon Moon Rising" Written by Ben Raab, pencils by Salvador Larroca, inks by Scott Koblish.
Post-Onslaught, Excalibur was still thinking about how to fill the void left by all the heroes that got shipped over to Image, but they aren't off to a great start as Nightcrawler blows up Cerebro while trying to repair it. (Do most failed computer repairs explode like that? They damn well do in X-Men comics!) Kurt is also fretting about how to get Moira MacTaggert's mind off her troubles: namely, that she still hadn't found a cure for the Legacy Virus she had also contracted. Kurt's teammates, meanwhile, are themselves fretting since his girlfriend and their occasional teammate Amanda Sefton seemed to have flaked out and bailed. But, enough of that, as Spiral appears! She's apparently captured Meggan, so Kurt clashes swords with her, but with only three swords to her four, gets punched out. Pete Wisdom distracts Spiral, so Kitty can grab her and phase her through the floor, then checks on Meggan, who claims to see an invisible man with a warning about Brian, and takes off. While everyone gives chase to Spiral, in Hong Kong, the Dragons of the Crimson Dawn examine the captive Brian Braddock. I forget if he was Captain Britain again at this point, or still going by...ugh...Britanic. Seriously, that's gotta be a placeholder name that made it to the final. Brian tries to make a showing of it, since he doesn't know what happened to Meggan, but he's lost his can-do attitude, since he knew he was losing power by not being in Britain.
Also placeholders: the Dragons. I feel like everybody vaguely remembers them from a couple Joe Madureira issues of Uncanny, and Psylocke had a red kinda mark over her eye afterwards? Wolverine got a ninja Wolvie action figure outta the deal? Well, the Dragons themselves have made five appearances, total, three of which were this run in Excalibur! I know they have names but don't recall them or care to look, but one of them looks like kung-fu Tharg. Also, the pages set in Hong Kong have borders in the style of a Chinese restaurant's menu circa 30 years ago.
I actually had to look if my copy was missing pages, since the scene shifts back from Hong Kong to Spiral vs. Wolfsbane, but wasn't she fighting Kitty? Yeah, there are pages out of order. The whole comic actually reads kind of choppy anyway if you get a copy; in the middle of the book there's a big three-page ad for Howard Mackie and John Romita Jr.'s run on Peter Parker, Spider-Man. Kurt manages to get the upper hand on Spiral, who then explains she no longer works for Mojo, and was there because she needed their help to save herself: she had run into the Dragons in her extradimensional Wildways, and had been given the same red brand Psylocke had. She was trying to get out from under them, and didn't want them to get Brian's power. Kitty and Colossus know they can't trust Spiral, but Meggan begs them to let her try, since she and Brian were about to be--married! A long time coming. With some cheesy lines, Kurt agrees to the mission, and the team is teleported to Hong Kong... 

Ugh. Following Warren Ellis would be a tough go for anyone, but Ben Raab wrote several books at Marvel about that time and I didn't like any of them; like the last issue of Spider-Man 2099. (In his defense; he co-wrote that one after regular writer Peter David quit, so he could've been on the spot there.) He's done more work for TV in recent years. Larroca had one more issue on Excalibur, and then the book gets really hit-or-miss on the art for a little over another year, when Excalibur would be cancelled with #125, and Kurt, Kitty, and Piotr would be rolled back into the X-Men. Phooey.
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Friday, February 17, 2023

This is the chapter where everybody gets captured...for reasons, alright?

I think it's a minor plot point in the X-Men titles right now: Mr. Sinister, among others, seems to figure mutants will get only so far, before the assorted alien races of the Marvel U. collectively come down on them, and earth, like a sack of bricks. Which ignores that earth has beat back literally thousands of alien incursions, invasions, and intrusions by this point; and that said aliens traditionally work together almost worse than humans work together. They're allegedly a united front in this one, though: from 2000, Avengers #35, "Interstellar Intrigues" Written by Kurt Busiek, pencils by John Romita Jr, inks by Al Vey. 

It's midway through the Maximum Security crossover: not my favorite, but a quick one. Majestrix Lilandra of the Shi'ar is confronted by the Avengers: Infinity team and has to explain the premise: sick of uppity humanity interfering in cosmic affairs, the alien council has opted to quarantine earth off, and use it as a prison planet. It's two birds/one stone for them: the assorted alien prisoners they dump there will cause enough problems to keep humans occupied, while the humans had proven themselves resilient and clever enough to keep the prisoners contained. I kinda see what they were shooting for, and they aren't really worried if anybody accidentally-on-purpose blows earth up or anything; but I still feel like there are holes in their theory. Like introducing people who already have a common foe, namely you! As was often the case, Lilandra is a sympathetic face, but can't help.
Thor was going to give the council one more chance to do the right thing, then start recruiting allies, like his old friends the Rigellians (who were trillions strong!) or the Starjammers (um, like six guys?) but they're interrupted by a sneak attack from--aw, for just a second, I thought it was a Dire Wraith! This crossover would be remembered about a million times more fondly if that'd been the case. Sorry to Monday-morning quarterback this thing, but it's true. Instead, the Avengers are attacked, gassed, and captured, by the Ruul. Pronounced "rule," is it? Ugh, they don't. They're also a bit of misdirection, as the Ruul are rebranded, and re-evolved Kree; all part of the Supreme Intelligence's master plan. The Kree had been evolutionarily stunted for some time, so the Intelligence caused the Kree-Shi'ar War that decimated his people but also irradiated the survivors to have evolutionary potential again. Then, after Avengers Forever and the Avengers/Kang/Immortus/Time-Keepers fight, the Intelligence used the "Forever Crystal" to fast-forward Kree evolution, turning them into the Ruul, with a bunch of new powers. (Really surprised there weren't footnotes here!)
And that was like, I don't know, step three in the Supreme Intelligence's plan? Also scheduled: seed the "Ego-spore" on earth, to destroy both, but also harvest its power. Oh, and I guess kill the captured Avengers and stage their bodies so it looks like their fault, or whatever. The Avengers were all trapped in power-containing restraints--which is kind of more of a load than them all getting knocked out in the first place, since there was an Asgardian, an Eternal, a mutant, etc. Feels like baloney that they'd be able to contain all of those, but spoiler alert, we already know they don't!
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Thursday, February 16, 2023

I kinda wish the series, and this issue, had been made like ten, fifteen years earlier; but still glad they're here.

The new, and final, season of Star Trek: Picard starts today on Paramount Plus--if that's still the name of it; I know they're rebranding with Showtime. Honestly, Star Trek stuff is the only reason I subscribe: the Twilight Zone reboot was OK, but didn't knock my socks off; and I've resisted most of the other shows they've really pushed like I was allergic to them. (Literally saw a million ads for Infinite, yet still had to spend five minutes trying to remember its name: I can't stand Wahlberg and would never, ever watch it.) But, like I said, kinda wish Picard (and the other Trek shows) had been made a decade or more earlier: there would be less of a push to be an "event" and instead might've just been a proper TV season, like 24 episodes. Plus, some of the stars would be a little younger and more game: every scene Patrick Stewart had in season two, I just wanted to wrap him in a big ol' blanket and set him gently on a couch. You need something? We'll go get it, you sit down...Anyway, there's comics, at least: from 2019, Star Trek: Picard Countdown #1, written by Kirsten Beyer and Mike Johnson, art by Angel Hernandez. 

The way the colons break in that title; "Picard Countdown" sounds like a dance show. Which I would watch. This was a prequel series, set about 15 years before season one, as Admiral Picard is hip-deep in the Romulan evacuation: their sun was going to go supernova, soon. Maybe a year, maybe tomorrow, no one knew. While the Federation is trying to help (largely shamed into it Picard, which I don't think is dwelt upon as much yet here) the Romulans were their foes for a long time, and sometimes still act like it. Paranoid and secretive, the Romulans aren't giving them free reign in their territories, resist scanning, and generally act petulant and shifty. Today, Picard gets word of ten thousand Romulans that need to be moved from Yuyat Beta, a planet the Federation had thought was uninhabited until then.
Picard beams down with his new first officer, Lt. Commander Raffi Musiker, to the Romulan colony. The governor seems somewhat bemused at the humans, and breaks from the usual hardline secrecy, letting them roam around. Picard is intrigued by the vineyards, reminding him of his home, then is stopped cold when he notices "native helpers," working the vines. Forced labor would be bad enough; but a Romulan notes there were four, five million of them on the planet...and never considered the idea that they might need to be evacuated as well. Picard is furious, but the governor's only interest is getting Romulans out of there, one way or another. In a holding cell, Picard feels he can still hear the unseen clock, ticking...
Star Trek can be surprisingly iffy sometimes in the astronomy department: if the Romulan sun was going to go supernova, I think bad stuff would've already happened to the planets in that solar system; but that event shouldn't have taken out as big a chunk of space as it did. There's some backfills on that, in other stories. Similarly, in the first J.J. Abrams movie I don't think Spock should've been able to see the destruction of Vulcan from (not) "Delta Vega", that was straight-up dramatic license. My nerdy nitpicks aside, I liked this one.
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Wednesday, February 15, 2023

"O.G. T.B."

I'm fairly sure, during the stint when Norman Osborn was mayor of New York City, he put Moonstone in as head of Arkham er, Ravencroft Asylum. And why not? She's got the skills, and as far as villains go, is fairly reliable. And Norman being super insane probably holds some fascination for her. That said, if Moonstone wanted to be a doctor, she'd be a doctor: if she put her mind to it, what could stop her? Between her powers and her willingness to blackmail anybody, I don't know that she even needs Norman (or Fisk, the Fixer, Zemo, or anyone else) to fix her problems for her, unless she convinces them to do so. Hmm, and I guess most of those other fixes would be quicker and possibly cleaner; but then she might not mind getting her figurative hands dirty.

Crap, I just noticed both Kurt and Moonstone make noncommittal "mmm" noises this week; that is probably more a conversational tic on my end than theirs. Mmm. And if anyone recognizes that couch, let me know! I think it was part of a set, that I didn't get...
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