Thursday, November 30, 2023

Neat cover, but maybe save that for when you don't have a good villain?

I read this back when it came out, and I appreciate the difficulties in creating a viable love interest for Cap, but the cover notwithstanding, this doesn't feel like the way to do it. From 2001, Captain America #44, "Conclusions" Story and pencils by Dan Jurgens, inks by Bob Layton.
So, not only do I not recall what happened the previous issue, I also would've lost this bet: I thought Jurgens had created Connie Ferrari, but no, she was from Mark Waid and Andy Kubert in Cap #15. Jurgens usually glammed her up, though: even in something she obviously threw on running out the door and with a suburban-mom short haircut, he always drew her as really pretty...and leggy; she and Cap have the longest legs in the splash page! But, Connie has just finally found out, her boyfriend was really Captain America, and she's not thrilled with the revelation: she was a defense attorney, and Cap had testified against one of her clients. Also, her brother had been believed dead but was now back...after trying to murder Nick Fury and Cap. Cap really wants to table the discussion, since he's not comfortable talking about his secret identity in a police station; which doesn't score him any points. Connie is crying her eyes out and puts together that Cap's ex Sharon both knew, and was an ex and not just a friend; so when cops attack them most people would probably be grateful, but Cap's too wholesome and professional for that.
The cops are pretty obviously fakes, but the side of the building is blown up, and Connie and Cap are snared by Doc Ock-knockoff tentacle-cables from a hovercraft. (Connie screams out "STEEEEEVE!" as they fall; she was not handling it well.) Cap knows somebody wants him, as a monologue starts up over loudspeakers; and throws his shield to free Connie, but is pulled inside the hovercraft before he can catch the rebound! Connie is left, in a suspiciously deserted street, with Cap's shield; and no idea who she could trust then. But, Cap doesn't have to wait long, as he's taken to face the mastermind behind this--Taskmaster! Wait, really?
This was back before Taskmaster got...kind of overplayed? Or, rather, used somewhat inconsistently. Here he was maybe a year out from his Udon update in Deadpool #68, and was still in his training goons for big bucks days. Tasky tells Cap, "when the hired help can't make the grade, the boss has to work the cash register!" He wanted back at the Avengers for their operations against his schools, and let's be honest: it's not like he was gonna pick a fight with Thor or Iron Man, right? With Cap shieldless, Tasky's pretty confident; while Connie narrates and feels petty for resenting every time Steve had been late because of what she now realizes was Cap-stuff. But, she also realizes Cap's always going to put the greater good...over her. That's kind of harsh, but you know what? It's fair: Connie knows she "can't be in a relationship where my needs are always secondary."
Cap is on the ropes, until he remembers a trick Taskmaster wouldn't have seen and thus couldn't imitate: Cap still had his photonic shield, the replacement from earlier this series. Cap knocks him off a bridge, but Tasky manages to take Cap with him--which, from the layouts, shouldn't have worked, but okay. Separated, the fight's over; and Cap returns to Connie's apartment, to find his shield, and a note: Cap knows it's a 'Dear John' letter from across the room, he's seen too many during the war! An interesting layout choice, there: the note and shield were on Connie's coffee table when he comes in, then Cap has the shield next to him while he sits and reads the note. Like the shield's there for him, at least. Also, Connie must write quick, Cap really wasn't gone that long.
"Connie's gone. And she's never coming back." Well, not to Cap, anyway; she would appear in Great Lakes Avengers #1, although she seemed to get...what's the opposite of a makeover there? Like, de-glammed. Diamondback was my favorite of Cap's love interests, although Bernie Rosenthal had character, much more than poor Connie. Also, for some reason, the fact that she was a defense lawyer was used to create friction, like Cap didn't care for her defending guys he knew were bad, due process or not. I kinda don't love "Connie Ferrari" as a name, that sounds like somebody's fake girlfriend from Canada. (Is Ferrari a common last name? Was Dolores Lamborghini taken?) Also, I didn't like the way Cap won: Tasky couldn't possibly take Cap. He's in good, fighting shape, compared to about anybody else; but Cap would've been able to outlast him. Read more!

Wednesday, November 29, 2023


I keep meaning to see Game Night; I haven't, but the bits I've seen look great.  Per the Honest Trailers for the D&D movie, same directors, which is a good sign.

Madame Masque was a recent pick-up at the toy show; I'm not positive I'd ever seen one before. She was a 'split figure' with 'Madame Hydra,' Viper, who has gotten a new figure in recent years; but Masque hasn't yet. Of course, now that I have one, I'm sure that clock is ticking.

Tombstone is kinda right, there a lot of crime bosses at Marvel, even if we're not going to the Kingpin here. I was going to use another figure as a crowd-filler; but there were plenty, even if Owl hasn't got a figure and I don't like Mr. Negative. I also reckon they talk a lot of trash about each other behind each other's back, or to their face; but they aren't usually in a position to follow-through on it, so it's just background noise. Geez, and Tombstone's getting a new figure soon; in the prerequisite mobster suit. 
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Tuesday, November 28, 2023

I bought these from the same comic shop, about the same time...

...and that's about all this series has in common with yesterday's books, except I might find it even more nihilistic. From 2009, The Last Days of American Crime #1-3, written by Rick Remender, art by Greg Tocchini. Covers by Alex Maleev.
I didn't love this series, but that's kind of on me and my expectations: it's a perfectly fine, well-executed, one-last-heist story. I just didn't like the ticking-clock aspect of it: in two weeks, the American government would start its "A.P.I. broadcast," which would hit certain centers of the brain, and making knowingly committing an illegal act impossible, from sea to shining sea. The Feds were also converting to paperless currency, phasing out cash, to further hinder criminal activity; so the crooks have to act now or never. Kinda felt like stopping the broadcast should be the plot; but this isn't that kind of book and these characters aren't heroes, so...Also, the bad-girl lead shares a name with my former hometown, so I found her suspicious as hell; which might also be on me. 
This also won't cram into the scanner, but did get a reissue from Image a couple years back. Read more!

Monday, November 27, 2023

This sounds like a boilerplate sci-fi adventure pitch: a soldier put in cryogenic freeze, to wait for the aftermath of nuclear war. Then he would execute the last orders of the last President of the United States, to either restore order, or exact retribution, as the "Apocalypse Commander." It doesn't go as planned, and this series might not be what you would expect. From 1990, The Last American #1-4, written by Alan Grant and John Wagner, art by Michael McMahon.
Disgraced soldier Ulysses S. Pilgrim is offered a final goodbye with his wife and son, before being interred in a cryogenic chamber in upstate New York. Twenty years after the bombs drop, Ulysses is revived, on July 4, 2019; by his three helper robots, Able, Baker, and Charlie. (That feels like a nod to another apocalyptic story, Silent Running.) With a fancy uniform, weapons, and a tank Judge Dredd would appreciate, they start exploring what's left of America in search of survivors.
The second issue is a nightmarish musical, in the ruins of New York City, as Bert the Turtle and the ghosts put on quite a show; although that might be more for the reader than Ulysses: Wagner and Grant might've swung for a musical issue more than once, and I'm not sure those were their best-received stories, but it feels like something they liked trying every so often. Ulysses visits Sing Sing, and finds records of the warden executing all the prisoners, since "they could hardly risk allowing hardened criminals to run loose." (That scene is echoed in Garth Ennis's Punisher: the End; and a pull quote from Ennis is on the cover of the trade!)
Of the three robots, Charlie is the most personable, as he seemed to have watched way too much TV during his wait in the bunker; and he was more tasked with keeping Ulysses sane then his fellows. Twice he lets Ulysses have a bottle, in the hopes to releasing some pressure, but after a rotten day in the city topped off with a visit to the fallen Statue of Liberty, Ulysses shoots up a derelict church, cursing out God, and has had about enough of his mission. He's ready to check out, but before he can pull the trigger, Charlie picks up a transmission, calling for him, the "deep reserve" unit. Is he the Last American...?
This series would've hit the shops October 9, 1990; the same month that Germany reunified. The threat of nuclear war probably didn't completely go away and probably never will, but it would've felt further away then, like a bad dream. A gloomy read, but a good one. Read more!

Friday, November 24, 2023

Wish I could find the button to turn the cloaking device off...

Sigh. It's getting close to the end of the year, so I should be doing more to prepare for the year-end, but I've had some injuries and some motivational trouble. I also have a ton of figures that I was super looking forward to, and have only used for background shots; but maybe today's book will help: from 1982, Star-Lord: the Special Edition, reprinting 1977's Marvel Preview #11, written by Chris Claremont, pencils by John Byrne and Michael Golden, inks by Terry Austin. (It's possible I didn't get to read this until it was reprinted again, in 1996's Star-Lord Megazine #1. I absolutely loved Marvel's Megazine reprints!)
Claremont and Byrne didn't create Star-Lord, but they reinvented Steve Englehart's character as less of a vengeance-driven obsessive and more of a swashbuckler. It's such a great one-shot it almost wraps the character: you don't really need more Star-Lord stories after this one! He and his companion, Ship, free a couple youngsters from slavery, then fight to stop an usurper and save the emperor of Sparta, who has a perhaps not-surprising connection to Star-Lord, if you've seen Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2. (No, not Ego!) Sparta and a few other aspects of this version have since been folded back into the current, largely MCU-insprired version; although I think it's a planet of jerks nowadays and not the benevolent empire we see in the Michael Golden penciled framing sequence.
One thing this version has the others do not: a Doctor Who reprint! From 1981's Doctor Who: A Marvel Monthly #52, "Spider God" Written by Steve Moore, art by Dave Gibbons. An eight-pager with the Fourth Doctor? Nothing wrong with that!
It's entirely possible that Star-Lord figure is going to turn up in a strip here again, since it was a figure I was pretty happy to get: I've bought who knows how many movie Star-Lords (four?) and never figured they would make this one. And it was a mild pain to finally get as well: my first order from Wal-Mart was cancelled, and I don't recall ever seeing it on shelves locally. You could maybe get it from Wal-Mart's site now, but the price has gotten a bit gougey. Read more!

Thursday, November 23, 2023

The lead story's basically "Avatar," you'd think I'd remember that.

I would've enjoyed these if I'd seen them when they first came out, but I'm a little disappointed I didn't remember picking this up already: at least, I said I got all four issues when we looked at the first some time back. The stories didn't immediately seem familiar to me when I read this now, though. From 1976, Starstream #4, featuring "Call Me Joe" Story by Poul Anderson, adapted by George Kashdan, art by Adolf Buylla; "Benjamin Franklin--'Martian'" Written by Pamela Eckard--really Arnold Drake! Art by Frank Bolle. "Does a Bee Care?" Story by Isaac Asimov, adapted by Al Moniz, art by Jack Abel; "The City" Story by Stephan Goldin, adapted by Arnold Drake, art by José Delbo; "Report to the Plenary Council" Story by Roger Elwood, adapted by George Kashdan, art by Al McWilliams; and finally "And the Blood Ran Green" Story by Robert Bloch, adapted by Arnold Drake, art by Nevio Zeccara. 

It feels like I should've remembered "Call Me Joe" at least, since the plot is strongly reminiscent of James Cameron's Avatar, as a wheelchair-bound old scientist experiments and plots to transfer his consciousness to a new body: a synthetic "pseudojovian" created to live on Jupiter. The scientist eventually achieves his goal, after shipping himself a mate. "Benjamin Franklin--'Martian'" follows an alien scientist assigned to study a certain primitive blue-green planet, and when an unlucky child electrocutes himself flying a kite in a thunderstorm, he takes the identity of Benjamin Franklin! While he wasn't supposed to interfere in human development, yeah, he kinda does, partly to cover for his other experiments, partly because the locals were "such hotheads!" His final grade isn't great, though.
In "Does a Bee Care?" an engineer struggling to complete a rocket design, has flashes of inspiration whenever he's around stargazing janitor Kane. Although he isn't helping on purpose, Kane knows he is, even if he doesn't really understand why, as he hasn't understood nudging mankind forward for thousands of years! But why, and what does he plan for mankind? This copy was missing the conclusion there, and a couple pages of the next story, "The City," as computer control orders a soldier to explore a mysterious city, where 15 others have already disappeared.
"Report to the Plenary Council" resembles a British sci-fi movie; as a scientist and his soldier attaché investigate the mystery of humans suddenly mummifying, and horribly deformed attackers from beneath the earth. But, there's more than meets the eye, even if I think part of this one's plot was in Godzilla vs. Megalon. "And the Blood Ran Green" is fairly straightforward horror, as a crew surveying a lushly overgrown alien world encounter nightmare plants: well-executed creepiness there.
I suppose I'll have to wait-and-see if I buy this, or any of the other issues, the next time I see them in the quarterbins. I'm going to go ahead and guess probably.
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Wednesday, November 22, 2023


When I started writing this one, I'm not sure I knew Marvel had a new Punisher more than teased; but it had been solicted, and the first issue was out last week as I type this. was okay? Trying to create a new Punisher seems like an absolutely thankless job. Like, no matter how you come at it, the end result won't completely satisfy anyone but the attempt still has to be made? I'm kind of mulling it over, thinking about what aspects might be editorially mandated: for example, this new Punisher is a former S.H.I.E.L.D. hitter rather than belonging to a real branch of service, doesn't really have the skull logo (yet), and uses more sci-fi weapons than Frank typically did. All three of those feel like, Marvel wants an action-y, guns-blazing book; without getting bogged down in other issues. Which is a choice, like deciding to sell hamburger instead of steak. Hmm. Read more!

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

If he doesn't get a figure in the next couple years, egg will be on my face. Or half my face maybe.

I don't think I'm one to repeat rumors, but supposedly Jack of Hearts is finally on the list of upcoming Marvel Legends figures: he's probably got a bit of a bump from his recent appearances in She-Hulk, but we're going way back today: from 1978, Marvel Premiere #44, "The Jack of Hearts!" Written by Bill Mantlo, breakdowns by Keith Giffen, finishes by Rudy Nebres.
Headed home from an appearance in Iron Man, Jack of Hearts helps a Coast Guard cutter find some sinking yachters, with the old-school flourish of slipping his 'calling card' into the captain's pocket. Jack displays some of his grab-bag of powers: energy projection, seemingly enhanced senses and intellect--his so-called "computer mind." But his power could build up explosively, to the point that he had to wear his armor 23 hours a day: he could use Tony Stark's "neutro-mist" to negate his powers for an hour. At his home, his late father's mansion, Jack chats with his butler, Martins, a S.H.I.E.L.D. scientist assigned to help him. Martins has a recent letter for him--ooh, perfumed, nice! Except it's from a Corporation assassin, Hemlock, calling him out!
Now, I grant you, I can't think of a logo or sigil for Hemlock, but Jack has one of the most intricate costumes in superhero history, and Hemlock gets...a mostly featureless black outfit: it's either an interesting contrast, or super-lazy. Not sure which. Anyway, Hemlock left his address, in scenic Ithaca, to lure Jack in and get the secret of the "zero fluid" that had given him his powers. (The Corporation had tried to destroy the new energy source, to maintain their fossil-fuel monopoly, but maybe thought it might be nice to have later.) When Jack proves resistant to his poisons, the fight carries into Hemlock's greenhouse, to his regret, as his prize azaleas become a casualty! Hemlock catches Jack by surprise with a hidden "hand-blaster" and knocks him out, but when he tries to cut Jack out of his suit, he releases too much power, and is seemingly killed, or at least knocked out. Jack's a little put out that he didn't learn anything and that wasn't much of a win, but life goes on.
Somehow, I could see that coming up again in She-Hulk: Hemlock returning, blowing up Jen's apartment trying to kill Jack, to avenge his azaleas; Jen suddenly realizing they should see other people...Also this issue: the Dave Cockrum character sheet for Jack, to try and keep him on-model. The GCD points out, George Perez was maybe Jack's first artist, but Keith Giffen had designed him. Man, I'm going to miss him. 

I got this and the Jack of Hearts mini-series from the toy show; I think they were all stamped from Lone Star Comics in Wichita Falls, TX.
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