Wednesday, January 31, 2024

"Allowed."

I know I would get in trouble, every time I saw a Skrull change shape, I would say "ah, that's a good first try! Lemme know when you're done." I don't know yet if we're going to see more of them, though. I mean, I have more, so odds are, but...
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Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Shockin' kills me Marvel hasn't done more with this character.

I maybe bought this before, but got it with five issues of recent, modern Ghost Rider: from 2020, Ghost Rider 2099 #1, written by Ed Brisson, art by Damian Couceiro.
Part of the reason I maybe don't recollect reading this one before, is that it's mostly a reboot of the classic 1994 series, which had cyberpunk elements that were probably dated when it was on the stands, but was still a solid hook. In what used to be Detroit now stands the roads of Transverse City, which most strongly resembles the mopads from Judge Dredd. (It's a homage! Shh!) Hacker Kenshiro "Zero" Cochrane was part of street crew the Hotwire Martyrs, and what should have been a routine heist of some power cells turns out to be something else, when they find "a big, ugly droid" instead. (One member of his crew went by "2600," which is a dated reference now, by 2099 it would be like picking "Ogg" as your alias.) Said droid was the property of the D/Monix corporation, and their security specialist was getting an earful here, since Zero was his son: not any more, as he still opts to activate the truck's self-destruct. In cyberspace, Zero tries to warn his crew, but they don't get out in time, and Zero isn't able to disengage himself...
This sequence might be new, as Zero wakes up, in digital hell; but is offered an out by Blaze, "king of Ghostworks." Blaze is rocking a look close to his old mini-series, and shows Zero footage of his dad ordering his death; but he could maybe go back to earth, if he agrees to do the occasional "odd job" for Ghostworks. Zero agrees, and wakes up, in the big ugly droid; which survived the explosion untouched and was recovered by S.H.I.E.L.D. agents on D/Monix's payroll. I don't know if the droid was always intended to have the flaming skull, or if that was an aftermarket feature added by Blaze, but Zero fights his way out, stealing a hoverbike to complete the Ghost Rider package.
Zero makes his way to his girlfriend Kylie's shop, and she's unconvinced; but the rival gang Artificial Kidz believes him. Still, they don't care, since they were also hired by D/Monix to recover the droid. Although they're easily killed, Zero realizes D/Monix was going to keep after him, unless he did something, like crash his dad's inquest: D/Monix was going to come down on him, but Zero wants that pleasure for himself. He warns D/Monix to stay off his turf, or the Ghost Rider would be back... 

We've mentioned before how Spider-Man 2099 has always maintained some visibility even when not in a comic, since the costume was often an option in video games. Ghost Rider 2099 has never been able to have that sort of tie-in with his present versions; but this maybe was an attempt for them to be more than merely tangentially related. Why Transverse City was "an ode to motivation, to technology and transportation" is a mystery to me, though. Maybe mobile domiciles, to avoid the effects of climate change, probably by causing more climate change...
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Monday, January 29, 2024

"I don't like huntin' kids. That ain't why S.H.I.E.L.D. is in business." Coming up next, S.H.I.E.L.D. hunts another kid.

I hadn't read this Iron Man Annual before, but maybe I had seen it referenced, by or maybe with another book that came out a week later! From 1986, Iron Man Annual #8, "When Innocence Dies!" Written by Bob Harras, pencils by Paul Neary, inks by Ian Akin and Brian Garvey. Cover by Walt Simonson!
This was set during the earliest version of X-Factor, where the original five X-Men had a front as mutant hunters. They get involved in the search for Willie Evans, a young mutant with reality-altering powers, who had a little frog in a suit named Grunt encouraging him to act out. Willie had gotten abducted by the government, and taken to Project: Pegasus to be experimented on. Current Pegasus security head Michael "Guardsman" O'Brien isn't keen on that, and neither is Iron Man when he sees some of that on a visit to drop off a new project. When the inevitable superhero fight happens, there are of course hurt feelings on both sides: while Willie was dangerous and had accidentally-on-purpose hurt some people, that didn't mean he was now a lab rat, he still had rights...I'm sorry, I can't even finish that sentence. Even good soldier Michael is sick of this, and thinks they've stretched the definition of "national security" too far. I have bad news for him, about every year since then.
Nick Fury and Reed Richards get marginally involved in the search for Willie later; neither of them happy about it but not seeing how to de-escalate the situation, either. (Willie had appeared in an earlier issue of Fantastic Four.) Anyway, Grunt turns out to be a manifestation of Willie's own anger, a way for him to vent the guilt he felt over killing his mother. Willie turns on Grunt, killing it and himself; although a sad Grunt spends the end of the issue on Willie's grave, promising to make them pay...He hasn't yet, to the best of my knowledge, but I'm more worried about how this reminded me of another book: from a week later, Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #118, "Ashes to Ashes" Written by Peter David, pencils by Mike Zeck, inks by Bob McLeod.
Because this was a Peter David book, there were more jokes here, starting with the Foriegner, disguised as a bum, stopping by to visit the Kingpin. They have a bit of lunch, and sniping with each other, as they discuss recent events in this title and Daredevil. ("Born Again" had just wrapped, I think.) They also hear an explosion downtown, which annoys the Kingpin, since he didn't have any scheduled: it was "orchids," to the Foriegner's ex-wife. I remain 100% convinced that was supposed to just be a throwaway joke, but later stories indicated his ex was Silver Sable!
But, the main point this issue, was young Alex Woolcot: his teacher catches up with Peter at the Daily Bugle. They had seen the boy was abused, and the boy's father had threatened them when confronted; and both had since disappeared. The teacher asks Peter to contact Spider-Man; snarkily, Peter asks, how? Signal-watch? This was 100% not his problem, he was trying to quit being Spider-Man, of course he's going to get involved. What they didn't know, though, was that Alex was right outside, and oh yeah, his dad was dead as hell. Monkeying around with his dad's weird science experiment ("What is your fascination with my forbidden closet of mystery?") Alex now had occasionally glowy-hands and disentegration powers. He gets spotted by the cops, who think he's a truant they can scare back to school, which of course leads to a blowed-up cop car. The cops call it in, with one suggesting X-Factor get involved, but someone else fields this one: some S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, who seem to be looking for glory while Fury was away.
Following the explosion, Spidey finds Alex, and quickly gets a sinking feeling what happened to his dad. There is another fun bit, as Spidey perches on a building he thinks was "abandoned" and scheduled for demolition; a common cliche then; only to find the building packed! S.H.I.E.L.D. shows up on the scene, with a helicopter full of Mandroids: Alex stands his ground, and fries one of those "dumb robots" before realizing there was a guy in there. (The bacon scent would be a clue! Ah, he'll live.) Lethal force is authorized, and Spidey has to help Alex escape, even though he doesn't think he can control him. Spidey's a bit of a scold, too; telling Alex he shouldn't have run; but Alex tells him he almost got sent to jail when he was six for stealing a superball, and last week he disentegrated his dad; what would they do to him for that? (Thank you, Scared Straight.) After getting the Mandroids to shoot each other, Spidey nearly has Alex calmed down, just in time for a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent to empty his gun into Alex's back.
His Spidey-sense went off a little late there, but should it have gone off at all? He wasn't in danger! The agent driving is heard to say, Fury would have their heads; which feels like backpedaling: just a couple bad apples, right? And if you told me there was another comic that same month with another kid killed, I kinda wouldn't be surprised? Maybe at the scheduling, more than anything? I was thinking Fury might mention S.H.I.E.L.D.'s track record versus little kids, but that wasn't here, anyway. These were probably tapping into the times, the fear that kids were becoming killers; but Marvel maybe wasn't quite ready for that story with guns. Or, maybe kid death is a cheap and easy way to make your heroes feel bad, and not winning in the end was so adult, right? Ugh, I have to stop, before I find a Power Pack issue from that month with a double-digit body count... Read more!

Friday, January 26, 2024

Kinda didn't think there would be that many stories or covers for this series that were this literal, but hell, maybe? From 1981, Secrets of Haunted House #41, featuring "Castle in the Attic" Written by Bob Rozakis, pencils by Greg LaRocque, inks by Vince Colletta; "Canine Conniptions" Written by Robin Snyder, art by Noly Zamora; "House at Devil's Tail!" Written by Jack C. Harris, art by Steve Ditko; "Time Piece" Written by Wyatt Gwyon (Martin Pasko!), pencils by Charles Nicholas, inks by John Celardo; and "The Blood Curse of Maule's Well!" Written by Bob Rozakis, art by Dan Spiegle. Cover by Joe Kubert!
Hmm, so was the titular "Haunted House" different than DC's House of Mystery or the House of Secrets? Abel traditionally lived in the latter, but he's presenting today's stories; but there's not a lot of continuity in any of these: it may or may not be the same House. Anyway, in "Castle in the Attic" a young dad goes on an unexpected trip when he checks out his attic, and finds along with pink fiberglass insulation, a castle! Complete with a giant, and monsters; but luckily his son is more prepared to deal with them, advising dad to stay outta the attic unless he gets strapped.
"Canine Conniptions" is almost literally a shaggy-dog story, but is at least short. "House at Devil's Tail" isn't real long, either: an escaped killer tries to hide out in the titular house, named after the windy-road it sat at the end of...or for another reason? "Time Piece" is a time-loop number, set in the far-off future of...2000? It's three pages of predetermined nonsense, try this instead: Finally, "The Blood Curse of Maule's Well!" was a Mister E story: he was created by Bob Rozakis, and I suspect was intended to play a similar role to say, the Phantom Stranger or Doctor 13; but later writers...usually went in a different direction with him. The blind vigilante visits Salem, where some of the tourists are kind of dicks "...what is a blind man doing on a sight-seeing tour?" He's doing nunya. Nunya business, lady! Geez, maybe I get why he went bad. Anyway, Mister E foils a rather Scooby-Doo scheme involving water turning into blood, but enough weird stuff happens that the paranormal may or may not be involved; and his two assistants are like two steps behind the whole way, but I guess they're his ride home.
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Thursday, January 25, 2024

It's not an encouraging start when I buy a book from the quarter-bin, because I'm pretty sure I've bought it before but don't remember? But, this one made me mad on the first page, feels like that I should'a recalled? From 1995, the Inhumans: the Great Refuge #1, written by Skip Dietz, breakdowns by Robert Brown, finishes by Rey Garcia. Mark Gruenwald is credited at "Editor in waste," and if that's a dig at him, I don't cotton with that.
This was a 64-page one-shot, and as was often the case, I wonder if maybe this wasn't intended for Marvel Comics Presents: there weren't chapter breaks, but it seems to read in 8-page chunks. That's something to do while reading this one, since the remit appears to have been "make the Inhumans as 90's as possible." It was the style at the time, OK? The coloring doesn't help, since some of the Kree were supposed to be blue, and weren't consistently.
The remnants of a Kree armada arrive at the Blue Area of the moon and Attilan, not as invaders, but as refugees. Are they on the level, or plotting against their former experiments? A rogue faction attacks Black Bolt and the exiled royal family, and a Kree boy shoots an Inhuman kid; then some Kree steal the Terrigen Mists, because those will work on them now, after Operation: Galactic Storm. Two Kree get powers, while another explodes, so it's not across the board. 

Well, at least this doesn't end with Black Bolt taking the throne again, because him losing it or getting it back makes up a staggering percentage of Inhumans stories. Maybe I'll remember reading this, the next time I see it in the bins.
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Wednesday, January 24, 2024

"Treaty."

This isn't the usual Star-Lord, but still seems to know Rocket at least in passing. Or, it's entirely possible Rocket has a podcast or something, largely about how much 'earsh' sucks: bad food, smelly, everyone is at least slightly dumb at best... Read more!

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

So far we've seen three of the four Batman Legends of the Dead Earth annuals, and I couldn't tell you if they were written or came out in any order, but appropriately enough, this feels like the last one, since we're going all the way out to the end of the universe: from 1996, Batman: Shadow of the Bat Annual #4, "King Batman" Written by Alan Grant, pencils by Brian Apthorp, inks by Stan Woch.
This one has possibly the most interesting framing device of any of the LotDE stories I've read yet: it's nearing the heat death of the universe, as the last star is about to burn out, and the last sentient being left, is basically Satan. Evil won in the end, and for what? Nothing. Literally, nothing: instead of the universe evolving into something better, capital-E Evil has won, and 33 billion years are for nothing. So, Evil's victory, feels a little hollow. But, does he have to go out like that? Could he possibly make a change in the past and shift the cosmic balance? Possibly more out of stubborn resistance than anything, he opts to try it, reaching back to a distant world, and the start of the reign of terror of lizard-king Ophos Arkayos. Technically, Ophos might be a liberator: he tells his armies, when humans came to his world, the divided and disorganized lizards were oppressed; but we see him decapitate city-hero Starman, then order all the citizens of Finger City over the age of nine be butchered, with the kids saved for later snacking...it's a mixed bag. Only Nu-Gotham remains, and if the lizards get that, they also get spaceships, which doesn't bode well for the rest of the universe.
In Nu-Gotham, lizard spies, in front of a poster with a lizard on it that says "Beware of Spies," meet a collaborator, a Nu-Penguin. Luckily, this city's hero was a Nu-Batman, with a regal ax-staff weapon, and "the light of justice!" A "photonic flash" that would make the recipient temporarily conscious of all the horrible things they had ever done. Sounds terrible, like suddenly remembering something stupid you said once in the middle of the night. Batman returns to the royal palace, where young Robin greets his father, King Bruce, "the hero of the whole city!" Bruce's face at the sound of that...Bruce also doesn't seem like a tactical expert, deferring to his retainer, Richard. Ophos approaches Bruce's duke, Alfredo, with an offer: surrender, and free passage for himself and the royal family. Evil tries to use what power it had left, to sway Alfredo's decision, to give up; but Alfredo says no deal.
Readying for battle, Evil tries to sway Bruce or Richard: the Batman would be at the forefront, a target for every lizard on the planet, but he can't abandon Gotham. Evil knows what happens next, though: Batman leads his forces, to a bloody defeat. The lizards will take to space and put the universe to the sword, speeding up the end of everything. Sure enough, Gotham's forces think they have the lizards beat, walk into a trap before Batman can stop them, and get shredded. Batman dies a death that's only surprising in its relative bloodlessness: I'd have thought lizards would tear him into giblets. And Evil had only one small hope left, as Robin finds, in a dark room, his father: Richard had been the Batman for him, and had for years. Would Robin hate his father for being a coward...? Surprisingly for Evil, no.
To make amends to his friend and his city, Bruce suits up for real now, and challenges Ophos Arkayos to mortal combat. Bruce is completely outmatched, but manages to get Ophos with the light of justice, spurring remorse in even a lizard's brain. The lizards are stunned and defeated, and Evil wonders, did that turn the tide? Nope, universe still ending, and now he felt like more of a loser for trying. But, a new Big Bang kicks off something new, and maybe better. Although, I thought you were supposed to see a giant hand when the DC universe was created...
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Monday, January 22, 2024

Give a Hulk a fish...I don't know, he eats it raw, like a geek?

Still, probably easier than teaching the Hulk to fish, I suppose.
From 1976, Hulk Annual #5, "And Six Will Crush the Hulk!" Plot by Len Wein, script by Chris Claremont, pencils by Sal Buscema, inks by Jack Abel. 

I was surprised to see Claremont's name in this one, I didn't think he had written Hulk before. I was also surprised somebody cut the coupon for the Spider-Man Action Water Glove out of this ratty copy; I hope they enjoyed it! This was what I was thinking of when I had the Xemnu figure out a while ago, a greatest-hits for the Hulk, but he maybe hadn't hit some of these guys before. And he might not have hit them yet, really, since most of the monsters in this one are re-creations, duplicates of previous alien visitors to earth, created by an unseen foe with distinctive word balloons. After the usual army skirmish, Hulk has to face all comers, starting with Diablo--not the alchemist, but a ssssmack-talking sssmoke monssster with unfortunate sssibilance. He's talking out of the other side of his mouth when he realizes, oh crap, the Hulk can hurt him. Next is Taboo--not the one from Werewolf by Night, this was a big mud-monster; then Groot, the Monster from Planet X! By this point, even the Hulk has noticed they're all kind of the same?
Maybe that will help the Hulk appreciate the next one more: Goom! He's...original, you have to give him that. 
The Hulk is drained after each win, but also savvy enough to use techniques that worked for him before in these fights. On the other hand, he seemingly doesn't know the word "rain," so..."water from sky"? Really, Hulk? Next is the electricity monster Blip, which the Hulk thinks is his semi-regular foe Zzzax; before the creator of these knock-offs: Xemnu the Titan! Or, "White-Thing!"
While Xemnu drained a lot of energy from the Hulk, he also pissed him off, a lot, making him stronger than ever. After a short fight, the two wreck a dam and Xemnu is seemingly washed away, and the Hulk is left victorious. And lucky, because who wants to smell that wet fur? I bet it's awful. Anyway, while it's fun to see the old-school monsters, all the fights are the same: "Green cretin, your pathetic strength is no match for my might!" And so on, until they realize the Hulk can reach them, and does.
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Friday, January 19, 2024

I'm still surprised he hasn't turned up in the MCU--no, not Korvac.

After all, Korvac doesn't get the cover this issue, even as he draws "First Blood!" From 1978, Avengers #168, written by James Shooter, pencils by George PĂ©rez, inks by Pablo Marcos.
The Avengers were returning from the S.H.I.E.L.D. space station, with most of the original Guardians of the Galaxy visiting from the future: Vance Astro had to stay on the Guardians' ship in space, since if he encountered his younger self it would have bizarre effects, between his psychokinetic powers and time distortion. The Quinjet returns to Avengers' Mansion, to find the alarms going off--all of the alarms. Even though the house was probably soundproofed, it feels like it'd be heard in a six-block radius. The team finds their rooms searched and tossed, as well as Jarvis tied up, by government-issue asshole Henry Peter Gyrich. Gyrich was from the National Security Council, and felt the team was maybe abusing, or not deserving, their "A-1 security clearance," possibly because he was able to get in through a big-ass hole in the wall. Even when Gyrich has a point, he's still a colossal dick: it's generally impossible to take his side, ever. He also harps on the team members that didn't have security clearance (Wonder Man!) as well as the four new weirdos. (For the Guardians, this is like when you were a kid, at a friend's house, and they get chewed out by their folks.)
Captain America and Iron Man had not been getting along at this point, and Cap calls Shellhead on "treating your chairmanship like a part-time job!" Cap didn't know Iron Man's secret identity at that time (I think Thor was the only team member that maybe did know?) and considered him "moonlighting," since being Tony Stark's bodyguard had to be a full-time job. When it comes to blows, the Scarlet Witch steps in, pointing out the team might not have had a great batting average lately, but Cap hadn't been hitting on all cylinders himself. (To mix some metaphors!)
Hawkeye and the time-displaced Two-Gun Kid make a brief appearance, where Two-Gun mysteriously disappears. Back at Avengers' Mansion, Starhawk has also disappeared: the other Guardians were kind of used to him taking off on his own, and don't seem especially concerned. They should be. As Aleta--half of Starhawk--she visits a nondescript home in Forest Hills, home of Carina and Michael...Korvac. Both Starhawk and Korvac had cosmic-level perceptions, and recognized each other immediately. Starhawk was gambling Korvac wasn't yet ready for him; while Korvac recognized Starhawk as one of the few that could perceive him, and had to head that off. The fight was more than merely physical, stretching into astral planes; although locally it did a number on the weather and triggered Peter Parker's Spider-sense. (This might've been the first time some big cosmic scuffle triggered that!)
Korvac manages to defeat Starhawk on multiple fronts, triggering further cosmic shocks felt by Doctor Strange, Captain Mar-Vell, and the Silver Surfer; before Korvac kills him. It's a clean victory for Korvac, since while those few heroes felt something off, none of them--or the higher powers of the universe--yet knew he was there. To keep his presence secret, he then resurrects Starhawk, exactly as he (and Aleta) was, except for one minor change: Starhawk would not remember this encounter, nor would he be able to perceive Korvac later. (Colossal plot point siren sounds!) Korvac's plan would continue, and this plotline wouldn't wrap until #177, although there was a fill-in or two in there. Read more!