Friday, January 19, 2018

"United" should maybe be in quotes there.


Huh, when I picked up the first Secret Six miniseries, I missed an issue; but this time I got all six in one shot: from 2005, Villains United #1-6, written by Gail Simone, pencils by Dale Eaglesham, inks by Wade von Grawbadger and Prentis Rollins.

This was a tie-in leading up to Infinite Crisis, a DC event that I don't recall especially fondly. It also springs off of bits from Identity Crisis, which I remember even less fondly; but the villains are, as the title implies, getting united; to form a unified front against the mind-wiping bastards of the Justice League. One bad guy I didn't recognize signs on, "For Light," as in Dr. Light. Even though you'd think there would be so many problems getting anti-authoritarian types like villains working together, but the Secret Society of Super-Villains is not having a lot of potential members decline membership, until Talia and Dr. Psycho get turned down by Catman. Who was, at that time, a joke. In a recent issue of Green Arrow, he had been dragged off, presumably to his death, by Monsieur Mallah; on the blog we've seen him beat by the Freedom Fighters, Manhunter, and G'nort! Simone rehabilitates the hell out of the character, starting here, and quickly.

Although the Secret Six would go on, I don't think the Secret Society continued long after Infinite Crisis, although the politics of the group's elite is interesting. While Luthor and Talia seem intent on running the venture like a business, with Calculator and Deathstroke as willing, if mercenary, partners; Talia does have to play on Black Adam's sense of nobility, and Dr. Psycho seems like the loose cannon of the lot. No spoilers, but there is a traitor in that group as well, although I'm not sure you could guess without having a pretty good memory of the continuity at that time. There's also a big fight in the last issue, where it looked like the Scarecrow might have been among several blown up, but he's a bit too name to be killed here. Unlike the Hyena, yet another Firestorm villain wasted! (Speaking of, he makes a cameo as well.)

I was glad to get this out of the quarter bin last week, but now I'm not sure if I haven't read it before. Better blog it now before I buy it again...Also, I may have snorted at the appearance of Mr. Terrible.
Read more!

Thursday, January 18, 2018

A time capsule in multiple senses! Mostly in that I'm crating it back up...


We had a recent Daredevil post, that tied into an old post from way back; and we're doing the same today with the issue after an old team-up...not quite classic: from 1996, Spider-Man Team-Up #4, "Webs of Time" Written by George Perez, art by Steve Geiger and Chris Ivy, Darick Robertson and Andrew Pepoy, Dan Jurgens and Tom Palmer, and Brandon McKinney and Chris Ivy.

This series was from during the Ben Reilly Spider-Man days, which had the virtue of Marvel trying something new that nobody at all wanted. (I think. Maybe people loved it, I don't think so, but I don't recall.) That would probably be a strike against it; two more would be this month's guest-stars, the Avengers! The virtually unrecognizable, 90's Avengers! Mutated Wasp, extreme Hawkeye, shirtless Thor, teenage Iron Man. (It would be a few years before Marvel would have success with shirtless Thor...) Teen Tony gets a lot of page time, as the Avengers are trying to train him up to adult Tony's level, even though his new armor is far more dangerous than his early suits. Tony also has some records delivered, by "dark condiment." Bwah? Oh, it's Pepper Potts! Who is...aggressively hit on by teen Tony. It's borderline.

The plot's a little confusing, with some time-travel flashbacks, people getting aged, a mysterious pyramid, and another Spider-Man! Ben isn't thrilled at the notion of yet another clone out there, but that's not what this is. It has a couple bits that seem unrelated, like the opening; like it maybe needed another draft to settle down. And the bad guy ties in to both Spidey and the current Iron Man storyline, so read out of that context it might be a bit to puzzle through. (Spoiler after the break, if you're curious!) One big selling point: this issue does feature Black Widow punching Henry Peter Gyrich!


(The villain is Kang the Conqueror's Spider-Man robot from Avengers #11! Reactivated after the most recent final battle with Kang, Timeslide; it had been draining time from its victims, to power up a time machine, for his "master," Iron Man! The older Tony had been a pawn of Kang's, so the robot thought it was helping by grabbing the younger one, but it may also think it really is Spider-Man. After Quicksilver beats down Ben, Gyrich immediately realizes he isn't the Spider-Man they were after, because his costume was different: Gyrich forced the Avengers to go after Spidey, but may have wanted to cover up the robot, so he misled them into thinking Spidey had gone bad.)
Read more!

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

"Lift."


Death's Head II seems just a hair less evil looking than, say, Maximilian from the Black Hole; but I feel like he smells worse. He certainly has less respect for personal space, anyway.
Read more!

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

I wonder if the Superman Museum's liability insurance is as expensive as the Flash Museum's...


We checked out the next issue way back in the early days of this blog, but I just got this one last week from the quarter bin! From 1976, Superman #306, "Backward Battle for the Bizarro World!" Written by Martin Pasko, pencils by Curt Swan, inks by Bob Oksner.

Protesters are surrounding the Superman Museum, to voice their displeasure over Superman recently destroying Metropolis Coliseum. They aren't the only ones pissed: the Toyman's collection was on display there when it was destroyed, turning the reformed villain back to murder. (I don't have it, but in the previous issue, Winslow P. Schott, the first Toyman, killed the second, Jack Nimball.) But with the arrival of Bizarro, Jimmy Olsen points out it's pretty obvious that he destroyed the coliseum, not Supes. The Toyman didn't seem to put that together, though; but did convince Bizarro if he could kill Superman, he could have the duplicator ray he wanted. And Bizarro wants that bad, since his Bizarro World had been destroyed by a meteor storm!

Bizarro had taken what would probably be a severe head injury for anyone else, but also seems to have some new powers: flame breath and freeze vision, opposites of Superman's freezing breath and heat vision. Were these new, or just not seen often? Superman is a bit surprised by them, but remembers he and Batman had been to the future and seen the Bizarro World was still there. After Bizarro kidnaps and attempts to duplicate Lois, Supes gives poor Bizarro a beating that retraces his steps, back into space where he was hit by the meteor, and is able to see the Bizarro World still there, safe and sound. Back on earth, the cops caught up with Toyman, who realizes Bizarro had destroyed his toys, and that he murdered several for no reason. He seems a little tragic, but I think would be back as a villain before too long. At a glance, Bizarro would return in Superman #333, and he and Toyman would be in Superman #337.
Read more!

Monday, January 15, 2018

I grew up in a small town in northern Montana, and I may have mentioned this before, but the local radio was absolutely godawful when I was a kid. Anne Murray may have had the most hardcore songs in regular rotation. Top 40 countdowns were a rare treat. I don't think I heard Led Zeppelin until I went to college. So, for large swaths of my childhood, I listened to the Star Wars soundtrack (on 8-track!) and Power Records. Specifically, one LP with four stories adapting comics I wouldn't get to read for years; again, until I went to college: Amazing Spider-Man #125, "The Mark of the Man-Wolf!" Captain America and the Falcon #168 "And a Phoenix Shall Arise!" Fantastic Four #126, "The Way It Began!" And finally (although probably not in the order they were on the record) The Incredible Hulk #171, "Revenge!" Plot by Steve Englehart, script by Gerry Conway, pencils by Herb Trimpe, inks by Jack Abel.

The Power Records version ("At Bay.") actually begins slightly before the start of this issue, with Betty Ross and the Hulk trapped at an erupting volcano. The army sees them and rescues Betty, and while it had looked like the Hulk had left, he stowed away with them, hiding in a crate. Still, he might not have, even to be close to his "friend" Betty, if he had known they were going back to Hulkbuster Base. Betty and General Ross have a tearful reunion; possibly their first since the death of her husband, Major Talbot. Still, something else is up, as a soldier reports to Talbot's replacement, Colonel Armbruster, that the base was "completely deserted."

Aboard the plane, the Hulk had fallen asleep and reverted to Bruce Banner. Although confused, he finds some clothes and makes his way to the base's kitchens in short order. Meanwhile, another soldier tells Armbruster the base's radios had all been smashed as well, but since they still had the radios in their planes, Armbruster brushes it off, saying they'll figure it out after they unload. None of them see the cannon shell them from a hanger, destroying a jet, before--"Nightmare!...Not one uncrushable foe--but two!"

Ross, Betty, and the soldiers are captured quickly; and the Abomination and Rhino gruffly explain their team-up: to kill the Hulk, duh. They planned to use the Hulkbuster equipment to bring him in somehow, although it's not like it had been doing a bang-up job for the army, guys. Twelve hours later, said army has surrounded the base; and the Hulk's old friend Jim Wilson and his girlfriend Talia are blocked from entering. As they drive off, Bruce Banner wakes up from a nap in an emergency bunker: huh, the Hulk had slept, yet he was still tired, and he realizes he hadn't eaten yet, either. Still, Bruce has started to notice the base is somewhat empty, and stumbles across everyone locked in one of the "Hulk-retaining cells!" (How many of those do you need? Hulk-specific, anyway?) Bruce then badly fails an awareness check, as he is snuck up on by the 980-pound Abomination and grabbed. Panicked, Bruce becomes the Hulk again, who is confused to wake up and be immediately attacked, which I thought was how he usually "woke up." Maybe his last memory was going to sleep?

Rhino gets the Hulk from behind, but Abomination suggests using the Hulkbuster weapons instead. Seeing the Abomination packing heat, the Hulk takes off, but they're pretty sure he would be back. Outside, Jim and Talia have made it past the army blockade, and the Hulk meets up with them. They work out a plan, using Talia as an extremely unwilling decoy, to lure A & R out for the Hulk to hit; while Jim goes to get Ross and the rest out of their cell. Ross tells him there's no time for that, he has to disarm the gamma bomb first!

Abomination had set the timer on the bomb, which Ross explains was part of the self-destruct for the base, which sounds like a good way to make more Hulks, but okay. By turning up the intercom, Jim is able to hear Ross talk him through disarming it. It's not a bad sequence on the record, although Jim's "Far out! I did it!" is a bit cheesy. Up top, the Hulk had been mostly stalling at Jim's request, then decides "This is stupid," and ducks while Rhino and Abomination charge into each other, knocking themselves out. (It's far more dramatic on the record; a little anticlimactic in the comic.) With the base liberated, the TV news is there in short order--told nowadays, the government would cover that jazz right up. Ross thanks the Hulk for saving all of them, even though the Hulk distinctly remembers Ross being the guy chasing him all the time; yet it's Armbruster that attacks from behind, doing his "patriotic duty" and capturing the Hulk! He uses a clangy steel trap, that kind of reminds me of Arcade's garbage truck.

The next issue blurb here is for the Juggernaut, but the record ends with the narrator hopefully pointing out even though the Hulk was captured, he'd escape again soon enough: "He always does." That does make me feel better, Power Records Narrator! It's still available at Power Records Plaza, so check it out yourself!
Read more!

Friday, January 12, 2018

An Alan Smithee post--no, wait, I wrote this!


It's fallen out of use, but the name "Alan Smithee" used to be the pseudonym for film directors that wanted to disown a project. If the director wasn't satisfied with a finished film (for example, if they felt they lost creative control to producers, editors, or actors) they could have their name taken off it, and then more-or-less disavow ever working on it. So it wasn't a good sign to see him credited as writer for this issue...from 1995, Daredevil #339, written by Alan Smithee, pencils by Alexander Jubran, inks by Ande Parks, Don Hudson, Bud La Rosa, and Rodney Ramos.

This issue was set after Fall From Grace, a fairly substantial upheaval to the status quo for Daredevil: Matt Murdock was presumed dead, having faked his own death with the body of the doppelganger Daredevil from Infinity War. Matt was now "Jack Batlin," con man; and had a new, armored costume. That would be rolled back around Daredevil #345, but the writer of this issue, D.G. Chichester, was told he was being taken off the book, and opted to have his name taken off the last four issues he was apparently obligated to write. (We also checked out #343, from Warren Ellis, about a million years ago.)

The bad guy is the somewhat uninspired Kruel, formerly thug Vic Krueller, returned for revenge against the Kingpin, Ben Urich, anyone else he can revenge himself upon. Ben's rarely seen wife appears here, to get her skull cracked; and Ben's pretty cheesed with the Daredevil he considers a fake. (Matt has to bluff his way through Ben showing him a picture; which seems like a dick move.) The Kingpin's here too, at a low point in rebuilding his criminal empire: when his lackeys keep bringing up how great his old empire was.

Chichester had been the writer since Daredevil #292, per his Wikipedia entry, he wrote #292–309, #312–332, #338–342, and came back for #380 as well. This might not be his best issue, but it's better than the Alan Smithee name suggested.
Read more!

Thursday, January 11, 2018

I don't usually scan the covers, but rest assured, that's what sold this one.


Seriously, check out the link for the Carl Potts cover: from 1987, Strange Tales #9, featuring "The Luminous Lady" Written by Terry Austin, breakdowns by Brett Blevins, inks by Bob Wiacek; and "African Genesis!" Written by Peter B. Gillis, pencils by Terry Shoemaker, inks by Randy Emberlin.

Per the GCD, this was the first appearance of Mr. Jip: we saw him back when we checked out the X-Men chapter of Atlantis Attacks, but the GCD seems to think he would go on to be "a major villain." Uh-huh. Cloak had lost his powers, and worried he would lose Dagger; so he took them back from a mysterious figure who said he could pay later...man, kids can be dumb sometimes. Cloak again "became the cursed mad custodian of darkness," but Dagger, who only wanted a normal life, was not thrilled with him and left. Now, the creepy darkness inside of him (which may or may not have been a separate entity, referred to as the predator) needed to feed; and while he was absorbing the city's light, he needed the "living light" of souls. So this month's guest-star, Dazzler, isn't as much help as you'd think!

Cloak has just enough willpower left to keep from feeding on the innocent Dazzler; but is then beaten by Night and Day, who seem to have powers not unlike Cloak and Dagger's, and who turn Cloak over to Mr. Jip. Meanwhile, with most of their supporting cast insane and feeling like she needed to talk to a "clear-thinking, always together, functional adult," Dagger goes looking for Spider-Man. She may be barking up the wrong tree there, but she finds a different guest-star next issue...

Meanwhile, Dr. Strange is in Africa this month--an Africa that looks like the American image of it circa the eighties and probably doesn't really resemble reality, even before we get to the creepy temple that seems to be harvesting the locals. Strange was not at the top of his game here: he was trying to stop an evil he had inadvertently released, but seemingly no longer had access to 'white' magic, only dark. His new trainer, Kaluu, berates Strange for not working with the tools at hand, but also seems suspicious as all get out.

I didn't read this regularly when it came out, but I remember an issue where the two features crossover; and Strange has to, for whatever reason, reverse-psychology Dagger to save Cloak. "Let him die, Dagger! It's for the best!" Hopefully we'll see that issue at some point here.
Read more!