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Magik #1 (1983, December)

Ah, here’s a big one. I’ve been looking forward to this. We find out about Illyana’s experiences in Limbo! By Chris Claremont and John Buscema, the first issue is “Little Girl Lost.”

Little Girl Lost

Kind of a dull cover, actually.

This whole series takes place between a couple panels in Uncanny X-Men #160. It starts with the 14-year-old Illyana at Xavier’s, standing on a cliff and looking out, reflecting that it’s her birthday – her 14th, when it should be her 8th. Then it’s on to the main story!

Witch Storm is about to teleport the X-Men out of Limbo. Belasco grabs Illyana, and she slips out of Kitty’s grasp, then Belasco teleports away with her. The old Storm – who I’ll now refer to as just Storm, since the normal Storm doesn’t show up again – follows. Belasco tells her to submit, and she says she will, if Illyana is released. He raises Illyana’s soul out of her body, and she trusts him. He shifts her soul into an older and demonic version of herself, then he transforms the piece of her soul into energy, which he squeezes into a Bloodstone. He places the Bloodstone into a pendant with five slots – when it’s complete, the Elder Gods will be free.

Belasco blasts down Storm, but before he can kill her, he’s attacked by Cat – Kitty Pryde. He’s forced to retreat, and Storm and Cat take Illyana to Storm’s home. They talk about what to do, and then Storm tries to break Illyana’s link to Belasco. She moves into Illyana’s mind, and finds the bit of her that’s been corrupted. The dark Illyana manages to subdue Storm, and starts to bring out the demon in her. She whips up a tempest, which gives her a chance to escape Illyana’s mind.

She and Cat talk, and Storm decides to make Illyana her apprentice. Cat thinks it’s a terrible idea, exactly what Belasco wants, and suggests killing her, instead. Cat takes off her mask and a glove, and we see she’s been twisted by magic, so she looks like a cat, and has claws rather than nails. Cat leaves, and Storm talks to Illyana, showing her the tree at the heart of her sanctum – a tree she created. She created the acorn that grew into the huge tree. She then teaches Illyana to project her astral form. Illyana says she wants to be taught to make and change things, and Storm freaks out, then explains that changing things on a whim is wrong. She shows Illyana the little bit of corruption Belasco put in her; Storm’s corruption is even greater.

Then Storm wakes them both up. A year has passed in the brief time they spent in their astral forms. At night, Cat sneaks in, knocks out Storm and leaves with Illyana, offering to get her home.

On its own, this issue isn’t really anything special. But as part of the 4-issue story, it does a wonderful job setting up the rest. We learn the biggest players – Belasco on the side of evil, Storm and Cat on the side of good, and Illyana being torn between them. There’s references to Storm having been apprenticed to Belasco, which is an interesting idea. I also like the idea of Storm exploring her mystical heritage. It’s a shame it’s never been explored in the normal comics. I’d like to see a story that touches on the fact that she’s descended from sorceresses.

The art’s good. John Buscema was better than Sal Buscema, so the comic looks great. The astral stuff stands out, both when Storm goes into Illyana’s mind, and when she shows Illyana how to astral project. Glynis Wein does some neat stuff with the colours in that portion. She probably could’ve done a bit more in some panels, but meh, I’m just being picky.

This issue is pretty laid back. That won’t last long.

Song of the day: Silver Lining by Rilo Kiley.

New Mutants #10 (1983, December)

I’m still not talking about SDCC until Tuesday. Today, from Claremont and Buscema, “Betrayal!”

Betrayal!

Cannonball looks like he’s pouting.

The New Mutants are being paraded through the streets of Nova Roma, with Wolfsbane in a throne, as the descendant of both Julius Caesar and the wolf who nursed Romulus and Remus. The guy leading the parade, Gallio, plans on using the crowd’s love of him to become emperor. Bobby’s still worried about his mother, but doesn’t want to let the others know.

After the parade, they’re shown to the palace where they’ll be staying. Rahne doesn’t think it’s proper for the Nova Romans to call her a goddess. Gallio suggests that maybe the gods were just mutants in the first place. Food is brought in by slaves, which makes them all uncomfortable. Sam asks about Aquilla, and Gallio says Aquilla’s a plebian, and a dishonest Senator wanting to become emperor. Sam immediately distrusts Gallio’s explanation, finding it a bit too slick. Sam mentions that Amara told them differently, but Rahne snaps and asks why they should trust her. She offers to help Gallio, or Nova Roma, if needed.

Gallio leaves, and Bobby uses his strength to shatter the armour he’s wearing and then collapses on a couch. Apparently, the armour wasn’t very comfortable. Sam and Rahne start bickering, and Bobby gets annoyed and goes for a walk, figuring Dani can handle them. He feels sorry for himself, and thinks about all he’s been through. Juliana’s death, his failure to save Karma, and his mother going missing. As he looks out the window, he sees a woman who looks like his mother. He rushes out, but some soldiers stop him. He gets ready to kick their asses, but stops himself.

That night, Dani sneaks away from the palace. But someone finds her. Rahne worries about her, and Bobby tries to cheer her up. Rahne mostly feels guilty for how she acted earlier. Yelling at Sam, and blaspheming with the parade. Someone behind some curtains shoots Bobby. It’s Castro, the agent working for Bobby’s dad. Castro names Aquilla as the man who hired him to attack the kids.

Dani wakes up in a cave, in just a bra and a thong. Amara and another girl are there, too. They’re brought to what looks like a volcanic pit. Selene uses her mental powers to summon the first girl. Dani tries to use her own power, but Selene blocks it. The girl is thrown into the pit, and Selene says the girl’s death gives her life. Then she asks who’s next.

Sam and Bobby help Gallio in an assault on Aquilla’s mansion to arrest him. They make sure Aquilla’s arrested, rather than killed. Gallio and Aquilla exchange some brief hostilities in Latin. Gallio doesn’t realize Bobby actually understands Latin.

Back to the volcano, and Amara is about to be tossed in. Dani breaks free of the two goons holding her, and tries to rush Selene. Selene catches her, and says she and Dani are the same, and starts to take control of her. The struggle allows Amara to break free, but Selene just slaps her into the magma. Outside, an earthquake starts. And in the cave, Amara is less dead than Selene had expected.

This is a really good issue. There’s some nice intrigues with Gallio manipulating the Mutants. Selene is creepy and evil. The final splash page is pretty badass. Most of the characters get some really nice characterization here. Rahne’s torn between her faith and her love of being a wolf, and her hatred for Amara’s neat. Sam’s scepticism is really cool to see, especially his reasoning for it – he remembers the company rep who would make offers to the miners at contract time. Bobby’s ongoing fear for his mother, and guilt about Juliana and Xi’an, is also nice. We don’t see too much of Dani here, but we do get a glimpse of her determination. I also like her idle thought wishing she had a rifle or her bow – a nice reminder that she actually knows how to hunt and to fight. It actually would’ve been cool to see more of that side of her throughout the book, but she very seldom used a bow and arrows. She did take to using a spear for a while.

The issue’s got plenty of tension, but also a couple moments of good humour. The art is very good. A lot of this issue rests on the expressions characters have, and Sal Buscema captures the expressions well. The panel of Dani being slowly taken over by Selene is really, really creepy. And, as I said, the final splash is wicked cool. It kinda makes me want to see what it would look like under a more modern artist; or, even better, in animation, because I feel like Magma’s skin would flow a lot.

Song of the day: Stars by Au Revoir Simone.

Uncanny X-Men Annual #7 (1983, December)

Some news out of SDCC. I’ll talk about that Tuesday. For today, by Claremont and pencilers Michael Golden and Bret Blevins, “Scavenger Hunt!”

Scavenger Hunt!

It’s the Impossible Man! Which means you’ll either laugh or scream in incoherent rage.

We start with the team playing softball. It’s Wolverine, Rogue and Nightcrawler vs. Storm, Colossus, Kitty, Xavier, Lilandra, Illyana and Lockheed. Colossus is up at bat. Even in flesh, he hits the ball hard enough that it pretty much disappears.  Then a ship descends on them. Once it stops, a green-and-purple Galactus steps out. Lilandra panics, because Galactus, but Xavier doesn’t seem worried, since “Galactus” said he came in peace. He tries to scan him, but winds up unconscious. The X-Men prepare to attack, but “Galactus” knocks them out and steals their house.

Chapter 2: They follow his psychic trail, and it leads to the SHIELD Helicarrier. Nightcrawler, Kitty and Lockheed teleport over to do recon. Fury and the Countess Valentina are in Fury’s quarters, for a page that satirizes the famous Steranko sequence from the classic Nick Fury: Agent of SHIELD series he drew. Kitty drops in to interrupt, chasing after their quarry, but when Lockheed burns a hole in the ship, their quarry jumps out in the form of a wooden Indian. Then Kitty realizes where she is. Nightcralwer teleports in, then teleports out with her. Val notices that Fury’s eye patch is gone.

Chapter 3:  The Savage Land. Ka-Zar and Shanna meet them, and Ka-Zar mentions that Zabu’s been catnapped. Rogue figures out that whoever they’re after is on a scavenger hunt.

Chapter 4: Avengers Mansion. The Fantasti-Car is parked in the front lawn, piled with stuff, and She-Hulk recognizes Colossus and Rogue. The Fantasti-Car is getting away with stolen clothes, but before She-Hulk and Colossus can give chase, She-Hulk confronts them. Iron Man drops by to help. Elsewhere, Dr. Strange has his mystic skylight stolen. Rogue steals She-Hulk’s strength, and Colossus takes down Iron Man. Kitty pops up from underneath Iron Man to tell them to quit playing around, and accidentally disrupts Iron Man’s armour. Iron Man asks Jarvis what was stolen. It’s the Wasp’s costume collection.

The X-Men then get into the headquarters of the Hellfire Club. They find the comatose White Queen, and we learn that she was, in fact, one of Mastermind’s victims. Storm mentions that Xavier offered to help, but was refused. And she’s happy about it. Wolverine sniffs around, and realizes the flowers around her neck are fake. They blast him with water, then turn into a balloon. Shaw busts in and fights the X-Men, and in the confusion the balloon steals the Black Queen’s outfit. Storm gets fed up, and grabs the X-Men in a tornado to give further chase.

Chapter 5: The old offices of Marvel Comics. They’re not there any more. But the Impossible Man does spot a notice saying where they’ve moved. And that’s where we go now. This, naturally, leads to all sorts of gags related to the various people who worked at Marvel at the time. Mark Gruenwald, Eliot Brown and Mike Carlin discuss Zabu’s tail until he bounds past them (confirming he has a short tail). Larry Hamas and Mike Golden talk about Mike moving to New York, and the Impossible Man asks where Stan Lee is. Larry tells him Hollywood. Neither seem particularly bothered by what’s going on. Jim Shooter is in the office of VP of Publishing Michael Hobson, and gets asked to deal with a crisis in the Bullpen. Rogue is asked to stop Impy by touching him. Rogue reflects on the fact that Storm doesn’t like or trust her because of what she did to Carol Danvers.

Rogue is knocked out, and Impy’s still standing, and angry. On the plus side, this means he finally actually talks to the X-Men. He thought they’d been playing his game the whole time. Meanwhile, the Bullpen’s left in a huge mess. Claremont says it’s not his fault, and Smith says he doesn’t draw the book any more.

Chapter 6: The Gobi Desert. All his stuff is stashed there. Some of the stash includes Magneto’s helmet, Iron Man’s original armour, a giant penny and the Millennium Falcon. And we find out the purpose behind it – he and his family are trying to decide which of them should be in charge of their new planet. Then an alien fleet descends demanding his head. Lilandra offers to mediate. She offers to judge the scavenger hunt, pick a winner, and then the Poppupians will return all the stolen goods.

Impossible Man loses, and is deeply upset. Kitty and Illyana console him with popsicles.

While this wasn’t, strictly speaking, a part of the Assistant Editors’ Month, it does seem to have still fallen under it, with Assistant Editor Eliot Brown being responsible, rather than Editor Louise Jones. It’s a fun story. Impossible Man stories can generally go one of two ways: They can be hilarious, or they can be irritating. I find it often depends on how much we see of him (along with one’s own personal feelings towards the character). This one keeps the focus on the X-Men, and how they react to his madness. So rather than being the star of the comic, he’s simply the impetus, the method for getting the X-Men into weird situations. This does make for an entertaining story, though Claremont also uses the opportunity to throw in some character stuff, like Storm’s growing hardness, and Rogue’s bitterness about not being accepted by Storm (while we get to see that Wolverine does accept her). Some of the humour is actually really good, such as Golden’s homage to Steranko.

Golden’s art is good. Not out of the usual or anything. It’s a very standard style. But it’s good. It looks nice. The few pages by Bret Blevins were similar enough not to be jarring – he had a very unique style, but he didn’t use it here.

Interestingly, even in a done-in-one Annual, Claremont still manages to drop in a plot point that never gets resolved. At the Hellfire Club, when Rogue fights Shaw, he makes reference to a previous fight they’d had. We never get any more information about that. We never see the fight, and it’s never mentioned again. That is such a Claremont thing to do.

All in all, this is probably skippable. If you like the Impossible Man, then hey, this is a great comic for you. If you want to read a funny X-Men story, then this is one of them. And I think it might actually be referenced briefly in a New Mutants Annual that also features the Impossible Man. But while this is a mildly amusing comic, it’s nothing too memorable.

Song of the day: Bang Bang Bang by Mark Ronson and the Business Intl.

Uncanny X-Men #176 (1983, December)

I forgot to review All-New Doop #4 yesterday. I’ve added it now, if you want to check. But for today, by Claremont and JRJr, “Decisions.”

Decisions

Like the decision to fight a giant squid by shooting one’s own logo.

Scott and Maddie are on their honeymoon, flying a small plane to Boragora. Scott’s feeling frisky. After they have sex, Maddie mentions that there’s a bad storm front headed towards them. Scott still hasn’t made a decision about joining his father or not. They hit a line squall that kills the plane, forcing an emergency landing on the Pacific Ocean.

In Japan, Wolverine returns the Clan Yashida honour sword to Mariko again, wanting to know why it was sent to him. She says it’s his by right, but also says she can’t be his until she cleans up Clan Yashida’s ties. It’s confirmed that Mastermind was the one responsible for Mariko calling the wedding off, but she still says she needs to deal with the Yashida ties to the Yakuza before she’s worthy of Wolverine. She further insists she has to do it herself. He understands, and he leaves, taking the sword with him.

Back to the plane. Nothing is working, and Scott and Maddie are doing repairs. Scott slips and starts to fall off the wing, but Maddie catches him and pulls him up before a shark lunges at him. Scott blasts it. He figures that, after all he’s been through, being eaten by a shark on his honeymoon would just suck. The shark drifts down, and gets grabbed by tentacles.

In Washington, Henry Gyrich joins a meeting, already in progress, about Magneto. They talk about him destroying a Soviet city a while back. The guy leading the meeting also talks about how Magneto probably could’ve succeeded if he hadn’t disappeared, and that the Avengers could likewise take over the country pretty easily. Then Val Cooper talks about the threat posed by mutants – not in terms of them conquering the world, but as operatives of governments or other groups. She thinks the US should form its own group comprised of mutants. Gyrich isn’t convinced – he points out that it may actually fit into the fears Magneto has of mutants being used and thrown away. Val thinks the US has no choice but to start making use of mutants.

In the Morlock tunnels, Callisto, Masque and Sunder are paying Caliban a visit. They remind him of Kitty’s promise to stay with Caliban if he helped her save the X-Men. He upheld his part of the bargain, they think it’s time she upheld hers.

Back to the Pacific. They’re pretty sure they’re ready to lift off, but the storm’s close enough that they won’t get another chance. Maddie tries to pull in the sea anchor, and a giant squid grabs her. Scott jumps in after her, and the squid attacks him, too.  Scott blasts it, but loses his glasses, so Maddie has to guide him back to the plane. They manage to get airborne, just in time. Scott’s also made up hi mind about his dad – he’s staying on Earth. He doesn’t want to go to war, he wants to be happy.

As an aside, my joke above about Scott blasting the logo? Jim Shooter apparently felt the same way. There’s a page with a memo Shooter sent to Louise Jones, saying how weird it looked to him. He thought it was a gorgeous cover, but he made some jokes about Scott shooting the logo.

This is a good issue. Scott and Maddie get the focus, and they’ve been together just long enough for the love to feel a bit more valid. Scott’s positively giddy about the marriage. He acts stupidly in love, which makes sense. And it’s nice to see. The giant squid is a nice change of pace, in terms of a threat to face. This issue also sets up several more plots. It continues, a little bit, the Wolverine/Mariko plot. That’s going to have a tragic finale, and unfortunately, it doesn’t wind up coming up all that often before that finale, which is years away. Mariko basically disappears from the book after this.

The first plot being set up is the Morlocks trying to force Kitty to stay with Caliban. That’s going to be a good one. The more long-term plot, though, is the one to do with Cooper’s plan to create a government-sponsored mutant team. That story’s going to last for a long, long time. Cooper’s a very interesting character. Here, in her first appearance, she seems a bit mutant-phobic. She sees them as a threat, though she does also see them as a bit of an opportunity. Later on – especially when Peter David starts using her in X-Factor – she becomes much more complex. She’ll realize that mutants are people, and become an advocate for them . . . while also seeing them as an opportunity. She’ll always be someone who uses people for what she sees as a greater good. Also interesting in this issue, though, is that it’s Gyrich who takes a more nuanced position, and actually explains how Cooper’s plan could be seen by mutants, especially Magneto. He favours not doing anything for the time being. Of course, this is while he’s also working on Sentinels. But overall, it does suggest Gyrich as someone who wants to avoid conflict with mutants. I like that interpretation of the character. I’ve never really seen him as just being a virulent anti-mutant maniac, the way the ’90s cartoon did. He’s a jerk, but he’s not really a bad guy. He’s a very nuanced character.

John Romita, Jr’s art is OK. His style, back then, wasn’t as sharp and angular as it is now. He was a little more conventional. He did have hints of what he’s since become; even then, his style was definitely a bit sharper than most artists. But he did still know how to draw curves back then, and it wasn’t really a big departure from what most artists were doing. Now, of course, his art is just plain unpleasant to look at. But his UXM stuff wasn’t bad.

Song of the day: Hold On by Alabama Shakes.

X-Men comics (July 23, 2014)

This is a fairly light week, blissfully. So let’s get to it.

First Storm #1, by Greg Pak and Victor Ibanez. I got the Skottie Young variant cover, because really, why wouldn’t you? Storm is flying above a little village that’s about to be hit by a tsunami. Beast says she can’t stop a tsunami, but Storm says she actually can, then thinks that it would just divert the problem, and she’ll require finesse. Instead, she forms some cyclones, which moves the water around the village. A girl laughs, and once the village is saved, runs over and hugs Storm. Some soldiers show up, and say mutants aren’t allowed in Santo Marco. She wants to kick some ass, but Beast talks her down, saying it’ll just make the situation worse. She returns to the school, and talks to a student who’s been nicknamed Creep. She wants to go home, and calls Storm a sell-out. She gets pissed, and in the morning, she’s back in Santo Marco. This is good. Pak writes Storm as being perhaps a touch too casual at times, but the overall personality is great. Confident, regal, and with a definite attitude. The story’s a done-in-one, showcasing both who she is and what she can do, and holy hell does it ever show what she can do. The art is likewise excellent. Very clean, very pretty to look at. This is a good first issue, and I’m looking forward to seeing where it goes from here.

Wolverine and the X-Men #6, by Jason Latour and Mahmud Asrar. Idie and Quire are in the future, and she’s pissed off at him. Evan is in the World, with a bunch of monsters. Back in the future, Future Quire explains that Evan turned Apocalypse, and Idie became his Death. Since killing Evan would’ve made Idie into Apocalypse, Quire trapped him in Cerebra. Blah, whatever, I can’t care about any of this. I can’t. The writing is flat, the art is mediocre, the story is dull. There is absolutely nothing here that is the least bit interesting.

Deadpool #32, written by Gerry Duggan and Brian Posehn, art by John Lucas. I apparently missed #31. Huh. Oh well. Ellie and her adoptive father are running from Ultimatum goons, and get on a train. Deadpool, with his ’70s look, shows up to ask the damaged Agent Preston what happened. He heads to the train station, and gets shot. Meanwhile, Dazzler is in danger from a bunch of vampires. Shiklah comes to the rescue. Preston meets up with Adsit, and we find out that Adsit saw Deadpool murder his own parents. This is another serious, dramatic issue, which is something I always appreciate with Deadpool, though it probably still could’ve used a couple more jokes from him. I hate the art, though.

Deadpool vs. X-Force #2, by Duane Swierczynski and Pepe Larraz. Deadpool does a quick recap, before remembering that recap pages don’t exist in 1863. The Civil War soldiers open fire on X-Force, who take cover. Deadpool slips away during the fight, and some steampunk weaponry shows up. Cable pops back to 1777 to tell Cannonball and Boom Boom that the US Army loses the Battle of Germantown. In 1863, he wants Domino and Warpath to hold off both sides as long as they can. And Cable goes after Deadpool. Another fun issue. Duane writes a spot-on Deadpool. He gets the humour, without it being the whole of the character. The story’s a lot of fun. And Larraz’s art is great – ’90s without being terrible. This is a fun mini, a nice change of pace from the increasingly shitty Deadpool minis we’d been getting.

That’s the X-titles. Some other stuff:

Original Sin: Thor & Loki #2, plotted by Jason Aaron and Al Ewing, scripted by Ewing, first five pages drawn by Lee Garbett, the rest by Simone Bianchi. Out in space, the Guardians of the Galaxy are being attacked in warp drive. They fight back, and they hear thunder. Angela senses that the doorway to the Tenth Realm is open, and she can go home. In the Tenth Realm, Thor introduces himself to the Angels. And then they attack him and Loki. While Thor fights, Loki vanishes, and slips into the Queen’s chambers. There’s some interesting stuff. The Queen is a rather cruel, corrupt bitch, which makes her oddly charming. The action is exciting, though I find Bianchi’s style a bit muddy. Ewing’s writing is sharp as ever. It’s good. Not great, but good.

Original Sins #4. First is a story by James Robinson and Alex Maleev. Some broker is telling his friend that he’s going to bring Doom to his knees. He was caught in the Eye-bomb thing, and learned one of Doom’s secrets, and he’s going to use it as blackmail. He heads to the Latverian Embassy, and finds out that all the people he’d entrusted the secret to are now dead. Then he gets to meet Doom. Then we continue the Young Avengers story by Ryan North and Ramon Villanova. Noh asks Kate to join him, Hulkling and Prodigy at the apartment, but Kate’s in San Francisco (with a dog). Then he tries Miss America, but she’s on a date. They just ordered dessert. Teddy chats with Billy, but tells Billy to keep studying. Noh also uses his phone to scan the information being taken out of people’s heads, and finds it’s being encrypted so only Hood can read it, then uploaded to the Internet. He wants to benefit from the knowledge. My favourite part might be the knowledge that Miss America was on a date. I like to think that after dessert, she and the girl went for “dessert.” By which I mean sex. I want to believe that Miss America got laid. And the final story, written by David Abadta and Pablo Dura, art by Erica Henderson, is at a superhero parade, with various people cosplaying superheroes. Including, for some reason, a Howard the Duck costume. Anyway, an Inuit guy in the crowd flashes back to when he was a kid, and accidentally peed on the frozen Captain America. It’s a silly story, but amusing. Overall, this book is OK. Probably not really worth picking up.

Avengers 100th Anniversary Special, by James Stokoe. After a war with the Badoon, the planet is being poisoned and America is in the Negative Zone. The remaining Avengers consist of Dr. Strange (reincarnated in a black man’s body), Beta Ray Bill, and Rogue (with Wolverine’s healing factor). Some Moloids activate some bombs. They’re under the command of Mole Man the Third. I can’t say I enjoyed this. The art was very off-putting, and the writing was too over-the-top.

 

 

Edit: Apparently, I totally forgot about All-New Doop #4, by Peter Milligan and David Lafuente. We start in 1957, with Ingmar Bergman creating Doop. Then we cut to the present, where Doop asks Mama Doop what awful secret Raze could use as blackmail. We flashback to his childhood, growing up in the deep Marginalia, a realm filled with creatures born of dreams and imaginings. Doop wanted to see the real world, and Papa Doop got mad at him and left, which led to Mama Doop beating Doop. In the present, she yells at him, and he gets fed up and demands to know again what secret Raze might know. In his memories, he finds a camera, and decides to be a chronicler of life in the Margins, until Jung told him to go to California. There, X-Statix! And then he learns his mother’s secret, which I won’t reveal. But I’ll translate the Doop speak. “Doop!” “But it it. It is.” “Oh my sweet Ingmar.” “It is Bergman.” “Who are you? Who are you?” “Bergman. The great Ingmar Bergman.” “You’re having a laugh.” L-leave me alone.” This continues to be ridiculous fun. Just a great book. Tike and U-Go Girl show up. Wolverine, at one point, tells Tike that maybe it’s time X-Statix made a comeback, and Tike agrees that maybe they will. Please please please yes! So much yes! I would love to see X-Statix make a comeback. That series was so good. Milligan’s clearly lost none of his insane talent. So do it, Marvel! Do it!

Pull list for July 23, 2014

Now that I’m doing this weekly pull list post, I’m going to be updating every single day. That’s quite a shift from the couple years of college where I posted once a week. I guess being unemployed has its advantages! Of course, money is not among those advantages, so I’d still rather be working. Someone hire me, dammit! Anywhere looking for a Library Technician, I’m begging you, give me a try!

Anyway, tomorrow. At the store, I’ll pick up Mighty Avengers #12, by Al Ewing and Greg frigging hack-tastic Land; My Little Pony: Friends Forever #7 (Pinkie Pie tries to teach Luna comedy! It is going to be so much awesome!); and Storm #1, by Greg Pak and Victor Ibanez.

I’ll also review Avengers 100 Anniversary Special, by James Stokoe; All-New Doop #4, by Peter Milligan and David Lafuente; Deadpool #32, written by Gerry Duggan and Brian Posehn, art by John Lucas; Deadpool vs. X-Force #2, by Duane Swierczynski and Pepe Larraz; Original Sin: Thor and Loki #2, written by Al Ewing and Jason Aaron, art by Lee Garbett and Simone Bianchi; Original Sins #4, by various; and Wolverine and the X-Men #6, by Jason Latour and Mahmud Asrar.

So, after the wallet-crushing beating from last week, this week’s very light. I’ll be picking up three comics at my LCS, and reviewing an additional 7, giving me 8 reviews total.

The Marvel comic I’m probably most looking forward to is Storm, if only by default. Much as I love Ewing’s writing on Mighty Avengers, Land’s constant tracing and recycling drags it down, so I look forward to the writing while dreading the art. (Luckily, it seems Land will soon be leaving the book; then I’ll no longer feel guilty and dirty when I buy it.) Nothing else coming out this week excites me enough for me to add them to my physical collection, taking up space. So Storm becomes most-anticipated by default.

Storm’s never been one of my favourite characters. I like her well enough, there’s just a lot of characters I like more. I do prefer her with a hard edge and an attitude, and that’s the Storm we’ve been getting lately. Hopefully, Pak keeps that side of her prominent. But anyway, even if Storm’s not one of my favourites, she’s definitely an iconic character, one of Marvel’s biggest (I would argue that she’s both their biggest female character and their biggest character of colour, and their third-biggest X-Man behind only Wolverine and Cyclops, and even then, it’s debatable if she’s less big than Cyclops). So the fact that, in the 39 years since she was created, she had never had a solo title was ridiculous. Gambit got several tries, Cable got multiple solos, Rogue got a couple chances, even frigging Jubilee had a short-lived solo title. (Speaking of that Jubilee solo, while it wasn’t a good book, I thought there was some potential in it. It could’ve been good. There were elements in it that worked for a Young Adult series, the problems came about from it just not being all that interesting.)

Storm was long overdue for a chance at an ongoing. And given my own desire to see more diversity in comics, I feel like I’d be a hypocrite if I didn’t at least try it, so I’m putting my money where my mouth is and picking it up. I like that they gave it to Greg Pak, a person of colour. He’s talked about how he, as an Asian-American, really appreciated Storm, because she looked different from the people around her, the way he did. Pak’s a good writer, too. Again, not one of my favourites, but a solid, talented writer. And, again, I want more diversity behind the scenes, so I’m going to support this move.

Speaking of diversity . . . Lady Thor and Falcon as Captain America. These have gotten a lot of attention. Personally, I have no problem with either move. Thor’s lost his hammer before, and others have been worthy to use it, so I see no reason why a woman couldn’t be worthy. One bit of speculation I saw – strangely, I found it in the comments of a horribly offensive and mind-numbingly stupid article on a Men’s Rights Activist site (MRAs, of course, being universally offensive and stupid, and if you are one, and you feel insulted, good, you should feel insulted, because I’m insulting you, you worthless genital wart masquerading as a person) – was that the woman could be on of Thor’s future granddaughters. That might be interesting. I’d be down with that. The complaint I have with Lady Thor (by the way, I do want to make clear that I’m using “Lady” in the formal sense, “Lady” being equivalent to “Lord”) is the costume. It’s just not a very good design. The helmet, the metal bra, the chunks of metal around her ankle, the weird slit exposing a couple inches of her belly – it’s just a weak design.

I’m also fine with Falcon as Captain America. (Or, as Colbert put it, Captain African-America. Or, the stupid version I came up with, Captain Samerica. The version a lot of people are using is Captain Falcon.) It makes sense in-story. So whatever.

The big complaint about these things is that they’re gimmicks. And, honestly, it’s hard to argue with that, though it’s worth noting that just about everything in superhero comics is a gimmick. I do find it hard caring one way or the other, since these are both likely to be reversed by thetime Avengers 2 comes out. (Tom Brevoort says they won’t. We’ll see. Either way, I don’t see these stories lasting a long time.) I do hope that both characters get their own books after leaving these identities, and I hope having the identities leads to people following them. I don’t plan on picking up Captain America, because I don’t care about Falcon, and I don’t like Remender’s writing style. I also probably won’t be picking up Thor, unless the storyline turns out to be really, really good. Aaron’s Thor: God of Thunder has been great, but not enough to get me to buy it. I do feel a bit guilty about the fact that I won’t be buying Captain America while Falcon’s in the title role, and I also don’t plan on buying the upcoming Deathlok series. I want to support diversity, so I feel bad not buying books that do that. But at the end of the day, I’m going to buy books I enjoy, and I don’t think I’ll enjoy either of those. So, oh well.

I’ll end the topic by linking to perhaps the best satire I’ve seen of the whole thing: New Wolverine is a trangender Samoan atheist. The key part is the very end: Quesada agreed that this is a lot of fuss about nothing. “Jesus Christ, people. It’s just a gimmick. It’s not like we’re hiring minority writers.”

On another note, I read the first volume of Hopeless Savages, by Jen Van Meter and Christine Norrie. It was released by Oni Press, the same publisher who put out the Scott Pilgrim books (which were amazing). I loved it. It’s hilarious. It’s violent, but cartoonishly so. It’s vulgar, but the profanity is all either nonsense words or British (which is nonsense words anyway). The main character is named Skank Zero Hopeless-Savage. Her brothers are named Rat and Twitch Strummer, and her sister is Arsenal Fierce. The story involves their punk icon parents being kidnapped by a producer who wants the rights to a cheesy pop hit the father wrote before he turned punk. It’s utterly ridiculous, and thoroughly enjoyable. The art is fairly conventional, but with just enough of that punk attitude shining through. It’s a great book, and I’d definitely recommend it (if you can find it). And it makes me even more convinced that Marvel needs to give Jen Van Meter more work. It’d be nice if they gave some work to Christine Norrie, too. And to Chynna Clugston-Major, who did some flashback sequences.

I still haven’t won any books from Goodreads. I guess I’m just not very lucky. It’s tragic. It’s not surprising, though. When the odds are one in several hundred, you probably shouldn’t get your hopes up. I think the best thing I’ve ever won was in, like, grade 7 or 8. I won a hat. A Colorado Avalanche Stanley Cup Champions hat. It was signed by 9 or 10 of the players, though I have no idea who. I can’t make out any of the scribbles. I wonder how much the hat is worth. I should try to sell it online. The thing is, without knowing the names, I don’t know how much I should hold out for. I mean, I might be able to get a hundred or so for it if there’s no future Hall of Famers, but maybe I could get more if there’s someone who ended up being a huge star. I don’t know.

Jeopardy is doing its Teen Tournament. I like the Teen Tournament, because I know more of the clues. It makes me feel smart, until I remember that these are meant for people literally half my age. “Yeah, suck on that, you high-schooler planning a career in astrophysics! I know slightly more useless trivia than you do! I rule!”

That’s probably enough rambling for today.

Nelvana of the Northern Lights

I finished reading Nelvana of the Northern Lights (which is available here), so it’s time to give my thoughts on it.

Nelvana of the Northern Lights was a Golden Age superhero, created by Adrian Dingle. The character debuted in Triumph-Adventure Comics in August 1941. She was actually inspired by stories Dingle heard from a friend of his, painter Franz Johnston (of the Group of Seven), that Johnston brought back after spending time with some Inuit people.

In the comics, Nelvana is the daughter of Koliak, King of the Northern Lights. She comes to Earth to help the Inuit against the “Kablunets” – it’s the Nazis. She works with her brother, Tanero, who can change his shape (with Nelvana’s help) from man to dog. Eventually, Tanero drops out of the book, and the focus actually shifts away from the war as Nelvana enters a world beneath the surface of the Earth, “Glacia.” After a little while there, it shifts focus back to WW2, but the villains now are the Japanese. After the war ended, Dingle tried to carry the character on as a special agent fighting various criminals, but that didn’t last long, and he abandoned the character.

One thing to keep in mind when reading these stories is the time period. It was the ’40s, before the idea of “racial sensitivity” existed. So there’s definitely elements in the stories that, looking on them now, are pretty cringe-inducing. But I honestly think that, for their time, they were shockingly progressive. Take the character of Nelvana herself. While she does sometimes get captured, it doesn’t happen very often. She has an amount of agency that one wouldn’t expect in the ’40s – hell, it’s about equal to what you’d expect of female characters today. She’s a commanding presence – she sees a problem, comes up with a plan, and anyone around her immediately falls in line. Her powers aren’t really well-defined, and she actually has no real powers of her own – she’s simply able to call on her father’s aid, and he does whatever’s needed at any given moment. Invisibility is a fairly common power. She’s also able to use Koliak’s power to wreck Nazi planes. Just totally destroy them. She’s also capable of instantaneous travel through her father’s lights. So for the most part, her powers wind up being “get daddy’s help.” But she’s also capable of coming up with her own solutions to problems.

Also of note is that she rarely gets truly surprised. She’s almost always in control, if not of a situation, then of her own reaction to it. She doesn’t get afraid, or angry, or lose her confidence in herself. This sort of iron will and self-control is rare in female characters today (slightly less rare in male characters, though still very rare). It’s interesting to see.

So it’s surprisingly progressive in terms of gender. How about race? Well, it was the ’40s, so obviously, it was horribly racist. But even there, it feels progressive by the standards of the day. While it treats the Inuit in a condescending and patronizing way, it did at least make heavy use of them, and it does feel like it’s coming from a good place. And honestly, it’s not hard to find modern stories that are even more condescending in their treatment of First Nations and Native American people. Reading Nelvana, I got the feeling that Dingle was at least trying to be respectful, he was simply held back by the colonial views of his era, and it’s hard to truly fault him for it.

Much the same actually applies to his treatment of the Japanese. Yes, there’s references to their “slit eyes.” Yes, the words “Yellow Peril” are used. Yes, there’s the offensive phonetic accent when Japanese characters speak. But despite the racism, it comes across as an oddly Canadian type of racism – offensive, but weirdly polite about it. It’s not even close to being the worst depiction of Japanese people during WW2. Honestly, it’s probably the least awful depiction from the whole period. He doesn’t do too much in the way of exaggeration of their features, and he actually does have some Japanese characters speaking fairly normally.

Now let’s talk about the art. I’m not generally a fan of Golden Age comic book art. I find most of it to be rather crude, compared to what I’m used to. I can respect that it set the foundation that’s been built on, but in the end, I’d rather look at what’s being done today. Nonetheless, there is a certain power to Dingle’s art. It’s probably because he was already a successful and mature artist before he turned to comics. A lot of Golden Age comics were drawn by people who were basically kids. Dingle knew what he was doing, and he did it well. The art is still distinctly crude by modern standards, but less so than with a lot of other comics of that time.

The stories themselves had the same weaknesses as so many other stories back then. They were very simple, and routinely had things happen for the sake of convenience. Dingle did seem to at least try to maintain a degree of coherence, which not all writers back then did. He sometimes tossed away elements that were inconvenient. (For example, early on, Tanero wasn’t allowed to be seen by the eyes of white men. But in another story, that gets completely ignored as he masquerades as a German officer.) The Glacian stories wind up being a little convoluted. A story where she and an RCMP officer go fight “Etherians” – beings who live in the ether, unseen by human eyes, and who are apparently being driven crazy by radio waves – is kinda silly. The final few stories, where she fights various criminals, are bland and feel like they’re missing most of the story. But there’s a certain quaint charm to the stories, all the same.

Ultimately, I really enjoyed Nelvana of the Northern Lights. It was a really interesting look at Canada’s first national superhero, a little piece of Canadian history. I’d definitely encourage anyone to check it out. It costs $45 for the hardcover, or you can buy a PDF version for $15. I’d like to say you can also try your local library, but even Ottawa Public Library doesn’t have it, which is insane to me. Anyway, it’s a great read. It makes me want to see modern stories published using Nelvana. Someone should make a new Nelvana of the Northern Lights series. She’s a compelling character, so it’d be fun to see.

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