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Pull list; The Big Wide Calm review

I’ve got an incredibly light week this week, after two really heavy weeks, because Marvel doesn’t know how to stagger its releases.

I’ll be going to to the shop to pick up All-New X-Men #31, by Brian Bendis and Mahmud Asrar; Silver Surfer #5, by Dan Slott and Mike Allred.

I’ll also be doing reviews on Cyclops #4, by Greg Rucka and Carmen Nunez Carnero; Inhuman #4, by Charles Soule and Ryan Stegman; Original Sin: Thor and Loki #4, written by Kieron Gillen and Jason Aaron, art by Simone Bianchi and Lee Garbett; Savage Hulk #3, by Alan Davis; Uncanny Avengers #23, by Rick Remender and Sanford Greene; Wolverine #12, by Paul Cornell and Pete Woods; Wolverine and the X-Men #8, by Jason Latour and Paco Diaz.

So, I’m picking up floppies of two comics, and reviewing a total of 9 comics.

My most anticipated of the week winds up being Silver Surfer, almost by default. I’m loving what Bendis is doing on ANXM, and I’m glad to see Teen Iceman get a bit of focus, since he’s been largely ignored so far, aside from occasional comic relief. But even if this wasn’t such a light week, Silver Surfer’s a wonderful comic. It’s been so much fun. It’s that perfect balance of humour and heart that Allred’s books always seem to have. Slott’s been bringing his A-game to the book. I love this book.

To drift away from comics for a minute, I finished reading The Big Wide Calm, by Rich Marcello. I gave it three stars out of five. Here’s my review from Goodreads:

I got this as a Goodreads Giveaway. The whole time I read it, I had trouble deciding how I felt about it. In the end, I think it was good, but not great. There’s a lot of cheesiness to the writing and word choice, and a few bits of the story that are a little too much fiction, too forced and unbelievable. The characters have a strong lack of authenticity, for the most part, and an unnatural way of speaking. The main character’s arrogance shoots way past charming and right into irritating. The talk about the songwriting process is cool, and there’s a definite passion for it. On the other hand, the idea that, in this day and age, it’s at all possible for any musician to change the world is so ridiculous that it’s hard to believe that anyone actually believes it.

I suppose, as a bit of pop fiction, it’s enjoyable enough. But it’s also got serious problems that held it back a lot for me.

The dialogue is deeply unnatural. Characters don’t talk the way people actually talk. It often pulled me out of the story. Another thing that sucked me out of the story was the story. I’m going to partially spoil something here, so, you know, spoiler alert, if you were thinking about reading this book. Anyway, near the end of the book, she’s walking with her dad and her mentor. They get attacked by three guys. In the end, she almost dies. I won’t actually spoil the details of it. What I will say is that it comes out of nowhere, and considering the rest of the book seemed to be at least trying for a degree of realism, the whole thing just doesn’t feel like it fits the book at all.

I think what elevated it to three stars – aside from me being incredibly generous, as it probably only deserves two – was the discussion of the songwriting process. According to his biography, Marcello himself has done songwriting, and the parts of the book that talk about that are easily the most interesting and the most passionate. He’s channeling a lot more of himself in those bits than elsewhere in the book, and it feels a lot more authentic.

I’m not sure I’d really recommend this book, but I’m not sure I’d try to talk anyone else out of it, either. I’m not at all familiar with popular contemporary literature, but I’m sure there’s much, much better novels about music out there. Goodreads has plenty of lists of music-related literature. So if you want a book about a musician, I’d recommend trying out some of those lists.

Back to comics. Some other stuff I’ve read recently. I read Vol. 1 of Supurbia, by Grace Randolph and Russell Dauterman. The premise is that it follows the spouses of the Justice League. The problem with the book is that it follows the spouses of the Justice League. First of all, it’s not really that original a concept. But the bigger flaw is just how lazy Randolph was when coming up with the superheroes. They’re meant as more “realistic” copies of the Justice League. So there’s a Superman who’s become jaded, cynical and a bit of an ass. There’s a Wonder Woman who’s something of a misandrist. The Batman and Robin are gay lovers, because of frigging course they are (at this point, it would actually be more original for a Batman clone to not be gay). The only one who’s not kind of a dick is the John Stewart Green Lantern – the lone black guy is the only one who comes across as a genuinely good guy. The whole thing just winds up feeling so damned lazy. I wish Randolph had at least tried to make some semi-original heroes, rather than just going the easy route of doing “satirical” take on the Justice League.

More pleasantly, I read the first volume of Courtney Crumrin. It is wonderful. Just wonderful. The stories are like dark fairy tales. One story has a boy get eaten by a goblin. Another has a baby stolen and replaced by another goblin. So these aren’t what are usually considered “kid-friendly.” But the darkness just makes them more fun. Courtney herself is a great protagonist. She’s smart, sarcastic, brave, stubborn, and hates people. The book also does a nice job satirizing suburban social climbers who are so busy worrying about their social status that they become oblivious to anything else. Great book. Highly recommended.

Also read: Volume 1 of Bandette. So. Good. It’s adorable in every way possible. Paul Toobin’s writing and Colleen Coover’s art. The protagonist, Bandette, is a heroic thief, who steals from bad people, and occasionally helps the police (the second issue has her save some hostages). She’s got style and presto. A great wit and lots of friends. The humour is often irreverent. The art is a perfect fit, as she’s seldom still for more than a couple panels, often engaging in utterly pointless acrobatics just for fun. It is such a fun, adorable book. Read it. This is also probably a great book for younger readers, so if you’ve got kids or nephews or whatever, I’d recommend Bandette even more highly.

I’ve also started doing an archive binge on the webcomic No Pink Ponies (link goes to the first strip). It’s about a girl who opens a comic shop in order to spend time with a cute guy she saw at a different comic shop. It’s a cute comic. I occasionally see a bit of myself in some of the geeky bits. There’s plenty of good humour. I’ve reached February 2011, and it looks like there’s a pretty long hiatus coming up soon. Should make it easier to get caught up. After that, I might start in on another webcomic called Stitches. One of these days, I should do a post talking about some of the webcomics I read. There’s quite a few. Maybe I’ll start highlighting a different webcomic each week, as part of my Tuesday posts.

For personal news, there’s still none. I re-applied at Wal-Mart a couple days ago. This is the second time I’ve applied since graduating. So that’s what my life has come to: I’m hoping to get an interview for overnight stock clerk at Wal-Mart. Ugh.

That’s it for today.

Uncanny X-Men #180 (1984, April)

Another week until Jeopardy is back. So now, by Claremont and JRJr, “Whose Life Is It, Anyway?”

Whose Life Is It, Anyway?

What’s the purple supposed to be?

We start with Xavier in the gym, playing a little basketball. He’s having a nice, fun fantasy, until he misses a shot. Then he’s hit with another scanning wave that takes him down. Storm finds him. She tells him to take it easy with his legs, and he talks about his college athletics, and having to give it up because his telepathy gave him an unfair advantage. Then he turns the discussion around to ask Storm if she’s OK. He thinks about how he never thought of Storm as a woman before, but is now well aware of it. It’s a weird, weird bit. Anyway, she talks about how the changes she’s going through frighten her. Xavier mentally probes her, but finds no sign of mental illness.

Elsewhere, Kitty’s playing an arcade game with Doug. She winds up breaking it by getting too high a score, and they get kicked out. The owner says he’s sick of them playing for hours on one quarter. Even in the ’80s, “good at computers” and “good at video games” were things that were grouped together. “Oh, she knows how to program a computer, so of course she’s a master at video games!” You know, it’s possible to be a computer genius while also sucking at playing video games! They’re different skills, Claremont! One is a matter of pure knowledge, the other is about hand-eye coordination and reflexes. Of course, Kitty should have excellent coordination and reflexes, so she would be good at video games. But still. It always feels a bit lazy when writers just have computer nerds be expert gamers.

Anyway, they go get lunch. He asks if she’s down because of him, and she says she likes him a lot, and it’s Ororo that bothers her. She talks abut how much Storm’s changed, and how she’s not the person Kitty loved any more. Doug changes the subject to his upcoming trip to the Massachusetts Academy, headed by Emma Frost. (New Mutants #14 is set before this comic, chronologically.) He wants Kitty to go with her, since she was a student there. She’s torn, since she doesn’t really want to go back there, but also doesn’t want Doug to go alone.

Back at the school, Colossus is chopping a tree, one-handed. Wolverine talks to him about Kitty. Colossus worries about her friendship with Doug, and worries that Doug might be a better match for her. Wolverine points out that she gave herself to the Morlocks to save him. Colossus still thinks that maybe Kitty was a dream, and that it’s time to face reality. Wolverine seems disappointed. Of course, those of us who don’t think that a 19-year-old and a 14-year-old shouldn’t be dating think that, yes, Colossus and Kitty probably should break up, because their relationship is totally inappropriate.

Storm goes for a walk in the Bronx Botanical Gardens. She’s visiting the flowers that used to be in her attic. She overhears someone crying out, and finds a couple elderly people being harassed by four punks. She tells them to go away. They decide to attack. She kicks their asses with her bare hands, then whips up a quick storm to scare the hell out of them. Then she notices that the people she saved are just as scared as the punks. Xavier calls her back to the Mansion.

Kitty tells everyone that she wants to accompany Doug to the Academy. She figures that the risk is fairly minimal, and that the X-Men can bail her out if need be. Xavier mentions off-hand that Doug’s a mutant with a mastery of language. He and Storm both approve of Kitty’s plan, despite their discomfort. Later, Kitty gets whipped out into the sky for a talk. Storm explains her feelings, the clash she felt between X-Man and goddess. When she became team leader, she realized she’d need to be willing to sacrifice for a greater good, and found herself able to match Wolverine for ruthlessness when she has to. She also tells Kitty that life is about change, and Kitty needs to be willing to accept it. Kitty refuses, and says some things shouldn’t change, and how she thought she could always count on Storm. Storm says that Kitty has to let Storm live her own life. Kitty eventually accepts it.

A week later, Kitty’s at LaGuardia, ready to fly out to Massachusetts. She notices Colossus acting a bit strangely. Once the plane’s in the air, Emma Frost walks out. Kitty calls Xavier, but gets no response. Unfortunately, she’s a few minutes late, as Xavier and the X-Men have gone to Central Park. He senses something there, and they find a giant gate. They walk in, and disappear. Where have they gone? Well, you’ll have to wait and see.

. . . Hell with it, they went off to the original Secret Wars.

This is a great issue. It’s very much a downtime issue, lots of talking, and it’s all very interesting stuff. We get plenty of focus on Storm’s continuing character development. We also see some cracks in the Kitty/Colossus relationship, and a nice scene between Kitty and Doug. The Massachusetts Academy plot will actually end up being continued in New Mutants #15. The other major plot here, the continuing subplot with the scanning wave, comes to an end, and aside from a couple bits of aftermath, Secret Wars won’t be followed up on much in UXM. So this issue winds up being more straightforward and self-contained than was usual during Claremont’s run. It’s an interesting change.

JRJr’s art is the same as usual. I’m not terribly impressed by the greenhouse fight. It wasn’t all that well-done. I’m also not that keen on how the St. Elmo’s Fire was done. Ah, well. Even the Emma Frost reveal could’ve been a lot better. One panel, in particular, just looked bizarre. Almost like she was a hologram or something.

Song of the day: Honey In the Sun by Camera Obscura (a nice Scottish band).

Dazzler #31 (1984, March)

I finished reading The Big Wide Calm. I’ll talk about it a bit on Tuesday. For today, by Jim Shooter and Frank Springer, “Tidal Wave!”

Tidal Wave!

The Punisher’s finally weaponized the ocean.

Alison’s on an outdoor movie set, watching a stunt being filmed. She chats with the stuntman’s mother, who asks if Alison’s an actress. Alison says no, but “some day.” And with this, we see a bit of a shift in focus of the book, moving away from music and towards general show business stuff. The stunt is absurd – a guy runs along the top of a moving train, knocks down two more stuntmen, jumps from the train into a moving car, throws out the driver, and then drives off a cliff. I’m not really sure the scene would be shot the way it’s depicted here. Oh well. Alison’s introduced to the stuntman, Billy. He immediately hits on her in the most obnoxious way possible, and she seems to like him, because Alison just seems to really like obnoxious assholes. As shown by her thing with Angel.

Alison then goes to check out an apartment. The landlords are nice, but they hate mutants, and say they won’t rent to a mutant. But they think Alison’s normal, so they agree to rent to her. That night, she looks through the want ads, and sees a position for an aerobic instructor. She gets the job. While there, she bumps into Billy. He hits on her some more, but she still declines his dinner invitation. She does hope he keeps hitting on her, though.

Later, she calls her manager, Harry. He tells her he doesn’t want to renew her contract. He thinks she deserves a better agent, someone with more connections in LA. This is the last time we’ll ever see Harry, Lance and Cassandra. Meh.

The next day, Billy’s in her aerobics class, and hits on her some more, until she agrees to go to lunch with him. He invites her to watch another of his stunts the next day. The stunt goes bad, because, for some reason, they decided to film it in the rain. Why? Why would they do that? That’s a terrible idea. Anyway, he winds up on fire. He’s put out, and he’s fine, and he invites Alison out to dinner, since something reminded him of cooking. She invites him to her place. She’s glowing before she opens the door, and has the lights off without realizing it. This is another nice, subtle touch on how powers would actually affect a person’s behaviour. I actually really like that. It’s neat.

After dinner, he tries to talk her into some bow-chicka-wow-wow, but she doesn’t seem into it. He feels rejected, but she makes him feel better. They go for a drive in the rain. As they go to his house, they learn that a tsunami’s heading for the shore. Billy keeps driving to his house, saying it means a lot to him because he grew up poor. This was a very, very common story back in the day. Anyway, he’s been homeless, so he worked all his life to have a great home, and he doesn’t want to lose it. He’s willing to die with his house. They start making out before she remembers the tidal wave. She leaves, and Bill follows her. But she doesn’t know he followed her, so she runs back to find him. And then she finds herself trapped against the wave. She absorbs all the sound of the storm and the wave, and blasts it.

Billy finds her later, washed up on the beach, not breathing. He revives her with mouth-to-mouth, and then brings her back into his house. He tells her he needs to work on fixing himself up, and that he’ll call her as soon as he’s changed the problems with his life. He will never appear again.

This is an OK issue. Billy comes across as arrogant, which I find annoying. Alison fighting the wave could’ve been a pretty cool moment, but the captions get a bit much, and the art isn’t particularly inspiring. In the end, what could’ve been a badass scene becomes corny. In the end, the best scene was probably when Billy pointed out that her lights were off, just because it seems like something where Shooter put a lot of thought into how Dazzler’s powers affect her everyday life. The art, overall, remains strictly OK. This is Springer’s last issue as regular penciller. As a result, this issue also largely marks the end of Dazzler having an actual creative team. For the rest of the run of this book, she goes through several writers, artists and directions, as Marvel tries to find something that works. Spoiler: They fail.

There’s one other comic I should mention. There’s a couple other comics I should mention. In Defenders #129, by J.M. DeMatteis and Don Perlin, the Defenders fight the New Mutants – sort of. Iceman and Beast fall quickly, and Angel doesn’t do much better. Valkyrie kicks ass, and Gargoyle has to keep her from killing anyone. And then Moondragon realizes it’s all fake. It turns out Professor Power is trying to brainwash them into killing the New Mutants as revenge against Xavier.

I also want to mention the cover to Amazing Spider-Man #250. It’s billed as a “Special Normal-Sized 250th Issue!” Also, in the little corner box, Hobgoblin says, “It’s great! Steal it!” I just love the cover. Avengers #241 features Jessica Drew returning to life, devoid of her powers. For the record, this “no powers” thing is something to remember for much, much, much later (5 years later, actually, assuming I get that far). Also in this month: G.I. Joe #21 – “Silent Interlude.” This comic just got re-issued last week. It’s really, really cool.

Song of the day: Gosh, Darn, Damn by Rebekah Higgs.

X-Men and the Micronauts #3 (1984, March)

Well, I suppose I have to continue this mini, now. Today’s issue, by Claremont, Mantlo and Guice, is “Mine Eyes Have Seen the Gory!”

Mine Eyes Have Seen the Gory!

What a dull, unoriginal cover.

That is, of course, a stupid name for a story. But whatever. Xavier is sleeping, and having nightmates about sending the X-Men into the Microverse. The X-Men are now serving the Entity, along with the Micronauts. Xavier feels the deaths and killing the X-Men are a part of. Karza’s Dog Soldiers surrender, but Kitty thinks they should finish killing them. The Entity shows up, agreeing with Kitty. The Entity kills Rann, and then brings him back, and then he kills the remaining Dog Soldiers. Xavier screams in his sleep, and the New Mutants worry about him. The Entity then destroys the planet and leaves with his servants.

Back on Homeworld, Karza’s concerned about the destruction of the planet, and concerned about his allies. His Chief Scientist, Degrayde (comic books were very subtle back then) is surprised, and even more when Karza orders the Body Banks closed. It turns out Kitty’s still trapped in Karza’s body, but now she’s in control.

Meanwhile, Karza-in-Kitty wakes up, wondering where he is. The Entity hits on “her.” Ew. Ew ew ew. She’s 14, dude. This is the second comic in a row where I’ve had to point out a character being 14 years old. What the hell was wrong with Claremont? And is it still wrong with him? Or has he realized that this shit isn’t right? The X-Men and Micronauts are in a dungeon. Wolverine wakes up first, and knows that they can’t resist the Entity any more. He figures it’d be better for them all to die instead. Colossus stops him, and says dying doesn’t solve anything.

Back on Earth, Dani is tending to Xavier, and he takes over her mind. This allows his astral self to leave his body, and he immediately releases her. In the Microverse, the Entity – who’s definitely putting the moves on a 14-year-old girl – realizes Xavier’s awake, and confronts him on the Astral Plane. Xavier recognizes the Entity’s armour as being identical to what Xavier wore in his battle against Farouk. Karza stabs his body in the back. Xavier manages to capture the Entity’s astral form, and then unmask it. It’s Xavier! Dun dun duuuun! By the way, this means there’s a part of Xavier that wants to have sex with Kitty Pryde. Anyway, the Entity’s victory over Xavier extends his power into the real world, not just the Microverse.

Back in the Microverse, the heroes are trying to find their way out of the sewers. Acroyear starts crying and whining. Bleh. The heroes don’t realize Karza is pointing a gun at them. And the New Mutants don’t realize Xavier’s been taken over by his evil side.

Meh and blah and ew. There’s some reasonably exciting action at the start. There’s some OK characterization throughout the issue. But mostly, it’s just a really weak issue. And Kitty’s body is sexualized way too much. I know I keep harping on this, but she’s 14 years old. How the hell did anyone think it was at all appropriate for her to be laying in just a bra and loincloth while a part of Xavier hits on her? Who thought that was a good idea? Why did no one say, “Uh, hey, maybe this isn’t the way to go, guys”?

The art is OK. Nothing special. Very much the House Style. Doesn’t stand out one way or the other. Which is unfortunate, because great art might have made this a little more enjoyable. Still, it’s hard to think of any artistic changes that could’ve been made, aside from giving Kitty’s body more clothing. The real problems with this story aren’t with the art, it’s with the writing.

Song of the day: Identity Theft by Nellie McKay.

Magik #4 (1984, March)

Time to finish this mini. y Claremont and Sal Buscema, “Darkchild.”

Darkchild

This would be pretty hot, if she wasn’t 14 years old.

Illyana begs Belasco to spare Storm, and promises to do anything. He says she’ll do anything anyway. He tells her they’re going to summon the third Bloodstone, and use it to take Storm’s soul and offer it in sacrifice to his dark gods. He gives her his dagger, and Storm smiles at her. Illyana kills Storm, and the sky goes crazy. Lightning everywhere. Belasco’s pissed, and Illyana flees with Storm’s body, back to her garden.

Without Storm’s magic, the garden starts to die. Storm’s corpse – already decomposing – climbs out of the grave Illyana made, and Illyana flees. Then she’s attacked by Colossus. She flees again, and finds herself home, at her parents’ farm. They don’t recognize her, and don’t accept that it’s her. She drops to her knees, depression, and is attacked by the corpses of the X-Men. She passes out.

She wakes up in front of Belasco. He makes the third Bloodstone. Then he leaves her alone in the wilderness, with his spells blocking her power. She takes shelter inside the massive trunk of Storm’s tree. She tries again to conjure an acorn, and fails again.

More time passes, and Illyana’s almost killed the tree, drawing on it for strength for her spells. She tries one last time, and fails again. And the tree is dead. She thinks about her failures, and realizes that Storm’s acorn was a way for her to regain the woman she was. Illyana’s not her, and she wants vengeance, so she decides on a sword. She creates it, and feels a surge of power. She teleports to Belasco’s citadel for a fight. Her sword blocks his magical attacks, and her circles give her an advantage in the fight. S’ym joins the fight, and is brought down quickly. She then burns up a bunch of Belasco’s grimoires.

Over the course of the fight, Illyana becomes more demonic, while Belasco becomes more human. She beats him easily, and disarms him. She grabs him with her tail and prepares to deliver the killing stroke. She realizes she’s become just like him. She decides not to kill him. He calls her a fool, but she tells him not to get cocky. She’s now ruler of Limbo. Then, she goes back home.

A year later brings us to the present, where she reflects on the X-Men who died in Limbo. It starts snowing, and she sees the New Mutants playing in the snow. This, by the way, is where the next issue of New Mutants picks up.

This is a really good finale. It’s a nice balance of lightness and darkness. Illyana’s realization of why she couldn’t create an acorn was cool, as was the creation of her Soulsword. The best scene was probably her fight to keep hold of her humanity by refusing to kill Belasco. It’s a well-written scene, and well-drawn. Still, as with the previous issues, I could wish for a little more use of shadows in this issue. Something to strike a greater contrast between the light and the dark. Another problem, more specific to this issue, is 14-year-old Illyana’s outfit going from a one-piece to a two-piece. It’s an odd and rather uncomfortable bit of sexualization for a 14-year-old. I mean, I know that kids are often sexual beings – even kids much younger than 14 – but just the same, this is a bit on the creepy side.

Another problem with this series was a sense of repetitiveness. That’s a problem with Claremont in general, but it’s especially notable here, as Illyana constantly talks about wanting to please Belasco, and hating that she wants to. Because it’s only a four-issue story, the sheer number of times that line of thought comes up stands out a bit.

At the end, Illyana mentions that she didn’t tell her parents what happened to her. Apparently (and according to this write-up on UncannyXMen.net), Claremont had some plans to follow up on this with a Colossus/Magik mini, but it never ended up happening. I’m curious what those plans were. It’d be neat to see what ideas he was batting around for it.

Overall, the Magik limited series was pretty good. It had its flaws, and it feels like it was held back a bit by the time it was made in. If it was done today, I think it’d be very different, and probably a lot better. Still, it’s an enjoyable read.

Song of the day: Born To Be Alive by the Morning Birds.

Alpha Flight #8 (1984, March)

Today, we continue with Northstar and Aurora, by Byrne, in “Cold Hands Cold Heart.”

Cold Hands Cold Heart

Aurora kinda looks like a disembodied head.

At the hospital, an autopsy’s been done on Raymonde, but the doctor has no idea what killed him. There’s no way to prove he was murdered. But Northstar’s not going to let Ernest go free. He flies out to Ernest’s house and breaks in through an upstairs window. There’s no alarms. He goes searching, and finds something that shocks him.

Then it cuts away to a woman on top of a hospital. She’s got a sword, and is praying to the night. Her name is Nemesis, and she plans on killing Ernest.

Back at the house, Northstar has found Ernest and Aurora, apparently engaged in a perfectly friendly conversation. Aurora calls him Jacques, and after he’s hit from behind, she adds that he’s her cousin. He’s left unconscious in a bedroom. When he wakes up, there’s a sword at his throat. He and Nemesis have a little chat. She mentions that Alpha Flight was part of her inspiration, and agrees to let Northstar help her in her mission. She says her sword is an atom’s width thick, able to cut through anything.

Aurora and Ernest are having a nice dinner, and she asks about his death touch. He gives his backstory. he was a soldier in World War 1. He was nearly killed by a mortar, but when death came for him, he fought back. As a result, his touch was instant death. He says he feels like he’ll never die. A nice moment for Nemesis and Northstar to make their appearance. Nemesis says she’s there to bring peace to the soul of her father. She attacks him, and he grabs her, but his touch doesn’t kill her. She slices him into a whole bunch of little pieces.

Northstar thinks Nemesis is Danielle, but when he pulls her mask off, it’s definitely not. We don’t see her face, but her hair is different. She knocks Northstar down, and Aurora suggests she leave before cops show up.

Northstar and Aurora go back to Raymonde’s restaurant, and Aurora reveals that Danielle was Ernest’s partner. Aurora regrets the lack of a death penalty Danielle can be subjected to, and instead hands her to the police. As Northstar and Aurora fly off again, Northstar mentions that he thought Aurora had romanced her way to safety with Ernest. Aurora’s pissed, and especially angered that he, of all people, is passing judgment on her love life. She terminates their partnership.

Next, more Origins of Alpha. Heather and Mac visit Shaman at his shack. He introduces them to Narya. Heather and Mac are a bit suspicious of her. Heather follows her that night, and see her turn into an owl and catch dinner. The next morning, Heather and Mac ask Shaman about it, and he explains the story. Mac invites them into Department H.

Another great issue. I love Northstar and Aurora. The fight they have at the end is especially great. Northstar’s a dick, and Aurora’s righteously pissed off. Her comment about him judging her love life is presumably another veiled reference to his homosexuality.

Nemesis is a really cool character. We don’t learn much about her here, but the mystery is interesting. Deadly Ernest is a rather charming villain. This is the last we ever see of Danielle, which is kind of a shame. It’d be cool to see her pop up again. Maybe if we ever get another volume of Alpha Flight.

The back-up story is pretty good. Narya is creepy, which is a nice touch.

Byrne was doing fantastic work on this series. I actually kinda like the approach he was taking, focusing on one or two characters at a time in individual adventures. It’s a good way of exploring each of them in-depth. And his art, obviously, is stellar.

Song of the day: Since When by 54-40.

X-Men comics (August 20, 2014)

Comics!

All-New X-Factor #12, by Peter David and Carmine Di Giandomenico. Quicksilver finishes updating Havok on X-Factor’s last mission, and Havok says he doesn’t need to monitor Polaris any more, and invites him back to the AVengers. Quicksilver declines. He seems to think the Avengers don’t really want him as a person, and he seems a bit torn when it comes to Wanda. At Serval later, Danger is annoyed at having to wear a uniform. She also seems less than enthused about being part of a team. Gambit – with his shirt open, because they know what Gambit’s fans want – goes to yell at Snow for leaving him behind. He admits to sleeping with Snow’s wife, Angela. Snow doesn’t seem all that upset about it. Warlock compliments Danger on her outfit, and is trying to us the personal pronoun, after Danger had previously commented on his method of speech. She gives him a kiss on the cheek. Doug talks to Georgia, apologizing for pretty much ruining her life. He lets her slap him, and then she thanks him. And then it’s time for the press conference. Polaris has one demand: No name changes. She explicitly mentions Guido deciding on “Strong Guy” back in Peter David’s classic first run on X-Factor in the ’90s. And then the press conference, which goes as well as you would expect an X-Factor press conference in a Peter David book to go. This is another excellent issue, in terms of the writing. PAD gives some fantastic insight into the characters, particularly Quicksilver, exploring his state of mind. The scene between Danger and Warlock is very sweet. Doug’s attempts to get Georgia to like him remain really sweet yet sad. The dialogue is as sharp and clever as one expects of PAD. But man, CDG’s art just does not do it for me. Every other book changes its artist after each arc, but this one has had the same artist for its entire first 12 issues, and shows no signs of changing. It’s a shame, because this just isn’t the right book for him. He’s a talented artist, but he should be on a more action-oriented book. This book needs a more conventional artist, or at least one who’s better at facial expressions.

Storm #2, by Greg Pak and Victor Ibanez. Storm and Wolverine are out for lunch, and he expresses some concern about her. She talks about being tired of holding it all in. They start to dance, but the bartender tells them to knock it off. She starts a rainstorm directly outside his doors. Wolverine leaves, with a ray of sunlight over him. Storm wanders around a bit, and sees a missing girl poster. She remembers her childhood in Cairo, and wants to help this girl. She goes to the women’s shelter the girl – Angie – had been staying in, and is given Angie’s cell phone. Then she calls Hank to get some help. He manages to track her to 300 feet beneath Manhattan, along with 3 other missing teenagers. Storm goes down, making some noise to lure Callisto out of hiding. They fight, and Storm’s hit in the back of the head by another Morlock. Callisto and her buddies run, but before they can shut a door, winds blow it open. And is pretty surprised by what she finds.  This is another good issue. It touches a bit on Storm’s childhood, and her past with Callisto. Truthfully, there’s maybe a bit more animosity between the two than there probably should be – they more or less buried the hatchet a long time ago. Storm also got to show a bit of her badass side in the fight with Callisto, though Callisto got the upper hand in the following argument. The art’s great. This is a really good book. Not the best on the stands, but a solid book that’s doing a very good job at humanizing Storm.

Magneto #8, by Cullen Bunn and Javier Fernandez. The SHIELD agents tracking Magneto find the dead Predator X monsters. The explanation seems to be that someone sold the arena the tech to identify mutants, and then MGH was harvested from the mutants. The MGH was manufactured elsewhere. And one of the techs is able to load up a computer to find where Magneto’s going next. Magneto’s visiting some dead town, a hazardous waste site. He reflects back on some of his previous life, until he reaches a warehouse where MGH is being made. He walks in, and the guards shoot up to get their superpowers. He’s hurting from the fights he’s been getting in, but tries not to show it. He orders them to shut down their operation, but the guy in charge refuses. And that’s when SHIELD busts in. This is another solid issue. The SHIELD agents are competent, and Magneto remains threatening even with his weakened powers and his injuries. The art here is better, though still not my style. But it matches the tone of the book well. I’d like Fernandez to stay on this book. I prefer him over Walta.

Wolverine Annual, by Elliott Kalan and Jonathan Marks. Wolverine and Jubilee are on a camping trip, and Jubilee brought Shogo along. She’s warming a bottle over a campfire. That’s great. Wolverine wants to make sure Jubilee will be able to take care of herself after he’s gone, apparently forgetting who he’s talking to. He waxes sentimental, and she’s her usual self. Elsewhere, a husband and wife – who her also both in the military – are on a camping trip. The husband’s grumpy. She yells at him until she gets a smile out of him. Back to Jubilee. Wolf attack! She gets ready to tear them apart, but Wolverine stops her. They were just playing. It’s more of his family. He used to run with the pack, and he keeps an eye on them. Back at the married couple. He’s uncomfortable with being touched. They start to argue about having kids. She cheers him up again. The pack hunts down a deer. Jubilee lays Shogo down, and a wolf stays near it. The couple comes by and sees a wolf standing over a baby, and the husband shoots it. Wolverine gets in the way. The couple leaves with the baby, and Jubilee has to take care of Wolverine first, and then tells him to sniff out Shogo. This is OK. Kalan has a good grasp on Jubilee’s humour. But he goes too far with her anger. Yes, she was worried about losing Shogo. But as soon as she got him back, she should’ve calmed down. She shouldn’t have been prepared to kill the guy. The art was good. Wild and creepy at the right points. Still, the story ended up being a bit chilly, especially the ending, with its talk about the role of women and shit. It honestly came across as condescending. It was meant to say how great women are, but the whole “men fight, women heal” idea is just so unbelievably cheesy. It’s insulting to men, of course. But it’s also insulting to women. Like their whole role in life is to take care of men? Bullshit. Patriarchal nonsense. So the end of this issue is total crap.

Deadpool vs. X-Force, by Duane Swierczynski and Pepe Larraz. Deadpool’s got a collar on Cable that inhibits his movement, and lets Deadpool control him. He forces Cable to shoot at some soldiers in the Box Rebellion, but Cable misses them all. Cable wants to know why Deadpool’s wrecking history. Deadpool says the US has to take control of the British Empire from the beginning. And then the Confederacy has to take control of the Union’s advanced war machinery, so that the US will get its empire on. And then the next step is to weaken China, so the US can take it over. Cable decides its time to get free and fight back. Deadpool grabs one of Cable’s guns with two big chambers, and asks if it shoots bullets or personal massage devices. Heh. Nice. Cable shoots him up, then leaves to do some triage on the timestream. This is another really fun issue. It could use more of the rest of X-Force, but it’s still good. Duane writes an awesome Deadpool. I wouldn’t mind seeing him do the modern Deadpool, actually. The story is insane, but believably so, and a lot of fun. And Larraz’s art continues to be excellent, like the early ’90s but better. This is a very, very good Deadpool mini.

That’s the X-titles. Now the non-X.

Ms. Marvel #7, by G. Willow Wilson and Jake Wyatt. Ms. Marvel and Wolverine are being attacked by a giant mutated alligator. Wolverine distracts it and tells Kamala to get on top. She punches it in the eye, and it throws her off, then prepares to eat Wolverine. Kamala grabs its tail. She’s surprisingly strong. This lets Wolverine claw it up. She feels terrible about hurting something, even a giant mutated alligator. She’s a good kid. The way out is blocked, so the only way to go is forward. He mentions not being a good swimmer, so she says he can ride on her back. He delivers a flat what. Heh. Nice. While they go, he talks to her about healing factors, and the best power being the power to get up after being knocked down. They also talk about why she’s got Carol Danvers’ old name. They’re almost out, when the small room they’re in starts closing in. Another awesome issue. It’s fun and adorable and sweet. Even Wolverine’s kinda lovable here. We get some more hints about how evil the Inventor is. But really, this is about Kamala being brave, compassionate, determined and funny. I love her refusing to accept that there’s no way to help people without hurting someone else. I have to say, I’m really rooting for her to figure out a way to do it. If anyone can do it, it’s her, and I think every time a superhero helps people without resorting to violence, it sends an incredibly powerful message. I should also mention the art. It’s great. There’s one particular page with a really neat layout – it’s not the first comic to feature a layout of that type, but it’s always neat, and it’s done very well. Wyatt also draws her powers very well.

Elektra #5, by Haden Blackman and Michael Del Mundo. Elektra is being fired on by Black Crow, but all the bullets miss. Intentionally, as he wanted to get her in close. He knocks her down, and she reflects that a more rational hero would try to reason with him. Too bad she’s not a hero. Black Crow’s a bit of a precog. He knows Elektra’s next move before she does. She clears her mind, and goes back on the attack. Now it’s a bit more clear. He grabs her sai, but gets a synaptic shock. She points out that after Bullseye killed her, she didn’t want anyone else using her weapons against her again, so she took precautions. She takes his helmet off, and sees her father’s face. She realizes it’s Kento in her mind. She decides not to kill him for trying to protect his father. And then Bloody Lips attacks her. She cuts her hand and drips some blood into his mouth, to let him see what it’s like being her. Del Mundo’s killing it on this book. Blackman’s doing a great job, too, telling a compelling story, with a really good characterization of Elektra. But man, Del Mundo’s art is just gorgeous.

Original Sins #5. First up, by Al Ewing and Butch Guice. The Orb is on Fury’s station, and Fury’s talking to him, and Dum Dum shows up. Dum Dum mentions that he still has some of the Infinity Formula in his own body. Fury feels bad, then takes Dum Dum to where a new unit is being built. Dum Dum’s dead. Died back in ’66. He’s been a series of LMDs ever since. Dum Dum’s pissed. He feels like a hairshirt – there only to make Fury feel bad about the things he does, so he can still feel like a good guy. Then Dum Dum kills himself. It’s a good story. It’s a good way of explaining how Dum Dum was still around. We’ll see if he sticks around after this, since he shot himself in the head. Next, the final part of the Young Avengers story by Ryan North and Ramon Villalobos. Noh and Teddy wake up and attack the Hood. The Hood’s subdued quickly, but he reminds them about the decryption key. The YA figure he must have a pretty decent safe period, and they assume an hour to find the server and destroy it. Unfortunately, the Hood escapes. Luckily, Prodigy’s a damned genius. He replaced the Hood’s encryption key with a one-time pad, a completely unbreakable encryption scheme. But he never knew the pad, so the knowledge is all gone. Then he gets home, and it turns out he knew the pad all along. So now all the secrets are his alone, and he’s going to try to use them to save the world. This was a really fun story. All five parts. I hated the art. It’s distinctly unpleasant. But the writing was great. It was really funny. It was bizarrely casual, which just made it funnier. The characterization was really good. It was all great. The final story, by Chip Zdarsky, is a whole lot of secrets. Gambit’s not actually French. She-Hulk never passed the bar. Rick Jones knew it was a Gamma bomb site, and has a fetish for playing his guitar while in terrible danger. Luke Cage hates both sweets and Christmas. Punisher chose to go to the park that day, and still enjoys parks. Storm dated a weatherman once and then ruined his career after they broke up. (This is the greatest idea ever, and I would kill to see that happen in an actual comic.) Magneto doesn’t control metal, he just talks to it, the way Aquaman does with fish. Frog-Man once killed a man just to see how it felt – “just kidding I’m Frog-Man.” Black Panther has Avril Lavigne CDs in his car. Kingpin actually really likes Matt Murdock. Beast has been writing a TV pitch called “Stars and Garters” about a pair of cops, and keeps saying it because he wants someone to ask about it. Jean Grey killed a planet of aliens. And thinks she also slept with Wolverine. Which grosses her out. Hawkeye said he was great at boats, but it was his first time driving one. Silver Surfer ate a couple planets when he was Galactus’ herald. Rogue can barely remember if it was her or Cyclops who cheated on Maddie Pryor. Namor pees in the ocean all the time. Scarlet Witch meant to say, “No, MORE Mutants.” (Awesome.) The Watcher faked his own death.Squirrel Girl hates squirrels. Blade sometimes kills people he knows aren’t actually vampires. Dr. Strange’s real last name is Strangowski, but he changed it because he wanted to be in a metal band. This story is hilarious. Absolutely hilarious. So silly, and so perfect. Squirrel Girl is called “the Magneto of Squirrels.” I love it.

I suppose I should mention Deadly Hands of Kung Fu #4, by Mike Benson and Tan Eng Huat. As Midnight Sun prepares to use magic to do something, Leiko Wu emerges from a big puddle of blood. OK, so she was deader than I thought. She’s got dark magic. She was the rightful leader of Skull Crusher’s clan, which ruined Midnight’s ritual. The rest of the issue . . . meh. Don’t care, really. I like Leiko. So I’m disappointed about what Benson’s done with her. Especially since – as usual – it was all done to advance Shang-Chi’s story. Her death and rebirth and turn to the Dark Side aren’t about her, it’s all about the guy who used to love her 30 years ago.

Also, The Wicked + The Divine #3 is awesome. No review, I just want to say it’s awesome. We see the Morrigan. She’s multiple types of crazy.

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