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New Mutants #49 (1987, March)

I also posted a pull list post today. Follow me on Twitter (@XMenXPert). Today, by Claremont and Blevins, “Ashes of the Soul.”

Ashes of the Soul

Yeah, gee, I wonder who that shadowy figure could possibly be.

Doug is riding rocket-skateboard Warlock, being chased by Arbitrators. It’s a futuristic city they’re in. The Arbitrators wear uniforms much like the New Mutants do. During the chase, Warlock and Doug fly off, and the Arbitators’ car goes off the skyway, forcing Doug and Warlock to rescue them. Then they fly off, leaving a spraypainted message on the wall that “Humans are people too.”

Then we go to Heroes Plaza, the former Xavier school, where statues of some of the X-Men are out front. We get a history lesson. After Xavier was killed by federal troops, Magneto took over the school, and he apparently did stuff. Dani is looking at a statue of herself, jealous of how good it looks and wondering if she should change the future when she gets back to her own time. It’s a pretty nice moment. She shares another one with Sam, saying she’d always hoped they’d live to a ripe old age, and the plaques saying most of them don’t. Sam also notes that almost everyone they’ve seen in Uptown is a mutant, and Dani says the only humans they’ve seen are slaves.

Later on, Dani almost gets arrested stealing supplies from a hospital. She escapes, but has to leave the supplies behind. Sam picks her up in a car and they head to Downtown, an old and run-down area. Some Arbitrators come into Downtown and grab a couple kids who’ve been identified as mutants. The mother tries to stop it, but gets knocked out the building, and falls to her doom. But she’s caught by Katie Power! Using the Lightspeed power. She’s old now.

The mysterious Chief Arbitrator gets an update on what’s happening, and decides he and his lady will be accompanying the strike force going into Downtown. Back Downtown, Dani is pissed at the whole situation, feeling it’s similar to Indian Reservations. Katie’s a little more philosophical about the whole thing. Some more young mutants arrive, and Katie introduces them as the New Mutant Bratpack. One of them has wings, and calls himself Archangel. Which is funny, since Archangel hasn’t actually appeared in the comics, yet. We’re still a few months away from that. Just a funny little coincidence. Presumably, in-universe, the character is named after the X-Men’s Archangel, even though that’s probably not what Claremont was going for. Anyway, Dani immediately crushes hard on Archangel. And Katie explains she hopes to reignite Xavier’s dream of coexistence. Then – attack! The attack includes volcanic eruptions. Then a shadowy guy takes down Sam. The Mutants are forced to surrender.

Then, a flashback to a young Magneto and his family being shot by guards and tossed into a grave, and then clawing his way out of it. Magneto in the present wakes with a scream. He reflects that, after his survival, he was sent to Auschwitz. He thinks some more about the Hellfire Club’s invitation to join as White King.

Back in the future, the Chief Arbitrators meet with the captured Mutants. It’s Bobby and Amara. Obviously. Dani yells at Bobby, and Bobby says she doesn’t know what happened. There was a big war, which was won because of the alliance Magneto made with the Hellfire Club. After the war, the Lords Cardinal stopped other mutants from wiping out humanity, and then gave humanity a place to live, Downtown, while mutants built themselves Uptown. While they argue, Warlock – who’d merged with Doug earlier – slips a tiny piece of himself through the force field they’re held in, and severs a wire to disrupt the field. The Mutants tell Katie to get out of there and continue the fight, while the Mutants get recaptured. Then more debate between Dani and Bobby. Bobby says the humans oppress themselves and blame mutants, but Dani doesn’t buy it. So Bobby decides to just have their beliefs altered telepathically. Way to be a villain, Bobby.

This issue is much better than the previous one. Because this issue actually says something. The previous issue was a typical “bad future” where mutants are being wiped out. Nothing we haven’t seen before. But this one? A future where mutants have won, and have become the oppressors? That’s new. That’s fresh. It’s notable that Bobby and Amara are the ones that rule this world. They’re both people born into wealth and power and privilege. They’re the most arrogant of the Mutants. So it makes sense that they would be less interested in the plight of ordinary humans. So while the previous issue didn’t provide much to think about, this one provided a lot to think about, and was just a great issue, with a lot of great Dani stuff going on, too.

So, the writing on this issue was great. How about the art? Well, that’s where it gets tricky. Bret Blevins has a very distinctive, and very unusual, art style. It’s very much a matter of taste. It’s also the kind of art that works better on some books than others. It worked great in Power Pack. But did it work here? I’d say probably not. I actually do like his art. It’s very cartoony, and very expressive, and very fun. The opening splash page is fantastic. I’ll just post it here:

New Mutants #49

That does look like fun.

See, something like that? Blevins is great at moments like that. At capturing sheer fun and joy. So in stories that are supposed to be fun, Blevins is perfect. Which isn’t to say he can’t do drama really well, too, as Power Pack could get pretty dramatic, but that was still a kid-friendly book, so Blevins’ art worked perfectly to match the writing. But this is a bit heavier an issue. And while Blevins does really good work, I’m not sure he was the right match for the issue. He’ll take over as main artist on New Mutants fairly shortly, and I do like his run there. But I think I would’ve gone for a different artist on this issue, someone a little more conventional.

Still, all in all, this is a great issue. Easily the best of the Mutants In Time arc.

Pull list for December 2 2015

I’m off tomorrow, so reviews as normal.

I’ll go the store for: All-New All-Different Avengers #2, by Mark Waid, Adam Kubert and Mahmud Asrar; Extraordinary X-Men #3, by Jeff Lemire and Humberto Ramos; My Little Pony Friends Forever #23, by Ted Anderson and Tony Fleecs.

I’ll also review: All-New X-Men #1, by Dennis Hopeless and Mark Bagley; Vision #2, by Tom King and Gabriel Walta.

So that’s 3 comics I’m picking up, and 4 reviews. Probably. A light week.

I’m most excited for ANAD Avengers. The first issue was pretty good, and I’m optimistic about the series. EXM is on thin ice with me. It hasn’t been wowing me enough, and I’m close to dropping it, at least physically.

My pull list for December: ANAD Avengers #2, Extraordinary X-Men #3, Hellcat #1, Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur #2, Angela #3, (maybe) Extraordinary X-Men #3, New Avengers #4, Silk #2, Ms. Marvel #2, Squirrel Girl #3, Ultimates #2, Spider-Man 2099 #4. 12 titles. Small month, since I’m still waiting for a few other books to launch. Well, I’ll need the extra money for Christmas, anyway.

I’ve read a few things over this past week. Things I got through Kickstarter. I read the first two issues of Like Father Like Daughter, by Kathryn Calamia. It’s not very good, truth be told. It’s a standard premise, but reasonably interesting. But there’s a lot of problems. The art is fairly weak, though not the weakest part. There’s some odd characterization. But the most frustrating thing, for me, was all the errors. There were speech bubbles in the wrong panels entirely. That’s a pretty glaring problem, and not something that ever should have been allowed to happen. It marks this, even more than the writing and art, as the work of an amateur. And while there’s nothing wrong with that, Calamia is trying to be a professional, so she needs to hold herself to a much higher standard.

Much better was Dates! An Anthology of Queer Historical Fiction. Here’s my review from Goodreads:

This is great. It’s a bunch of short stories from throughout history, with positive depictions of LGBTQ+ (queer) characters. A key point is that the stories are positive. There’s no one being killed or hurt, there are no stories where two people in love are forced apart, nothing like that. These stories aren’t about how hard it’s historically been to be queer. It’s just historical fiction with queer protagonists, and that’s wonderful. I’m straight, myself, but I’m a supporter of diversity, which is why I backed the Kickstarter for this book.

Premise aside, the stories are also all really good. There’s a wide variety to them. They range from cavewomen to ancient Greece to the Roaring Twenties to Stalinist Russia to Ancient Ireland. And a lot more. There’s gay men, lesbians, transgender people, asexuals, agender people, and more. Some stories are about romance, some are about self-discovery. Some are heartfelt and touching, some are just silly fun. There’s a lot going on, basically, and it’s pretty much all great. A lot of different writing and art styles.

If you like positive queer representation, or if you like good comics, this is definitely worth checking out.

But wait! It gets better! Hopeless Savages: Break. My review:

So. This book. I read the first three volumes of Hopeless Savages a couple years ago (Ground Zero was my favourite). I’ve enjoyed some other work by Jen Van Meter. And I love artist Meredith McClaren’s webcomic, Hinges. So I’ve been looking forward to this one for pretty much this whole year. And I was not disappointed. The wait was worth it, even with the unfortunate delay. This is a damned good comic. Van Meter’s writing is fantastic. She can do fun and funny, she can do sweet and touching, and she can do heart-wrenching and painful. She does it all here, and it’s all done wonderfully.

The story follows Skank Zero Hopeless-Savage as she goes on tour with her band, the Dusted Bunnies. They find some rivals on the road, and run into a lot of problems. Meanwhile, the rest of her family is also having their own problems. But even with all the troubles, we still get to see love and friendship and family. And it’s really, really nice.

The art is fantastic. There are flashbacks done by Christine Norrie, who’s been with this series from the start, as the primary artist on the first volume, and sectional artist on the other two. The flashbacks are some of the sweetest moments of the comic. The primary artist here is Meredith McClaren, and her style is a perfect match for Van Meter’s writing. It’s really good at conveying emotion, and gets very intimate. It also does motion and energy well, which works especially well for the musical scenes. She gives the feel of a bad delivering an awesome performance. And then she also does a great job showing people going through serious emotional moments. It’s a very odd style, very unrealistic, and she exaggerates even more than usual at moments (a panel of Zero with massive eyes was both creepy and hilarious), but it works great for the book, which is odd and exaggerated as it is.

This is an amazing comic and you should totally buy it.

It’s such a great book. If you follow me on Twitter, you may have noticed me gushing about it. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. Van Meter and McClaren are on fire (as is Norrie, for her sections). It’s such a strong comic. Read this. Don’t deny yourself the awesomeness. Bug your local library to get a copy if you have to, but this is a must-read comic.

My Little Pony wrapped up its fifth season on Saturday. It was a good finale. I liked the return of Starlight Glimmer, functioning as a bookend to the season. Also, she was a great antagonist. She had enough in common with Twilight Sparkle to work as a foil, and she became a threat not through overwhelming power, but through hard work and planning. And it might be the X-Men fan in me, but I do like a good time travel and alternate world story. And then the final shot of the season was a nice shot of the cast, including all the beloved background characters. A nice little nod to the fans. So, yeah, it was a nice finale. Now I just need to wait to hear when Season 6 will air. In the meantime, it’s about time I got back to my DS9 rewatch.

And on a totally different topic: Apparently, a few days ago, the porn star Stoya stated that her ex-boyfriend and fellow porn star James Deen raped her. We’ll probably never actually know for certain what happened, but I’m always inclined to trust women who say they were raped. There are a few things worth noting about this situation, though. First, there’s been a tendency to try to slut-shame Stoya, implying that her career means she deserves it, or even that she can’t be raped. This is, of course, insane and misogynistic horsecrap. But I think a more important thing to note is that it happened while they were still in a relationship. In fact, the rape occurred in the middle of what had been, to that point, consensual sex. And that’s something that’s worth mentioning. Guys: As soon as a woman says “stop,” you stop. If you continue, it’s rape. Consent can in fact be revoked at any point during an encounter. So, be good.

But here’s something that’s kind of a big deal: Quite a few companies have broken off ties with Deen. The allegations were enough for these companies to decide they don’t want to be associated with him. And as I saw one person point out on Twitter, this means the porn industry is better at policing itself than the comics industry. The comics industry is pathetic when it comes to dealing with people alleged with sexual harassment. They do nothing, to the point where the women harassed never even speak up about it. The comics industry needs to be a lot better about it. And that means we – all of us, the readers – also need to be better about it. In particular, if we see a woman being harassed, we need to step in and stop it. And we also need to believe women who make claims of harassment, and encourage them to come forward, and not support the people the accusations are leveled at.

My schedule for the week: 12-8:30 Friday, 8:45-5:15 Saturday, 11:15-7-15 Sunday, 2-8:30 Monday, 4:30-11:15. Next pull list on Tuesday, post on Thursday.

And that’s it for this week.

Uncanny X-Men #215 (1987, March)

I have four days off. So I’ll be doing three posts. Follow me on Twitter (@XMenXPert). Today, by Claremont and Davis, “Old Soldiers.”

Old Soldiers

Oh hey, it’s these guys.

We start with a flashback to the plane crash Maddie was in. As she walks out of the flames, they naturally take on a phoenix shape behind her. Because of course they do. When she’s in the ambulance, she sees a flame bird in her mind. Then she wonders where her baby is. The ambulance she’s in is actually being driven by Scalphunter, with Arclight disguised as an EMT. She jumps out of the ambulance, and starts running and fighting back, while wondering where Scott is. She ends up being shot by Scalphunter.

Then to the school, where Rogue is loading Colossus into the Blackbird. Nightcrawler and Kitty are already inside. They’re going to Muir Isle. Storm and Wolverine are staying behind. Longshot is now a part of the group, along with Dazzler, and they’ll be going to Muir. This is actually Longshot’s first appearance in the main book. Storm also mentions that she doesn’t entirely trust Longshot or Dazzler, or herself. Storm goes to see Wolverine, and asks him to accompany her on a job upstate.

Meanwhile, in San Francisco, Maddie wakes up in a hospital.

On the long drive, Storm talks to Wolverine about the need to get over their trust issues. They get to where they’re going – Sara Grey’s house. Destroyed. The pair are very professional about the whole thing, looking for clues of what happened. Wolverine says there’s no death scents. Storm thinks they should warn their friends, including Forge, and she starts thinking about him. Wolverine says two people were caught in the blast: Scott and a woman whose scent makes Wolverine freak out. He decks Storm and runs away.

On the Blackbird, Kitty phases out of her pod. It’s stated that she’s 15. Apparently, either Claremont screwed up here, or he screwed up later, because Excalibur #24, 3 years after this issue, has her turning 15. Anyway, she feels sorry for herself about the fact that she’s going to die. She gives Longshot a ghostly kiss, which he actually feels. Longshot says he felt her past and future, and her future included a void. I mention it because of how Davis draws Rogue’s reaction to Longshot’s comment. He does a great job showing her as shocked, scared and full of pity. Davis nails the expression.

Storm wakes up in a dungeon. She quickly picks the locks on her chains and the door, and makes her way upstairs to a very nice house. Clearly belonging to hunters and soldiers. The wall has a bunch of animal heads, and it also had WW2 memorabilia, like a torn Nazi flag, a chunk of wrecked metal, some kind of artillery shell, a bunch of medals. There’s other military stuff, too – a cannon, a machine gun, a whole bunch of regular guns, a katana and wakizashi. Three guys enter the house, and Storm gets grabbed by Crimson Commando. She kicks him and throws him off the balcony she’s standing on. Super-Sabre keeps her from escaping, and knocks her out with a snap of his fingers right by her ear.

Later on, Storm and another girl are taken outside the house, and pointed towards the forest. They’re told that if they can get out of the forest, they can go free. Storm demands to know who they are to hunt innocent people for sport. We get their backstory. They fought in WW2, and were ready to fight the USSR in the Cold War, but concern over nuclear war led the government to tell them to retire. But over the years, they started getting all pissy about the changes to the US, because old people are cranky, and figured the best approach they could take was to grab random criminals and murder them. To send a message to other criminals. Who would never actually know it had happened, because it’s done secretly. Stonewall explains that the girl, Priscilla, was a drug dealer, along with her boyfriend, who they’ve already killed. Sabre says they found Storm in a burned-down house, and call her a looter. Which, I don’t know, maybe they could’ve tried asking her what she was doing there? That might have been a good idea. Better than just jumping to “kill her!” Storm explains that, but starts running anyway.

Later that night, Storm weighs her options. She thinks about abandoning Priscilla, but decides she has to protect her, because that’s what heroes do. And the group that X-Plain the X-Men dubbed “the Murder Grampas” is on the hunt.

This is . . . kind of an odd issue, really. It’s good, but this Murder Grampas story just feels a bit out-of-left-field, given recent events. Everyone is still reeling from the Massacre, and now Storm also has to worry about all their friends, and suddenly, bam! Three random old dudes who got way too into The Most Dangerous Game. They feel out of place, given the circumstances. I’m not sure what purpose they serve, narratively or thematically. It just feels like Claremont had an idea for some characters he wanted to use, so he tossed them in. But they don’t fit well here. It’s not that I have anything against them, though it’s not like they ever ended up amounting to much, and nothing would’ve been lost by them not existing. So the arc feels like filler.

There is still some good stuff. The scene with Kitty was great. We really get a look at just how depressed and fatalistic she is. It’s a sad scene, and easily the best one in the book. And while the Murder Grampas story is out of place, Claremont does still do a really good job telling it.

And, of course, no comic can ever be truly bad when Alan Davis is on art. It’s Alan Davis. The guy is a phenomenal artist. He’s fantastic at facial expressions and body language, telling you exactly how a character feels from one moment to the next. For example, when Storm opens her cell door, she’s got just a bit of a smirk. It’s a small moment, but it really conveys a sense of her being proud of her skills. He also does a great job on the action moments. Davis is awesome.

There’s also Classic X-Men #7, which is a reprint of X-Men #99. As usual, a couple scenes are added, done by Jim Sherman. First, a scene that shows Corbeau taking the X-Men to the emergency shuttle launch. That scene doesn’t really add anything. A second scene is at the Hellfire Club, with Lang reporting to them about the goal of studying the X-gene to be able to reproduce it. The leader of the Hellfire Club, a guy named Ned, tells Shaw that he trusts Lang, and also thinks about how Lang’s real goal is to eliminate mutants. This is another scene that doesn’t really add much, except to set up how Shaw became leader of the Club. And a third scene, of Nightcrawler, Colossus and Storm freeing Wolverine and Banshee.

Then the back-up story, drawn by John Bolton. This one is about how Shaw became head of the Hellfire Club. At a Christmas party at the Club, Shaw is dancing with his lady, Lourdes Chantel, who warns him not to trust Edward Buckman, the Club’s president. Ed and Shaw talk, and Ed mentions having rough edges as a result from not having been born to wealth, and having to earn it himself. After the chat, Lourdes once again warns Shaw that Ed is a bad guy, and Shaw asks Tessa for observations. She says he might be sincere, or he might be lying. He telepathically contacts Emma for her advice. She’s looking after Colonel Rossi, and says that his memories show his plane was attacked by Sentinels after he left Lang. So now we get some explanation for what happened to him after that plane crash. I forgot about this. Neat. She also tells Shaw that Project Armageddon’s goal is the destruction of mutants. Then a Sentinel attacks her. Shaw asks Lourdes to teleport him and Tessa out, to help Emma and Leland. In the ensuing battle, Lourdes gets speared. Leland gets pissed off and helps Shaw against the Sentinel. Leland’s heart starts to suffer from the strain. Foreshadowing! Of something we’ve already seen! Aftshadowing? Shaw holds Lourdes while she dies, and vows revenge against Neddie.

Later on, at the Club, Ed goes into a meeting with his Inner Circle, and kills them all, under Emma’s control. Then Shaw kills him, and takes control of the Hellfire Club. So, there’s that part of Shaw’s origin. It’s a good story. It humanizes Shaw, who was always a really interesting villain. He sincerely loved Lourdes, and he respected Ned. He shows self-doubt and insecurity, a desire to be accepted, which is interesting. Lourdes’ death gets him over that. Leland also seemed to have strong feelings towards Lourdes, though it wasn’t necessarily romantic. Her death shocks him into action against the Sentinel. It’s kinda interesting that no one’s done anything with Lourdes since her death. She’s never been brought back, she’s never been used in flashbacks, nothing. This story is her only appearance. Might be interesting if someone did something with her. Anyway, it’s another solid story, though Bolton’s art doesn’t work as well here. It looks good, but it’s very soft, and I think this is a story that would have benefited from a harder art style. Might just be me.

Alpha Flight #43 (1987, February)

All right, let’s get this comic out of the way. Follow me on Twitter (@XMenXPert). By Mantlo and Ross, “Strike Across the Border.”

Strike Across the Border

The Sentinel on the right looks like it’s pouting.

In a prison in Washington State, Mesmero is freaking out about the helmet on his head blocking his power. A prison psychologist wants to remove the helmet. He collapses, and the psychologist removes the helmet, thinking it’ll save Mesmero’s life. But it was all a trick, and he escapes, driving north. Some Sentinels are sent to retrieve him. They’re cloaked, to prevent the Canadian government from knowing they’re there. The designer of the Sentinels is freaking out a bit, saying they’re not ready.

In Vancouver, Box starts freaking out about being trapped in his armour. Northstar collapses in a coughing fit, so Vindicator blasts Box hard enough to shock him back to his senses. Ugh. This scene is stupid. See, Mantlo wanted to show that Box is upset about being trapped in the armour. Rather than do it in any subtle way, though – rampage! Because Mantlo decided subtlety had absolutely no place in this title. Aurora tells Box off for threatening Northstar . . . and Box goes crazy again. Sigh.

Jeffries uses his power to restrain Box, then saves the plane from crashing by turning it into a big unicycle. The coolest mode of transportation. He calls it a monopede, but nope, I prefer unicycle. Anyway, they continue to meet Lionel Jeffries, so he can cure Box’s case of the bends. Which means Box freaked out on the way to getting treatment. Which is pretty silly, but Mantlo needed a Box freak-out, so we got a Box freak-out, logic be damned. So they get to Lionel’s secret lab, and convince Box to submit to treatment.

Meanwhile, Mesmero’s asleep, which makes it hard for the Sentinels to find him. It turns out their stealth systems interfere with their mutant-detecting systems, so they can only detect mutants when they use their abilities. Mesmero wakes up at Expo ’86, in Vancouver. He uses his power, and the Sentinels attack the Expo to grab him. They unstealth in the process. And they can’t be recalled – another design flaw.

Alpha Flight – Vindicator, Northstar, Aurora and Puck (with Puck moping about having to be carried by Vindicator, because he has no powers and so is useless and she can never love him) – go to see what’s going on. They find the Sentinels in a quandary – Mesmero has a bunch of human hostages, and he’ll order them to their deaths if they attack him. He has one woman jump just to prove he’ll do it. It feels somehow wrong that we never even learn this random woman’s name. She’s just “The Human.” Maybe that’s her name. I’m going to say that’s her name. Farewell, The Woman. May you be in Heaven a half-hour before the devil knows you’re dead from being ordered to jump to your death by a green dude while giant robots just sat there watching.

Alpha tells the Sentinels they’re taking over the operation. The Sentinels seem unwilling to oblige, so Puck goes after Mesmero while the others fight the Sentinels. The Sentinels say they’re being attacked by “super-humans,” and Northstar finds it weird they don’t identify him as a mutant. I wonder if Mantlo had already decided on the idiotic elf story? His original plan was definitely for Northstar to have AIDS, but I don’t see how that would throw off a Sentinel. So, maybe he was already working towards that utterly stupid elf plot? I don’t know. Either way, Northstar and Aurora both get taken down, and Puck is grabbed by Mesmero’s human shields and put under Mesmero’s control, because under Mantlo, Puck was never allowed to actually be of any goddamn use to the team.

Jeffries and Kara arrive in the plane, and Jeffries jumps out to attack a Sentinel, since Heather’s in danger and he has feelings for her. Heather’s impressed with him. Another Sentinel goes after Kara, who aims the plane at yet another, making the Sentinel chasing her smash into it. Debris ends up hitting Puck and hurting him. Because, again, I’m reasonably sure that Mantlo just straight-up disliked Puck.

Vindicator and Jeffries team up against the final Sentinel. She carries him while he turns part of the Sentinel he destroyed into a javelin she can hurl at the last one. And they flirt a little while they’re at it. And Kara goes after Mesmero, using her own power to take control of his slaves and ordering them to seize him. And an injured Puck feels sorry for himself for just being so gosh-darned useless.

Ugh. This issue makes it clear that Mantlo had no idea what to do with Puck, and didn’t even particularly understand the character. The extent of his character here is, “I love Heather, but I suck too much for her to love me.” It’s stupid and frustrating. I think the problem is that Mantlo wasn’t actually all that good a writer. I know he’s an icon in the comics industry (and he was before his accident, so I don’t think sympathy is why he’s so well-regarded), but I’ve never found him all that good. And he was especially awful on Alpha Flight. He couldn’t do depth. Puck was a character of layers, but Mantlo had no talent for that, so he threw it all out in favour of “idiot in love.” So awful.

The other characters were similarly shallow. They each have a couple traits, and that’s all they’re allowed to be. Depth is not allowed. It’s piss-poor characterization. The plotting in this issue is mediocre at best. A definite degree of “things happen because they have to happen to have the next thing happen” going on.

The art is fine. Dave Ross was always an OK writer. He was acceptable. There’s no stand-out panels here, for good or ill. Very mid-level artwork, nothing to inspire but nothing to offend.

This is one of the worst issues of Alpha Flight yet. And unfortunately, it’s going to be a long time before it gets much better.

X-Men comics for November 25 2015

Hopeless Savages! I’ll actually have a review of that in my next pull list. But I have other comics today. Follow me on Twitter (@XMenXPert).

All-New Wolverine #2, by Tom Taylor and David Lopez. Laura heads into Alchemax for a meeting with some security Captain and a scientist. They tell her about four experiments – people – who escaped, and who blew up a lab and everyone inside it. They all have Laura’s face, but the scientist says they have no humanity. He admits they’re her clones, but they don’t have her healing factor, claws or conscience. When she leaves, a couple guys follow her, but she quickly scares them off. Angel gives her a ride back to her apartment, where she finds one of the clones. The clone makes fun Laura’s apartment and the state of her fridge, and it’s actually pretty funny. She then says Alchemax is going to kill the clones. The conversation makes it clear that there’s a lot of complexity in the situation. This is another great issue. Really complex. Great writing. Great art. Laura’s humanity is on display, as she fights to keep anyone from dying. I’m not a big fan of the end of the issue, though. I’m hoping it’s not what it seems. It probably is. It seems like that kind of story. I do like the clones. Clones of a clone. That’s a really interesting idea, especially with them all having some differences from Laura. Height, in particular. And one is blonde, which looks so weird on Laura’s face. This is good. Worth reading.

And that’s actually the only X-comic this week. It’s going to take a while to get used to how few actual X-titles there’ll be, going forward. But anyway, there are other comics I can talk about.

Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur #1, by Amy Reeder, Brandon Montclare and Natacha Bustos. We start with Lunella – whose wall has a bunch of rejection letters from prestigious schools like the Future Foundation – working on a Kree detector while her mom tells her she’s late for school. She rushes to school with shoes that turn into roller skates. I guess she’s a fan of old-school Iron Man. She loves science, but hates science class, because she’s too smart for it. Her shirt has a moon on it, so one of the kids calls her Moon Girl. Which Lunella doesn’t think is funny. That night, she goes out searching for Kree stuff, and finds a glowing orb. Then we cut back millions of years, to furry little cavemen dudes holding the same orb. Devil Dinosaur attacks, with Moon Boy. In the present, in gym class, Lunella examines the orb, but the coach sees her, and starts spinning it on his finger, which activates it. Some of the cavemen guys enter the portal created, and Moon Boy, who’s been beaten, sends Devil after them. This is good. It’s cute. Lunella’s a really good character. She reminds me a lot of early Peter Parker, actually. The intelligence and isolation. She doesn’t share his desire to fit in at school. She’s pretty contemptuous of her school in general, since she’s so far ahead of her class. But the intelligence and isolation. That was a key point of Peter Parker. Part of what was supposed to make him relatable to readers. She does have a better home life, though, with two living parents and what seems to be a pretty nice home. And, you know, she’s a black girl, so that’s a pretty big departure from Peter. But still! She’s obviously meant to be someone that readers, especially geeky young readers, relate to. She’s a good character. The art is great. Bustos has a very expressive style, and it’s very nice. It’s cute, but then she draws Devil Dinosaur looking pretty damned badass. He has flames coming out of his eyes. This is a good first issue, and it’s definitely looking like it’ll be an enjoyable series.

Guardians of the Galaxy #2, by Brian Bendis and Valerio Schiti. It really is only Kitty’s presence making me review this book. So I’ll stick to her role. She doesn’t do much. She chastizes Grimm for calling a Kree woman trying to kill them a “broad.” That’s about it, really. This is a very Bendis-ian issue. Lots of talking with a brief fight, and not very tightly scripted. That’s just his style.

Angela: Queen of Hel #2, by Marguerite Bennett, Kim Jacinto and Stephanie Hans. Sera herself describes the story as Orpheus and Eurydice with a Nordic metal soundtrack. And yep. After making up, they start fighting their way through Hel. We also get a little more explanation of certain elements of Asgard’s Assassin. And some romance talk about whether what they have is still the same as it was. And then – big-ass freaky Hel-dog! The first trial of Hel, Fear. This leads into Hans’ substory. Angela’s fear was dying alone. She used to have nightmares of Sera being taken away from her, or simply abandoning her. We get some glimpses of the life they led. In conquering her fear, Angela’s outfit changes again. And damn. Good goddamn it is nice. I posted a picture to my Twitter. And the last page brings in an awesome character, one I love. One who I’m sure anyone reading this book should be pretty excited about. This book is so great. It’s a death metal romance. Not that I actually like death metal, but still. It’s such a great book. Great writing, gorgeous art, a sweet and authentic romance. Hans’s substory is, of course, my favourite part of the book, just because I am so in love with Hans’ art. But in general, this is a fantastic series, and one I highly recommend.

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #2, by Ryan North and Erica Henderson. First, I love the recap pages. This one includes Nancy saying she’s working on another Cat Thor fanfic, which will include Lokitten. This comic is adorable. I love that the Marvel Universe’s version of Wikipedia has a page on time travel that says it’s happened hundreds of times in the past century. Also, Nancy knows Doreen really well. And Doreen finds another girl who traveled back in time. There’s some Frog-Man puns that are hilariously bad. Also, apparently Squirrel Girl is going to cameo in the Starbrand and Nightmask series? I am all for that. Squirrel Girl is amazing fun and you should read it.

I should mention Groot #6, by Jeff Loveness and Brian Kesinger. In addition to some other things, Groot and Rocket go to an X-Men party. And there ain’t no party like an X-Men party ’cause an X-Men party’s got the goddamn Dazzler! And Jubilee, who’s shown using her powers, even though she doesn’t have them any more, but I’ll forgive it because I like Jubilee and I will not apologize for that. Anyway, Groot goes to the party to get Jean’s help searching for someone. (And Teen Scott is adorkable in trying to talk to Jean.) The whole issue is really sweet, but I wanted to mention the X-Men cameo.

Pull list for November 25 2015

So Jessica Jones is pretty awesome, isn’t it? I’m off tomorrow, so reviews as normal. Follow me on Twitter (@XMenXPert)

I’ll go to the store for: Angela Queen of Hel #2, by Marguerite Bennett, Stephanie Hans and Kim Jacinto; Hopeless Savages Vol. 4 Break, by Jen Van Meter and Meredith McClaren; Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur #1, by Amy Reeder, Brandon Montclare and Natacha Bustos; Silk #1, by Robbie Thompson and Stacey Lee; Silver Surfer #15, by Dan Slott and Michael Allred; Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #2, by Ryan North and Erica Henderson.

I’ll also review: All-New Wolverine #2, by Tom Taylor and David Lopez.

So that’s 6 comics I’m picking up, and at least two reviews, probably more, it’ll depend on my mood.

I’m most excited for Break. So excited! It was supposed to come out a few months ago, but got delayed. The first three volumes of Hopeless Savages were great, with Vol. 2 being particularly amazing. (The primary artist on that was Bryan Lee O’Malley.) Break looks like it’s going to be more similar to Vol. 2 than 1 or 3. 1 and 3 were both more comedic, more madcap. 2 was a lot more realistic, a lot more intimate and just so damned good. Seriously, I cannot recommend Hopeless Savages Vol. 2 highly enough, and Break looks like it’s going to be similarly intimate and amazing. I’ve read the preview pages, and damn, Van Meter and McClaren work so well together. It’ll be a killer book. I’m also excited for everything else. The Marvel titles all look really, really fun. Most have really unique and fun art styles, and Angela has Stephanie Hans. So, yeah, this is a great week.

I haven’t yet finished Jessica Jones. I’ve watched 10 episodes so far. And it’s awesome. It’s a fantastic show. Everyone gives great performances. The characters are all really interesting and compelling. I love how much of a mess Jessica is – it’s not often that a woman is allowed to be such a mess. Patsy’s great, and I’m hoping she becomes Hellcat. The roughest episode is probably episode 8, the one that explains why Kilgrave is the way he is. It’s the episode that makes you try to like him, to think that maybe he could be better. You have to keep reminding yourself that, no, he’s simply a monster. He takes pleasure in the suffering of others. I’m not sure if there’s a lot of Jessica/Kilgrave shipping out there. I hope there’s not. He’s a rapist and a sadistic monster. He’s a giant piece of shit. I want to believe no one thinks he’s genuinely redeemable, that he’s actually a poor victim who just needs a hug to help him learn to be good. But this is the Internet, and he’s played by an attractive and charismatic man, so of course there are probably women who want Kilgrave to be redeemed. Bleh.

I finished Dates! An Anthology of Queer Historical Fiction. Here’s my review:

This is great. It’s a bunch of short stories from throughout history, with positive depictions of LGBTQ+ (queer) characters. A key point is that the stories are positive. There’s no one being killed or hurt, there are no stories where two people in love are forced apart, nothing like that. These stories aren’t about how hard it’s historically been to be queer. It’s just historical fiction with queer protagonists, and that’s wonderful. I’m straight, myself, but I’m a supporter of diversity, which is why I backed the Kickstarter for this book.

Premise aside, the stories are also all really good. There’s a wide variety to them. They range from cavewomen to ancient Greece to the Roaring Twenties to Stalinist Russia to Ancient Ireland. And a lot more. There’s gay men, lesbians, transgender people, asexuals, agender people, and more. Some stories are about romance, some are about self-discovery. Some are heartfelt and touching, some are just silly fun. There’s a lot going on, basically, and it’s pretty much all great. A lot of different writing and art styles.

If you like positive queer representation, or if you like good comics, this is definitely worth checking out.

Would it be really shallow of me to mention my name is in the book? It’s in the acknowledgements, along with a few hundred other people who donated to the Kickstarter. So, I mean, it’s not like it’s a great accomplishment. But still. Neat! It’s my real name. I thought about using my blog name, but decided it would be tacky.

So now I’ve still got a shitload of other stuff to read. Things I’ve gotten from backing projects on Kickstarter.

My schedule for the week: 2:30-11 Thursday, 4-8:30 Friday, 9:45-4:15 Saturday, 11-5:45 Sunday. My next pull list will be Tuesday, and I’ll have posts Saturday, Monday and Tuesday.

And that’s all I can think of for this week.

X-Factor #13 (1987, February)

I’m 6 episodes into Jessica Jones. Damn it’s good. Follow me on Twitter (@XMenXPert). Today, by the Simonsons, “Ghosts!”


That’s actually kind of a cool cover.

The issue actually starts with some backstory. It explains that, a while ago, Master Mold was imprinted with Steven Lang’s mind, and then his space station was destroyed, and he fell into the Bering Strait.

At X-Factor HQ, Scott says goodbye to the kids. Then he heads over to the hospital to check on Angel and say goodbye to Jean. In the hospital, Jean and Angel are talking, with Jean moaning about how she hurts the men around her. Angel comforts her, and Scott leaves after overhearing just a bit of it, because of course he did. Man, I am so glad this is the last we’ll see of that in this book, the whole thing with Scott overhearing and misinterpreting things between Jean and Angel. Anyway, Jean realizes he was there and rushes down to see him off before his cab leaves, giving him a kiss before sending him to look for his wife, because that’s not a mixed message at all.

A little later, Hodge goes to see Angel and tell him he’s been subpoenaed for fraud over hiding his X-Factor holdings. Angel says X-Factor would be better off if he was dead. Foreshadowing!

In Alaska, Scott finds his house for sale, and reflects that he knows about being alone. He blasts the lock off the door, and his power is detected by Master Mold. He detects it belongs to one of The Twelve. Yep, The Twelve! This is the first time we hear about this. Certainly not the last. It becomes something of a recurring subplot over the next few years, a mystery that pops up again and again, usually with some slight inconsistencies each time. When it actually ends up being resolved, it’s . . . not good. Anyway, the house is empty.

Later, he gets a call from Beast, who talks about how hectic the base is with all the new mutants. He tells Scott about all the crazy crap going on, but Scott says he needs to find Maddie. As well he should. He was a dick about abandoning her, so he should try to make things right. Meanwhile, Master Mold starts rebuilding himself from an oil rig.

Scott heads to the realty office, and is told Mr. Summers filed the paperwork to sell the house. He yells at the secretary, and a cop takes him down to the station. As he leaves the station later, another officer says there’s no computer records about Maddie and Nathan. Meanwhile, Master Mold keeps repairing itself.

Scott goes to the offices of  North Star Airways. The guy working there says he has no records of a Madelyne Pryor. We also find out that the airline was bought out by a big conglomerate that kicked out all the old staff. He keeps checking around, but can’t find anything anywhere. Even the hospital has no record of his son’s birth. Which they wouldn’t, since he was born at the X-Mansion. Oops. Someone’s gone to the effort of erasing all evidence of Madelyne’s existence. As he searches through some newspaper files about the plane crash Maddie walked away from, he finds an article about the Starcore 1 crash where Jean became Phoenix. He freaks out just a little.

Later on, back at the house, he freaks out a lot. He starts blasting up the house. Maddie appears, but it’s just an hallucination, and he blasts her. He sees her turn into Phoenix, then Jean, then Phoenix again, with them saying Maddie was only ever a manifestation of the Phoenix. Even he starts to think she never existed, until one of his blasts uncovers one of the baby’s rattles.

Elsewhere, some cops find a redheaded woman washed up on shore. They think it might be Scott’s wife. And Master Mold is on his way to find and kill Scott.

This is actually a pretty interesting issue. It sets up a neat mystery, and then has Scott descend into madness. I should note that this won’t be the last of his hallucinations. Even now that he knows he didn’t just dream up Maddie, he stays a little crazy for a little longer. We also get a little more of Angel’s plot, and the repercussions of the information Mystique leaked. That plot’s pretty good, too, and is on its way to somewhere big.

Walter Simonson’s art is good. He’s a lot more restrained, compared to his Thor work. Which is probably the right way to go for this book. I’m not a big fan of his non-Thor artwork, to be honest. I don’t know what it is, but his art works on Thor in a way that it doesn’t work for me elsewhere.

Overall, this is a good issue that’s part of a fairly important ongoing plot.

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