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Alpha Flight #40 (1986, November)

Happy Thanksgiving to my fellow Canadians. Happy Monday for non-Canucks. Today, by Mantlo and Ross, “Love.”


That’s a clever way of fitting in the whole of Alpha Flight.

Namor is looking for Marrina, while Alpha Flight tries to follow him. After some recap, Box groans in pain. Apparently, during the fight, he’d momentarily phased out of the Box armour. That wasn’t actually shown in the previous issue, or the Avengers issue. Now he has the bends. Aurora’s upset, because she can’t date a machine. Jeffries meets them in a little sub, which he designed himself. He says Bochs’ genius must be rubbing off on him. A rather weak excuse for the fact that Mantlo decided to turn Jeffries into an inventive genius.

Northstar catches up with Namor and gets his attention before being tossed away. Marrina angsts about her situation, because that’s about the most Marrina could ever do back then. She’s got a bunch of growths on her – subdermal eggs, I guess. Namor and Alpha find her and learn about her pregnancy. They debate what to do. Namor wants to raise the kids, thinking good role models would make them good. Vindicator says they might be a threat, and Northstar points out her argument is regularly applied to mutants.

The debate is interrupted by Marrina’s mate showing up. Vindicator orders that the creature and Marrina both be killed. Holy shit, Heather, that’s cold. Namor tries to stop them, of course. Marrina is inspired by watching him fight for her, and fights back against the instincts driving her towards the Plodex monster. And that puts her back to normal. While everyone teams up against the monster, they deliver exposition about how Marrina wasn’t actually pregnant, she was just in a state of receptivity.

With that done, they head to Namor’s villa, the heart of his new kingdom, which has already gathered a bunch of Atlanteans who rejected Attuma’s rule.

Not very good. As always, Mantlo mistakes exposition for characterization. He clearly never heard the idea of Show, Don’t Tell. Because about all he does is Tell. The dialogue is bad. It really is. Mantlo was awful at dialogue. The art is, as usual, strictly OK. It’s serviceable. It neither enhances nor detracts from the story.

This issue ends with Namor and Marrina getting married. When Namor rejoins the Avengers a little later, Marrina goes with him, which leads to her becoming a giant Leviathan monster and dying. She’s eventually brought back, as a captive of the Master of the World, at which point absolutely nothing is done with her for 20 years. Then she returns as a Leviathan and gets her head torn off by Namor. I get the feeling very few writers cared much about Marrina, probably because she had no personality. Luckily, the last volume of Alpha Flight brought her back again, with an awesome personality.

Anyway. Weak issue. And unfortunately, the book really does continue getting weaker.

X-Men comics for October 7 2015

This week marks the launch of All-New All-Different Marvel. It also marks the two-thirds point of Secret Wars. Because Marvel is great at planning! Anyway, here’s the comics I’m reviewing today.

Old Man Logan #5, by Brian Bendis and Andrea Sorrentino. Logan’s wondering where he is, and what the hell’s been going on. He thinks back on all that’s happened. An Iron Man head lands next to him, and he sees some big Avengers fight going on. It’s done by the time he climbs down off the building he’s on. On the street, he’s found by Emma and Teen Jean. They bring him to the other X-Men. As he eats, the X-Men talk about him. Right in front of him. Then they take him to the Xavier School – the Ultimate version, to meet his alternate-reality son, Jimmy. Not awkward at all. Emma tells Logan he’s proof that Doom did something to reality, and that he needs to be opposed. This was such a weird series. There was a lot happening, but nothing happened. Lots of fights, lots of worlds, but there was never really a point to it. It ended up feeling like a waste of time. Except the art. Sorrentino’s art is never a waste of time, or of money. He continues to do amazing work. Sorrentino is phenomenal. I honestly can’t praise him highly enough. Great layouts, great art. Maiolo does great colours to go with it. The book looks gorgeous. It’s just the writing makes it all pointless.

And that’s actually the only X-title. But there are other comics to review.

Siege #4, by Kieron Gillen and Filipe Andrade (with spreads by Pepe Larraz, Gary Choo and Bill frickin’ Sienkewicz). Thanos asks Brand to take him to a cell. Once there, he talks to Grimm. Outside, Summers, Da Vinci, Kate and America are having pizza, and talking about how great pizza is. Thanos says he’s united the denizens south of the Shield, and they attack. This is the Larraz spread. It gives us the Kitty Pride, and the Fantastic Thors – the Fantastic Four as Thors. There’s also mention, in Brand’s log, of other fights going on, which involve Galact-USA The Great Consumer. (There’s also someone shouting that Squirrel Girl’s dead, no, she’s fine.) Thanos and Grimm talk, with Thanos explaining to Grimm that the world is wrong. He wants Grim m to let through the forces beyond the Shield. In the battle, Leonardo uses an Enlightenment Cannon that makes the zombies realize they’re logical contradictions and should lie down. Kate expresses doubts about the fight, but America rallies her by telling her she’s a princess and to own it. Grimm asks for a shot of the Enlightenment Cannon, which takes the last of Michelangelo’s life essence. Apparently, Mike and Leo were lovers. Grimm realizes Thanos was telling the truth, and Thanos asks Grimm what time it is. Choo’s spread is Grimm moving north. Thanos leaves. Kang tries to go back in time to stop it all. America kicks her way free with Kate. And then Sienkewicz’s spread is the last stand of Brand and Summers. It’s an awesome finale. There’s a lot of great moments. Everyone gets an awesome moment, and there’s some really sweet, dramatic moments. Thanos is at his morally ambiguous best neither hero nor villain, just someone doing what needs to be done to preserve reality. America’s nice and mysterious, because it’s what she does. It does make me wonder where she jumped to. It’d be pretty awesome if 1602 Kate was able to show up in ANAD, maybe in Ultimates. The art is great. It’s really tense, with some great action sequences. The spreads are all pretty awesome. I loved them all. Sienkewicz probably had the bets, but that might just be because it’s Bill Sienkewicz and I have a lot of love for him for his work in the ’80s on Moon Knight, New Mutants and Elektra. But his spread included three different types of horrors. Any one of them would have awesome, but the three of them was just amazing. I loved this series. It’s a nice swan song for Gillen’s time with Marvel.

1602 Witch Hunter Angela #4, by Marguerite Bennett, Kieron Gillen, Stephanie Hans and Kody Chamberlain. Angela and Serah’s talking skull ride into the forest to confront the Enchantress in the Realm of Faerie. Enchantress says she and Angela are alike, then looks to see what tempts Angela. The first illusion is the Mother Abbess raising Angela to the first among them. Angela breaks that illusion, so the next has Anna Maria bringing her into a nice little cottage where Serah’s just cooked supper. Serah’s spirit helps Angela break free. Enchantress says that if Angela cuts her down, she becomes the new Faerie Queen. Angela accepts, despite the Enchantress’ warnings. That done, she restores Serah to life and then kicks her out of the Faerie Realm to avoid hurting her. Another great finale. It’s very emotional. Serah is fun early on, but once they get to the Faerie Realm, things get very serious, and very emotional. Bennett and Hans both do an amazing job with everything there. With the illusion temptations, with the fight between Angela and Enchantress, with all of it. And, of course, the story ends with more about the magic of stories. I really enjoyed this. It’ll be great to get back to the main Angela series, though. Really, I’m just happy for more Stephanie Hans. So good.

Avengers #0. This, of course, is previews of the upcoming Avengers titles. I’ll skip the Squadron Supreme story, since I don’t care about them. I’ll also skip the Vision/Scarlet Witch story, though it’s rather sad. There’s a story about Captain Marvel, by G. Willow Wilson and Victor Ibanez. We see Nico, Dazzler and She-Hulk all noticing something weird with the sky, then it goes to orbit, where a new woman is welcomed on the Alpha Flight Low-Orbit Space Station. Captain Marvel goes outside to investigate an anomaly, a person in space. Fight! And the new woman, Tempest Bell, heads out in a space suit to deal with it. A pretty interesting story. It establishes Captain Marvel’s status quo as defender of the Earth from cosmic threats. It does also seem to indicate that Captain Marvel will probably be involved in the formation of the upcoming A-Force team, though we know that she won’t be a permanent part of the core cast. Next is a New Avengers story, by Al Ewing and Gerardo Sandoval. A SHIELD psi-agent is being forced by W.H.I.S.P.E.R. to focus on Sunspot. It’s a precognitive flash, showing a press conference, a general declaring AIM a threat, an American Kaiju, Wiccan calling Hulkling the King of Space, White Tiger being threatened by the Tiger God, Songbird saying one of the team is a traitor, and Squirrel Girl calling shotgun on Avenger Five. And more! Clint declaring himself a traitor while giving a thumbs-up, Pod, the Avengers of 20xx, Power Man talking about a telephone to the dead, and the end of the press conference with Sunspot asking who wants to see their time machine. New Avengers is going to be batshit insane, and it will be glorious. Seriously, I am so excited for that book. Too bad about Sandoval’s art, though. Ugh. It’s not a style I like at all. I’ll skip the Uncanny Avengers preview, except to note that Rogue is apparently deathly ill and comatose, as a result of flying through Terrigen Mists. I really, really, really hope this isn’t a way to have Rogue lose control of her power again, to reset her back to her old status quo and to retell the same damn story that writers spent 30 years telling with her. And finally, Ultimates, by Ewing and Kenneth Rocafort. Black Panther is out in space, and lets Carol know that the being she encountered created a hole in space-time. Luckily, he has America Chavez to help him, even if she had to break a date with an EMT. She goes through the breach, to seal it from that side. She beats up some monsters, because she’s really good at that, but then comes the tough part. The hole’s too big to close her normal way. So she has another idea. She calls up her date, Lisa, and asks if she wants to dance over the phone. So, yeah, the day is saved through the power of dance. I approve of this. I approve whole-heartedly of America Chavez fixing reality through dancing. It’s fun, it’s sweet, it’s weird. It’s great. Ultimates is the book I am most psyched for, and this just made me more excited. It looks like Ewing will be writing Chavez as someone who’s tough and serious and surly around most people, but can also be really fun and sweet and even a little goofy with someone she really likes. Rocafort’s art is good, too. Overall, this anthology was good. It gets me psyched up for the three books from it I’ll be reading (A-Force, New Avengers, Ultimates). It’s good.

Contest of Champions #1, by Al Ewing and Paco Medina. It starts in North Yorkshire, with Outlaw, a guy who was a UK Punisher for an arc in the ’90s, and then disappeared after that. He has a cat. Yay cats. He gets abducted. Outlaw, not the cat. I wonder what’ll happen to the cat? I hope someone finds him and takes care of him. He ends up in a jungle with dinosaurs, where he’s attacked by Venom, then rescued by Gamora. Iron Man calls for help – he’s being beat up by Joe Fixit. After Fixit is knocked out, Moon Boy and Devil Dinosaur show up next. They’re apparently with Hydra. Outlaw shoots Moon Boy, and is thus now one of my favourite characters ever. Because I hate Moon Boy. Hate him so much. We also meet White Fox, who beats up a couple armoured assassins while being briefed on Gun-R, a robot who hates crime. And who was abducted and torn apart. There’s also a story from 18th century Paris of a thief finding a magic sword. He calls himself Guillotine, and it looks like his sword has been passed down through his line, so it’s now wielded by a woman. She’s engaged to a Paris Inspector, and the sword wants her to kill him., but she refuses. That story is drawn by Thomas Labourot. It’s good. This is a pretty good comic. Some interesting things in here. Medina’s art is always nice to see. Just a bit of cartoonishness that enhances the story. Ewing’s a good writer, and he definitely has fun with Outlaw. Guillotine seems pretty interesting. I look forward to seeing more of her. Good comic. Not good enough for me to keep reviewing it, though. Unless X-characters show up in an issue, of course. Them, I’ll review. Or, at least, I’ll review the roles of the X-characters.

Dr. Strange #1, by Jason Aaron and Chris Bachalo. Strange is exploring some mystic realm. Aside, Bachalo apparently only knows how to draw, like, one type of shoe. Seriously, every Bachalo character wears the same shoes. Anyway, Strange tells a bunch of mystical creatures they can’t be where they are. Their leader, a woman, says they go where they want, and sends her champion after him. Strange beats the champion and makes out with the woman. He wakes up to tell a couple parents that the beings have been driven out of their son’s mind. He leaves, and thinks about how many mystical beings live in the world, on and in people. He takes down some gross monster, then heads into a wizards’ bar. He meets Brother Voodoo, Shaman and Scarlet Witch. An old wizard tells Strange that he hasn’t kept up on his debts with the magic he’s used. He heads home and finds a woman outside his house. A librarian from the Bronx. Meh. I don’t like Bachalo’s art. It works reasonably well here, because it’s a weird book, but I still don’t like it. Which is weird, because I liked it on Generation X back in the day. But here, even for Dr. Strange, I don’t like it. Aaron’s writing is OK. The cameos from Voodoo, Shaman and Wanda are cool. Voodoo is weirdly goofy, Shaman is serious, and Wanda just seems to be enjoying her fruity drink. Strange himself is good. His concern for people is nice – when the parents of the kid he helped ask how they can pay him, he tells them to bake their nighbour a cake and buy him a goldfish for his birthday the next day. That’s nice. His conversation with the librarian is also cool. Still, not a book I’m overly excited about. I do hope Voodoo, Shaman and Wanda remain supporting characters, though.

Secret Wars #6, by Jonathan Hickman and Esad Ribic. Valeria is briefing Doom on the two refugees they’ve found, Corvus and Proxima. Black Swan corrects what Val gets wrong. Susan doesn’t trust Black Swan. And Val has no idea where any of the other refugees are. Val calls up the Foundation, and they say they’ve found the source of Doom’s power. Meanwhile, Reed and Reed have been sending out drones to gather information so they can find a way to defeat Doom. Reed isn’t ready to kill Doom, until Maker shows him an image of Susan with Doom. Reed says they need to find the source of Doom’s power. The Spider-Mans are investigating, and find Val also investigating. She’s not going to go down – she’s not emotionally prepared – but she lets the Spider-Mans go. They find Molecule Man, who asks for something to eat. Miles has a hamburger in his pocket. Peter finds it gross that Miles has an 8-year-old hamburger in his pocket. Molecule Man is fine with it. Doom talks to some barons about a revolt being led by the Prophet. Bar Sinister seems to have Captain Marvel under his control, via a forehead diamond. Though even under his control, she still punches him when she doesn’t like his ideas. So it’s a little unclear exactly what the hell is going on there. But Carol is punching things, so she’s still there. Black Panther and Namor find Strange’s hidden isle, where they’re given two objects. The Siege Courageous, which will transport them wherever they need to go. The other is an Infinity Gauntlet. Pretty good, still. Doom’s control over Battleworld is starting to fail. Various plans are unfolding. The end of the issue connects to Siege #4, including dialogue being the same. I’m assuming Gillen was given Hickman’s script and just used that. The scene with the Spider-Mans is pretty good. Ribic’s art is still strong. It’s a good comic.

I should mention that Invincible Iron Man has a woman with a cure for the mutant gene. She’s keeping it a secret because she says it would be like a cure for Judaism.

There’s also What If Infinity: Inhumans, where Thanos conquers the Earth with Black Bolt serving under him. The Inhumans come up with a plan to try to beat Thanos. It involves Dazzler. Black Bolt screams, and Dazzler lasers Thanos. So Dazzler kills Thanos. That’s kinda funny, actually.

Pull list for October 7 2015

I’m off tomorrow, so reviews as normal.

I’ll go to the store for: 1602 Witch Hunter Angela #4, by Marguerite Bennett, Kieron Gillen, Stephanie Hans and Frazer Irving; Avengers #0, featuring previews of the Avengers titles; My Little Pony Friends Forever #21, by Ted Anderson and Agnes Garbowska; Siege #4, by Kieron Gillen and Andrade Felipe.

I’ll also review: Contest of Champions #1, by Al Ewing and Paco Medina; Dr. Strange #1, by Jason Aaron and Chris Bachalo; Old Man Logan #5, by Brian Bendis and Andrea Sorrentino; Secret Wars #6, by Jonathan Hickman and Esad Ribic.

So that’s 4 comics I’m picking up, and 7 reviews. Not too bad.

While I won’t be buying it, since I’ve bought the single issues, the TPB of the first arc of Bitch Planet also comes out. If you haven’t been following the series, I’d recommend picking it up. It won’t include the amazing essays, as far as I know, but it does apparently include a discussion guide. Because it’s the kind of book that really invites and encourages discussion. So, if you’re interested in feminism or sci-fi, pick it up.

I’m most excited for Angela and Siege. Angela’s been fantastic. A great mix of fun and drama. It’s got some nice meta elements to it, and dialogue that feels classical. And, of course, Stephanie Hans on art. Looooooove Stephanie Hans. Siege is Gillen. I love just about everything Gillen does. Siege has been no exception. Fun and intense. Terrible puns right beside tragic deaths. And both these minis have now reached their conclusions. Siege’s finale will probably be pretty heart-breaking. Angela’s might be, too. Tough to tell.

My October pull list (based on the calendar on Marvel’s website): Angela #4, Avengers #0, Siege #4, Squirrel Girl #1, Angela #1, Age of Apocalypse #5, Extraordinary X-Men #1 (though I think it’s actually been delayed until November), Spider-Man 2099 #1, New Avengers #1, Ms. Marvel #19. So, only 10 comics, maybe 9. Wow, this is a brutally light month for me. This month does also have Stephanie Hans’ issue of WicDiv. So that should be amazing. Because Stephanie Hans is so damned good. Still, this looks to be an embarrassingly light month all around for me.

I finished Bright Lights, Dark Nights, by Stephen Emond. My review from Goodreads:

This is a great YA book. It deals pretty heavily with race issues. A white guy starts a relationship with a black girl, right as his cop father gets embroiled in a scandal over his arrest of a black kid. The father feels he did his job right, but there’s accusations that he’s racist. The public storm affects the teenage lovers, with the parents of both thinking it’s a bad time for them to be dating, and people on the Internet talking about it. The main character – the white guy – is even forced to come to terms with his own racist attitudes, picked up from his family. (And he has to deal with his family situation in general – his hostility towards his mother over his parents’ divorce is a big thing.)

As a YA novel, the handling of the race issues doesn’t really get too in-depth. It’s more a way of examining the ways racism has changed – the fact that it tends to be subtler, and how a lot of it has moved online. The tense relations between cops and black communities is vaguely referenced, but doesn’t get much exploration. But that’s understandable.

It is still a great book. It’s well-written, with believable characters, and it at least gets readers thinking about some complex issues. A very strong YA novel.

Next up: Heir to the Sun, by Jennifer Allis Provost. I’m already about a third of the way through it, so I should be able to finish it quickly. So far, it’s pretty decent. And a few days ago, I won The Ill Fortune To Be Dark In the Eyes, by Berlin Gunning. A fantasy novel about a society that practices discrimination based on eye colour. So I should be getting that in the mail shortly.

I watched My Little Pony: Friendship Games. This is the last of the Equestria Girls movies, and I find myself surprisingly disappointed at that. The first one, to be blunt, sucked. It was a half-assed movie in every way, from the plot to the writing to the music. It sucked. But Rainbow Rocks and Friendship Games were both really good. Friendship Games had an interesting plot, plenty of solid character work, and some really good music. The music wasn’t the focus of this movie, but the songs were mostly great. Human Twilight Sparkle went through a compelling arc. Sunset Shimmer finished her character arc in a nice way that called back well to the first movie. It was a good movie. It was good enough to make me actually want to see more stories in the setting.

In my re-watch of the series, I’ve now finished the second season, and started on Season 3. That season was only a half-season, which was kinda lame. Oh well. It’s still enjoyable.

My schedule for the week: 5:30-11 Thursday, 1-6 Friday, 1-6 Saturday, 1-6 Sunday, 10-6:30 Tuesday. My next pull list post will be Tuesday. I’ll have a post on Monday, for Alpha Flight #40.

X-Factor #10 (1986, November)

More Massacre! By Louise and Walter Simonson, “Falling Angel!”

Falling Angel!

He looks like he’s about to cry.

Some Morlocks are sitting around a fire, when one of them – Erg, who’s actually friends with Power Pack – hears gunfire. The others soon hear it, too. Jean and Angel fly Rusty back to X-Factor headquarters, while the other three search for Artie. A couple of the Morlocks run by them and trip. Harpoon hurts Beast, then Arclight collapses the ceiling to keep X-Factor back.

Skids follows Jean and Angel back to X-Factor HQ, and when she figures out where she is, she gets upset. Angel explains the whole thing to her, and Skids says it was a stupid idea. She’s right! It was! Back in the tunnels, Caliban, Leech and Artie are attacked by Sabretooth. Scott blasts Sabretooth, then X-Factor runs towards more screams, while Artie and Leech pull Caliban into a narrow pipe.

Trish is doing a news report about Angel backing X-Factor. Freedom Force leaked word, and Candy finds out about the report. She decides to go see him, since he’s going to need her help once he hears what happened. Back at X-Factor HQ, Angel sees the news report.

In the sewers, Blockbuster is about to kill Tarbaby and Ape. X-Factor tries to help, but Vertigo leaves them helpless, aside from Beast, who can deal with the vertigo well enough to kick her in the head. Artie leaves Leech’s side long enough to find out where X-Factor are, so he can bring his friends to them.

Back at HQ, Angel mopes about his secret being revealed, and Jean tries to comfort him but just makes herself cry. So they’re comforting each other about how screwed-up things are, just as Candy walks in. She says she’s tolerated his philandering, but she’s had enough. You go, girl! She also tells off Jean for ruining another relationship. Jean tells Angel to go after Candy while she goes after Scott, but Angel goes with Jean, instead.

Back in the tunnels, Plague makes Sabretooth sick. Harpoon is about to kill her, but gets knocked out by Apocalypse. He leaves with Plague, saying she’ll be his first Horseman – Pestilence.

X-Factor is ambushed by more of the Marauders – Arclight, Scrambler and Prism. I forgot that Prism can actually do something beyond be useless: He reflects Scott’s blast back at him. Then Jean smashes him against a wall. Because his main power really is to be useless, as will be seen any time he returns. Angel tells Jean to bring the others back to HQ, since they’re all injured, while he looks for Artie.

He finds Artie, but he also finds Vertigo, Blockbuster and Harpoon. He gets beat up and pinned to the wall. Yep, it’s that time!

This is a good issue. It’s really intense. The constant scene-shifting gets a little distracting at times. Simonson is balancing a lot of threads here, so there’s not a lot of time spent on each one. The main plot, of course, is X-Factor in the tunnels. This might actually be the least-interesting plot, as it’s basically just the same scene repeated over and over, of X-Factor getting into brief fights with various Marauders. The Marauders themselves get less chance to be really threatening, compared to UXM. UXM showed them killing. This issue is really just the results. So there’s a lot of dead bodies laying around. But still, the Marauders don’t come across as all that threatening in the fights.

The other big thread in this issue is Angel’s involvement with X-Factor no longer being a secret. This sets up a pretty major change down the line. An even bigger change is coming with Angel, of course – the end of this issue starts a major plot for the next little while. This issue also marks the end of the Jean/Angel flirtations, and it’s about damn time. It was nice to see Candy chew Angel out for his philandering. He deserved it. The ass. And, of course, we’ve got the Apocalypse plot, with him starting to recruit his Horsemen. Which will, of course, tie into the Angel plot. Spoiler alert, I suppose.

The writing is fine. Weezie was never a particularly strong writer – I’d say she was pretty well middle-of-the-deck for the time. Not one of the best, not one of the worst, just in the middle. Her biggest weaknesses, though, were pretty well standard to the time. Overwrought dialogue, heavy exposition, all the other things that make classic comics sometimes a chore to read through.

As for Walt’s art . . . It worked great on Thor. I’m a little less enamored of it here. It’s different from the normal art of the time. It’s unconventional. But it’s not a style I really enjoy. Still, personal tastes aside, he does a solid job here. I would’ve liked if maybe the colouring was a bit darker, but that’s not really Walt’s fault.

Overall, this is an OK issue, and it’s definitely an important one.

This issue actually dovetails a little into Thor #373, by Walter Simonson and Sal Buscema. Late in the issue, a frog tells him about some screams in the tunnels, so he goes to check it out. He finds Blockbuster and Harpoon pinning Angel to the wall. He chases them off, and is about to take Angel down when he hears footsteps, and gets ready for more fighting.

X-Factor also appears in Amazing Spider-Man #282, by Tom DeFalco and Rick Leonardi. JJJ sees a news report about X-Factor. It cuts to them training – Scott and Jean against the other three. Hodge calls them to tell them JJJ wants to hire them to catch Spider-Man. They agree to take the job. JJJ says he can’t lose – either they succeed and capture Spider-Man, or they fail and he exposes them as frauds. He doesn’t like the way they’re fueling anti-mutant sentiment. The moral crusader is actually my favourite version of JJJ – he does the same thing in the ’90s, during Operation: Zero Tolerance. Anyway, X-Factor finds Spider-Man, who’s suffering a concussion from a blow he took from Rhino, and they try to talk to him, but this is a superhero comic, so obviously they need to fight first. After he passes out, they decide to go back to JJJ and tell him they can’t take the case, since Spider-Man’s not a mutant. It’s a pretty decent story. It’s pretty generic, in the end. Heroes fighting each other over a misunderstanding was always really common. The best part was JJJ bad-mouthing X-Factor for being anti-mutant jerks.

New Mutants #45 (1986, November)

I finally won another book from Goodreads. I’ll talk about it in my next pull list post. Today, by Claremont and Guice, “We Were Only Foolin’.”

We Were Only Foolin'

Creepy and sexy. Just as Illyana should be.

The New Mutants (and Kitty) have been invited to a mixer at a local school. They change into civvies, with Dani complaining that she hates having to hide who she is. Dani’s right, she shouldn’t have to hide it. If she wants to be open about being a mutant, she should be allowed. It doesn’t have to blow the school’s secret – the others can keep denying that they’re mutants, if they want to. They can say she’s the only mutant at the school. Or they can all make the decision to reject Xavier’s obsession with secrecy, and choose to live openly, so at least local humans can get used to the idea of mutants.

Anyway, the party. They all try to have fun. Sam ignores the insults of some other kids. Kitty gets jealous of Illyana getting attention from cute guys. Bobby picks a girl up and slips away with her. Doug and Warlock help Dani get rid of an obnoxious jerk, then Dani slips outside, to get away from the noise. She calls down Brightwind, and flies off. She doesn’t realize someone watched her. The guy wonders if he’s like her, as he creates a hologram of her. The guy’s name is Larry Bodine. The principal almost drags Larry back inside, and asks a grumpy Kitty if she’d dance with him. She agrees readily enough.

When Larry goes to get Kitty some punch, he hears someone telling a “mutie” joke. “How many muties does it take to screw in a lightbulb? Muties don’t need lightbulbs, they glow in the dark.” The kids are also spiking the punch. One of them suggests that Larry’s a mutant, and he panics and denies it. The guy who said it tells his friends they should threaten Larry with X-Factor. They won’t actually call X-Factor, just pretend to, for some laughs.

Later on, Kitty invites Larry to join her and the Mutants. Before they leave, Larry finds an X-Factor flier, and gets scared. At another house, the others comment on Kitty and Larry. Illyana thinks Kitty can do better. Larry thinks about showing one of his light sculptures, but isn’t sure how they’d react to learning he’s a mutant. Instead, he tells the anti-mutant joke he heard earlier. Everyone gets offended and leaves.

Larry walks home, worried about X-Factor. He heads up to his room, which has a light sculpture of a rocket. He creates another, of Kitty, but he can’t concentrate enough to stabilize it. Rahne is spying on him from outside his window. You little perv, Rahne. She runs home to tell the others that Larry’s a mutant, so she misses him getting a call from someone saying they called X-Factor.

The next morning, Amara’s cooking, using her power to heat herself up and cook the food. She’s wearing little booties to keep from burning the floor. They’re like oven mitts, but booties. It’s weirdly adorable. Magneto comes in to tell them that Larry committed suicide. He hanged himself. Doug says he hung himself. Come on, Doug, your power is language, you should know better. A picture is hung, a person is hanged. I mean, a person can be hung, but that means something very different from what we’re talking about.

In the Danger Room everyone talks about their views on Larry’s suicide. Bobby thinks he was a coward, Warlock doesn’t understand why he did it. Amara guesses Larry had no one to turn to for help, and says that suicide isn’t seen as terribly wrong in her culture. Kitty’s in Larry’s house, snooping around, and she finds his rocket ship. She touches it, and it disintegrates. She finds the flier, and realizes he was a mutant. Rahne is there, too, and smells the paper to get the scent of the people who signed the flier, and decides she wants vengeance on them. She finds them at the mall. Some of them feel terrible about what happened, but one of them refuses to take any responsibility. Dani convinces Rahne not to attack them.

The next day, at the Salem school, Kitty delivers a speech. She’s unsure what to say. Sam and Dani say they’ll support her, even if she reveals their secret identities. I wish she would! I really wish she would! But she doesn’t. Instead, she delivers a speech about words and labels and hate and stuff. She uses a few particularly nasty slurs. This panel is sometimes used, sometimes jokingly, sometimes not, to suggest Kitty’s a racist. The people who use it to seriously suggest she’s racist are idiots. Just flat-out, straight-up idiots. They’re choosing to dismiss context, and that’s crap. Kitty’s speech is pretty good.

This is a Very Special Episode issue, about the dangers of bullying. It’s still done very well, though. There’s some nice character work with quite a few characters. Kitty gets the bulk of it, even though this isn’t, strictly speaking, her book. But the important part is Larry, and Claremont captured his sense of hopelessness really well. He does come across as someone who’s terrified of having his secret discovered, and who doesn’t feel like he has anyone to turn to. The obvious metaphor here would be homosexuality. A young kid who doesn’t want his homophobic classmates to know that he’s gay. I mean, the metaphor does kinda break down a bit with Larry trying to date Kitty, but hey, metaphors aren’t supposed to be perfect. The metaphor still works.

This issue also does more with the weight of secrets than any other issue in Claremont’s run, or really, of any other X-Men story.  It’s a shame Claremont didn’t take that one last step, to have Kitty “out” herself. I think that would’ve made for a very powerful moment, and would’ve led to a seismic shake-up for the franchise. As I said above, it didn’t even need to be all the Mutants and X-Men coming out. But having even just one who was declaring, “I’m here, I’m a mutant, get used to it” – I think that would’ve been really positive. It would’ve been a way of telling readers that they should be proud of who they are, and that they don’t have to keep it a secret. It would have opened up all sorts of new stories. But, unfortunately, Claremont never had the balls to do that.

On a side note, this issue also features the debut of Kitty’s reading glasses.

The art was good. There are some weird panels. But for the most part, it’s fine. At the very least, there’s no uncomfortable oversexualization of the females. Guice is actually pretty subdued here, which is nice. Having read some of his ’90s works, I’ve gotten used to his style turning women into sex objects. Here, they all look like people. I do find it amusing seeing Kitty and Larry together – she’s clearly a few inches taller than he is. And it’s not like Kitty was especially tall. She’s only supposed to be 5’4″. So Larry’s probably only 5’2″, maybe 5’3″. He’s short. So short. But hey, there’s nothing wrong with that, and it’s always nice to have some different body types like that, even if it is just height differences.

Anyway! It’s a Very Special Episode, but it’s done well, and is one of the more emotional issues of the run. It’s very sad. A real tearjerker. Really good.

X-Men comics for September 30 2015

It’s comic book day. But only barely, with how light this week is.

E Is For Extinction #4, by Chris Burnham, Dennis Culver and Ramon Villalobos. A flashback shows Cassandra hopping from Xavier’s mind to Jean’s, right as Xavier blew his own brains out. After, in the Phoenix Egg, Jean was talking with Xavier and Cassandra, the two of them warring for Jean’s soul. Cassandra won, and now, she controls the Phoenix. Scott tries to talk to Jean, bring her out. Nope! She sends all the defeated young X-Men against the remaining Old X-Men. And Wolverine comes up with an idea for defeating Cassandra. I’ll be honest, the ending annoyed me, because it promotes the bullshit Jean/Wolverine ship. I hate that ship. Hate it hate it hate it hate it hate it. So that dragged the issue down for me. Before that, it was great. Lots of intense drama. The premise – Xavier and Cassandra warring over the soul of Jean and the power of the Phoenix – was pretty cool. The writing was great. The art, as always, will be something of an acquired taste, but it’s similar to Quitely’s New X-Men work, which helps keep the tone of that book, so it works really well here. I really enjoyed this mini.

Inferno #5, by Dennis Hopeless and Javier Garron. Darkchild is watching demons playing while eating a hot dog. N’astirh walks over, holding his decapitated head, to brief her on the fight against the X-Men. Sinister and the X-Men work out a plan for defeating Darkchild: Sinister’s demon-clone army with explosive hands, and Colossus’ big-ass magic sword. Maddie tries to kill Sinister, but is stopped by his clones. She takes over Boom-Boom’s mind, and has her blow Sinister up pretty good. That gets his clone army upset. And then Darkchild makes her appearance. The only surviving X-Men are Colossus, Domino and Boom-Boom, and Colossus goes after his sister. Pretty good finale to a pretty good mini. Dark and tense and dramatic. All the X-Men dying was a bit of a downer, but hey, it’s that kind of book. At least Boom-Boom survived. That’s what’s important. Because Boom-Boom is awesome. Garron’s art was good. Good comic.

And one last comic.

Ghost Racers #4, by Felipe Smith and Juan Gedeon. Gabe has been turned into a Racer. The race includes a T-Rex riding a jet, and a four-armed guy riding a flaming elephant. That really should be enough to get you interested. Anyway, Robbie busts back in to save his brother. More insanity, and a big showdown. This comic is delightfully insane. T-Rex riding a fighter jet! Come on! You know you want to see that. You know you do. That is a pure “I love comics” thing right there. Even aside from that, it’s a great comic. Great writing, great art. Ghost Racers was great. I really hope Felipe Smith gets more Marvel work. I’d prefer if he was on a relaunched Robbie Reyes title, but that probably won’t happen. Reyes is probably going to drop into limbo for a long time. He’ll be brought back in a few years, after a couple more Ghost Rider volumes fail, in order to be killed off in another volume of Ghost Rider that’ll fail.

Uncanny X-Men #211 (1986, November)

It begins! By Claremont, JRJR and Blevins, “Massacre.”


Most of Marvel’s comics for the month had this cover. But with different characters in Wolverine’s place, obviously.

The Marauders introduce themselves. And start the killing. They’re very good at killing.

Then we cut to Xavier’s. Colossus and Rogue are doing some chores in the barn (Dani is washing Brightwind). Wolverine wants to help, but they tell him he needs more time to recover. He gets annoyed. Inside, Kitty’s grabbing some food from the fridge, to give her some energy to finish a term paper. Back outside, Nightcrawler tries to teleport to Wolverine, and nearly passes out from the effort. He hasn’t recovered, either. They decide to drown their sorrows in beer. Before they can, though, a big-ass furry mutant digs his way out of the ground asking for help. He dies, but Betsy says she saw a flash of a massacre in his memory. Storm says the X-Men will go, but has Magneto stay behind, to protect the New Mutants.

They teleport to the Morlock tunnels, and find a lot of dead Morlocks. Callisto’s injured, but still alive. They get attacked – Vertigo makes them dizzy, Riptide throws his stars at them. Nightcrawler takes out Vertigo with multiple teleports, but Riptide tears into him. Storm tells Illyana to take the wounded back to the Mansion, while the X-Men search for the Marauders.

Meanwhile, Scalphunter kills Annalee and some Morlock kids. He mentions that he killed her kids months ago. So that’s a mystery solved! Colossus and Kitty find Scalphunter and Arclight. Arclight punches Colossus away, while Scalphunter tries to blow Kitty’s brains out. She struggles with whether or not she can kill them.

Elsewhere, Storm, Wolverine and Rogue are leading the Morlocks to the tunnels leading to the Mansion, when Wolverine catches X-Factor’s scent, and they nearly get flattened by an optic blast. Colossus and Kitty rejoin the group, and Riptide, Scrambler and Harpoon attack. And here’s where the comic gets awesome. Scrambler tries to neutralize Storm’s power, which just gets him a punch in the jaw. Riptide starts hurling his stars. Rogue tries to throw Scrambler, but he touches her, and they neutralize each other. That leaves her open to Harpoon. Kitty tries to phase Rogue out of the way, but gets hit by the spear instead. Colossus moves for Harpoon, but Riptide gets in the way. Which gives us this moment:



That is such an amazing moment.

With that done, the fight’s temporarily over. Kitty can’t unphase, and Storm leads everyone back to the school. She does tell Wolverine to stay behind. Which leads to yet another awesome moment:



Storm, in this era, was an absolute stone-cold badass. “One prisoner is sufficient.” That is such a fantastic line, beautifully summarizing what she’s telling Wolverine. Honestly, the following line – while still pretty badass – probably wasn’t even necessary, and may have been better left off.

This issue’s fantastic. It’s intense stuff. It’s kinda cool that, after starting with some slaughter, it cuts away to a really peaceful scene at the school. Just the X-Men going about their daily routines. Then the Massacre intrudes, and from then on, it gets increasingly dark, as they see the dead bodies, and they fight the Marauders. Claremont shows how angry and disgusted the X-Men are. A nice touch was Kitty wanting to kill the Marauders, but not being able to. The fact that Colossus – the gentlest X-Man – is driven to kill is also a great moment. And seriously, how awesome is his line there? “Make peace with your gods, little man – you are next!” So awesome. I think that might be the single most badass moment Colossus has ever had. And there’s still more amazing moments ahead in this story.

The art is good. JRJR and Bret Blevins have very different styles, but they manage not to clash too much. It looks to me like JRJr mostly handled the scene at the school, while Blevins did the rest. The school scene looks more sharp and jagged, while the stuff in the sewers looks a little more cartoonish. Blevins does have a very cartoony style, but it’s actually toned down here. Compare it to his work on Power Pack or New Mutants, and it’s very different. Blevins probably isn’t the artist I would have chosen for this story – Sienkewicz would have been a good choice. Or someone else with a darker, grittier style. But Blevins actually did a pretty good job. So good work from him.

This is an awesome kick-off to the first big X-Men X-over.

There’s also Classic X-Men #3, a reprint of most of X-Men #95. I won’t go into details about that. There is an inserted scene where Nefaria tells his Ani-Men not to worry, and tells Dragonfly to hypnotize the base security to fight for them. There’s another added scene where Banshee uses his sonics to penetrate the mountain to find a safe space for Nightcrawler to teleport. Another added scene of Thunderbird arguing with Cyclops. Thunderbird wants to take the point, but Cyclops says no. He feels miserable that there’s nothing he can do that one of the others can’t do better. The back-up is by Claremont and Bolton. Xavier heads out to New Mexico to bury Thunderbird. Jean joins him, to help him through the grief.

John’s body gets stolen. His parents tell the X-Men to stay out of it, but Wolverine goes hunting anyway, and the others join him. Wolverine figures it was taken by John’s little brother, James. Banshee feels guilt over what happened to John. Nightcrawler has a flashback to him and Colossus having a talk with John, where he talked about not being sure why the X-Men exist. He says he’s staying because he has nowhere else to go. Storm also has a flashback to John visiting her in her attic. She asked about his family and friends. He says he lost his friends in the jungle, and he also says he’s never had a girl to love.

Wolverine is watching James give John a warrior’s funeral. After, James declares he’ll have vengeance on Xavier.

It’s a good story. It’s always nice to see a little more of the original Thunderbird. It’s a shame he was killed off so quickly – readers never got a chance to know him. So here, we see some of the things he struggled with. Bolton’s art is really nice. Very pleasant. He makes the New Mexico desert look very hot and inhospitable. It’s good work. It’s a good comic.

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Kevin O'Leary Reviews Every Issue of Uncanny X-Men from the 1960s to the Present


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