Friday, November 29, 2013

TRANSFORMERS: REGENERATION ONE #90

"NATURAL SELECTION, PART 5"
Writer: Simon Furman | Penciler: Andrew Wildman | Inker: Stephen Baskerville
Colorist: John-Paul Bove | Coloring Assist: James Stayte | Letterer: Chris Mowry
Editor: John Barber | Editor-in-Chief: Chris Ryall

The Plot: The Autobots retake their headquarters, but not before missiles are launched at Ultra Magnus's ship. Grimlock and the Dinobots confront Scorponok, whose plan is thwarted thanks to the revelation that Perceptor has been in on Grimlock's plan all along, only playing at being a Decepticon. In their climactic battle, Grimlock and Scorponok plummet to their apparent deaths.

Beneath Cybertron's surface, Hot Rod takes the Sword and Covenant of Primus, sparing the lives of the proto-Transformer creatures, and departs their tunnels, vowing to return.

On Earth, Shockwave restores Starscream's cognitive functions, and together they plot to take control of the Ark from Galvatron. The ship takes off just as Optimus Prime arrives. Spotting Galvatron standing on the Ark's bridge, Optimus wonders if Megatron has somehow cheated death once again.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

IRON MAN #119

"NO S.H.I.E.L.D. TO PROTECT ME!"
Writer/Plot: David Michelinie | Finished Art/Plot: Bob Layton
Pencil Art: John Romita Jr. | Letters: Diana Albers | Colors: Carl Gafford
Editor: Roger Stern | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Iron Man triggers an electromagnetic pulse, creating a diversion which allows him to subdue rogue SHIELD agent Buck Richlen. Immediately after, the Helicarrier comes under assault from Russian fighter jets, and Iron Man realizes that with no one at the helm, the SHIELD craft has drifted into Soviet airspace.

While Iron Man flies out to deal with the jets, the Helicarrier's occupants come around. Nick Fury orders a retreat from the U.S.S.R., and with Iron Man's help, the escape is successful. Back aboard the Helicarrier, Fury has Richlen taken into custody, and assures Iron Man that he and his men were a renegade cell within SHIELD.

Later, at Stark International's Paris branch, Tony decodes data he procured from the Helicarrier's computer system, and learns that SHIELD has been buying up Stark stock, to the point that they practically have a controlling interest in the company. When Stark calls Fury, angrily confronting him with this fact, Fury reveals that although Richlen's unit was acting without orders, they were working in the interest of a SHIELD directive: to acquire Stark International and get the company back into the munitions business.

Monday, November 25, 2013

IRON MAN #118

"AT THE MERCY OF MY FOES FRIENDS!"
Script/Plot: David Michelinie | Finished Art/Plot: Bob Layton
Pencil Art: John Byrne | Letters: Irv Watanabe | Colors: Glynis Wein
Editor: Roger Stern | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: After repairing his armor following the previous night's encounter with Spymaster, Tony Stark travels to the SHIELD Helicarrier to attend the NATO/SHIELD defense symposium, and -- having discovered that Spymaster was armed with SHIELD weaponry -- to investigate SHIELD's involvement in Spymaster's attacks.

Aboard the Helicarrier, Tony slips away from his escort and begins to hack SHIELD's computers. This spurs the renegade agents who had hired Spymaster to go after Stark themselves. They flood the Helicarrier with gas, knocking everyone out, then toss Tony out of the craft. Coming around as he plummets earthward, Tony dons his armor and returns to the Helicarrier. He takes out most of the rogue agents, but their leader escapes and takes the unconscious Nick Fury hostage, then orders Iron Man to turn his repulsor rays on himself, or Fury will die.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

MY TOP TWELVE FAVORITE MARVEL COMICS RUNS - #12 - #6

And away we go:
    Art: Alan Davis
  1. Excalibur by Alan Davis
    (EXCALIBUR #42 - 67)
    Nostalgia Rating: 1 | Story Quality: 4 | Overall: 2.5
    Reason: I won't waste much time on this one, because I've already written about it at length in my Captain Britain reviews -- but I find Davis's tight plotting and mastery of seemingly unrelated sub-plots which thread back together, sometimes when you least expect them to, to be astounding. The run loses steam after issue #50, but it's never a chore to read, and the characters are all great fun.

Friday, November 22, 2013

TRANSFORMERS: REGENERATION ONE #89

"NATURAL SELECTION, PART 4"
Writer: Simon Furman | Penciler: Andrew Wildman | Inker: Stephen Baskerville
Colorist: John-Paul Bove | Letterer: Chris Mowry | Editor: John Barber
Editor-in-Chief: Chris Ryall

The Plot: The Dinobots, hunted by Scorponok's forces and realizing they can't win, resolve to kill Grimlock for his betrayal. They lure Grimlock to the "nursery", where all the Nucleon-infected Autobots are kept. But Scorponok's forces also converge on the area. Grimlock convinces the Dinobots he is still on their side by taking out the Decepticons. The last remaining non-Deceptified Autobots arrive, and Grimlock reveals he has a plan to stop Scorponok.

Beneath the planet, Hot Rod touches the Covenant of Primus and receives a vision, in which he learns the monsters chasing him were prototype Transformers judged a failure by Primus. Primus eliminated them to start over, but some survived. Hot Rod believes his job is to finish them off with Primus's sword.

On Earth, Optimus Prime drives through British Columbia toward the Ark's crash site, where he plans to destroy the starship to prevent it from unleashing any further horrors on the planet.

Meanwhile, Ultra Magnus and the Autobot attack team approach Cybertron. Under orders from Scorponok, they are given an "all-clear" signal, with the intention to shoot them down when they reach Cybertron.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

IRON MAN #117

"THE SPY WHO KILLED ME!"
Script/Plot: David Michelinie | Finished Art/Plot: Bob Layton
Pencil Art: John Romita Jr. | Letters: John Costanza | Colors: Ben Sean
Editor: Roger Stern | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Spymaster assassinates Tony Stark's Life Model Decoy and draws Iron Man away from Stark International. After realizing he's been had, Iron Man flashes back to the sequence of events which brought him to this point: In order to draw his would-be assassin out of hiding following last issue's bombing, Tony attended a high profile reception for the Carnelian ambassador, then returned to Stark International for the night.

Following the flashback, Iron Man returns to S.I. to confront Spymaster. After a chase across the company grounds, Iron Man catches and defeats the mercenary, and discovers that he was attempting to steal a tape containing a list of Stark's shareholders. Elsewhere, the men who hired Spymaster reflect upon his failure, as they walk to a NATO/SHIELD meeting presided over by their superior... Nick Fury!

Monday, November 18, 2013

IRON MAN #116

"ANGUISH, ONCE REMOVED!"
Plot/Words: David Michelinie | Plot/Inks: Bob Layton | Pencils: John Romita Jr.
Letters: Annette Kawecki | Colors: George Rouossos | Editor: Roger Stern
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: As the Ani-Men beat up on Tony Stark, the mysterious assassin from last issue reveals himself as Spymaster. Having previously planted a bomb in Tony's penthouse, Spymaster triggers the device's countdown. Meanwhile, throwing his secret identity to the wind, Tony dons his Iron Man armor to battle the Ani-Men. But their fight ends abruptly when the bomb detonates, apparently killing the villains.

Madame Masque and Count Nefaria escape in the confusion and travel to Stark International on Long Island, where Madame Masque attempts to restore her father's youth and vitality with Tony's equipment. But Iron Man catches up with them and, after making his way past a couple traps set by Madame Masque, confronts her. In the ensuing conflict between Iron Man, a rogue Mars exploration rover controlled by Masque, and Stark security, the machine containing Nefaria is destroyed, and the Count perishes.

Madame Masque reveals that, as Whitney, she still loves Tony -- but she now blames him for her father's demise. She departs, declaring that she must sort out her feelings.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

MY TOP TWELVE FAVORITE MARVEL COMICS RUNS

Why a Top Twelve? Well, this was originally going to be a top ten list, but I could only whittle the thing down to about twelve entries. And since this is my blog, I make the rules. So, for the next few weeks, I'll post the list in segments. Today is the introduction. Next Sunday will be numbers 12 through 6, and the following weekend will bring the Top Five and a little wrap-up.

I have an interesting group here, I think. There are things you'd expect -- runs that most anyone would have on a list of the best Marvel ever. But at the same time there are several glaring holes as well. Versed as I am in the world of Marvel, there are several classic runs I've never read. The Lee/Kirby FANTASTIC FOUR, for example, does not appear here, because I've barely ever read any of it. Though really, the entire Silver Age, beyond Spider-Man, is a huge blind spot for me. I know what happened; I just haven't read all of it personally. So all I can do is pick my favorite runs from the ones I've read, and that's exactly what I've done here.

Friday, November 15, 2013

TRANSFORMERS: REGENERATION ONE #88

"NATURAL SELECTION, PART 3"
Writer: Simon Furman | Penciler: Andrew Wildman | Inker: Stephen Baskerville
Colorist: John-Paul Bove | Letterer: Chris Mowry | Editor: John Barber
Editor-in-Chief: Chris Ryall

The Plot: Scorponok seizes control of Soundwave's Decepticons, however Soundwave himself has fled Cybertron following his infiltration of the Hall of Silence, and is now aboard Bludgeon's Warworld. When Bludgeon reveals that he has created an army of mindless war machines awaiting a spark of life from the Creation Matrix, Soundwave agrees to provide Thunderwing's remains, the last remaining source of Matrix energy.

On Cybertron, Scorponok's warriors continue to turn the Autobots into Decepticons, while Perceptor oversees the construction of a device which will send a planetwide signal to change all remaining Autobots at once. Scorponok orders Grimlock to execute an Autobot prisoner, Punch, to prove his loyalty, but Grimlock attempts to kill Scorponok instead -- at which point Scorponok reveals that he has some form of control over Grimlock's new body by causing it pain.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

IRON MAN #115

The book I'm using for this review series was hyped as the complete IRON MAN run by David Michelinie and Bob Layton, but technically it is the IRON MAN BY DAVID MICHELINIE, BOB LAYTON, AND JOHN ROMITA JR. OMNIBUS. As such, the very first issue in the book is Romita's first as penciler, an issue before the arrival of Michelinie and Layton.

"BETRAYAL!"
Writer: Bill Mantlo | Embellisher: Dan Green
Letterer: Diana Albers | Colorist: Don Warfield
Editor: Roger Stern | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter
And introducing the pulse-pounding penciling of John Romita Jr.

The Plot: The Avengers drop off Iron Man's unconscious enemy, the Unicorn, at Stark International in New York. After the Avengers depart, Iron Man reviews the Unicorn's history, then changes to his alter ego, Tony Stark, and departs for Manhattan to see his girlfriend, Whitney Frost. Along the way he is observed by a mysterious figure with plans to assassinate him.

When he reaches his penthouse, Tony is attacked by the Ani-Men, servants of Avengers' foe Count Nefaria. After the Ani-Men knock Tony out, Whitney reveals herself as Madame Masque, and states her plot to force Tony into curing Nefaria, her father, of an affliction she blames on the Avengers.

Monday, November 11, 2013

IRON MAN BY MICHELINIE & LAYTON

Years before Robert Downey Jr. made Iron Man and Tony Stark household names, there was one definitive portrayal of the Golden Avenger which fans held as the "iron" standard. In the late seventies, writer David Michelinie and artist Bob Layton arrived at Marvel and were assigned the IRON MAN series, joining incoming penciler John Romita, Jr.. Michelinie scripted while Layton inked and sometimes penciled, but both were credited as co-plotters.


I personally have little experience with this era in Shellhead's career. I first read IRON MAN regularly when the series was shunted into the "Heroes Reborn" universe in 1996 (yes, for all the derision it receives, "Heroes Reborn" really did accomplish its goal of bringing in new readers). I stuck with the series for a few years afterward, through the excellent Kurt Busiek/Sean Chen era and eventually gave up during Frank Tieri's term as writer in 2002 or so.

IRON MAN OMNIBUS, 2013
Via trade paperbacks, I have read some of the Michelinie/Layton run -- the "Demon in a Bottle" storyline and the famous Dr. Doom/Camelot 2-parter -- but that's it. Fortunately, to coincide with the release of IRON MAN 3 this past summer, Marvel finally saw fit to collect the full original Michelinie/Layton run in its entirety in a handsome hardcover Omnibus volume.

I picked up the Omnibus when it was released, but it was shuffled down my reading list a bit as I caught up on some other things (many of which you've read about here). But now the time has finally come to crack the book open and read, for the first time in full, this classic status quo-setting run on the invincible armored Avenger. Thus, my very first long-term single-issue-at-a-time review project will begin Wednesday and continue every Monday and Wednesday for about the next three months.

Friday, November 8, 2013

TRANSFORMERS: REGENERATION ONE #87

"NATURAL SELECTION, PART 2"
Writer: Simon Furman | Penciler: Andrew Wildman | Inker: Stephen Baskerville
Colorist: John-Paul Bove | Letterer: Chris Mowry | Editor: John Barber
Editor-in-Chief: Chris Ryall

The Plot: Scorponok brings the Autobot Headmasters, Highbrow, Hardhead, and Brainstorm, back online as Decepticons. Grimlock, now in his new body, then transports the Headmasters to Cybertron. The Autobots take Grimlock into custody upon his arrival, and when he is visited in his cell by Perceptor, he uses Scorponok's new C.N.A. re-encoder to turn the Autobot scientist into a Decepticon. Meanwhile, the Headmasters infiltrate Autobot capital city Iacon, clearing the way for Scorponok.

All of this is unnoticed by Hot Rod, who, after a brief meeting with Grimlock, heads beneath the surface of Cybertron, where a group of Autobots have located the tunnels which should lead them to the chamber housing Primus, the Transformers' god. However, the tunnels are populated by a group of robot-devouring monsters.

On Earth, Optimus Prime chooses to remain behind despite the humans' orders, and help them rebuild. He sends Ultra Magnus and the rest of his troops back to Cybertron. Meanwhile, Galvatron follows Starscream into the Ark, and Starscream leads him to Shockwave, somehow wired into the Ark's on board systems.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

CLANDESTINE PART THREE - MARVEL TALES

MARVEL TALES BY ALAN DAVIS
TPB, 2012
In 2009, shortly following the conclusion of the CLANDESTINE: BLOOD RELATIVE limited series, Alan Davis began work on a trio of annuals for Marvel which would continue the Destines' story. Each of these annuals would headline a different Marvel character, and Destines would be supporting characters in each. The stories would be designed to be read individually if desired; however, if read together, the three annuals would tell one overarching ClanDestine tale.

All three annuals eventually saw release in 2012. The first, FANTASTIC FOUR ANNUAL #33, features the Thing and the Human Torch working with Dr. Strange to investigate the energy escaped from Vincent Destine's grave at the end of BLOOD RELATIVE. The Torch and the Thing are hurled back through time, where they encounter Vincent at various points in his life before finally witnessing his long-hinted death at his father's hands: Adam was forced to take Vincent's life when his reality warping powers ran amok.

Monday, November 4, 2013

CLANDESTINE PART TWO - BLOOD RELATIVE

CLANDESTINE: BLOOD RELATIVE
Premiere Hardcover, 2008
In 2008, twelve years after he had last visited the characters in X-MEN AND THE CLANDESTINE, Alan Davis returned to his creations for a five-issue limited series called CLANDESTINE: BLOOD RELATIVE. Interestingly, Davis treats this story as if is a direct continuation of the last stories from over a decade previous. Now, "Marvel Time" can allow for certain liberties to be taken with timeline compression, but it seems a bit odd to essentially continue a twelve year-old story as if no more than a month had passed between installments. This approach doesn't hurt Davis's efforts, mind you -- it just seems a strange creative decision.

The story is much of the same as the first time around -- in fact, the Destines find themselves battling the very same villain they fought in their first story arc, lo those many years past -- a character of Davis's creation called Griffin. In fact, Griffin's scheme here is a direct sequel to the very first CLANDESTINE issues, wherein he kidnapped the family. We learn now that he cloned them, and he sends those clones to exact revenge for his previous defeat.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

WISHFUL THINKING

I'm not really into original comic art or commissions at all. I have a few sketches I've picked up at cons over the years for reasonable prices, but in general I'm priced out of the comic art market. Even if I had the money, though, I just think the prices fetched by original pages and high-end commissions are insane. Thousands of dollars for one page or one piece? Ludicrous. If you can buy a TV or a computer (or maybe even a used car!) for less than the price of a piece of original art, then the original art costs too much. I don't care that the work is one of a kind. In the end it's just a piece of paper, and no piece of paper is worth that much, regardless of what's on it.

But that doesn't stop me from fantasizing. There are plenty of artists from whom I would commission some artwork, if their prices made any sort of earthly sense. For whatever reason, though, my dreams of original art return most frequently to John Byrne. Byrne's commission work is hit or miss, but when it's good, it's very good. And if he was willing to take the request, I would ask him for a series of X-Men commissions. But since I'm never going to actually do it, I want to get this out of my system. So here's the fantasy letter I would write to Byrne's art dealer, Jim Warden, in a different world:

Friday, November 1, 2013

TRANSFORMERS: REGENERATION ONE #86

The second TRANSFORMERS: REGENERATION ONE trade paperback collects issues 86 - 90. I have recently learned that the series is planned for a finite run of twenty issues, to wrap up the entire saga in #100, which will just fill two more trades after this one. Personally, as of right now I'd love to see it continue past #100 if sales warrant, but I guess we'll see what happens...

"NATURAL SELECTION, PART 1"
Writer: Simon Furman | Penciler: Andrew Wildman | Inker: Stephen Baskerville
Colorist: John-Paul Bove | Letterer: Chris Mowry | Editor: John Barber
Editor-in-Chief: Chris Ryall

The Plot: On Nebulos, Grimlock is held prisoner by Scorponok, who explains that his original head came online upon the death of his Headmaster self during the Unicron battle. Scorponok has isolated a gene in all Transformers, which determines whether they are "born" as Autobots or Decepticons, and he believes he can return to Cybertron and alter the gene to create a planet of Decepticons. Bribed with a new, fully functional body, plus the possibility of curing those Autobots negatively affected by Nucleon, Grimlock reluctantly agrees to help Scorponok in his plan.

On Cybertron, Soundwave makes it to Thunderwing's resting place in the Hall of Silence. Hot Rod orders the Hall destroyed per protocol in the event of an intruder, which plays into Soundeave's plot somehow.

And on Earth, Spike and Blackrock inform Optimus Prime that the remaining humans have voted the Autobots off the planet. Meanwhile, the Autobots have gathered all Megatron's now-deceased zombies in one place to disintegrate them. However, Starscream yet lives, and escapes prior to the disintegration, to sneak aboard the Ark. His entry is noticed by Galvatron.