Wednesday, December 30, 2015

POWER GIRL #9 - 12

"THIS CITY IS A ZOO" | "WAR ON TERRA"
"TERRA ALERT!" | "THE LITTLE THINGS"
Writers: Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmiotti | Artist: Amanda Conner
Colorist: Paul Mounts | Letterer: John J. Hill
Assistant Editor: Rex Ogle | Editor: Brian Cunningham

My Thoughts: Power Girl's final story arc brings things full circle and wraps up all the major Palmiotti/Gray plot points as they depart the series. First Satanna comes after Power Girl to get revenge for the Ultra Humanite's fate, but she's defeated with aid from an increasingly bloodthirsty Terra, who is eventually revealed as the Humanite himself, in a new body.

Power Girl defeats Terra-Humanite and tracks down Satanna, dismembering her with heat vision in order to get her to reveal the whereabouts of Terra's brain, which is trapped in the Humanite's badly burnt ape body. PG takes both Humanite and Terra to Terra's homeland of Strata, beneath the Earth's crust, where Terra is restored to normal and the Humanite's brain is transplanted into a clone of his original human body, now without the genetic defect which had forced him to transplant his brain into an ape all those years ago.

Monday, December 28, 2015

POWER GIRL #7 - 8

"LUST IN SPACE!" | "A GROOVY KIND OF LOVE"
Writers: Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmiotti | Artist: Amanda Conner
Colorist: Paul Mounts | Letterer: John J. Hill
Assistant Editor: Rex Ogle | Editor: Brian Cunningham

My Thoughts: The light-hearted fun continues into POWER GIRL issues 7 and 8, as our heroine becomes the object of affection for Vartox the Hyper Man, a goofy character from the Superman comics of the seventies, whose appearance is inexplicably based upon Sean Connery in the movie ZARDOZ. It seems that an "infertility bomb" was detonated on Vartox's home planet, rendering reproduction there impossible. Vartox decides that he will mate with Power Girl in order to repopulate the species, both because her Kryptonian DNA makes her compatible with him and because "...[her] physical endowments best complement his own."

The resultant comedy of errors finds Vartox attempting to woo Power Girl with a "musk rifle" and then trying to impress her by loosing a monster called an Ix Negaspike, which he intends to defeat to prove his strength. But the creature proves too much for Vartox alone, so he and Power Girl defeat it together.

Friday, December 25, 2015

TRANSFORMERS SUMMER SPECIAL #1

Note: TRANSFORMERS #4 featured a short story spotlighting Megatron as part of "Megatron Month". The TRANSFORMERS SUMMER SPECIAL continued Megatron's saga. I have opted to cover both stories together.

Note 2: Rest assured, the irony of reviewing a "Summer Special" on Christmas Day is not lost on me. This is just how the schedule happened to fall.


"RUNNIN WITH THE DEVIL"
Writer: Brad Mick* | Pencils: James Raiz | Inks: Erik Sander
Colors: Elliott Kravchik | Letters Ben Lee

The Plot: Megatron is found drifting in deep space by the eccentric Junkion, Wreck-Gar. Wreck-Gar nurses Megatron back to health and takes him to his homeworld, the Planet of Junk. There, Wreck-Gar salvages a trio of Decepticon clones to serve Megatron, then Megatron kills the Junkion.

"WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE"
Story: Brad Mick* w/Adam Patyk | Pencils: Pat Lee
Breakdowns: Joe Ng | Backgrounds: Edwin Garcia | Inks: Rob Armstrong
Colors: Alan Wang | Letters: Ben Lee

The Plot: On the planet Beest, Megatron and his clones battle Razorclaw, the former leader of the Predacons, now locked in his lion mode with no memory of his past life. After fighting Razorclaw off, Megatron pursues him into the jungle and defeats him. Later, Megatron makes changes to Razorclaw's systems and reunites him with the rest of the Predacons. At Megatron's command, the Predacons unite to form Predaking.

Continuity Notes: Readers will recall that we initially saw Wreck-Gar pick up Megatron at the very end of WAR AND PEACE, and then the two of them were together, scavenging for clones on the Planet of Junk, in GENERATION ONE #0.

"Runnin..." makes it clear that six months have passed since Starscream jettisoned Megatron into space in WAR AND PEACE #1. I'm not sure if this fits very well with the timeline Mick has presented so far, as the events of WAR AND PEACE seemed to occur over a pretty short span, and the entirety of the Sunstorm arc in GENERATION ONE took place in roughly two days. I would suggest that time could have passed between the two series, but unless Starscream's crew spent six months traveling from Cybertron to Earth, that seems unlikely as well.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

POWER GIRL #4 - 6

"GIRLS' NIGHT OUT"
"SPACE GIRLS GONE WILD!" Part 1 | "SPACE GIRLS GONE WILD!" Part 2
Writers: Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmiotti | Artist: Amanda Conner
Colorist: Paul Mounts | Letterer: John J. Hill
Assistant Editor: Rex Ogle | Editor: Brian Cunningham

My Thoughts: Okay, this is more like what I was expecting from a Gray/Palmiotti/Conner POWER GIRL series. "Girls' Night Out" is a one-off adventure featuring Power Girl and Terra teaming up against an elf girl using a magical book to "purify" Earth, and then "Space Girls Gone Wild!" presents a trio of spoiled alien princesses landing in New York and causing trouble as they attempt to elude an agent of their father, sent to bring them back home.

Along the way, Palmiotti and Gray continue to develop Power Girl's personal life, giving her a new apartment in Brooklyn and revealing that she's a huge fan of horror movies. We also get more from Terra too, her naive innocence leading to some cute jokes as she attempts to adjust to life on the surface world as Power Girl's "ward" of sorts. A sub-plot materializes as well, as someone snaps photos of Karen changing into Power Girl on her apartment roof, then later sends her the pictures as blackmail material.

Monday, December 21, 2015

POWER GIRL #1 - 3

"A NEW BEGINNING" | "UNLEASHING THE BEAST" | "GORILLA WARFARE"
Writers: Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmiotti | Artist: Amanda Conner
Colorist: Paul Mounts | Letterer: John J. Hill
Assistant Editor: Rex Ogle | Editor: Brian Cunningham

My Thoughts: Palmiotti and Gray begin Power Girl's continuing adventures by setting her up in Manhattan and restoring her secret identity as Karen Starr, CEO of Starrware Labs, a company dedicated to bettering the world through technology. The opening issue introduces us to Karen's employees, Donna Anderson and Simon Peters, as well as the newest member of the Starrware team, Dexter Nichols. We also get an ominous appearance by Xander Blevin, a callous researcher with designs on reprogramming the minds of the world's citizens.

But the main threat in this opening arc is the Ultra-Humanite, a brilliant scientist whose brain resides in the body of an albino ape. Here, the Humanite's plan is to lift Manhattan into the sky with his airship and hold it hostage in order to force Power Girl to give him her body as the new receptacle for his brain. While Power Girl struggles against the Ultra-Humanite aboard his craft, her teammates from the Justice Society are busy on the streets of Manhattan, fighting against the Humanite's robots.

I'm only familiar with Ultra-Humanite, as with many DC characters, via his appearances in the JUSTICE LEAGUE TV series, where he was generally played as a comic relief villain; or at least as a foe not taken overly seriously by anyone. But this version of the Humanite is quite deadly, using his mental powers to warp the people of Manhattan into a violent frenzy, and causing the deaths of over sixty people during his plot -- which seems kind of thematically out of place given the very "Silver Age" nature of the scheme.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

THE UNBOXING - DECEMBER 2015

2015 closes with a small month, which is fine with me since it's the holiday season. From Marvel, we have the WOLVERINE EPIC COLLECTION: THE DYING GAME, which collects issues 87 - 100 of the Canucklehead's ongoing series, written by Larry Hama and illustrated (mostly) by Adam Kubert. As I've said before, I really enjoy the year of X-Men comics between "Age of Apocalypse" and "Onslaught", and most of this material fits right in that window.


And IDW brings RAGNARÖK VOLUME 1: LAST GOD STANDING, Walter Simonson's return to the Norse pantheon -- albeit free from the Marvel versions of those characters. I've heard good things about this series and I'm excited to read it, so hopefully I'll have a little something to say about it in the near future.

That's a wrap on a year's worth of Unboxings, but the cycle begins anew next month and I expect to receive at least three or four trades from Marvel and DC to start the new year.

Friday, December 18, 2015

TRANSFORMERS: GENERATION ONE #6

"ATONEMENT"
Writers: James "Brad Mick" McDonough & Adam Patyk | Pencils: Don Figueroa
Inks: Elaine To | Colors: Espen Grundetjern | Letters: Ben Lee

The Plot: Deep beneath the Earth's surface, as Sunstorm sinks into a pool of glowing liquid, Starscream prepares to execute Bumblebee. Meanwhile, on Cybertron, Prowl holds a meeting of several Autobots and they debate returning to Earth. Ultimately the decision is reached to do so. And back on Earth, Warpath and Bumper, along with the still-unconscious Jazz and the rest, are driven into the desert aboard a human truck, which descends underground via a concealed elevator. Elsewhere, Omega Supreme and Cliffjumper worry over their friends.

Back underground, Sunstorm rises once more and attacks Starscream, then grabs Bumblebee and prepares to kill him. But his body has a reaction to the liquid in which he was submerged and he begins to disintegrate. Jetfire comes around and enters the fray, causing Sunstorm to retreat back to the surface and into the sky. Jetfire appeals to the friendship he once shared with Starscream, then pursues Sunstorm. Starscream picks up the unconscious Bumblebee and returns to the surface.

Meanwhile, high in the sky, Jetfire realizes Sunstorm is on the verge of self-destructing. While Starscream deposits Bumblebee on a beach somewhere and departs, Jetfire pushes Sunstorm out of the atmosphere, where both are enveloped in a massive explosion.

On Earth, Bumblebee observes Jetfire's demise, salutes, and abandons his blaster on the beach as he walks away.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

SUPERGIRL #12 & TERRA #1 - 4

"ROCK ON!"
Story: Jimmy Palmiotti & Justin Gray | Pencils: Amanda Conner
Inks: Jimmy Palmiotti | Colors: Rod Reis | Lettering: Rob Leigh
Associate Editor: Jeanine Schaefer | Editor: Eddie Berganza

My Thoughts: Somehow the complete works of Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray have become a major part of this blog, as clicking either gentleman's name in the "labels" at the bottom of this post will pull up seven mini-series written by the pair, and we've got more to come, starting with these early appearances of the new Terra.

First up, SUPERGIRL 12 is apparently this Terra's very first appearance, but I'm not sure I would've known that if the cover hadn't said so. She's given little fanfare. We begin the story with Supergirl -- Kara Zor-El, Superman's cousin -- suffering some personal crisis and blowing off steam by dancing at a nightclub. She comes across Terra fighting something called the Empathosaur -- an empathic dinosaur -- and Terra talks her into helping the fight. The girls defeat the Empathosaur and Terra lectures Supergirl about using her powers for good before disappearing.

There's a bit more to the story, featuring Supergirl ultimately coming to the decision that maybe it is okay for her to be selfish once in a while -- but that's it as far as Terra goes. Her first appearance teaches us that she has earth-based powers, thinks very highly of Superman, and wants to make a difference in the world. And that's about it. We'll have to wait for her limited series, two years later, to learn anything else about her.

Monday, December 14, 2015

JSA CLASSIFIED #1 - 4

"POWER TRIP"
Writer: Geoff Johns | Penciler: Amanda Conner | Inker: Jimmy Palmiotti
Colorist: Paul Mounts | Letterer: Rob Leigh
Assistant Editor: Harvey Richards | Editor: Stephen Wacker

My Thoughts: The first four issues of 2005's JSA CLASSIFIED ongoing series are dedicated to cleaning up the history of Power Girl. This is an admirable goal, considering that I knew the bare minimum about the character coming into this series, but even then I was aware that her backstory was considered a royal mess.

To put it as simply as I can, Power Girl was a denizen of Earth-2, a parallel world from DC's Silver and Bronze Age past. But Earth 2 was destroyed, completely wiped from both existence and history in 1986's CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS limited series. And since the Power Girl of Earth 2 was Superman's cousin, but it was established post-CRISIS that Superman would be the one and only surviving Kryptonian in the newly re-formed universe, a new origin was required for Power Girl. Thus she became Atlantean rather than Kryptonian.

I don't know what happened from that point, but the gist I get from JSA CLASSIFIED is that Power Girl's powers varied in the intervening years, and perhaps even her origin was played inconsistently. Whatever the reason, writer Geoff Johns decided to fix the mess by simply declaring that Power Girl is from Earth 2 after all, having crossed over to Earth 1 (or Earth Prime or whatever DC calls it) sometime before the CRISIS ended.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

POWER GIRL

I've been sitting on this one for a while, unexpectedly. Last March I picked up the POWER GIRL: POWER TRIP trade paperback, reprinting almost all of Amanda Conner's work drawing the character. I actually read this stuff last summer, before I began reading my NEW TEEN TITANS OMNIBUS collections for the review series that went up through the first half of this year. I wrote up some Power Girl posts at the time, but put them away for a rainy day.

My intention, as I stated at the beginning of this year, was that somewhere around this summer I would begin a series called "DC Saturdays" in which I would cover various DC trades in my collection. Obviously that never happened. I just haven't had time to read as much as I had expected when the year began. The Power Girl posts were intended to kick off that series, but since it didn't materialize, I have continued to hold them in reserve.

But now, with some weeks to fill as we come to the end of the year, I figure it's time to put these out there before they can get shuffled to the back-burner yet again. So we'll end 2015 the way it began: with some DC material.

The POWER TRIP trade reprints JSA CLASSIFIED issues 1 - 4, by Geoff Johns and Amanda Conner, then follows that with POWER GIRL issues 1 - 12 by Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray, and Conner. Conspicuously absent from the collection is TERRA issues 1 - 4, a limited series also by Palmiotti, Gray, and Conner, which guest-stars Power Girl alongside a new character taking the name of the Teen Titans' Terra. This Terra actually debuted a little earlier in SUPERGIRL #12, which was also produced by Palmiotti, Gray, and Conner, though Power Girl doesn't figure into that one.

I got my hands on an out of print TERRA trade, which includes the SUPERGIRL issue and TERRA limited series, to make this series of posts as complete as possible. So, for the next six weeks we'll cover the following:
  • JSA CLASSIFIED #1 - 4
  • SUPERGIRL #12 & TERRA #1 - 4
  • POWER GIRL #1 - 3
  • POWER GIRL #4 - 6
  • POWER GIRL #7 - 9
  • POWER GIRL #10 - 12
Time to find out if there's anything more to like about the character beyond the costume that captured my imagination as an adolescent.

Friday, December 11, 2015

TRANSFORMERS: GENERATION ONE #5

"ORIGINAL SIN"
Writers: Brad Mick* & Adam Patyk | Pencils: Don Figueroa
Inks: Elaine To | Colors: Espen Grundetjern | Letters: Ben Lee

The Plot: Bumblebee, Cliffjumper, and Jetfire check on the defeated Omega Supreme and Jetfire explains how he and Omega wound up on Earth. Leaving Cliffjumper behind to guard the recovering Omega, Bumblebee and Jetfire take off to find Sunstorm. Meanwhile, on Cybertron, Prowl and Perceptor discuss the mystery of Vector Sigma and Sunstorm's escape, and Prowl enters a meeting with several top Autobots.

Back on Earth, Jetfire and Bumblebee find Sunstorm forcing Starscream to open a seal on the ground in Alaska. The seal opens and the Decepticons enter, followed by the Autobots. Underground, Jetfire defeats Starscream but Sunstorm takes Bumblebee hostage. However Starscream reveals he was playing possum and takes out both Sunstorm and Jetfire.

Continuity Notes: Suddenly the series has begun to include editorial footnotes. This issue references MICROMASTERS #1, WAR AND PEACE #6, and GENERATION ONE #3.

Jetfire explains that he and Omega Supreme were dispatched from Cybertron some time ago to find the missing Ark and detected its energy signature on Earth -- but as they approached the planet they were attacked by an unknown Transformer (shown to readers as Scourge). Jetfire trapped the hostile in a stasis pod in Alaska and both were apparently caught in an avalanche, but the story is interrupted before Jetfire can explain what happened next.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

THE HIGH EVOLUTIONARY

"THE GIFT" | "PET PROJECT" | "THE MEN, THE MINE, THE MOUNTAIN!"
"BLOOD DRAWN, BLOOD SPILT!" | "SILVER AND CRIMSON" | "KINDRED SPIRITS"
"DEMON NIGHT" | "ALL MY CHILDREN" | "THE FINAL FRONTIER"
"THE SON OF EARTH" | "BEYOND LIFE"

Story: Mark Gruenwald
Pencils: Paris Cullens & Ron Lim | Inks: Tony Dezuniga w/Jim Sinclair
Letters: Ken Lopez w/Joe Abelo | Colors: Gregory Wright
Editor: Ralph Macchio | Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

The Plot: Beginning in England in 1928, the origin and history of Doctor Herbert Wyndham's path to becoming the High Evolutionary are told, from his days as a biology student at Oxford up to the point he declared the "Evolutionary War".

Continuity Notes: Well... where to begin? This story is one huge continuity note, as writer Mark Gruenwald codifies all previously known tidbits about the High Evolutionary and his acquaintances into one serialized story. I'll do my best to list everything I came across, but while my Marvel knowledge is pretty good, I'm no Gruenwald, so it's probable I missed a few things.

Monday, December 7, 2015

AVENGERS ANNUAL #17

"PROMETHEUS MUTANS!"
Writing: Walter Simonson | Penciling: Mark Bright | Inking: Mike & Valerie Gustovich
Lettering: Oakley, Heisler, Parker | Coloring: Evelyn Stein
Editing: Mark Gruenwald | Editing-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

The Plot: The High Evolutionary's Gatherers activate former Avenger Jocasta to gain intelligence on Earth's Mightiest Heroes, but Jocasta gets a distress call out to the Avengers' old telephone line. The Avengers' computer summons all available reservists to respond, and a group of interim Avengers is formed. This team rescues Jocasta and learns of the High Evolutionary's plan, then they head beneath the sea to investigate.

The Avengers find the nations of Lemuria and Atlantis at war, but Captain America convinces them to make peace and turn their energies against the High Evolutionary. As the combined Atlantean/Lemurian force attacks the Evolutionary's submarine, the Avengers sneak aboard and sow mutiny among the Evolutionary's men. This draws the attention of the Evolutionary, who battles the Avengers. As the fight proceeds, the Beast uses the Evolutionary's equipment to evolve Hercules into "more than a god", and Hercules and the Evolutionary destroy each other in final combat.

Jocasta sacrifices herself to blow up the High Evolutionary's submarine, vaporizing his genetic bomb in the process before it can be detonated. The surviving Avengers return to New York.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

X-MEN: MUTANT MASSACRE

Hardcover, 2009. Collects 1986's UNCANNY X-MEN #210 - 214, X-FACTOR #9 - 11, NEW MUTANTS #46, THOR #373 - 374, POWER PACK #27, and DAREDEVIL #238.

Published in 2009, X-MEN: MUTANT MASSACRE was, to my knowledge, Marvel's first attempt to collect the complete "Mutant Massacre" event in on volume, including not only the pertinent issues of the mutant titles, X-MEN, NEW MUTANTS, and X-FACTOR, but also the various tangential crossover material from DAREDEVIL, THOR, and POWER PACK.

The book opens with UNCANNY X-MEN #210, X-FACTOR #9, UNCANNY #211, and X-FACTOR #10. From there, we move into the majority of the one- and two-off chapters -- NEW MUTANTS #46, THOR #373, POWER PACK #27, and THOR #374. Then it's back to the "core" material in UNCANNY #212 and X-FACTOR #11, followed by DAREDEVIL's contribution in issue 238, and then the saga is capped off by UNCANNY 213 and 214, which was not originally identified as an official piece of the crossover, but which provides a nice coda to the whole thing.

The reproduction of most of these issues is very nice, with the criminal exception of Alan Davis's X-MEN 213 (below), which looks absolutely horrid and represents an unforgivable crime against one of Marvel's best artists of all time. That issue is, for me, easily the highlight of "Mutant Massacre" in terms of both story and art, and I can't believe it came out looking so awful in this book.

Friday, December 4, 2015

TRANSFORMERS: GENERATION ONE #4

"THE OMEGA EFFECT"
Writer: Brad Mick* | Pencils: Don Figueroa | Inks: Elaine To
Colors: Espen Grundetjern & Rob Ruffalo | Letters: Ben Lee

The Plot: On Cybertron, millions of years ago, Megatron admonishes Starscream for acting without permission, and asserts his dominance as the Decepticons' leader. Then, in the present, Starscream is attacked by the Autobot battle station, Omega Supreme. Starscream deactivates the energy siphon the Autobots planted on Sunstorm, and Sunstorm challenges Omega.

On Cybertron, Prowl researches the supercomputer Vector Sigma and discusses the next day's important meeting with Ultra Magnus. Meanwhile, on Earth, Warpath and Bumper pull Jazz, Wheeljack, Sideswipe, and Sunstreaker from a lake in Oregon, then are confronted by the Earth Defense Command.

In Alaska, Jetfire, Bumblebee, Cliffjumper, and Brawn return to the Orion following their fight with Sunstorm, to find the crew all disabled. Meanwhile, Sunstorm and Omega Supreme fight, with Omega apparently victorious. But when Omega raises his protective face shield to inspect his downed foe, Sunstorm attacks again.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN ANNUAL #8

"RETURN TO SENDER"
Script: Gerry Conway | Pencils: Mark Bagley | Inks: Keith Williams
Lettering: Rick Parker | Color: Bob Sharen | Editor: Jim Salicrup
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

The Plot: As Spider-Man sits on a rooftop reflecting, he spots a woman being chased by men in a hovercraft. The web-slinger intervenes and saves the woman, who he recognizes as his long-dead girlfriend, Gwen Stacy. Gwen's assailants teleport away, and Gwen disappears in the chaos of their passing. The men report back to the High Evolutionary, who is displeased with their failure to capture Gwen.

Peter Parker meets his wife, Mary Jane, at their apartment, and tells her Gwen's clone is back. Meanwhile, the High Evolutionary enters a mammoth spacecraft belonging to the mysterious Celestials and observes a group of "Young Gods". When they notice him, the Evolutionary tells the Gods they are not worthy of his attention and departs. However the Gods scan his mind and learn his plans for humanity, and half of them leave for Earth.

Gwen arrives at Peter's and Mary Jane's apartment but runs when she sees Peter in Spider-Man's costume. Spider-Man follows and when Gwen is grabbed by the same men from earlier, he grabs hold as they teleport back to the High Evolutionary's base. There, The Evolutionary begins to study Gwen while his men fight Spider-Man. The Young Gods arrive to aid the web-slinger, but the other half of their number soon follows, opposing their friends' meddling in human affairs, and a God-on-God fight breaks out.

The battle eventually comes to a close and the Young Gods depart. A moment later, the High Evolutionary explains to Spider-Man that "Gwen" was never a clone, but a genetically modified woman. He then teleports the wall-crawler and "Gwen" back to New York. A Young God named Daydreamer appears and restores "Gwen" to her original self, then departs. Spider-Man returns home and embraces his wife.

Monday, November 30, 2015

WEST COAST AVENGERS ANNUAL #3

"HEADS YOU LOSE--!"
Story: Steve Englehart | Layouts: Al Milgrom | Finishes: Gerry Taloc
Letters: Bill Oakley | Colors: Marc Siry | Editor: Mark Gruenwald
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

The Plot: At his citadel in the Savage Land, the High Evolutionary oversees several technicians working on his project. One tech, Bill Foster, smuggles a note out of the facility in the armor of one of the Evolutionary's Gatherers as they depart for a mission. The Gatherers head to Wakanda to steal the Black Panther's vibranium, but the Panther and his men defeat them and the Panther locates the note, which warns the world is in danger and recommends calling Hank Pym for help.

Panther places a call to the West Coast Avengers, and they soon arrive, but without the recently departed Pym. As the Avengers and Panther catch up, Wakanda is attacked by the Senses, more of the High Evolutionary's warriors. The Avengers and Black Panther defeat the Senses, but one of the Evolutionary's other men teleports in during the fight and secretly steals some vibranium.

With the Senses thwarted and the vibranium seemingly safe, the Avengers depart to investigate coordinates from Foster's note, but find only a large crater in the Savage Land.

"TAILS YOU WIN!"
Story: Steve Englehart | Layouts: Al Milgrom | Finishes: Chris Ivy
Letters: Bill Oakley | Colors: Marc Siry | Editor: Mark Gruenwald
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Mockingbird, Moon Knight, and Tigra, formerly of the West Coast Avengers, fly over the Savage Land in a quintet and land to investigate its unexpected restoration. There they bump into Ka-Zar, who tells them of the High Evolutionary. The three ex-Avengers investigate his citadel, and the Evolutionary realizes they could thwart his plans. He throws the trio into a set of deathtraps. While the Avengers fight their way free, Bill Foster goes looking for them.

All three heroes escape their traps and Mockingbird is the first to locate the High Evolutionary. She fights him but he grows to mammoth size to finish her off. Foster arrives then and reveals his other identity as Giant-Man, growing to challenge the Evolutionary. When the Evolutionary receives word from his agent, Foks, that the vibranium has been seized, he retreats from his base. Foster, Moon Knight, Tigra, and Mockingbird escape the citadel just before it self-destructs. The quartet leaves the Savage Land mere moments before the West Coast Avengers arrive to find the recently formed crater.

Friday, November 27, 2015

TRANSFORMERS: GENERATION ONE #3

"SKYFIRE"
Writer: Brad Mick* | Pencils: Don Figueroa | Inks: Elaine To
Colors: Espen Grundetjern & Rob Ruffalo | Letters: Ben Lee

The Plot: In a brief flashback, within Decepticon headquarters, Jetfire and Sunstorm skirmish, with Jetfire victorious. Then, aboard the Orion in the present, Jetfire and Starscream explain Sunstorm's capabilities to Bumblebee, Ratchet, and Brawn. Meanwhile, on Cybertron, Prowl and Ultra Magnus deal with civil unrest over the Autobots' return, and Kup prompts Prowl to consider moving the Autobots to another planet.

Back on Earth, the Autobots recharge Starscream's men to fifty percent power and let them go, in exchange for Starscream revealing the location of Jazz and the others. But first, Ratchet and Jetfire extract a genetic sample from Starscream, which they use to create a decoy to lure Sunstorm out. Bumblebee leads an Autobot team to fight the approaching Sunstorm, leaving Jetfire behind to guard Starscream. But Sunstorm proves too powerful, forcing Jetfire to abandon his post. With his help, using the decoy -- which doubles as an energy siphon -- the Autobots defeat Sunstorm, but he flies away.

Later, the weakened Sunstorm finds Starscream hiding out in Alaska, but he's followed by another unknown Transformer who ambushes the duo.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

WEB OF SPIDER-MAN ANNUAL #4

"SWEET POISON!"
Writer: Steve Gerber | Artist: Cynthia Martin
Letterer: Rick Parker | Colorist: Janet Jackson | Editor: Jim Salicrup
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

The Plot: In Maimi, Peter Parker appears on a morning talk show to promote his new photo book, WEBS: A PICTORIAL HISTORY OF SPIDER-MAN. Later, back at his motel, Peter speaks with Mary Jane on the phone and has a run-in with a housekeeper who sets his spider-sense tingling. Up north, the High Evolutionary's Purifiers transport a strange obelisk into the Everglades, where the High Evolutionary activates it. It tears open the fabric of reality, drawing the attention of the Man-Thing. The Man-Thing apparently perishes as the High Evolutionary observes from his base.

Back in Miami, the housekeeper, Cecilia, speaks with a disembodied consciousness who tells her to get a babysitter for her son so she can go out and take care of something. That night, Peter heads out for dinner and finds a drug pusher being shaken down by an agent of Miami's crime lord, the Slug. Peter changes to Spider-Man, rescues the dealer, and learns that the Slug's man wanted something hidden in the Everglades. After Spider-Man leaves, a group of Purifiers shows up and kills the dealer.

Meanwhile, Slug and the Kingpin make an agreement to locate a new source of cocaine for the Kingpin. At the same time, Cecilia, now brandishing super powers as Poison, finds Purifiers coming to her apartment. She destroys them and leaves for the Everglades. Spider-Man also arrives at the swamp, where he locates the cocaine and runs afoul of Slug's men. But the Purifiers show up as well and a fight breaks out.

Poison then arrives and seals the rift between dimensions, the entity leaving Cecilia in the process. Meanwhile, Man-Thing returns to life and distracts the Slug's goons and the Purifiers long enough for Spider-Man to web them up.

Later, back in Miami, Mary Jane arrives to keep Peter company on his tour.

Monday, November 23, 2015

X-MEN ANNUAL #12

"RESURRECTION!"
An adventure of the Uncanny X-Men by
Writer: Chris Claremont | Penciler: Art Adams | Inker: Bob Wiacek
Colorist: Glynis Oliver | Letterer: Tom Orzechowski | Editor: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

The Plot: Storm goes nuts and flies south, pursued by Rogue. The rest of the X-Men follow and find themselves in a barren wasteland that was once their occasional stomping ground, the prehistoric Savage Land. An armored behemoth called Terminus appears, grabbing the visiting High Evolutionary, but the X-Men save him and knock Terminus out. The Evolutionary returns to his citadel with Havok, while the rest of the X-Men locate another dimensional realm, where many of the Savage Land's people have been hiding since the destruction of their home.

The X-Men return to Earth and defeat Terminus, revealing Garokk the Petrified Man inside the armor. The High Evolutionary explains that he can restore the Savage Land with the help of a mutant connected to its life-force, and Garokk agrees, sacrificing himself. The Savage Land returned to normal and the X-Men depart.

Continuity Notes: Though not footnoted in this issue, the Savage Land was destroyed by Terminus in AVENGERS #257.

The High Evolutionary has taken Zaladane, one-time X-Men foe, as his assistant, along with Magneto's former henchmen, the Savage Land Mutates.

Storm discovered the strange parallel universe during her first trip to the Savage Land, in a backup story from CLASSIC X-MEN #22.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

AVENGERS BY KURT BUSIEK & GEORGE PÉREZ OMNIBUS VOLUME 2

Collects AVENGERS #24 - 56, AVENGERS ANNUAL 2000 & 2001, THUNDERBOLTS #42 - 44; MAXIMUM SECURITY: DANGEROUS PLANET, MAXIMUM SECURITY #1 - 3, AVENGERS: THE ULTRON IMPERATIVE, and AVENGERS #1½.

Read about Volume 1 here.


It's called the AVENGERS BY KURT BUSIEK & GEORGE PÉREZ OMNIBUS VOLUME 2, but it's really an AVENGERS BY KURT BUSIEK & FRIENDS OMNIBUS. Of the forty-four issues contained herein, Pérez illustrates a whopping eleven. I wouldn't exactly call it false advertising, since the Omnibus does carry on from the Pérez section of the run and wrap up some loose ends established during his time on the series, but splashing his artwork all over the covers and including only his and Busiek's names on the cover and spine seems a bit misleading.

That said, there's some good stuff in here. The Omnibus leads off with AVENGERS issues 24 and 25, pitting the team against the Juggernaut and concluding a storyline called "The Eighth Day". This was an unusual crossover in that it had its setup in issues of IRON MAN, THOR, and SPIDER-MAN, as well as a JUGGERNAUT one-shot, then AVENGERS followed that story up with a sort of sequel/epilogue -- but both segments also worked as their own story with a beginning and end. Weirdly, I don't think the whole "Eighth Day" has ever been collected anywhere. The IRON MAN BY KURT BUSIEK & SEAN CHEN OMNIBUS and the THOR BY DAN JURGENS & JOHN ROMITA JR. vol. 3 trade paperback both collect the set-up, and this Omnibus collects the sequel -- but for the full experience, you'd need two books.

Friday, November 20, 2015

TRANSFORMERS: GENERATION ONE #2

"BLACK SUNSHINE"
Writer: Brad Mick* | Pencils: Don Figueroa | Inks: Elaine To
Colors: Espen Grundetjern & Rob Ruffalo | Letters: Ben Lee

The Plot: Starscream's Earthbound Decepticons are attacked by Sunstorm, who defeats all but Bruticus and Starscream. The Autobot ship Orion arrives and subdues Bruticus, giving Starscream an opportunity to escape. Sunstorm gives chase after shooting down the Orion.

On Cybertron, Prowl and Ironhide supervise the combat training of a handful of Autobots, then check in on Optimus Prime's repairs and visit with Ultra Magnus, whose own repairs are complete. They also receive a report from the Protectobots, who have found the lab from which Sunstorm escaped.

Sunstorm follows Starscream to the Decepticon ship Nemesis beneath Earth's ocean, while Bumblebee and his crew hook up with Brawn and Ratchet at the ruins of the Ark, unaware a human helicopter is spying on them. Elsewhere, Starscream explains to Sunstorm how he and his men arrived on Earth, then Sunstorm is ambushed by a Transformer released from stasis by Starscream.

Finally, the Autobots cloak the Orion and head aboard, but Bumblebee is stopped before boarding by Starscream and his companion, Jetfire.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

FANTASTIC FOUR ANNUAL #21

Or, THE POST THAT STARTS OUT AS A REVIEW OF FANTASTIC FOUR ANNUAL #21 BUT DEVOLVES INTO A PETTY RANT ABOUT STEVE ENGLEHART.

"CRYSTAL BLUE PERSUASION!"
Story: Steve Englehart | Breakdowns: Kieron Dwyer | Finishes: Joe Sinnott
Letters: Ken Lopez | Colors: Gregory Wright | Editor: Ralph Macchio
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

The Plot: The Fantastic Four return to their headquarters after a mission in space and spend some time relaxing. They're about to leave on their next mission, to the Negative Zone, when the Inhuman royal family arrives and requests that Crystal return to the Moon with them and reunite with her estranged husband, the mutant Quicksilver. Crystal refuses and a fight breaks out between the FF and Inhumans.

Meanwhile, on the Moon, the High Evolutionary sends his Gatherers and Eliminators into the Inhuman city of Attilan to steal the Inhumans' Terrigan Mist. The Watcher, Uatu, appears to converse with the Evolutionary while his men carry out their mission. Within Attilan, Quicksilver mounts a resistance.

On Earth the fight comes to an end when the Inhumans are informed of the attack on their city. The royal family and Fantastic Four all return to Attilan together and battle the High Evolutionary's forces. The Gatherers and Eliminators are routed and return to the High Evolutionary, who teleports away with them. The Thing attempts to get the Watcher to reveal their destination, but he refuses. Another Watcher appears, but is also silent at Uatu's command.

In the aftermath of the fight, Black Bolt flies Crystal away and asks her to stay among the Inhumans. His guilt-trip works, and she chooses to remain and try to work things out with Quicksilver.

Monday, November 16, 2015

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN ANNUAL #22

"DRUG WAR RAGES"
By Tom DeFalco, as told to David Michelinie
Photos: Mark Bagley & Mike Esposito
R. Parker, signs on | B. Sharen, in the red | J. Salicrup, indicted
T. DeFalco, shrieks

The Plot: Spider-Man beats up some drug dealers at Manhattan's Pier 7 and leaves them for the police. But a rival gang arrives first and kills the men, leaving Spider-Man to take the rap. Matt "Daredevil" Murdock vows to get to the bottom of the case. Meanwhile, the Kingpin of Crime orders his men to capture one of the High Evolutionary's Purifiers, which have been patrolling New York in recent days. Elsewhere, young Robbie Baldwin and his mother arrive in Manhattan to take in some Broadway shows.

Daredevil and Spider-Man cross paths at Pier 7 and join forces to clear the web-slinger's name. Elsewhere, Robbie is accosted by a group of muggers and transforms into Speedball, his kinetically charged alter ego. A group of Purifiers arrives and kills the muggers, and Speedball follows them back to their base. While Spider-Man and Daredevil comb the city for clues as to who killed the dealers, the Kingpin interrogates a captured Purifier and learns of the High Evolutionary's plans. Speedball also gets wind of their plot, which involves a transmitter atop the Empire State Building.

At Kingpin's order, one of his men plants himself at a seedy dive and waits for Spider-Man and Daredevil to show up and continue their interrogation roadshow. The man tells them that the drug dealers were killed by a new gang headquartered atop the Empire State Building. The heroes head there and find the Purifiers' transmitter. While Spidey and Daredevil fight the Purifiers, Speedball also arrives at the building and heads to the top floor to disable the transmitter. The Purifiers succeed and Speedball carries out his task but nearly plummets to his death; his life saved by Spider-Man.

Knowing Daredevil and Spider-Man will be after him for the planted information, the Kingpin arranges for the wall-crawler's name to be cleared, to get them off his back. Spider-Man is embraced as a hero once more and all returns to normal.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

THE UNBOXING - NOVEMBER 2015

It's a big, big November here, with some books from Marvel, a couple from DC, and one from Dark Horse, as well.

First up, Marvel provides the AVENGERS BY KURT BUSIEK & GEORGE PÉREZ OMNIBUS volume 2, closing out not just the 34-issue Busiek/Pérez run in Omnibus format, but the full 56-issue Busiek run. I reviewed Volume 1 some months back, and I'll try to get something up for this volume in the near future as well.

On the trade paperback front, Marvel brings the INFINITY WAR AFTERMATH and MOON KNIGHT EPIC COLLECTION: SHADOWS OF THE MOON.

The main appeal of AFTERMATH for me is the inclusion of WARLOCK AND THE INFINITY WATCH issues 11 - 17. This means that between the INFINITY GAUNTLET AFTERMATH, INFINITY WAR, INFINITY WAR AFTERMATH, INFINITY CRUSADE volume 1, INFINITY CRUSADE volume 2, and THOR: BLOOD AND THUNDER collections, INFINITY WATCH issues 1 - 25 are all collected in trade paperback format. Only six more issues are needed to round out Jim Starlin's run on the title.

Friday, November 13, 2015

TRANSFORMERS: GENERATION ONE #1

"NIGHT OF THE COMBATICONS"
Writer: Brad Mick* | Pencils: Don Figueroa | Inks: Elaine To
Colors: Espen Grundetjern & Rob Ruffalo | Letters: Ben Lee

The Plot: Somewhere in Oregon, Starscream gloats over the defeated Earthbound Autobots but notices two are missing. He sends his minion, Bruticus, to track them down. Meanwhile, Ratchet and Brawn make their way back to the Ark and attempt to slip past its defense systems, on guard against any intruders.

On Cybertron, Runabout and Runamuck explore Shockwave's laboratory and accidentally release a mysterious robot who destroys both of them and leaves the planet. Back on Earth, Bruticus invades the Ark and releases the imprisoned Soundwave, Skywarp, and Thundercracker. Brawn contacts the Autobot relief shuttle Orion, en route to Earth under Bumblebee's command, and explains the situation on Earth. Meanwhile, Ratchet blows up the Ark to keep it out of Starscream's hands.

Starscream subdues Ratchet and Brawn while the Orion enters Earth orbit. But the shuttle is passed by the robot from Cybertron, revealed as a jet of the same type as Starscream and company.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

NEW MUTANTS ANNUAL #4

"MIND GAMES"
Writer: Louise Simonson | Penciler: June Brigman | Inker: Bob McLeod
Letterer: John Workman | Colorist: Glynis Oliver | Editors: Ann Nocenti & Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

The Plot: The High Evolutionary's agents, Purge and Stack, capture a pair of mutants named Glow Worm and the Bulk. Meanwhile, the New Mutants undergo training at Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters. They receive a letter from a former classmate, Amara Aquilla, who has returned to her home in the hidden city of Nova Roma, where she's been betrothed to a young man by her father. Meanwhile, Purge and Stack remove the powers of Glow Worm and Bulk, then their systems detect Amara in Nova Roma. The Evolutionary's men travel there and kidnap Amara, but her capture is seen by Empath, formerly of the White Queen's Hellions. Empath contacts the White Queen for help.

When the New Mutants' headmaster, Magneto, takes a call from the White Queen, the young mutants eavesdrop. Magneto departs in short order the Mutants teleport to Purge's and Stack's lair in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. There they rescue Amara before her powers can be removed, then escape just as the Hellfire Club arrives to battle the High Evolutionary's forces. The New Mutants return to Xavier's School and bid farewell to Amara, who returns to Nova Roma.

Continuity Notes: Glow Worm and Bulk, infected with radiation poisoning, perish this issue after their powers are removed.

A footnote tells us that Forge shattered Magik's scrying glass in Limbo in NEW MUTANTS #66.

Mirage's mutant power is amped up this issue, due to exposure to the High Evolutionary's machine, and she gains the ability to create solid matter where previously she could only manifest illusory images. She recalls that she did this once before, but there is no footnote.

There is, however, a note when she manifests her "spirit lance", as she tells us she's used it twice before -- in NEW MUTANTS SPECIAL EDITION #1 and POWER PACK #21.

Monday, November 9, 2015

SILVER SURFER ANNUAL #1

"ADAM"
Story: Steve Englehart | Pencils: Joe Staton | Inks: Joe Rubinstein
Letters: Ken Bruzenak | Colors: Tom Vincent | Editor: Craig Anderson
Chief: Tom DeFalco

The Plot: The High Evolutionary appears to the Eternals of Olympia and explains his plan to them, then asks that they map the Silver Surfer's DNA for him. Meanwhile, as the Surfer arrives at Earth, the Super-Skrull materializes before him in orbit of the planet. Surfer and Skrull fight briefly but are interrupted by the Eternals, who spirit them down to Olympia. There, the pair is placed into separate pyramid scanning devices. When the Eternals' probe harms the Skrull, the Surfer aids him in escaping his containment and a fight breaks out.

As the battle proceeds, Super-Skrull flees, but the Eternals give chase. They catch the Skrull but the Surfer catches them, and allows the Skrull to depart. The Surfer then makes peace with the Eternals and leaves as well.

Continuity Notes: The High Evolutionary explains that the Eternals and Deviants are offshoots of the same race, created by the Celestials on Earth. Later, we learn from the Eternals that the Skrulls are Deviants of their own race.

The Surfer and Galactus's herald, Nova, recently found the Contemplator in SILVER SURFER #12. The Surfer is headed to Earth to find the son of Mantis following her death, though oddly there is no footnote to explain this.

Super-Skrull materializes out of the Van Allen Radiation Belt around Earth, and spends a page recapping his history over the past decade of appearances: In MARVEL TEAM-UP #62, he was converted to pure energy by the cavourite crystal. His form was restored by Sasquatch in ALPHA FLIGHT #9 (at which point he learned he had cancer), but in the very next issue, #10, Sasquatch converted the Skrull back to energy and beamed him into the radiation belt.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

X-MEN: ASGARDIAN WARS HARDCOVER

Hardcover, 2009. Collects 1985's X-MEN AND ALPHA FLIGHT #1 - 2, NEW MUTANTS SPECIAL EDITION, and X-MEN ANNUAL #9.

Published in 2009, ASGARDIAN WARS is a very slim hardcover collecting only four issues. It begins with an introduction by Chris Claremont, written in 1988 for a trade paperback edition of this material, then continues into 1985's two-issue X-MEN/ALPHA FLIGHT mini-series. Each issue is double-sized, written by Claremont and illustrated by Paul Smith and Bob Wiacek. The story features the X-Men of the era setting out to find their leader emeritus, Cyclops, after his plane crashes. The mutants team up with Canada's super-team, Alpha Flight, and find themselves eventually dealing with Loki of Asgard.

Aside from Smith's artwork, I was never much of a fan of this story as a kid. The Asgardian stuff seems an odd choice to mix with the X-Men (and this is coming from someone who loves when they go into space now and then). Plus the story was created during one of my least-favorite periods for the X-Men, the mid-eighties era when Cyclops was not a regular member, when Rachel Summers was a regular member, and when Storm sported her dumb mohawk and leathers.

So given my distaste for both the premise and status quo, it's not really surprising I consider this story skippable. The fact that Smith only gets to draw his brilliant rendition of Cyclops in costume for a couple pages at the very end only adds to my dissatisfaction.

Friday, November 6, 2015

TRANSFORMERS: GENERATION ONE #0

Story: Brad Mick* | Art: Pat Lee, Don Figueroa, & Joe Ng
Inks: Elaine To, Rob Armstrong, & Erik Sander
Colors: Espen Grundetjern & Rob Ruffalo | Flats: Kenny Li & Ferd Poblete
Additional Colors: David Cheung, Jong-Im Lee, Elliot Kravchik, Sigmund Torres
Letters: Ben Lee | President: Pat Lee | VP/Editor-in-Chief: Roger Lee
Creative Director: James McDonough | Project Manager: Derek Choo-Wing

The Plot: A mysterious narrative conversation recaps certain events in the universe, including Unicron devouring the planet Lithone and giving birth to Cyclonus, Scourge's discovery of Cybertron and betrayal by Shockwave, a human military unit's capture of several deactivated Transformers, Optimus Prime's comatose state and his team left on Earth, and Megatron's disappearance.

The conversation is revealed to be between a trio of Quintessons, who have plans to find Megatron and judge him.

Meanwhile, on the Planet of Junk, Wreck-Gar presents Megatron with a deactivated Transformer, which Megatron plans to use for some unknown purpose.

Continuity Notes: This issue serves as a recap of the previous two mini-series, as well as a prologue for the ongoing TRANSFORMERS: GENERATION ONE comic, but it comes with a few new nuggets of information, as well: Unicron created Scourge and has now created Cyclonus as well. And it seems the Scourge who discovered Cybertron in WAR AND PEACE was in fact one of a large fleet of identical Transformers. As a result, it's unclear to the Quintessons whether the Scourge who found Cybertron was the same one that appeared on Earth in WAR AND PEACE #1.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

PUNISHER ANNUAL #1

"EVOLUTIONARY JIHAD"
Script: Mike Baron | Pencils: Mark Texeira | Inks: Scott Williams
Letters: Jim Novak | Colors: Janet Jackson | Editor: Carl Potts
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

The Plot: The Punisher has arrived in Bogota, Colombia, to take out a drug lord called El Caiman. But El Caiman's town is assaulted by "Eliminators" and Punisher saves the life of El Caiman's daughter, Lucinda, in the crossfire. She takes the Punisher back to her father's estate, where he meets El Caiman and agrees to a truce until the Eliminators are defeated. The estate comes under attack and El Caiman, Punisher, and Lucinda retreat to the drug lord's farm for their last stand. There, with El Caiman's full armory at his disposal, the Punisher defeats the Eliminators.

Their mutual foes gone, El Caiman turns on the Punisher and attempts to kill him, but Punisher turns the tables and blasts El Caiman's "fish tank", releasing his menagerie of deadly sea creatures, which kill the crime boss while Punisher spirits Lucinda to safety. As Lucinda mourns her father, Punisher leads her away from the farm.

Continuity Notes: None.

Circa 1988: El Caiman briefly questions whether the Punisher was sent by President Reagan, and a couple pages later the Punisher's internal monologue mentions Henry Kissinger.

Later, we see that El Caiman has stacks and stacks of VCRs in his hidden lair, and he's in possession of an anti-aircraft missile he got from the Iranians, who bought it from the Afghanis.

Monday, November 2, 2015

X-FACTOR ANNUAL #3

"UNNATURAL SELECTION"
Writer: Louise Simonson | Penciler: Terry Shoemaker | Inker: Al Milgrom
Letterer: Joe Rosen | Colorist: Petra Scotese | Editor: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

The Plot: Far beneath New York, a group of Subterraneans are assaulted by Stack and Purge and their men, the Gatherers and the Purifiers. A telepathic cry from one Subterranean alerts various psychics on the surface and X-Factor goes underground to investigate. They eventually catch up with the Gatherers and Purifiers and a fight breaks out.

Meanwhile, the villainous Apocalypse deduces that the High Evolutionary is behind the attacks and goes to visit him in his space station. They battle in space while arguing philosophy, then Apocalypse teleports both of them beneath the Earth's surface to observe the fight.

While X-Factor battles the Purifiers and Gatherers, the Psychic Subterranean is nearly killed. But the Beast rescues him, prompting him to release a psychic blast which defeats Purge. Apocalypse taunts the High Evolutionary for proving Apocalypse's philosophy of survival of the fittest, then departs. The Evolutionary decides the Subterraneans are worthy to survive his culling for the time being, and teleports away with his men.

Beast invites Val-or, the psychic Subterranean, to come with X-Factor for training in the use of his mutant powers, but he elects instead to remain with his people and use the ability for their benefit.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

THE EVOLUTIONARY WAR

In 1988, Marvel did its first summer "Annual Event", "The Evolutionary War". As a kid, I picked up the Spider-Man installments, but no others.

In 2011, Marvel published an EVOLUTIONARY WAR OMNIBUS. As an adult, I was gripped by momentary madness and purchased it to finally read the entire thing.

Now the time has come to do just that.

I'm not sure what this crossover's reputation is these days, but I like it in theory. It's told exclusively in annuals, meaning that unlike something like SECRET WARS II or "Inferno" or "Acts of Vengeance" or the vast majority of Marvel's modern day events, it doesn't interrupt the flow of the ongoing monthly series. And, surprisingly, nearly every chapter in this book is written by those series' regular writers, so the characters and continuity should be in line with what you would've seen in a typical Marvel book at the time.

But on the other hand, when I was younger I tended to associate Marvel's annuals with guest writers, sub-par artwork, and inconsequential filler stories. The first of those, I just addressed above. The third is what we're going to spend the next few weeks determining. And as far as the art -- looking at this book's credits, I see several artists I enjoy listed, including Mark Texeira, Kieron Dwyer, Mark Bagley, and M.D. Bright (a third Mark, for those keeping count). Maybe the artistic drop-off in annual quality came a year or so after "Evolutionary War"? (I do distinctly remember thinking the following year's event, "Atlantis Attacks", was mostly pretty ugly.)

Friday, October 30, 2015

TRANSFORMERS: WAR AND PEACE #6

"REVELATION"
Writer: Brad Mick* | Pencils: Pat Lee | Inks: Rob Armstrong
Backgrounds: Edwin Garcia | Layout Assists: Ferd Poblete | Letters: Ben Lee
Colors: Espen Grundetjern, Alan Wang, Rob Ruffolo, Ramil Sunga & Pat Lee

The Plot: In the Vector Sigma chamber, Shockwave explains to Optimus Prime that 7.9 million years ago, after the Autobots and Decepticons led by Prime and Megatron departed Cybertron, the entire planet and all Transformers on it went into hibernation. Then, three thousand years ago, Shockwave awakened and set about reactivating the others and taking control of the planet. Meanwhile, Ultra Magnus slowly makes his way toward the chamber.

Outside, the Autobots and Decepticons fight while the ruling Autobot council debates whether to join the action. Meanwhile, Starscream, Soundwave, Rumble, Frenzy, Skywarp, and Thundercracker haul a quintet of deactivated Decepticons to the Autobot shuttle Sky Linx and attempt to leave the planet, but Sky Lynx has plans of his own.

Shockwave continues his story, claiming responsibility for the destruction of Ark II as a way to delay the Transformers' return to Cybertron, thus buying him more time to prepare his forces to invade Earth. Outside, the battle rages on as Grimlock joins the fray, followed in short order by the Autobot council.

Meanwhile, Shockwave declares that some secret knowledge about the history of the Transformer race lies buried on Earth and he intends to find it. But Ultra Magnus, sans his exterior armor, shows up and together he and Prime defeat Shockwave, sending him plummeting into a seemingly bottomless pit. Grimlock saves the pair and they exit Shockwave's citadel.

In deep space, Megatron's drifting body is found by a strange robot in a starship.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

MARVEL TEAM-UP #100 (BACKUP STORY)

Stan Lee presents: STORM and the BLACK PANTHER

”CRY -- VENGEANCE!”
Writer/Co-Plotters/Artists: Chris Claremont, John Byrne & Bob McLeod
Letterer: Annette Kawecki | Colorist: Robbie Carosella
Editor: Denny O’Neil | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: In New York City, Ororo “Storm” Monroe is winged by an assassin’s bullet. She changes into costume and corners the shooter, getting him to admit the name of his employer: Andreas de Ruyter. This causes Storm to flash back to her childhood, when she met young Prince T’Challa while traveling south from Cairo, and helped him escape de Ruyter and his men.

In the present, Storm visits New York’s Wakandan embassy, where T’Challa -- now the king of Wakanda called the Black Panther -- greets her. Storm explains the situation and the Panther tracks de Ruyter to a mansion on Long Island. Storm and the Panther infiltrate the mansion but are assaulted by a monstrous robot. They defeat it and continue on their path, eventually finding de Ruyter, dead thanks to a mental link he shared with his robot.

As the authorities arrive to clean up, Storm and the Black Panther part ways.

Monday, October 26, 2015

MARVEL TEAM-UP #79

Seven years ago this month, Roy Thomas and Ross Andru began a triumphant new chapter in the life of the amazing Spider-Man, with the creation of MARVEL TEAM-UP. Today, that milestone is both celebrated and reaffirmed as…
Stan Lee presents: SPIDER-MAN and RED SONJA!

”SWORD OF THE SHE-DEVIL!”
Author/Co-Plotters/Penciler: Chris Claremont & John Byrne
Inker: Terry Austin | Letterer: Tom Orzechoswki | Colorist: Glynis Wein
Editor: Allen Milgrom | Consulting Editor: Roy Thomas | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: At the New York Metropolitan Muesum of Art, a night watchman is tempted by an ancient amulet and picks it up. Meanwhile, Spider-Man arrives at the Daily Bugle and changes into Peter Parker for the Bugle’s Christmas party. Mary Jane Watson is present as well, to surprise Peter, but his revelry is short-lived when Robbie Robertson orders Peter and reporter Charley Snow to the Museum to investigate something strange. Mary Jane sneaks into their car and tags along, to their irritation.

At the museum, a pillar of crimson flame projects up into the sky. Peter ducks away from Charley and MJ to change into Spider-Man, and enters the museum to check it out. But Mary Jane, sick of constantly being left behind by Peter, goes in as well. Inside, while Spider-Man is assaulted by a group of monsters, Mary Jane comes across a glowing sword and picks it up. It transforms her into Red Sonja and she comes to Spider-Man’s aid.

The sorcerer Kulan Gath, an enemy of Sonja’s, reveals himself and captures both heroes. They awaken shortly, chained to large slabs, which Kulan begins to lower into a boiling pit. Spider-Man manages to free himself, destroying the pit, then rescues Sonja. The fight continues and leaves the museum, where Sonja and Gath are both shocked to see how the world has changed. Spider-Man takes advantage of Gath’s confusion and knocks him out, grabbing the glowing amulet from his neck in the process. Gath reverts to the form of the night watchman, while Sonja changes back to Mary Jane.

The next morning, Peter takes the Staten Island Ferry out onto the water and flings the amulet out to sea.

Friday, October 23, 2015

TRANSFORMERS: WAR AND PEACE #5

"COUNTDOWN TO EXTINCTION"
Writer: Brad Mick* | Pencils: Pat Lee | Inks: Rob Armstrong
Backgrounds: Edwin Garcia | Layout Assists: Ferd Poblete | Letters: Ben Lee
Colors: Espen Grundetjern, Pat Lee, Alan Wang, Rob Ruffalo, Ramil Sunga & Gary Yeung

The Plot: Optimus Prime leads the Autobot resistance to retake Iacon, as Hot Rod recalls the chain of events which led to this moment, recapping Prime concocting a plan of attack and uniting all of Cybertron's disparate resistance cells under one banner. Meanwhile, Perceptor provides Ultra Magnus with a damage report on the Dinobots and Magnus orders them repaired. Elsewhere, Shockwave is fully repaired following his fight with Grimlock and emerges from regeneration to find Iacon under siege. As he orders a counterattack, Starscream infiltrates Iacon's "monitor womb", where he's joined by Soundwave.

Ultra Magnus confronts Shockwave about the Stunticons' escape and Shockwave blasts him. Starscream broadcasts the altercation to the rest of Cybertron and an enraged Optimus Prime storms Shockwave's citadel alone. There he finds Ultra Magnus mortally wounded. With his dying breath, Magnus directs Prime toward Shockwave's escape route. Prime follows a hidden tunnel underground to find Shockwave waiting in the Vector Sigma chamber. Shockwave defeats Prime and seizes the Matrix of Leadership, which he uses to unlock Vector Sigma, an ancient supercomputer, as the remaining Transformers look on via Starscream's spy footage.

The Matrix releases a burst of energy which leaves Cybertron and, unknown to the Transformers, makes contact with the all-powerful Unicron. While, closer to home, Ultra Magnus's corpse is bathed with Matrix energy and he reawakens.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

MARVEL TEAM-UP #75

Stan Lee presents SPIDEY and POWER MAN -- together!

”THE SMOKE OF THAT GREAT BURNING!”
Plot: Chris Claremont | Script: Ralph Macchio | Pencils: John Byrne
Inks: Al Gordon | Letters: Tom Orzechowski | Colors: Michele Wolfman
Editor: Bob Hall | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Trapped in a burning tenement, Spider-Man passes out from smoke inhalation and flashes back to how he wound up there: As Peter Parker, he attended the opening of a new disco, Studio 13, with Mary Jane Watson, but the place was raided by a gang called the Rat Pack. Luke Cage, also in attendance, fought back against the gang as Peter changed into Spider-Man. But the Rat Pack took a girl hostage and escaped. Cage knew where to find their hideout in the Bronx however, and led Spider-Man there. The heroes attacked the Rat Pack and in the ensuing scuffle a fire started.

Back in the present, Cage rescues Spider-Man from the flames, then the two heroes team up with the New York Fire Department to rescue civilians. Spider-Man saves a firefighter trapped in a cherry picker and lowers him to the ground, but, still weakened, gets caught on the roof of the building with the fire chief. Meanwhile, the other firefighters tell Cage he must bring the burning building down in order to save the block. Cage does so, knowing he will kill Spider-Man and the chief in the process, but the web-slinger regains his strength and gets both of them to safety.

Later, the firefighter Spider-Man rescued from the cherry picker is rushed to the hospital with third degree burns, while Spider-Man and Cage marvel at the courage of the New York Fire Department.

Monday, October 19, 2015

MARVEL TEAM-UP #70

Stan Lee presents: SPIDEY and THOR -- together!

”WHOM GODS DESTROY!”
Author: Chris Claremont | Penciler: John Byrne | Inker: Tony DeZuniga
Letterer: Annette Kawecki | Colorist: Phil Rache | Editor: Jim Shooter

The Plot: The Living Monolith rampages through Manhattan and hurls Spider-Man toward the street below, but Thor arrives to rescue the web-slinger. He deposits Spider-Man on a rooftop then takes off to battle the Monolith. The Monolith proves too powerful even for the Thunder God, so Spider-Man suggests freeing Havok to cut off the symbiotic connection between the two mutants. But the Monolith reveals that Havok’s pod is booby-trapped.

As the Monolith and Thor continue their clash in New York Harbor, Spider-Man locates the pod, subdues the Monolith’s men as they attempt to load it into a car to escape, and uses his spider-sense to defuse the trap. Havok is freed and the Monolith reverts to normal, but escapes in the aftermath of a storm created by Thor. Havok remembers that Lorna Dane fell into the sea when the couple was first attacked by the Living Pharaoh’s men, and Thor promises to get Havok back to Muir Island by nightfall.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

THE UNBOXING - OCTOBER 2015

It's another Marvelous month hereabouts, with two books from the House of Ideas joining my collection. Leading off is Marvel's first entry into their Epic Collection line for the Hulk, INCREDIBLE HULK EPIC COLLECTION: GHOST OF THE PAST. This book collects HULK issues 397 - 406 plus associated annuals and other materials. Not coincidentally, and in a nice touch from Marvel's collected editions folks, this book picks up exactly where the abandoned HULK VISIONARIES: PETER DAVID line left off more than four years ago.


The other item this month is the STAR WARS: THE ORIGINAL MARVEL YEARS OMNIBUS Volume 3, which concludes Marvel's effort to reprint their original STAR WARS comic book series in a trio of big hardcovers. But besides the remaining issues of the ongoing series, mostly by Mary Jo Duffy and Cynthia Martin, the real draw for me here is additional material from Marvel U.K. and a few other sources, produced around the same time as the earlier issues of the ongoing, and written by Archie Goodwin.

Marvel really fast-tracked this STAR WARS series, releasing all three volumes in one year, just in time for the upcoming THE FORCE AWAKENS motion picture. The funny thing is, normally I'm all in favor of quick releases like this, but I think I could've easily waited longer between STAR WARS volumes because I'm reading the series one issue a week to keep up with Teebore's review series at Gentlemen of Leisure (though at the moment I'm a couple weeks behind). But I will never actually complain about a fast-track pattern, since in general it's something I'd like to see more of from Marvel.

And that covers October!

Friday, October 16, 2015

TRANSFORMERS: WAR AND PEACE #4

"PASSIVE AGGRESSION"
Writer: Brad Mick* | Pencils: Pat Lee | Inks: Rob Armstrong
Backgrounds: Edwin Garcia | Layout Assists: Ferd Poblete
Colors: Espen Grundetjern, Alan Wang, & Gary Yeung | Letters: Ben Lee

The Plot: The Stunticons, united as Menasor, rampage through Cybertron's Quadrant Epsilon. Ultra Magnus and his team eventually take them out. Meanwhile, the Dinobots lay siege to Iacon and Grimlock corners Shockwave and Blitzwing. Elsewhere, the escaped Autobots are introduced to Smokescreen, a member of the Autobot resistance, who takes Prowl and Ironhide to meet other resistance members.

Meanwhile, Optimus Prime comes around in a different resistance cell's headquarters, where he meets some of its members, including Hot Rod. In Iacon, the Dinobots are defeated one by one by Ultra Magnus. Back at resistance HQ, Optimus Prime is introduced to the rest of Hot Rod's cell. Soon Smokescreen arrives with Springer, Prowl, and Ironhide, and reports that Shockwave has released the city's sentinel robots.

Continuity Notes: Ultra Magnus directly refers to Optimus Prime as his brother in the story's opening pages. After the fight, Ultra Magnus's men find a blaster belonging to Rumble or Frenzy in the detention center wreckage.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

MARVEL TEAM-UP #69

Stan Lee presents SPIDER-MAN and HAVOK!

”NIGHT OF THE LIVING GOD!”
Author: Chris Claremont | Penciler: John Byrne | Inker: Ricardo Villamonte
Letterer: John Costanza | Colorist: Mary Titus | Editor: Archie Goodwin

The Plot: On Muir Island, off the coast of Scotland, Alex “Havok” Summers and Lorna “Polaris” Dane are assaulted by agents of Alex’s old nemesis, the Living Pharaoh. Lorna is knocked into the sea while Alex is kidnapped. Meanwhile, in New York, Peter Parker is working late in the ESU science lab when he notices more of the Living Pharaoh’s men stealing something from a professor’s office. Peter changes to Spider-Man but the men escape; however the wall-crawler tags their skycraft with a spider-tracer.

Meanwhile, Lorna has emerged from the sea and attempts to call the X-Men for help, but no one answers. She next calls former X-Man/current Avenger the Beast, who dashes out of Avengers Mansion to find the X-Men.

Elsewhere, Spider-Man tracks down the Living Pharaoh’s men at a Middle Eastern embassy and frees Havok. Together they take out the goons, but the Pharaoh himself arrives, subdues Spider-Man and recaptures Havok. The Pharaoh places Havok in a pod, but Spider-Man interferes again. The two men fight and Spider-Man wins, but inadvertently knocks the pod closed, which cuts off Havok’s connection with the solar rays that grant him his powers, thereby transforming the Living Pharaoh into the massive Living Monolith.

Monday, October 12, 2015

MARVEL TEAM-UP #68

Stan Lee presents: SPIDER-MAN and MAN-THING!

”THE MEASURE OF A MAN!”
Author: Chris Claremont | Artist: John Byrne | Inker: Bob Wiacek
Letterer: Bruce Patterson | Colorist: Phil Rache | Editor: Archie Goodwin

The Plot: Spider-Man observes Man-Thing inside a habitat at a circus, then flashes back to earlier that night when, as Peter Parker, he and Mary Jane Watson attended the circus and were almost roughed up when Peter accused the circus’s owner of kidnapping and holding the beast against its will. Then, in the present once more, Spider-Man meets a sympathetic guard and busts Man-Thing out over the protestations of the owner and his goons.

Thanks to Dr. Curt Connors, Spider-Man flies Man-Thing down to Florida aboard a chartered plane, but the craft is shot down over the swamp. Leaving the plane’s pilot and co-pilot to await rescue, Spider-Man follows Man-Thing into the swamp to what appears to be a decrepit shack. But in actuality, the building is a massive mystical tower under the control of the villainous D’Spayre.

D’Spayre apparently kills Man-Thing, then uses his powers of fear on Spider-Man. But when Man-Thing reappears and is slain over and over by D’Spayre, constantly regenerating himself only to die again, Spider-Man overcomes D’Spayre’s magic and beats the villain to a pulp. The tower’s inhabitants, Dakimh the Enchanter and his apprentice, Jennifer Kale, stop Spider-Man and banish the tower to another dimension.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

UNCANNY X-MEN OMNIBUS, VOLUME 1

Hardcover, 2006. Collects 1975-1980's GIANT SIZE X-MEN #1, UNCANNY X-MEN #94-131, and UNCANNY X-MEN ANNUAL #3.

Well that's pretty straightforward, isn't it? Long before the X-Men became a bloated franchise with a dozen or more titles on sale each and every month, there was simply UNCANNY X-MEN. (Technically back then it was just called X-MEN, but I'll call it UNCANNY throughout all collected edition reviews to avoid confusion with 1991's sister title, X-MEN.)

This is the first printing of the first edition of the UNCANNY X-MEN OMNIBUS. I believe the first edition had a second printing at some point, and there's a more recent second edition which has something like one extra model sheet in the back, but for our purposes I'm covering the original, released in 2006 when Marvel's Omnibus program was in its infancy. The physical descriptions at the end may not be of much help to anyone looking to pick up the current printing of this volume, but my coverage of the contents should be accurate to what you'd get if you went out and grabbed the second edition.

And what of the contents? Well, as I've said before, although the X-Men of the nineties are the X-Men I grew up with, and are technically "my" X-Men... the X-Men of the seventies through the early eighties are the X-Men, as far as I'm concerned -- and what we have here is a handsome collection of their earliest adventures.

Since there's only one series collected here, with one "giant size" issue and one annual, the contents are pretty straightforward: We begin with GIANT-SIZE X-MEN #1, then proceed with UNCANNY X-MEN issues 94 - 124, ANNUAL #3, and finally issues 125 - 131.

Friday, October 9, 2015

TRANSFORMERS: WAR AND PEACE #3

"COLD WAR"
Writer: Brad Mick* | Pencils: Pat Lee | Inks: Rob Armstrong
Backgrounds: Edwin Garcia | Layout Assists: Ferd Poblete
Colors: Espen Grundetjern, Alan Wang, & Gary Young | Letters: Paul Villafuerte

The Plot: In the past, somewhere on Cybertron, Shockwave is attacked by Sharkticons and rescued by Scourge. In the present, Shockwave has the ancient Autobot Alpha Trion prisoner. On Earth, Jazz's team searches Alaska for Scourge's pod, but finds no trace of him or of it. They are secretly observed by human military operatives who have captured Scourge.

The Dinobots crash-land on Cybertron, observed by Autobots Hot Rod, Blurr, and Springer. Meanwhile, Shockwave sends Rumble and Frenzy on a secret mission, then argues with Ultra Magnus over the fates of the captured Autobots. Elsewhere, the Dinobots are found by Decepticons Octane and Sixshot. In a Decepticon detention center, Rumble and Frenzy carry out Shockwave's mission -- freeing the captive Stunticons -- but are stopped on their way out by Starscream.

An Autobot council debates Perceptor's recent findings that Shockwave's machinations may be behind Cybertron drifting through space. Ultra Magnus urges them to challenge Shockwave's authority, but the meeting is interrupted when it's discovered the Stunticons are wreaking havoc elsewhere. Ultra Magnus gathers a team to stop the escaped prisoners.

The Dinobots, having defeated Octane and hijacked Sixshot, head for parts unknown. Meanwhile, Shockwave orders the Autobots brought to him while Ultra Magnus is occupied. But Autobot loyalists free the prisoners instead, taking Optimus Prime one way and the rest of his team another. Meanwhile, the Dinobots lay siege to Iacon. In tunnels beneath Cybertron, Prime's guide, Sandstorm, is killed by the Decepticon Runabout, who is in turn eaten by a Sharkticon which turns its attention to Optimus.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

POWER MAN AND IRON FIST #50

LUKE CAGE: a child of the streets… DANIEL RAND: a son of the mystic city of K’un-Lun… Two men from different worlds—both reborn with strength and power beyond belief! And together, no one can stop them!

”FREEDOM!”
Author: Chris Claremont | Artists: John Byrne & Dan Green
Lettering: Denise Wohl | Coloring: Francoise Mouly | Editor: Archie Goodwin

The Plot: At Jeryn Hogarth’s luxury apartment, a party is held to celebrate Luke Cage’s exoneration. Misty Knight and Colleen Wing offer him a position with their company, Nightwing Restorations, but Cage declines. Moments later, Cage’s girlfriend, Claire Temple, breaks up with him, having been used as a pawn against Cage one time too many.

Cage’s heartbreak is short-lived as his old foes, Stiletto and Discus, crash the party. The vigilantes believe Cage has dodged the law and want him dead. Danny Rand changes to Iron Fist to assist Cage against his enemies. The fight heads outside, where Iron Fist is nearly killed. Meanwhile, Cage takes out Discus. The arrival of the police startles Stiletto, who shoots Lt. Rafael Scarfe. Believing Scarfe dead, Misty prepares to execute Stiletto, but Cage stops her.

Scarfe, alive, chastises Misty and then Cage, Iron Fist, and the Daughters of the Dragon enjoy some champagne in the ruined apartment as Cage accepts the offer to join Nightwing Restorations.