Friday, December 30, 2016

TRANSFORMERS: WAR WITHIN: THE AGE OF WRATH #4 - 6

Though Dreamwave's WAR WITHIN: THE AGE OF WRATH mini-series ended in 2004 with issue 3 when the publisher went bankrupt, issues 4 through 6 were all solicited and in subsequent years Simon Furman made his scripts and/or synopses for the issues available to the public at conventions. All solicits and additional information courtesy of the Transformers Wiki, though they can be found elsewhere online as well.

Writer: Simon Furman | Pencils: Joe Ng | Inks: Tracy Ho

Issue 4 Solicit: ALONE! Stranded on a strange alien world, far, far from Cybertron, Turbomaster Flash is about to realize there really is no place like home... even when home is ruled by arch tyrant Megatron and his legions of clone warriors. The terrible truth behind the invasion and conquest of Cybertron is finally revealed. Now all Flash has to do is stay alive long enough to tell someone!

Issue 5 Solicit: HE'S BACK! Optimus Prime, right? Well... maybe. But then again... maybe not! Blaster's desperate bid to free the enslaved Autobots lies in ruins, his and his entire team's lives are Megatron's to take at his will. But in their darkest hour, a hero returns to the fray, a force too powerful to be contained even by death's dark dominion. Prepare to be shocked senseless all over again!

Issue 6 Solicit: Last Stand! Finally... the battle you've been waiting for! Optimus Prime returns to take on his archenemy Megatron. But is Prime the 'bot he was? Scarred mentally and physically by his nightmarish exile, Prime plainly may not be up to the job! But if he can't beat Megatron and stop the rise of his second-generation clone army ... who can?

Monday, December 26, 2016

FANTASTIC FOUR #294 & #295

"HERO WORSHIP" | “WELCOME TO THE FUTURE!"
Plotter: John Byrne (#294) | Scripter: Roger Stern | Penciler: Jerry Ordway
Inker: Al Gordon | Letterer: John Workman | Colorist: Glynis Oliver
Editor: Michael Carlin | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter
Special Thanks to John Byrne (#295)

The Plot: (Issue 294) Inside the futuristic upper Central City within the black dome, the Fantastic Four and Wyatt are assaulted and soon defeated by misshapen mutants. The creatures’ priestess recognizes them, however, and brings them before the city’s Coordinator, Harvey Jessup. The FF learn that Jessup constructed the black barrier as a way to protect Central City from nuclear holocaust, but where his intention was to isolate the city while time passed much faster outside, the opposite occurred.

But Jessup, now an old man brought in and out of suspended animation for certain important situations, refuses to believe Reed and attacks the FF with his “ultimate adjudicator” helmet.

(Issue 295) Sue saves the FF from the ultimate adjudicator by using her power to slowly turn them invisible, making it appear they’ve been disintegrated. The group soon encounters a woman named Murna, once the city’s high priestess. She reveals She-Hulk is beneath the city in suspended animation. While Johnny, Wyatt, and Murna go to save She-Hulk, Reed and Sue go after Jessup.

She-Hulk is freed and the two groups reunite as Sue and Reed battle Jessup’s minions. Murna links Reed’s and Jessup’s minds and Jessup finally realizes the truth of his mistake. As he dies, he places Murna, his daughter, in command of the city. Reed then uses Jessup’s device to shunt the dome 10,000 years into the future, even as the FF rescue all the original citizens of Central City, hidden underground in suspended animation.

Once more in the real world, Reed realizes Jessup’s lying to his subjects were not all that different from Reed withholding the truth from Ben about the nature of his transformation. Now aware that the Thing is out there somewhere, injured, Reed makes plans to go find him.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: In issue 294, Sue conveniently forgets everything that happened to the FF over the past, oh, ten minutes, and asks Wyatt to explain it all to her. The recap is much less painful in issue 295, where an omniscient narrator simply describes the past couple installments’ events on the first page before jumping into the action.

Jessup’s mutants are all genetically altered to be bizarre representations of the Fantastic Four, and his “Things” wear helmets of the type Ben used in early FF issues (and more recently in Byrne’s FANTASTIC FOUR #239).

Sunday, December 25, 2016

MY FIVE FAVORITE COMIC BOOK ARTISTS

It's been some time since I did a little list like this, but for whatever reason, not long ago I was thinking about which artists I consider to be my favorites of all time in the comic book field. It honestly didn't take much thought at all to come up with five; these guys all came to mind immediately with very little head-scratching or consideration over anyone else. So in alphabetical order, here they are:
  • Mark Bagley: I first encountered Bagley as the regular artist on AMAZING SPIDER-MAN when I became a regular ongoing reader with issue 360 (which was a fill-in, but Bagley returned for the next installment). At the time I wasn't all that enamored with him; he seemed to draw people's heads too small for their bodies sometimes, and as his time on AMAZING went along, he drew Spider-Man's eyes larger and larger until they seemed to take up about 75 percent of his head. But over the years, on THUNDERBOLTS and his subsequent work for Marvel, I've come to love his expressive style. I really like the way he draws musculature; his characters are all sinew and strength, and I love the way he draws faces these days. Plus, in Tom DeFalco's COMICS CREATORS ON SPIDER-MAN book, he admitted that he loves drawing "big, strong buxom women", which is always a plus in my book. Bagley is one of only two artists who I will always check out on Marvel Unlimited even if I have no interest in reading the actual issue he drew (the other of those two is #3 below).

Friday, December 23, 2016

TRANSFORMERS: WAR WITHIN: THE AGE OF WRATH #3

Writer: Simon Furman | Pencils: Joe Ng | Inks: Tracy Ho & Erik Sander
Additional Inks: Ferd Poblete | Colors: Rob Ruffalo & Eric Burns | Letters: Ben Lee

The Plot: At Autobot resistance headquarters, Percetptor gathers the Turbomasters and explains that he plans to locate the missing Optimus Prime. Meanwhile, Nightbeat and his group inspect their captured air warrior clone, but it comes back to life and attacks them. Elsewhere, Perceptor describes his plan to locate Prime.

Meanwhile, Shockwave berates Rumble and Frenzy over apparently disrupting his analysis of the clones, then leaves them to finish cataloguing all known Autobot casualties. But as they reach Grimlock's name on the list, something behind them explodes, leaving a face-shaped mark in the wall.

Nightbeat and friends continue to wage a losing battled against their clone opponent until it inexplicably stops fighting and shuts down once more. Blaster and Perceptor discuss strategy while the Turbomasters play a game of high-speed hide-and-seek. But when Turbomaster Flash returns to Perceptor's briefing chamber, where a space bridge portal is open to facilitate the search for Optimus, he somehow drives through and winds up in another location.

Continuity Notes: The story opens with news anchor Slamdance recapping Starscream's slaughter of the Transformer high council in issue 1.

The Autobot resistance is operating out of Iacon, which seems kind of foolhardy, given that was always the Autobots' headquarters.

We learn that Optimus Prime and Megatron were believed killed in the space bridge accident that claimed them circa THE DARK AGES #1, which is why no one search for them until now. But, with Megatron back, Perceptor believes Optimus Prime is out there someplace as well. And, just before Flash vanishes through the space bridge portal, a readout on Perceptor's monitor indicates that he may have been located.

Monday, December 19, 2016

FANTASTIC FOUR #293

"CENTRAL CITY DOES NOT ANSWER!"
Writer/Penciler: John Byrne | Inker: Al Gordon
Letterer: John Workman | Colorist: Glynis Oliver
Editor: Mike Carlin | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Wyatt Wingfoot receives a call from She-Hulk informing him that Reed Richards’ hometown of Cental City, California has vanished into a giant black dome. Wyatt fetches the rest of the Fantastic Four and they depart for the city.

Meanwhile, She-Hulk and the West Coast Avengers investigate the dome. Iron Man assembles a device which allows him entrance, but when he emerges after less than a second, he claims that he was inside for three weeks. Wonder Man takes Iron Man back to WCA headquarters to recharge, leaving She-Hulk and Tigra behind to watch as the dome begins growing. It quickly swallows She-Hulk.

The FF and Wyatt arrives and Tigra informs them of the situation. Wasting no time, the team enters the dome to find Central City has been built upward into a futuristic metropolis apparently devoid of inhabitants. As they explore, the FF are startled to come across replicas of the Baxter Building and a large statue devoted to them.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

THE UNBOXING - DECEMBER 2016

The final unboxing of the year is an all-Marvel extravaganza. First up is LUKE CAGE, IRON FIST, AND THE HEROES FOR HIRE volume 1. This mouthful of a title reprints the first half of the late nineties series that was originally called simply HEROES FOR HIRE. I seem to recall this series was advertised as being written by Roger Stern, but John Ostrander eventually stepped in instead and, with Pascual Ferry on art chores, provided a very fun, often funny eighteen-issue series spotlighting several of Marvel's B- and C-list stars. This was one of my favorite Marvel series as it was coming out and it's great to have it collected (in full as of next month, as the second volume was fast-tracked for release in January).

Friday, December 16, 2016

TRANSFORMERS: WAR WITHIN: THE AGE OF WRATH #2

Writer: Simon Furman | Pencils: Joe Ng | Inks: Ferd Poblete
Additional Inks: Tracy Ho & Erik Sander | Colors: Josh Burcham, Sig Torre, & Ruffs
Letters: Ben Lee

The Plot: Megatron leads the Decepticons once more, and the Autobots serve him as slave labor. After torturing Starscream, Megatron chats with Shockwave about a cloning experiment.

Meanwhile, Megatron's clone warriors chase down the Autobot Getaway. Elsewhere, the Autobots work under Decepticon supervision deep beneath Cybertron's surface. When Brawn rebels, he is shocked into submission. At the same time, Getaway continues his escape. Megatron receives a report from Soundwave stating that the Autobots have dug a shaft all the way to the center of Cybertron.

Getaway lures the Decepticon clones into an Autobot ambush, and they are wiped out -- save one for study by Perceptor.

Monday, December 12, 2016

FANTASTIC FOUR #292

"THE MAN WHO DREAMED THE WORLD!"
Writer/Penciler: John Byrne | Inker: Al Gordon
Colorist: Glynis Oliver | Letterer: John Workman
Editor: Michael Carlin | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: The Invisible Woman, She-Hulk, Human Torch, and “Licorice” Calhoun fly to Berlin, intent on stopping Nick Fury from assassinating Adolf Hitler. Meanwhile, Fury sneaks into Hitler’s sanctum and attacks the dictator, but is taken out by his guards. The Fantastic Trio arrives soon after and battles a giant Nazi robot, then Sue goes in search of Fury.

She finds him under interrogation and frees him. They're making their way out of the room, Sue having convinced Fury not to kill Hitler, when the Führer draws a gun. Fury whirls and shoots him.

Then, suddenly, Fury and the others awaken in a modern day SHIELD facility with Mister Fantastic watching over them. Reed explains that Licorice is a mutant and has been in a coma for fifty years. In his dreams, his power recently began creating brief time warps, one of which sucked in the FF members and Fury when She-Hulk rescued him from being killed in 1936. Licorice’s survival resulted in no more time warps, but also trapped the group in his dream with him. Fury’s killing Hitler finally jolted them free.

Friday, December 9, 2016

TRANSFORMERS: WAR WITHIN: THE AGE OF WRATH #1

Writer: Simon Furman | Pencils: Joe Ng | Inks: Tracy Ho | Additional Inks: Ferd Poblete
Colors: Rob Ruffalo, David Cheung, & Josh Burcham | Letters: Ben Lee

The Plot: Following a long and bloody campaign led by Ultra Magnus, the reunified Autobots have overcome the Decepticons and Ultracons and forged a loose peace on Cybertron. As Magnus and Grimlock prepare for the ratification of the treaty, Starscream and his Predacons plan to attack.

Later, in Iacon, Ultra Magnus greets Shockwave and Ratbat, representing their factions. Grimlock receives word that a pair of ore transports are en route to the city, and he orders the Dynobots to shoot them down. Meanwhile, Starscream invades the Iacon council pavilion and assassinates the elder Transformers inside.

The Autobots, Decepticons, and Ultracons fight back against the Predacons and Motormaster snipes Ultra Magnus from above -- but Grimlock leaps into the blast's path and takes the shot instead. As Grimlock dies in Magnus's arms, he, Ratbat, Shockwave, and thier allies are surrounded by an army of Decepticon clones led by Megatron.

Continuity Notes: This story takes place between WAR WITHIN: THE DARK AGES and MICROMASTERS (remember, I'm covering these issues in publication order rather than chronological order). As noted above, while the Decepticons are still splintered into three factions, Ultra Magnus has unified the Autobots since the last WAR WITHIN series.

Monday, December 5, 2016

FANTASTIC FOUR #291

"THE TIMES THEY ARE A'CHANGING!"
Writer/Penciler: John Byrne | Inker: P. Craig Russell
Colorist: Glynis Oliver | Letterer: John Workman
Editor: Michael Carlin | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Nick Fury, She-Hulk, the Human Torch and the Invisible Woman land in an alley in 1936 Manhattan. Cloaking Fury’s car to resemble a delivery truck, they head out into the city to investigate but police attempt to pull them over. Fury eludes the cops and the group suddenly finds New York returned to normal. Johnny departs in a hurry to check on Alicia, but while he's with her the time warp occurs once more.

Meanwhile, Fury has crashed his car in an attempt to enter SHIELD Central via a holographic wall which is actually just a wall in 1936. Sue leaves Fury with She-Hulk and heads out to look for help. Meanwhile, She-Hulk speaks to the SHIELD space platform via Fury’s communicator and learns the time warp is localized. She ends the call to save a clarinetist named “Licorice” Calhoun from a group of hoods.

Licorice babbles to She-Hulk about his dreams, which often come true, and how his boss tried to force him to dream a racehorse to victory. But while he speaks, Fury comes around and learns that the localized time warp has expanded across the world. He immediately takes off in his flying car to assassinate Hitler in Germany just as Sue returns.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: Johhny declares that with Reed dead, Sue is now the leader of the Fantastic Four.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

X-MEN: ROAD TO ONSLAUGHT VOLUMES 1 - 3

Volume 1: Paperback, 2014. Collects 1995's X-MEN PRIME, UNCANNY X-MEN #322 - 326, X-MEN #42 - 45, X-MEN ANNUAL '95, and X-MEN UNLIMITED #8.

Volume 2: Paperback, 2014. Collects 1995-96's UNCANNY X-MEN #327 & 328, X-MEN #46 - 49, X-MEN UNLIMITED #9, X-MEN/CLANDESTINE #1 & 2, and SABRETOOTH SPECIAL.

Volume 3: Paperback, 2014. Collects 1996's UNCANNY X-MEN #329 - 332, X-MEN #50 - 52, X-MEN UNLIMITED #10, X-MEN/BROOD #1 & 2, ARCHANGEL #1, WOLVERINE #101, and the XAVIER INSTITUTE ALUMNI YEARBOOK.

In 2014, Marvel enacted an ambitious plan to plug the gap between the AGE OF APOCALYPSE OMNIBUS and the ONSLAUGHT OMNIBUS with a series of three big trade paperbacks collecting every issue of X-MEN, UNCANNY X-MEN, X-MEN UNLIMITED, and other odds and ends which ran between 1995 and 1996. The result is a set of handsome books chock full of stories by various creators.


Volume one wastes no time, kicking right off with X-MEN PRIME, establishing the post-"Age of Apocalypse" X-universe. Then we have UNCANNY X-MEN 322, in which Onslaught's name is first spoken by Juggernaut -- though at that point no one, not even series writer Scott Lobdell, knew who or even what "Onslaught" was. X-MEN 42 through 44 follow, as writer Fabian Nicieza tells a story of Cyclops and Jean Grey and their roles in the fall of Magneto's space station, Avalon. Then it's back to UNCANNY for issues 323 and 324, featuring the debut of the mutant terrorists known as Gene Nation.

Next comes X-MEN ANNUAL '95 starring Jean and Beast and featuring my all-time favorite Mister Sinister story, by J.M. DeMatteis, Terry Dodson, and John Paul Leon. After this, it's a celebration of the twentieth anniversary of the "All-New, All-Different" X-Men in UNCANNY #325 and X-MEN #45, featuring a reunion between Colossus and his former teammates and a connection between Gambit and Mister Sinister, respectively. X-MEN 45 is also the final issue from Nicieza, who had been the series' scripter all the way back to #11.

Friday, December 2, 2016

TRANSFORMERS: MICROMASTERS #4

"VICTIMS OF THE REVOLUTION"
Writers: James McDonough & Adam Patyk | Pencils: Rob Ruffalo | Inks: Erik Sander
Colors: Sig Torre, Eric Byrns, Josh Perez, & Josh Burcham | Letters: Ben Lee

The Plot: The Autobot Micromasters return to Countdown for help defending Little Iacon, but Countdown declares they will all go to Decepticon headquarters instead. Meanwhile, Skystalker impersonates Shockwave and tricks the Decepticons into launching an assault on the Autobots. The Autobots get wind of the Decepticons' movement and plan to intercept them in the Badlands.

At Decepticon headquarters, the Autobot Micromasters encounter the Insecticons and destroy them, then meet up with their Decepticon counterparts. Countdown locates Shockwave's head, detached from his body by Skytalker, who attempts to drop it on him. Big Daddy rescues Countdown but Skystalker escapes. Meanwhile, the Decepcticon Micromasters make peace with the Autobots and decide to join forces.

Elsewhere, the full-size Decepticons have defeated the full-size Autobots in the Badlands and are about to finish them off when the united Micromasters arrive and prove their might by presenting the Decepticons with Shockwave's severed head. The spooked Decepticons then retreat, and in the aftermath of the fight, Big Daddy strikes out on his own.

Monday, November 28, 2016

FANTASTIC FOUR #290

"RISK"
Written and Penciled by John Byrne | Inked by Al Gordon
Colored by Glynis Oliver | Lettered by John Workman
Edited by Michael Carlin | Supervised by Jim Shooter

The Plot: Annihilus gloats over the defeated Fantastic Four, but is challenged by Blastaar. The two begin to fight as the FF come around. Soon, Blastaar’s fleet arrives, but Annihilus opens fire on them with the weaponry of Blastaar’s own flagship. She-Hulk and the Human Torch join the fight against Annihilus, and Blastaar’s men soon board the ship to do likewise — but Annihilus sends everyone into retreat and leaves the ship for the portal to Earth.

Reed follows Annihilus in his SHIELD spacesuit with plans to touch him, thus destroying them both and closing the Negative Zone portal in the process, since Annihilus is made of anti-matter while Reed is still composed of matter due to his means of entrance into the Negative Zone. The FF abandon ship and board Nick Fury’s SHIELD shuttle. They listen to a broadcast from Reed as he confronts Annihilus, then a massive explosion seals the portal just after the shuttle makes it through to the positive universe.

Aboard the SHIELD space platform, searches for Reed prove fruitless. Fury brings Sue, Johnny, and She-Hulk back to Earth, but they’re all surprised to find Manhattan has changed into a version of itself circa 1936.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

HOBGOBLIN LIVES: THE 20th ANNIVERSARY

Twenty years ago this very day, per Mike's Amazing World of Comics, the first issue of SPIDER-MAN: HOBGOBLIN LIVES hit stands. I talked about this series before when I ran my Spider-Man by Roger Stern review series a couples years back. I covered it issue by issue (#1 | #2 | #3). I followed those up with a little missive on how it might have benefited from a different length or format. You'd think I might have written all I had to say on it at this point.

You'd be wrong.


I can't quite articulate how, but I'm about to do my best: this mini-series is incredibly important to me on multiple levels -- but to explain why, I should start at the beginning: As noted when I covered some of the Hobgoblin issues of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, the very first comic I remember owning was AMAZING #245. I said in my review of that issue:
According to Mike's Amazing World of Comics, it went on sale in July of 1983. I would've been a little more than four-and-a-half years old. Barely old enough to read the thing, but the pictures told me plenty. The scene in which Lefty Donovan drives back to the burnt-out mansion and descends into the Hobgoblin's mysterious lair stuck with me more than anything else as the eeriest imagery I had ever seen in my then-brief lifetime. I didn't quite understand the whole story, but I remembered it for years to come, so much that when I picked up the ORIGIN OF THE HOBGOBLIN trade paperback about ten years later, I recognized the artwork from this chapter as if I had just seen it the day before. And when something sticks with for that long, all through the haze of early childhood and into your teens, it's pretty amazing.
Then came the ORIGIN OF THE HOBGOBLIN trade paperback mentioned here. It was released in May of 1993 (again, per Mike's Amazing World) -- almost ten years to the month after issue 245 -- and I was fourteen at the time. It collected AMAZING SPIDER-MAN issues 238, 239, 244, 245, 249 - 251, and SPECTACULAR #85 (though it was heavily edited to excise unrelated sub-plots and focus solely on the Hobgoblin material). ORIGIN was one of the very first trade paperbacks I ever owned, and I read the thing over and over until it was battered and dog-eared, so enthralled was I with the stories it contained.

(To contrast, the issues of the regular ongoing Spider-Man comics released in May of '93 were all chapters of "Maximum Carnage". And while I have great love for some of the more questionable nineties Spider-stuff -- the Clone Saga, for instance -- even back then I recognized "Maximum Carnage" as a pretty lame story.)

Friday, November 25, 2016

TRANSFORMERS: MICROMASTERS #3

Writers: James McDonough & Adam Patyk | Pencils: Rob Ruffalo | Inks: Erik Sander
Colors: Sig Torre, Eric Byrns, Josh Perez, & Josh Burcham | Letters: Ben Lee

The Plot: Decepticon Micromasters Skystalker and Skyhopper, returned from their expedition to deep space, meet with Shockwave and form an alliance. Meanwhile, the Insecticons descend on Little Iacon and attack the Micromasters gathered there. Big Daddy and the Hot Rod Patrol escape while the rest defend themselves.

Elsewhere, Countdown argues with Groundshaker and reveals a discovery he made during their expedition to planet Paradron. In Little Iacon, the Insecticons force the Decepticon Micromasters to help them search for the Hot Rod Patrol, while elsewhere, Skystalker reveals to Skyhopper that the alliance with Shockwave was a sham, and he plans to bomb the Decepticon commander.

The Hot Rod Patrol reaches Autobase in Iacon, where they're taunted and turned away by fellow Micromasters on guard duty over their desertion. But another Micromaster named Stakeout arrives and gives the Hot Rods back their guns, which were confiscated when they left Iacon. Elsewhere, the Decepticon Micromasters discuss plans to turn on the Insecticons.

At Decepticon headquarters, Shockwave runs tests on Blitzwing but their conversation is interrupted by a bombing. Skystalker and Skyhopper defeat Shockwave and Blitzwing and the Decepticon Micromasters return soon after to find the Decepticon forces preparing for war under the command of Skystalker.

Monday, November 21, 2016

FANTASTIC FOUR #289

"RIP WIDE THE SKY!"
Writer/Penciler: John Byrne | Inker: Al Gordon
Colorist: Glynis Oliver | Letterer: John Workman
Editor: Michael Carlin | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

(Credits as printed in the issue:
A Byrne-Gordon-Workman-Oliver-Carlin-Shooter Production)

The Plot: The Fantastic Four embark on a tour of their new headquarters as its construction nears completion. But before the tour is finished, they receive an emergency call from SHIELD and head up to the SHIELD space platform. There, Nick Fury reveals that a “rip” in space has appeared over Earth, and Reed deduces it is a portal to the Negative Zone, torn open when the Baxter Building exploded in orbit months earlier.

Reed heads out in a spacesuit to investigate but is sucked into the Zone by a tractor beam. The rest of the FF and Nick Fury follow in a SHIELD shuttle, to find Reed a captive of the Fantastic Four’s old enemy Blastaar. The group makes quick work of Blastaar, snagging the Cosmic Control Rod from his collar. But the villain tricks the Human Torch into tossing the Rod into a cell which holds its true owner, Annihilus. The insectoid warlord is reinvigorated by his long-lost weapon and quickly defeats Blastaar and the FF.

In the positive universe, SHIELD realizes that the Negative Zone portal is widening and within five hours it will consume and destroy the Earth.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: Sue's new hairdo (and the final style she will wear in Byrne's run) makes its debut. I think it suits her. It's not my favorite look for her since Byrne came on board; for that we would look to the long hair she sported during the big Doom/Tyros fight circa issue 260, but it's not bad.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

THE UNBOXING - NOVEMBER 2016

Three books, three publishers, one titanic Unboxing.

First up, from IDW it's STREET FIGHTER X G.I. JOE, collecting the mini-series from earlier this year. I'm kind of surprised to see a STREET FIGHTER comic from a publisher other than UDON, but I guess since IDW has the G.I. JOE rights, they were able to get a limited license to publish this thing. STREET FIGHTER and JOE have, after all, been tangentially linked for decades, ever since Hasbro produced toys for the 1994 STREET FIGHTER movie by lazily repainting a bunch of their existing JOE molds into new toys that bore no resemblance to the characters they were meant to represent.


DC brings us the long-delayed SUPERMAN: THE MAN OF STEEL volume 9, at long last completing John Byrne's tenure on the character in trade paperback format. It's taken them about thirteen years to finally finish this for some reason, but at least it's done and now I can finally read the Byrne run in its entirety.

Interestingly, it looks like DC plans to plug along past Byrne's run as well, with a SUPERMAN: THE MAN OF TOMORROW Book One having popped up for pre-order on Amazon, picking up directly after Byrne's final issues with an apparent goal of filling the gap between the final MAN OF STEEL book and the DEATH OF SUPERMAN, which is already collected (and which I reviewed in Omnibus format here a few years back).

And lastly it's the SHANG-CHI, MASTER OF KUNG FU OMNIBUS volume 2. I don't know why this was delayed so long -- it was supposed to release back in September -- but I've waited quite some time already to read this classic material, so a little longer makes no difference. And don't forget Volume 1 is still out there, with Volume 3 on the way next year; not to mention the DEADLY HANDS OF KUNG FU OMNIBUS volume 1 and Volume 2 also available for pre-order! It's more martial arts mayhem in the mighty Marvel manner than anyone should be able to handle!

Friday, November 18, 2016

TRANSFORMERS: MICROMASTERS #2

"THE GRAY RACE"
Writers: James "Brad Mick" McDonough & Adam Patyk | Pencils: Rob Ruffalo
Inks: Erik Sander & Rob Armstrong | Colors: David Cheung & Josh Perez | Letters: Ben Lee

The Plot: The Micromasters are rescued from the Insecticons by another Micromaster named Groundshaker. He takes the Autobot Hot Rod Patrol on to a secret meeting with a mysterious individual. Left behind, the Decepticon Sports Car Patrol is approached by Shockwave, who allows them to proceed to Little Iacon. But one of the Micromasters opts to remain behind with Shockwave and as soon as his friends have moved on, Shockwave feeds him to the Insecticons, hiding in a nearby cavern.

The Hot Rod Patrol meets with their benefactor, revealed as Countdown. He says he's learned much about the universe in his travels and would like their help on some unknown crusade. Big Daddy tells him they'll think it over.

The Autobot and Decepticon Micromasters are reunited in Little Iacon. At a bar, Big Daddy earns the ire of Road Handler, and the two get into a drag race, which Road Handler wins. Unknown to the Micromasters, they are observed from a distance by surveillance gear. Meanwhile, a ship carrying two Decepticon Micromasters arrives on Cybertron.

Monday, November 14, 2016

FANTASTIC FOUR #288

"FULL CIRCLE"
Writer/Penciler: John Byrne | Embellisher: Joe Sinnott
Colorist: Glynis Oliver | Letterer: John Workman
Edits: Michael Carlin | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: The Human Torch storms the Latverian embassy in response to the Invisible Woman’s distress signal. He meets up with She-Hulk and the Wasp, and they're all soon joined by Mister Fantastic as well. But the group is quickly captured by Doctor Doom, who places them into personalized prisons.

Doom explains to his captives how he survived his battle with Tyros and stole Norm MacArthur’s body. He then reveals his plan to use sorcery to recreate his original body, but his spell instead summons the Beyonder. Beyonder prepares to kill Doom, but Reed speculates that Doom was pulled from the future to participate in the Secret Wars, and that killing him now, before he can join that conflict, will break a temporal loop of the Beyonder’s own creation, thus destroying time itself.

Beyonder agrees and spares Doom. He recreates his original body and returns his mind to it, thus restoring Norm as well, then wipes all knowledge of the Beyonder from Doom’s memory and sends him back in time to Battleworld. The Beyonder then departs and the FF soon follow, even as a Doom begins to rematerialize from the Secret Wars, closing the temporal loop.

Friday, November 11, 2016

TRANSFORMERS: MICROMASTERS #1

"DESTINED FOR NOTHING"
Writers: James "Brad Mick" McDonough & Adam Patyk | Pencils: Rob Ruffalo
Inks: Erik Sander | Colors: David Cheung | Letters: Ben Lee

The Plot: Autobot and Decepticon Micromasters do battle, resulting in the death of an Autobot named Crunch. This leads the Autobot Hot Rod Patrol to desert and head for their former home, Little Iacon. Meanwhile the Decepticon Sports Car Patrol deserts as well, and the two groups cross paths in the Wastelands, where they're attacked by a squad of Insecticons.

Continuity Notes: Though not explained in the story itself, this issue features a column by McDonough and Patyk describing the origins of the Micromasters in this continuity: they were a group of tiny, energy efficient Transformers created as a joint Autobot/Decepticon experiment with the intention of each side taking a number of Micromasters to fight for them once they had matured. What neither side counted on was the Micromasters "growing up" together in Little Iacon and becoming friends before separating for the two sides of the war.

This story takes place following the departure of Optimus Prime's and Megatron's respective crews for Earth. The Autobots are led by Fortress Maximus and Ultra Magnus, while Shockwave, Scorponok, and Ratbat are seen in command of three separate Decepticon factions in a setup similar to Simon Furman's WAR WITHIN: THE DARK AGE.

A Micromaster crew led by Countdown returns to Cybertron, having left some time earlier with Jetfire and Omega Supreme in search of the Ark. They reveal that the two larger Autobots split from the group to follow a lead, which would ultimately result in their appearance in the ongoing GENERATION ONE series.

Monday, November 7, 2016

FANTASTIC FOUR #287

"PRISONER OF THE FLESH"
Writer/Penciler: John Byrne | Colorist: Glynis Oliver | Letterer: Jim Novak
Editor: Michael Carlin | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter
And a Mighty Marvel welcome to Joe Sinnott, Inker Extraordinaire!

The Plot: At Avengers’ Mansion, Mister Fantastic puts the finishing touches on a device designed to scan for Doctor Doom’s brainwaves. Meanwhile, the Wasp takes Sue and She-Hulk to visit her hairdresser at the French embassy. Across the street, the Latverian embassy comes under attack by a costumed villain called the Invincible Man. Sue and the other women attack him and he reveals that his family is being held hostage within the embassy by Doctor Doom.

The Invisible Woman, She-Hulk, and Wasp storm the Latverian embassy with the Invincible Man and split up inside. Sue encounters one of Doom’s robot duplicates and destroys it, but is then ambushed by the Invincible Man. Sue sees his face but does not recognize it, however he reveals that he is actually Doom in another body.

The confused wife of Doom’s “host”, Peggy, comes to his rescue by smashing Sue over the head with a vase, knocking her out. Doom then summons the rest of the Fantastic Four using a new pager system built into their costumes.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: The "resurrection" of Jean Grey last issue has prompted Reed to consider, following his appearance in the original SECRET WARS, that Doctor Doom might still be alive.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

X-FACTOR BY JOHN BYRNE

Image borrowed from
Marvel Comics of the 1980s
Having covered FANTASTIC FOUR #286 and the return of Jean Grey this past week, I find myself thinking, as I occasionally do, about one of the best comic book runs the world never saw: John Byrne's X-FACTOR.

As I understand it, Marvel decided that the X-Men were such a phenomenal hit that they needed a second spinoff after NEW MUTANTS, and X-FACTOR was born, conceived by editor-in-chief Jim Shooter and writer Bob Layton without consulting with the X-Men's editorial office or that title's writer, Chris Claremont. The goal was originally to reunite the four surviving members of the original X-Men -- Cyclops, Beast, Angel, and Iceman -- with Dazzler filling the role of the distaff fifth member. But John Byrne and Roger Stern -- and, more importantly, Kurt Busiek -- got wind of this plan and Busiek pitched his idea for a way to bring Jean back into the picture, which Stern and Byrne ran with in AVENGERS and FANTASTIC FOUR. Thus the stage was set for all five original X-Men to return to action in X-FACTOR.

The title stumbled along initially with some woefully regressive Silver Age-style stories by Layton and penciler Jackson Guice, until the wife-and-husband team of Louise and Walter Simonson took over and invigorated things with issues 6 (Louise as writer) and 10 (Walter as penciler).

Friday, November 4, 2016

TRANSFORMERS: WAR WITHIN: THE DARK AGES #6

Writer: Simon Furman | Pencils: Andrew Wildman | Inks: Erik Sander
Additional Inks: Rob Armstrong | Colors: Alan Wang | Letters: Ben Lee

The Plot: Shockwave and his Decepticon army attack the Fallen's disciples on the surface of Cybertron. Beneath the surface, the Fallen himself uses the life energies of Grimlock, Jetfire, Hot Spot, and Blitzwing to power a gigantic laser which burns through Cybertron's crust. Meanwhile, Swoop sends footage of the battle on the surface to Prowl, who decides to send Autobot reinforcements to join the fray. Beneath the surface, Grimlock breaks free.

Topside, the combined forces of Shockwave's group and Grimlock's team defeat the fallen's disciples. The group then descends beneath the surface. Meanwhile, Jetfire urges Grimlock to let him deal with the Fallen. Shockwave and friends find a locked door between them and the Fallen and open fire on it. Meanwhile, Grimlock frees Hot Spot and Blitzwing and escapes. Jetfire contacts Autobase and then challenges the Fallen. As they fight, the Autobots set up a containment barrier around their battlefield. The Fallen is destroyed by energy from within Cybertron.

In the battle's aftermath, the combined Transformer factions seal the entrance to the Fallen's chamber with locks keyed to each individual's group, then go their separate ways while Grimlock and Jetfire make peace.

Continuity Notes: The Fallen implies that the Transformers' dabbling with space bridges, as seen in the first issue's opening scene, is what allowed him to come to Cybertron.

Jetfire recalls his and Grimlock's time as Decepticons and mentions a "cerebro-shell incident" best left forgotten.

Monday, October 31, 2016

FANTASTIC FOUR #286

"LIKE A PHOENIX!"
Writer/Penciler: You Know Who* | Guest Inker: Terry Austin
Colorist: Glynis Oliver | Letterer: John Workman
Editor: Michael Carlin | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter
With Special Thanks to Roger Stern & Kurt Busek (sic)

* All parties involved seem to agree that a large portion of this issue was ghost-rewritten by Chris Claremont and ghost-repenciled by Jackson Guice, which led to John Byrne omitting his name from the credits.

The Plot: The Fantastic Four return to Earth and Avengers’ Mansion to find that the Avengers have recovered a peculiar energy cocoon from beneath New York’s Jamaica Bay. A quick analysis of the cocoon reveals a woman hidden inside, and Reed works overnight to eventually free her.

The girl is Jean Grey, formerly Marvel Girl of the X-Men, and after a brief skirmish she reveals that the last thing she remembers is battling Doctor Stephen Lang and his Sentinels on SHIELD’s orbital space platform. Reed, Sue, and Hercules take Jean to her parents’ house while Captain America studies old casefiles recorded by former X-Man and former Avenger, the Beast.

At the unoccupied Grey home, Jean finds a “holoempathic crystal” housing her essence, and that unlocks her memories of the X-Men’s escape from the platform and her encounter with a being called the Phoenix. Cap arrives and helps Jean and Reed piece things together: Jean was replaced by Phoenix in a simulacrum of her Earthly body, while she recovered from radiation poisoning in the hidden cocoon.

Later, back at Avengers’ Mansion, Reed prepares to place a phone call.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

X-MEN: AGE OF APOCALYPSE OMNIBUS

Hardcover, 2012. Collects 1995-96's UNCANNY X-MEN #320 - 321, X-MEN #40 - 41, CABLE #20, X-MEN ALPHA, AMAZING X-MEN #1 - 4, ASTONISHING X-MEN #1 - 4, FACTOR X #1 - 4, GAMBIT & THE X-TERNALS #1 - 4, GENERATION NEXT #1 - 4, WEAPON X #1 - 4, X-CALIBRE #1 - 4, X-MAN #1 - 4, X-MEN OMEGA, AGE OF APOCALYPSE: THE CHOSEN and X-MEN ASHCAN #2.

"Age of Apocalypse" is probably the one X-crossover from the nineties which is held in some esteem by most all fans. It's a legitimately creative and well-coordinated enterprise which dares to ask the question, "What would the world look like if Professor X had been killed twenty years earlier by his time-traveling son?"

This is one of the few classic X-events collected as an Omnibus rather than a simple oversize hardcover. I'm not sure why Marvel bothers with one distinction over the other, but it seems worth noting. Other than the branding and trade dress, however, this volume is essentially done in the exact same style as any of the prior books I've covered here in recent months.

"But wait!" you say, your spider-sense tingling. "Didn't you skip the AGE OF APOCALYPSE PRELUDE trade paperback listed on your X-MEN COLLECTED EDITIONS page? The book that contains UNCANNY X-MEN 319 and X-MEN 38 and 39, bridging the gap between PHALANX COVENANT and this very Omnibus?" The answer is yes, I did. That book, which also includes X-FACTOR 108 and 109, UNCANNY 320 and 321, X-MEN 40 and 41, and CABLE 20, was released in 2011 but I've never bothered to pick it up for a couple reasons: One, some of the reprint contents are identical to this Omnibus, covering the "Legion Quest" crossover which kicks things off. But I've never been afraid of double-dipping -- within reason -- in the past, so the other reason is that the PRELUDE volume is notorious for having been printed on extremely cheap newsprint-style paper. So between those two issues, I just haven't been able to bring myself to purchase it without a really steep discount (like, say 75% off at minimum). Thus, for now, that small hole in my ongoing X-chronology remains regrettably unfilled.

Now, with that disclaimer out of the way, our Omnibus opens up with the afore-mentioned "Legion Quest" storyline, running through UNCANNY X-MEN 320, X-MEN 40, UNCANNY 321, X-MEN 41, and CABLE 20. In this short crossover, Storm, Psylocke, Iceman, and Bishop travel back in time in an attempt to stop Professor X's son, Legion, from killing Magneto. They succeed, but Legion accidentally slays his own father instead, altering the timeline in numerous ways.

Friday, October 28, 2016

TRANSFORMERS: WAR WITHIN: THE DARK AGES #5

Writer: Simon Furman | Pencils: Andrew Wildman | Inks: Erik Sander
Additional Inks: Rob Armstrong | Colors: Alan Wang & Ramil Sunga | Letters: Ben Lee

The Plot: Grimlock is defeated by the Fallen, then he and Jetfire are carted away by the villain and his disciples, but Shockwave, playing possum, observes their departure. Later, Prowl receives a call from Swoop indicating that Grimlock and the others are all missing and there are signs of a battle in the spot where they were to meet. Prowl suggests that both groups work together to find their missing teammates, then the Fallen attacks Autobase's holding cells.

Meanwhile, the Protectobots mull over their recent battle with Trypticon. Bludgeon, Mindwipe, and Bugly attack and defeat them, taking Hot Spot prisoner. Back at Autobase, the Fallen cuts through a trio of Autobot guards and frees Blitzwing from incarceration.

Later, Jetfire awakens to find himself, along with Grimlock, Blitzwing, and Hot Spot, shackled to a large machine which the Fallen indicates will take their lives as part of some unknown war effort.

Continuity Notes: Jetfire deduces that the Fallen hails from Cybertron's distant past, sometime before the "Golden Age". The Fallen scoffs at this term and declares that Cybertron has now entered a Dark Age.

Prowl refers to Blitzwing as an experiment and we later learn that he was created (or modified) by Shockwave.

Monday, October 24, 2016

FANTASTIC FOUR ANNUAL #19

"SUMMONS FROM THE STARS!"
Story & Art: John Byrne | Letterer: Jim Novak | Colorist: Glynis Oliver
Editor: Michael Carlin | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter
And the one and only Joe Sinnott, Special Guest Inker

The Plot: An alien the Fantastic Four once knew as the “Infant Terrible” arrives on Earth seeking their help. The FF accompany the Infant back to his “homeworld”, where they’re attacked by a Skrull warlord and her forces. Reed then reveals that the FF figured out the Infant was a Skrull agent and they played along with him to find out what he was up to.

The group’s adventure is far from over, however, as they learn that, since the collapse of the Skrull Empire in the aftermath of Galactus’s destruction of their throneworld, the asteroid which once beamed Super-Skrull’s powers across the galaxy has been taken over by a Skrull splinter group, and the leader of that group has plans which could result in the end of the universe.

The FF travel to the asteroid, where they bump into the Avengers. The Skrull warlord Zabyk activates his device, and the genetic code of every Skrull in the universe is rewritten, destroying the species’ ability to shapeshift.

Friday, October 21, 2016

TRANSFORMERS: WAR WITHIN: THE DARK AGES #4

Writer: Simon Furman | Pencils: Andrew Wildman
Inks: Erik Sander | Additional Inks: Rob Armstrong
Colors: Espen Grundetjern, Alan Wang, & Rob Ruffalo | Letters: Ben Lee

The Plot: Prowl and his team battle Trypticon while Grimlock and the Lightning Strike Coalition head for the meeting site between Jetfire and Skywarp. The rest of Grimlock's group wants to go join the fight against Trypticon, but Grimlock disagrees.

Shockwave and Jetfire meet in the Neutral Terretories to trade intelligence, but they're ambushed by Bludgeon, Mindwipe, and Bugly. Meanwhile, Autobot reinforcements arrive to aid Prowl's team against Trypticon. In the Neutral Territories, Shockwave is easily defeated and Mindwipe ensnares Jetfire's mind. The trio of Fallen disciples is about to leave with Jetfire as their prisoner when Grimlock appears and takes them down. He then turns his attention to Jetfire, intending to execute him.

Grimlock's warriors, Slag, Swoop, Snarl, and Sludge, arrive to help against Trypticon, but the giant battle base receives a distress signal from Shockwave and retreats. Meanwhile, Grimlock is about to finish off Jetfire when the Fallen appears to challenge him.

Continuity Notes: It was teased last issue, and is elaborated upon slightly here, that Grimlock and Jetfire have some past together, presumably dating back to their shared history as Decepticons.

Monday, October 17, 2016

FANTASTIC FOUR #285

"HERO"
Written and Penciled by John Byrne | Inked by Al Gordon
Colored by Glynis Oliver | Lettered by John Workman
Edited by: Michael Carlin | Supervised by Jim Shooter

The Plot: Tommy Hanson, a thirteen year-old boy and the Human Torch’s biggest fan, has a bad day and goes home, where he lights himself ablaze using an eccentric neighbor’s radio controlled airplane fuel.

A month later, Doctor Janet Darling of the South Queens Hospital For Sick Children seeks out Johnny Storm and asks him to visit Tommy. Johnny agrees and arrives just as Tommy passes away. His final words are to tell the Torch that he lit himself on fire to emulate his hero.

Johnny returns to his apartment and tells Sue, Alicia, and She-Hulk that he plans to give up being the Human Torch. But the Beyonder appears and takes Johnny on a tour of Tommy’s past, showing him that the Torch and his exploits meant the world to Tommy. Johnny decides to remain the Torch after all.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: Byrne plays up the Fantastic Four’s celebrity a bit this issue, featuring a Human Torch interview in an issue of –errm— Celebrity magazine, and showing a TV Guide listing for an episode of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous spotlighting the team.

The FF are still living at Avengers’ Mansion following the destruction of the Baxter Building back in issue 279. Construction of their new headquarters is underway, a building which Reed declares will be three times as tall as the Baxter Building and feature a basement complex three times deeper.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

THE UNBOXING - OCTOBER 2016

Just one thing this time, continuing the trend of slim pickings in recent months: it's the POWER MAN AND IRON FIST EPIC COLLECTION: REVENGE! from Marvel. I find it interesting that Marvel chose this book to coincide with the debut of LUKE CAGE on Netflix, rather than an Epic Collection dedicated specifically to the original LUKE CAGE, HERO FOR HIRE series -- though I suppose the reasoning may have been not to step on the feet of the HERO FOR HIRE MASTERWORKS series which began last year.


Speaking of last year, the release of this volume weirdly mirrors the release of the first POWER MAN AND IRON FIST Epic Collection, HEROES FOR HIRE, from last summer -- it was also the sole book I received that particular month.

And holy cow, has it really been over a year since then?? I was all set to write a post praising Marvel for fast-tracking the PM&IF Epics with two released in the span of only a few months! Time flies, I guess. But at any rate, I wouldn't be surprised to see a third volume in this series hit the fast track when IRON FIST premieres on NetFlix next March, since the IRON FIST EPIC COLLECTION already came out last year.

Finally, while I'm plugging Marvel trades, I'll mention that on a related, note, the late nineties HEROES FOR HIRE series by John Ostrander and Pascual Ferry is on the way from Marvel in a pair of trade paperbacks due out in quick succession this coming December and January. This fun (and funny!) series was one of my favorite Marvel comics during its all too brief nineteen-issue run and, with the caveat that I haven't actually read it since it was originally released, I highly recommend it: Volume 1 | Volume 2

Friday, October 14, 2016

TRANSFORMERS: WAR WITHIN: THE DARK AGES #3

Writer: Simon Furman | Pencils: Andrew Wildman | Inks: Erik Sander
Colors: Espen Grundetjern, Rob Ruffalo & Ramil Sunga | Letters: Benjamin Lee
President: Pat Lee | VP/Editor-in-Chief: Roger Lee
Creative Director: James McDonough | Project Manager: Derek Choo-Wing

The Plot: Springer fights Ratbat while Defensor and Devastator duke it out as well. At Autobase beneath Iacon, Jetfire converses with Trailbreaker and Bluestreak. Meanwhile, Prowl leads a unit to investigate the Decepticons' new mobile base, which reveals itself as a gigantic Transformer called Trypticon.

Devastator and Defensor continue their duel while the Wreckers prepare to retreat. Meanwhile, Jetfire begins analyzing data on the various factions' movements. The fight between Defensor and Devastator is joined by Springer. Jetfire contacts Shockwave and the pair prepare to meet to discuss Jetfire's findings.

Separated into their individual components, the Protectobots rig a trap which stuns and dismantles Devastator as he's about to finish Springer. In the aftermath, the Constructicons are captured. Elsewhere, Grimlock views a distress signal from Prowl and footage of the communication between Jetfire and Shockwave.

Continuity Notes: Springer and Ratbat debate the "Crisis Intervention Accord", which apparently prohibited the various combiner teams from participating in the multi-faction war.

Jetfire reveals that he discovered Trypticon in the first place and wonders why Prowl didn't invite him along to investigate. He also determines that the various Transformer factions are being manipulated by some outside force, a revelation which piques Shockwave's interest.

Monday, October 10, 2016

MARVEL GRAPHIC NOVEL #18

Written and Penciled by: John Byrne
Inked by: Kim DeMulder | Colored by: Petra Scotese | Lettered by: Janice Chiang
Editors: Michael Carlin & Michael Higgins | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Nick Fury is instructed by his superiors to bring She-Hulk in for study. Fury takes a leave of absence to protest the order. Later, as She-Hulk and Wyatt Wingfoot are out on a date, a pair of SHIELD Mandroids arrives to arrest her. Following a brief skirmish, the Mandroids, She-Hulk, Wyatt, and a group of bystanders are beamed up to the SHIELD Helicarrier. Aboard, She-Hulk is humiliated by an agent named Dooley before acting director Dum Dum Dugan arrives to confine him to quarters.

Later, as Dum Dum speaks with She-Hulk and Wyatt in his office, he receives a call summoning him to Washington and placing Dooley in charge. With Dum Dum gone, Dooley immediately locks up Wyatt and subjects She-Hulk to a battery of tests. Eventually, after being returned to her cell with Wyatt, She-Hulk changes to Jennifer Walters and slips free.

As Jen explores the helicarrier, Dooley is accosted by a decaying vagrant who wandered away from the teleported bystanders. Soon, the helicarrier begins listing. She-Hulk learns that Dooley cleared the bridge and took control of the craft, so she makes her way into the bridge from outside the ship, where she defeats Dooley. SHIELD agents attempt to retake control of the helicarrier but it crashes. With the vessel’s atomic pile in meltdown, She-Hulk heads inside and disables it.

Later, Mister Fantastic runs tests on She-Hulk and determines that, due to the additional radiation exposure from the pile, she can never again change back into Jennifer Walters.

Friday, October 7, 2016

TRANSFORMERS: WAR WITHIN: THE DARK AGES #2

Writer: Simon Furman | Pencils: Andrew Wildman | Inks: Erik Sander
Colors: Espen Grundetjern, Rob Ruffalo & Ramil Sunga | Letters: Benjamin Lee
President: Pat Lee | VP/Editor-in-Chief: Roger Lee
Creative Director: James McDonough | Project Manager: Derek Choo-Wing

The Plot: The Fallen leads Bludgeon, Bugly, and Mindwipe into the Well of All Sparks beneath Cybertron. Meanwhile, Springer and the Wreckers come into conflict with Devastator. Elsewhere, the Protectobots learn of Devastator's appearance. Springer is separated from his unit and encounters the villainous Ratbat.

Beneath Cybertron, Bludgeon and the others make plans involving Grimlock. Above, the Wreckers are joined in their battle against Devastator by the Protectobots in their combined form of Defensor. Springer escapes from Ratbat while, at Autobase beneath Iacon, Jetfire returns to find the place deserted.

Continuity Notes: The Fallen gives Bludgeon a vision of some apocalyptic racial memory residing within all Transformers.

It's implied that, as the very first Transformer combiner, Devastator is imperfect, being kind of dumb in his united form.

Ratbat leads a faction of Transformers called the Ultracons, which includes the Constructicons and the "deluxe" Insecticions, Venom, Barrage, Chop Shop, and Ransack (at least I assume Barrage is a member; the other three are pictured in this issue but he isn't).

Monday, October 3, 2016

FANTASTIC FOUR #284

"REVOLUTION!"
Artist/Writer: John Byrne | Letterer: John Workman | Colorist: Glynis Oliver
Edits: Michael Carlin | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter
And welcome back to Al Gordon, Inker

The Plot: She-Hulk toils as a slave in the mines of Nuvidia, her will sapped by Psycho-Man. She meets Pearla, former queen of Nuvidia, who explains how Psycho-Man came to rule her land. When a guard comes across the pair and wounds Pearla, She-Hulk snaps out of her fearful state and fights back.

Meanwhile, Psycho-Man escapes the Fantastic Four’s custody and the remaining trio splits up to find him. When Reed begins to doubt himself, Sue realizes Psycho-Man is nearby. Using her power of invisibility, she gets the drop on him and takes his emotion control box, which she then uses on him.

Johnny runs across She-Hulk and Pearla and the FF are reunited. With Psycho-Man defeated, Pearla reclaims her throne. In the aftermath of the conflict, Sue declares that the Invisible Girl is no more — she will now be known as the Invisible Woman.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: First and foremost, this issue marks a major (and long overdue) update to Susan Richards: she adopts the codename “Invisible Woman” to reflect the experience and maturity she’s gained since becoming an adventurer years earlier.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

X-MEN: PHALANX COVENANT

Hardcover, 2014. Collects 1993-94's UNCANNY X-MEN #306, #311 - 314, & #316 - 317, X-MEN #36 & 37, X-FACTOR #106, X-FORCE #38, EXCALIBUR #78 - 82, CABLE #16, and WOLVERINE #85.

No, your eyes don't deceive you. Reading the contents above and comparing them with the contents of THE WEDDING OF CYCLOPS AND PHOENIX, which we covered last time, we've skipped five issues of X-MEN. This can be seen in greater detail over on my popular X-Men Collected Editions Chart. This gap is notable for being the only chunk of Fabian Nicieza's X-MEN uncollected, as well as one of only two chunks (along with issues 58 - 61) of uncollected X-MEN in general when using Scott Lobdell's five-year run on the sister title as a measuring stick (which itself is only missing issues 338 - 340 at this point). With any luck, someday in the near future, Marvel will plug these small holes and we'll finally have a full run of the Lobdell/Niciza UNCANNY and X-MEN in collected format.

At any rate -- "Phalanx Covenant" was 1994's X-Men event, pitting the merry mutants against the techno-organic Phalanx, a sort of mutated offshoot of the alien Technarchy which begat deceased New Mutant Warlock. The hardcover collection starts up with the obligatory recap, before moving into some lead-in material preceding the crossover proper. Remember when X-MEN: FATAL ATTRACTIONS skipped UNCANNY X-MEN #306 but included issue 315 as an epilogue? Well, PHALANX COVENANT is here to fix that little problem, plugging the issue 306 hole by printing that Phalanx-centric tale here, but skipping the non-Phalanx issue 315 instead. It's almost like they planned it that way!

UNCANNY 306's inclusion is due to the fact that it's the X-Men's first encounter with the Phalanx, as writer Scott Lobdell and artist John Romita, Jr. send Archangel and Jean Grey into the clutches of their old enemy Cameron Hodge at Archangel's one-time home in New Mexico. This represents something Lobdell did often during his run on UNCANNY; something I really like: he introduces the villain of the following year's crossover somewhere in the vicinity of the current year's. In this case, the X-Men were in between chapters of "Fatal Attractions" when the Phalanx were introduced.

Friday, September 30, 2016

TRANSFORMERS: WAR WITHIN: THE DARK AGES #1

Writer: Simon Furman | Pencils: Andrew Wildman | Inks: Erik Sander
Colors: Espen Grundetjern, Rob Ruffalo & Ramil Sunga | Letters: Benjamin Lee
President: Pat Lee | VP/Editor-in-Chief: Roger Lee

The Plot: Optimus Prime and Megatron are lost in a space bridge accident. Meanwhile, a being called the Fallen appears in the wake of their disappearance. Eventually, the Transformers splinter into several factions smaller than simple Autobots and Decepticons. In the ruins of Iacon, Hound reports to Prowl that the Decepticons' new mobile base is nearly complete. Elsewhere, the Fallen recruits Bludgeon, Mindewipe, and Bugly as his disciples.

Later, Grimlock's Lightning Strike Coalition steals a shipment of Energon from Starscream's Predacons. Beneath Cybertron, the Fallen tells his followers to go after Grimlock, then leads them into a hidden chamber.

Continuity Notes: An undetermined amount of time has passed since the first WAR WITHIN mini-series, and I'm only saying that here because there are literally no other continuity notes to be found in this issue. Simon Furman is clearly looking straight ahead at this point.

G1 References: The space bridge, an interplanetary teleportation system, is an invention of the original TRANSFORMERS cartoon series, though it later played a role in the Marvel comics as well (where it was artistically literalized as an actual glowing suspension bridge for some reason).

Grimlock nearly calls Swoop "Divebomb" in one scene, a reference to a tale from the U.K. comics in which the character had that name "stolen" from him by a Decepticon.

Monday, September 26, 2016

FANTASTIC FOUR #283

"TORMENT"
Penciler-Scripter: John Byrne | Inker: Jerry Ordway
Letterer: John Workman | Colorist: Glynis Oliver
Edits: Michael Carlin | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: The Invisible Girl finds herself trapped in an alien world with slightly "off" versions of Mister Fantastic, the Thing, and the Human Torch. Sue fails to use her force field to protect Johnny from death, and then is paralyzed by inaction when the Thing dies as well. Reed berates her to the point that he fails to spot his own demise, then he, too, perishes.

These visions are the work of Psycho-Man, who has Reed, Sue, and Johnny prisoner at miniature size in his lab. He taunts the team as he manipulates Sue’s emotions. Meanwhile, She-Hulk is prisoner of Psycho-Man’s subjects in a dungeon, where she is told she will soon be sent to the Mines of Nuvidia.

Reed escapes from his cell and defeats Psycho-Man, who he has deduced is actually still at his normal size within a gigantic exo-skeleton. He then frees the others, but Sue begs the question: where is She-Hulk??

Sunday, September 25, 2016

THE UNBOXING - SEPTEMBER 2016

As noted last month, my purchasing has dwindled quite a bit recently -- and while I don't necessarily mind, it makes for a mild annoyance when I don't have an Unboxing ready for a given month. I already skipped May of this year, and September was also going to turn up empty, which would've been a record around these parts.

So, even though I didn't get any newly released items from Marvel, DC, or the rest, I decided I would "unbox" a few things I already had. See, while I post all my monthly pre-ordered arrivals here, I do acquire other books throughout the year via gift cards, sales, etc. So today we'll take a look at a couple of items I've actually had for several months, thanks to some Christmastime Amazon gift cards: SPIDER-MAN: THE ULTIMATE NEWSPAPER COMICS COLLECTION volumes 1 and 2.


Released by IDW's imprint The Library of American Comics, these volumes collect all of the original syndicated Spidey strips by Stan Lee and John Romita, as published between 1977 and 1981. Marvel previously released this material themselves some years back in both hardcover and paperback format, but as I understand it, both versions had issues so I opted to skip them. But IDW has impressed me with their Library of American Comics offerings (more on that at some point in the future), so I decided to finally take the plunge.

There's a recently released third volume out there as well, collecting stripes beyond '81 by Lee with artistic contributions from Larry Leiber and Fred Kida. I plan to pick that up when the opportunity presents itself.

The Spider-Man strip has, in recent years (and for some time as my teenage recollections seem to recall) been... not great. But I really look forward to reading these "new to me" Lee/Romita Spidey stories, and you'd better believe that when I get to them -- most likely sooner rather than later -- I'll talk about them right here!

Available on Amazon: Volume 1 | Volume 2 | Volume 3

Friday, September 23, 2016

TRANSFORMERS: THE WAR WITHIN #6

Story: Simon Furman | Pencils: Don Figueroa | Inks: Elaine To
Colors: Rob Ruffalo | Color Assists: David Cheung & Elliot Kravchik
Letters: Dreamer Design | Graphic Design: Kevin Lee & Matt Moylan
Pre-Press: Kell-O-Graphics | President/Art Director: Pat Lee | VP/Editor-in-Chief: Roger Lee

The Plot: As Iacon crumbles thanks to the mechaforming process, Optimus Prime hunts Megatron beneath Cybertron's surface. Meanwhile, Kup, Ironhide, and Wheeljack battle Starscream's forces in the mechaforming control room. Shockwave orders a Decepticon retreat from Iacon and the Autobots follow suit.

Optimus defeats Megatron while Grimlock arrives to aid Kup and company. Scrapper attempts to deactivate the mechaforming, but Starscream holds him back. Optimus Prime appears and rallies the Autobots. Together they force Starscream into retreat and destroy the Cybertronian engine conducting the mechaforming. However the damage is done and Iacon is destroyed.

Reunited with the rest of the Autobots, Optimus Prime rescinds his order to evacuate the planet, telling the Autobots they must stay and fight as an underground guerilla force. Meanwhile, Megatron finds Soundwave beneath the surface and together they head back topside. Later, Optimus tells Grimlock that he was given the combined knowledge of all previous Primes the day he was anointed, but he has chosen to ignore that information and make his own way as the new Autobot commander.

Monday, September 19, 2016

FANTASTIC FOUR #282

"INWARDS TO INFINITY!"
Script-Pencils: John Byrne | Inker: Jerry Ordway
Colorist: Glynis Oliver | Lettering: John Workman
Editor: Michael Carlin | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Young Franklin Richards has a bizarre dream in which he’s chased by monsters across an alien landscape and meets an injured space horse, culminating with his crossing paths with the child super-team, Power Pack. Franklin then awakens and goes to tell his parents about the dream.

In the basement of Avengers’ Mansion, Reed has reconstructed his reducto-craft for a trip to the Microverse, though he’s uncertain the FF should leave Earth since the Beyonder is lurking about. But Sue’s vehement desire for revenge on Psycho-Man convinces Reed, and after leaving Franklin with Jarvis, the FF depart.

The reducto-craft is hit by an unknown force as it crosses the barrier to the Microverse. When the FF arrive, Reed and Johnny note that the realm seems different somehow. Johnny takes off to scout, but is captured, with the rest of the team joining him in short order. The Fantastic Four realize that they are prisoners of Psycho-Man, who is unexpectedly several times larger than them.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

ODE TO AN ANIMATED SERIES

So last week after posting my little BATMAN 232/"The Demon's Quest" mash-up picture, I decided I wanted to write a bit more about BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES. Since my son's birth a couple months back coincided with La La Land Records' release of their BATMAN: TAS Vol. 4 soundtrack album, I found my interest in the series piqued, as is periodically the case, and as a result I spent more than a few late nights rocking the baby to sleep while streaming random episodes on my iPad. I thought it would be fun to write about them -- nothing in-depth, mind you; you can't spit on the internet without hitting a full-blown TAS retrospective series -- but at the very least, I wanted to compose one post boiling down exactly what it is I like about BATMAN, and what makes it so enduring for me personally.

I still vividly remember the very first BATMAN: TAS episode I saw. Somehow the series' premiere had slipped past my radar, so I missed the first few installments. Thus my initial exposure to BATMAN was the episode "It's Never Too Late" which, according to the internet, aired September 10th, 1992 as the seventh episode broadcast. It might be a good thing this was the first show I saw, because it immediately demonstrated to me what the animated Batman was about. This was not the Adam West version or the Hanna Barbera or Filmation iterations I had known on TV up to that point.

"It's Never Too Late" is a character study of an aging gangster at the end of his career, struggling to defend his crumbling empire from the younger competition. It tackles drug abuse -- something typically taboo in kids' animation back then except for the occasional "very special episode" -- but only in passing as part of the larger story. There are no colorful, costumed villains. The antagonist of the piece is Rupert Thorne, a character I knew at the time from a couple issues in my dog-eared GREATEST BATMAN STORIES EVER TOLD trade paperback, and he and his goons use conventional firearms rather than the laser blasters I'd become accustomed to in my normal weekday afternoon fare.

"It's Never Too Late" may not be the greatest of the animated Batman episodes, but it's a solid entry and holds a special place for me personally as the one that won me over that Thursday afternoon twenty-four years ago.

Friday, September 16, 2016

TRANSFORMERS: THE WAR WITHIN #5

Story: Simon Furman | Pencils: Don Figueroa | Inks: Elaine To
Colors: Rob Ruffalo | Letters: Dreamer Design | Graphic Design: Kevin Lee
Pre-Press: Kell-O-Graphics | President/Art Director: Pat Lee | VP/Editor-in-Chief: Roger Lee

The Plot: Grimlock and his team descend beneath Cybetron's surface. Meanwhile, Shockwave's forces breach Iacon's defenses. Upon finding the Decepticons working on Cybertron's engines, Grimlock leaves to find Prime on his own while Kup, Ironhide, and Wheeljack remain to stop Starscream. Elsewhere, Optimus Prime and Megatron find themselves as phantom observers of the future, where the Autobot/Decepticon war has moved to another planet.

Starscream explains his plot to reroute power from Cybetron's engines, shedding the planet's skin and remaking the world in his own image. Meanwhile, the Constructicons stumble across Kup and company. Prime and Megatron continue their fight in the Matrix, but are transported again to a different place and time. Grimlock continues his search for Optimus while Kup and the others fight the Constructicons. Prime and Megatron return to present day Cybertron, where Grimlock somehow pulls Prime away from Megatron to a different location. He then tells Prime the only way to defeat Megatron is to kill him.

Then, as Shockwave overwhelms the remaining Autobots in Iacon, Starscream activates the "mechaforming" process.

Monday, September 12, 2016

FANTASTIC FOUR #281

"WITH MALICE TOWARDS ALL!"
Story and Pencils: John Byrne | Inks: Jerry Ordway
Colors: Glynis Oliver | Letterer: John Workman
Edits: Mike Carlin | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Hate Monger’s influence over New York grows, and he sends Malice out to destroy the Fantastic Four. Meanwhile, the Human Torch is reunited with Alicia, who explains that Sue went missing after she encounted someone who looked and sounded like Reed.

At Avengers Mansion, Mister Fantastic heads for the roof to utilize a device he believes will counteract Hate Monger’s power, but Malice shows up and attacks. Johnny returns to help, and Daredevil soon arrives as well, tipping Reed off to the fact that Malice is using invisible force fields as her weapon of choice. Reed deduces that Malice is actually the Invisible Girl.

In order to overcome Hate Monger’s programming, Reed convinces Sue to hate him for real. Somehow this hatred overcomes the artificial hatred instilled by Hate Monger, and Sue becomes herself once more.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

THE DEMON'S QUEST REVISITED

A while back I noted that I like to draw, and that lately I've been doing it on my iPad. Well, since the advent of the Apple Pencil, which my wife was kind enough to get me as an early Father's Day present back in May, I've really been having a lot of fun, and I've even been posting some stuff to DeviantArt (linked off to the left-hand side there).

But, as I also noted before, every so often I draw something that I'm really proud of and with which I'm pretty satisfied. It's rare, but it happens, and this is such an occasion -- so I figured I'd share. Ever since the BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES volume 4 soundtrack came out, more or less coinciding with the birth of my son, I've been in a TAS mood and I've spent a number of late nights with the baby streaming episodes on my iPad (more on that next weekend, by the way). One of my all-time favorites is "The Demon's Quest", based upon "Daughter of the Demon" from BATMAN #232 and "The Demon Lives Again" from BATMAN 244, both by the venerable Dennis O'Neil/Neal Adams team.

So for whatever reason I was wondering what the cover to BATMAN 232 would look like in the ANIMATED SERIES style. This led to a furious week or so of work last month, which resulted in the following:

Friday, September 9, 2016

TRANSFORMERS: THE WAR WITHIN #4

Story: Simon Furman | Pencils: Don Figueroa | Inks: Elaine To
Colors: Rob Ruffalo | Color Assists: Alan Wang | Letters: Dreamer Design
Graphic Design: Kevin Lee | Pre-Press: Kell-O-Graphics | President/Art Director: Pat Lee
VP/Editor-in-Chief: Roger Lee

The Plot: Optimus Prime searches for Megatron within Cybertron while Starscream reviews Megatron's plans for the planet at Decepticon headquarters. Soon, Megatron ambushes Prime and the two duel while elsewhere, Grimlock gathers a team for a secret mission. Beneath the planet's crust, the fight between Prime and Megatron continues, while above, Starscream plots.

In Iacon, Shockwave's forces make their final march on the Autobots while under Cybertron's surface, Megatron gains the upper hand on Prime and tears him open to grab the Matrix. Above, Grimlock and his team prepare to head underground and rescue Prime, even as the Matrix somehow transports Prime and Megatron to another place.

Continuity Notes: Optimus Prime receives another talking to (sans accompanying vision) from an ethereal voice beneath Cybertron's surface.

Grimlock's team consists of Kup, Ironhide, and Wheeljack. This does not appear to be any sort of GENERATION ONE callback as far as I can tell, which is surprising from Dreamwave and Simon Furman.

Monday, September 5, 2016

FANTASTIC FOUR #280

"TELL THEM ALL THEY LOVE MUST DIE..."
Story and Pencils: John Byrne | Inking: Jerry Ordway
Coloring: Glynis Oliver | Lettering: John Workman
Editing: Michael Carlin | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: As the Fantastic Four and NYPD stand at the former site of the Baxter Building, a bout of bigotry and hatred breaks out among the populace, resulting in She-Hulk and Wyatt getting arrested. Johnny and Reed head for Avengers Mansion to mull over the incident while Sue escorts Alicia home, but all are observed by the new Hate Monger and his mysterious master.

Meanwhile, the paddy wagon carrying She-Hulk and Wyatt is bombed by a group of criminals mistakenly looking to spring one of their own. She-Hulk tells Wyatt to stay with the cops while she travels to the Baxter Building, but en route she is attacked by Malice, mistress of hate. Malice defeats She-Hulk and then reveals her true identity as Sue Richards as Hate Monger congratulates her on her performance.

At Avengers Mansion, Reed analyzes a hate pamphlet similar to the ones Johnny encountered previously, and determines that the paper was not manufactured on Earth. But before he can consider this further, Franklin enters the room and declares that he dreamed Sue had killed Reed and Johnny.