Monday, February 29, 2016

FANTASTIC FOUR #247

"THIS LAND IS MINE!"
Story and Art: John Byrne | Letterer: Jim Novak | Colorist: Glynis Wein
Editor: Jim Salicrup | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: In Latveria, Doctor Doom describes to the Fantastic Four how his homeland has fallen since King Zorba assumed the throne. The group is approached by a child named Kristoff, and then by his mother, who is elated to see Doom. She fills the FF in on the tyrannical rule of Zorba, but is subsequently killed by Zorba’s robotic secret police.

The FF and Doom defeat the robots and go into hiding with some Latverian citizens, where Doom continues to assert that he is a more benevolent leader than Zorba. Meanwhile, Zorba, mad with power, releases Doom’s killer robots to wipe out the populace. Once again, the Fantastic Four and Doctor Doom join forces to defeat these new foes. Two hours later the final robot is vanquished, but Doom has vanished from the battlefield.

Inside his castle, Doom releases his right hand man, Boris, from captivity, and then confronts Zorba. Zorba swears Doom will never rule while he is alive, so Doom rectifies the problem. He then returns to the Fantastic Four and gives them leave to depart Latveria. Mister Fantastic accepts the offer under the condition that Doom will devote himself to the peaceful restoration of his land.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

X-MEN BY CHRIS CLAREMONT & JIM LEE OMNIBUS VOLUME 1

Hardcover, 2011. Collects 1989-90's UNCANNY X-MEN #244 - 269, X-MEN ANNUAL #13, and material from CLASSIC X-MEN #39.

As I understand it from a handful of "insider" posts at the Marvel Masterworks Message Board a few years back, Marvel brass originally wanted to publish a simple X-MEN BY JIM LEE OMNIBUS, collecting only Lee's work on the merry mutants. Fortunately, cooler heads in the collected editions department got wind of this and realized that, since Lee started out as a fill-in artist and worked in tandem with other pencilers even after he became the series' regular artist, such a collection would be an incredibly disjointed reading experience -- basically nothing more than a glorified art book.

It was proposed instead that all Lee's issues be released in sequential order with non-Lee issues, under the banner of X-MEN BY CHRIS CLAREMONT & JIM LEE. This would result in a comprehensive two-book collection of Claremont's final couple years on the X-Men, and would make these volumes a direct continuation of the X-MEN: INFERNO hardcover which had been released a few years earlier.

So this book is officially called X-MEN BY CHRIS CLAREMONT & JIM LEE. That's what it says in the indicia, at least. But the cover and spine simply call it X-MEN and list the primary authors as Claremont, Lee, and Marc Silvestri, as the latter was the series' regular penciler when Lee began doing fill-ins.

Friday, February 26, 2016

GUNDAM: THE ORIGIN, VOLUME 11

A COSMIC GLOW
Written & Illustrated by: Yoshikazu Yasuhiko
Original story by: Yoshiyuki Tomino & Hajime Yatate
Mechanical Design by: Kunio Okawara

The penultimate volume of GUNDAM: THE ORIGIN opens with the beginning stages of the Federation’s siege against A Baoa Qu, Zeon’s strategic stronghold in deep space. But as that war rages, Char meets in person with Kycilia Zabi and the truth comes out: she has discerned his true identity. But in true Zabi fashion, Kycilia decides to spare the man who sacrificed her brother as a pawn, in order to use him for her own purposes. She apparently buys Char’s story that desire for revenge against the Zabis has left him, and that his sole wish now is to see Newtypes rise to prominence in the universe. Kycilia welcomes Char back into her graces, a decision which — it should surprise no one — will come back to bite her in the near future.

And after this relatively low-key introductory scene, the battle of A Baoa Qu kicks off with a literal bang as Ghiren, commanding Zeon forces from the massive asteroid base, fires a laser his technicians have fashioned from a hollowed-out colony. The beam obliterates half the Federation fleet, including General Revil, as well as Ghiren’s own father, Degwin, who had just arrived to negotiate a cease-fire with Revil.

Revil’s demise has never really sat well with me, but I think that’s probably the idea. Throughout the GUNDAM saga, he’s presented as a stalwart leader with no time for politicking or other such pursuits. Revil wants to win the war and he has repeatedly recognized White Base and her crew as an integral part of that effort. Where everyone else sees them as expendable commodities, Revil seems to believe they’re destined for something greater—which is why his end hits so hard. He’s not your typical military bureaucrat; he actually believes in Amuro and company; perhaps to the point of being their sole remaining genuine supporter in the Federation, and certainly their highest ranking supporter. His end essentially means that, regardless of the war's outcome, the heroes of White Base will remain just another bunch of faces in the crowd, unrecognized for their integral parts in the war's outcome.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

FANTASTIC FOUR #246

"TOO MANY DOOMS"
Story and Art: John Byrne | Colorist: Glynis Wein | Letterer: Jim Novak
Editor: Jim Salicrup | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: At the Baxter Building, Reed analyzes the Thing while Alicia Masters observes. Soon, the Latverian ambassador calls Reed to discuss arrangements for the transportation of Doctor Doom’s body to the embassy. Meanwhile, at Doom’s castle upstate, within Liddleville, the miniature robot containing his brain argues with the Puppet Master. Another full-size Doom arrives and crushes the Puppet Master robot, then departs with mini-Doom.

The FF arrive at the Latverian embassy with Doom’s body but are immediately pulled into four separate traps where they each find themselves fighting Doctor Doom. The four Dooms are defeated, but at the same time, the four-segmented trap holding the FF is pulled aboard a skyship which then leaves New York. Aboard the craft, four more Dooms oversee the restoration of mini-Doom’s mind into his full-size body.

The Fantastic Four are reunited and Doctor Doom soon joins them in their cell. He reveals that the craft has arrived in Latveria, and he needs the quartet’s help to reclaim the country from its current ruler, King Zorba. The FF refuse, but Doom then shows them Latveria’s capital, Doomstadt, which has fallen into ruin since Doom was deposed.

Monday, February 22, 2016

FANTASTIC FOUR #245

"CHILDHOOD'S END"
Written and Directed by: John Byrne
Color Co-ordination by: Bob Sharen | Graphics Designed by: Jim Novak
Produced by: Jim Salicrup | Executive Producer: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Sue Richards is interviewed by Barbara Walker for a segment as one of “The Five Most Influential Women in America”. Walker attempts to discredit Sue as a subservient and useless member of the Fantastic Four, but Sue takes the criticism in stride. Later, when she returns to the Baxter Building, Sue finds the rest of the team defeated by a tall blond man. Sue runs from him and their chase leads down to the street, where Sue finally recognizes the mystery man as her son, Franklin, now grown up.

The rest of the FF emerge from the building but Sue convinces them not to fight. Franklin, with the mind of a child in an adult’s body, realizes he can restore himself to normal -- but first he transforms Ben back into the standard-issue Thing. Then, this task accomplished, Franklin becomes a child once more.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: Barbara Walker appears to be a thinly veiled stand-in for Barbara Walters, though Byrne does not paint her in a particularly flattering light, presenting her as a petty shock journalist with an agenda against Sue.

Friday, February 19, 2016

GUNDAM: THE ORIGIN, VOLUME 10

SOLOMON
Written & Illustrated by: Yoshikazu Yasuhiko
Original story by: Yoshiyuki Tomino & Hajime Yatate
Mechanical Design by: Kunio Okawara

Yoshikazu Yasuhiko’s tenth installment in the reimagined GUNDAM saga begins with a large amount of wholly original material, as well as an original character. As White Base moves to join the main Federation fleet in an assault on Zeon’s stronghold of Solomon, Amuro and Sayla are left behind due to recent events on Texas Colony: Sayla due to her probation until the matter of her familial loyalties can be determined, and Amuro to recover from his fight with Challa Bull while the Gundam undergoes repairs.

Supervising these repairs is an abnormally tall technician named Doctor Mosk Han, who takes the opportunity to upgrade the Gundam with new magnetic coating. I’m not sure what need Yasuhiko felt he was filling with the appearance of Doctor Han, who comes across as sort of a comic relief character in his few appearances. But his part is over soon enough, and Yasuhiko’s story rejoins the original series’ continuity when Amuro catches up with White Base at Solomon.

The battle then plays out more or less identically to the TV series/movies’ version: Left hanging by siblings Ghiren and Kycilia, who believe Solomon is not tactically important, Dozle Zabi defends the base alone, piloting the massive Big Zam mobile suit and wiping out the flagship of Federation Admiral Tianem before he’s finished off by Amuro and Sleggar Law — the latter sacrificing his own life in the fight as well.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

FANTASTIC FOUR #244

"BEGINNINGS AND ENDINGS"
Author: John Byrne | Letterer: Jim Novak | Colorist: Glynis Wein
Editor: Jim Salicrup | Alpha/Omega: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Five days after the defeat of Galactus, a disheveled Johnny Storm shows up at Julie Angel’s apartment. Julie calls Reed and Sue Richards, who arrive soon after. Reed then tells Julie what happened to send Johnny on a weeklong bender:

With Galactus dying, Reed concocted a plan to save his life. Using materials provided by Stark International, he built a machine which slowly replenished a portion of Galactus’s energy. The FF then returned to the Baxter Building with Galactus, where Reed searched for uninhabited worlds for Galactus to devour. But when Galactus deemed the planets too far and restated his need to consume Earth, Frankie Raye volunteered to become his herald in exchange for his sparing the planet once more. Galactus agreed and transformed Frankie, then they both left Earth.

The story concluded, Reed and Sue convince Johnny to come home with them. Three months pass, during which time the damage done to the Baxter Building by Terrax is repaired, and the FF make plans to return their prisoner, Doctor Doom, to the Latverian embassy. A few days later, Sue leaves for a TV interview while Reed gives a lecture at Empire State University, leaving Ben to babysit Franklin. But when Ben leaves the room, Franklin’s mutant power manifests and his robotic playmate, HUBERT, is destroyed.

Monday, February 15, 2016

FANTASTIC FOUR #243

"SHALL EARTH ENDURE?"
Story and Art: John Byrne | Letterer: Jim Novak | Colorist: Glynis Wein
Editor: Jim Salicrup | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: As the Invisible Girl and Frankie Raye remain atop the damaged Baxter Building, the Avengers become aware of Terrax’s power. Meanwhile, Mister Fantastic, the Human Torch, and the Thing infiltrate Galactus’s world-ship at Terrax’s order. There they confront Galactus and speak with him. Outside, Terrax grows impatient and tears open the ship. Angered, Galactus restores Manhattan to Earth. As soon as it returns, Sue passes out from exhaustion while Frankie descends into the Baxter Building.

Galactus, Reed, Johnny, Ben, and Terrax materialize atop the World Trade Center, where Galactus strips Terrax of his power, then prepares to devour the Earth -- but the Avengers show up and team up with the FF to battle him. With the arrival of Doctor Strange as well, Galactus is overcome and falls, defeated.

As the heroes survey their beaten foe, Reed declares that Galactus’s life must be saved.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: Frankie is overtaken by thoughts of Galactus for unknown reasons.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

THE UNBOXING - FEBRUARY 2016

Marvel, DC, and Dynamite all asked me to be their Valentine today, offering books in exchange for love. I'm still trying to figure out which to go with.

First is a new printing of an older collection from Marvel, THUNDERBOLTS CLASSIC volume 1. As evidenced by the fact that I declared it my #5 favorite Marvel run of all time, I loved the Kurt Busiek/Mark Bagley (and later Fabian Nicieza/Mark Bagley) THUNDERBOLTS. But the first printing of this trade came out before I became a collected editions junkie, and I never picked it -- or the subsequent two -- up.

But Marvel is reissuing all three THUNDERBOLTS CLASSIC books and, even though the originals aren't exactly hard to find, I've decided to go for these new editions. Volume 2 and volume 3 are available for pre-order, and HAWKEYE & THE THUNDERBOLTS volume 1 and volume 2, continuing where THUNDERBOLTS CLASSIC leaves off, are in the works as well, and will bring the reprint series up through issue 50.

From DC, we have SHOWCASE PRESENTS: BATMAN volume 6, a black-and-white collection of severeal BATMAN and DETECTIVE COMICS issues from the early to mid-seventies. I'm not a huge fan of the ESSENTIAL/SHOWCASE format, generally preferring my comics in color, but there are a few art styles for which I believe the black-and-white newsprint format looks really nice -- and this Neal Adams/Irv Novick Batman stuff definitely applies.


Last up is RED SONJA/CONAN: BLOOD OF A GOD, Dynamite's contribution to the inter-company Hyborian Age crossover begun last year with Dark Horse's CONAN/RED SONJA. I have plans to cover both these collections, along with a couple more items, in a little Hyborian grab bag coming up this spring, so watch for that soon.

Until March, that's it for now.

Friday, February 12, 2016

GUNDAM: THE ORIGIN, VOLUME 9

LALAH
Written & Illustrated by: Yoshikazu Yasuhiko
Original story by: Yoshiyuki Tomino & Hajime Yatate
Mechanical Design by: Kunio Okawara

With Zeon’s forces driven from Earth following the Battle of Odessa, the war’s main theater returns to space, and White Base heads up to join the conflict. But before undertaking its first mission, the ship docks at the neutral Side 6 colony for supplies. While there, Mirai is reunited with her fiancée, Cameron Bloom, now part of the colony’s customs agency.

Also on Side 6, Amuro has an encounter with his father, presumed dead since Zeon’s assault on Side 7 in volume 1. But it turns out Doctor Ray survived, albeit with brain damage due to oxygen deprivation when he was blown out of the colony during the fight. Amuro spends a bit of time with his father, but eventually returns to White Base.

The final significant event to occur on Side 6 is Amuro’s meeting with Lalah Sune and Char, in person. It’s unclear whether Lalah lives on Side 6 or is merely visiting, but Amuro encounters her while out for a drive following a disappointing visit to his father. Amuro feels an unusual connection with the girl and the next day, as White Base prepares to depart, he goes out to find her again. But when he finally locates Lalah, she is in the company of Char. Thus Char and Amuro cross paths in person for the very first time, though Char is unaware the boy he’s speaking with is the pilot of the Gundam which has vexed him for so long.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

FANTASTIC FOUR #242

"TERRAX THE UNTAMED!"
Story & Art: John Byrne | Letterer: Jim Novak | Colorist: Glynis Wein
Editor: Jim Salicrup | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: As the members of the Fantastic Four go about their daily lives, Terrax, former herald of Galactus, arrives on Earth. He assaults the assembled foursome at the Baxter Building, annihilating its top two floors in the process. Terrax then travels to the World Trade Center, where he begins to utilize the power cosmic for an unknown purpose.

Seeing the energies of Terrax’s power, Iron Man and Thor leap into action to defend Manhattan as the herald lifts the island into the sky, encasing it in a force bubble. While the Invisible Girl uses her abilities to keep Terrax’s power waves visible, obscuring Manhattan's flight so as not to panic its citizens further, Mister Fantastic orders Frankie Raye to remain behind and guard her. Then Reed, Ben, and Johnny head for the World Trade Center as Terrax flies Manhattan out into space.

Once away from Earth’s atmosphere, Terrax reveals he has been pursued to Earth by Galactus, and wants the FF to defeat the planet-devourer for him.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: The story opens a week into the new year, as Reed and Sue take down their Christmas tree. Meanwhile, Franklin appears to tap into his mutant power as he plays with a toy.

Monday, February 8, 2016

FANTASTIC FOUR #241

"RENDER UNTO CAESAR!"
Story & Art: John Byrne | Letters: Jim Novak | Colors: Glynis Wein
Edits: Jim Salicrup | Emperor: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Nick Fury briefs the Fantastic Four on the “power-pocket” SHIELD monitored in the African nation of Wakanda and asks them to investigate due to their friendship with Wakanda’s king, T’Challa the Black Panther. The FF agree and head for Wakanda. There, the Panther reveals that Russians arrived recently and also set out to locate the pocket, which has been pinpointed inside an ancient stone tower.

The next morning the Fantastic Four and Frankie Raye, secretly accompanied by T’Challa, trek into the jungle and find the Russians dead near the tower. The adventurers are surrounded by a number of Africans in Roman combat gear and led to the tower. Inside, they're taken to a realm which resembles Ancient Rome and introduced to the armored Emperor Gaius Tiberius Augustus Agrippa. Gaius shuts down all the heroes’ powers and locks them up.

Black Panther escapes from his cell and locates Frankie. Meanwhile, Sue is taken to Gaius to observe a gladiatorial fight between Johnny and Ben. But when Sue yanks off Gaius’s helmet, he perishes and his ersatz Rome begins to disappear. Their powers restored, the FF and Frankie escape the crumbling tower.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

X-MEN: INFERNO

Hardcover, 2009. Collects 1988-89's X-FACTOR #33 - 40, X-TERMINATORS #1 - 4, UNCANNY X-MEN #239 - 243, NEW MUTANTS #71 - 73, and material from X-FACTOR ANNUAL #4.

"Inferno" has the distinction of being the final X-MEN yearly event of the eighties, running throughout the mutant titles in late 1988. It was also the first Marvel event to feature its core "spine" in one family of titles while nearly every other regular monthly title in the Marvel line participated in some capacity at the fringe of the story (several annuals had, however, just spent the summer of '88 embroiled in "The Evolutionary War"). The formula proved so successful it was revisited again a year later for the AVENGERS-centric "Acts of Vengeance" storyline.

X-MEN: INFERNO returns to the layout of MUTANT MASSACRE, telling its story in the best chronological reading order rather than breaking up into per-series segments as was the case with FALL OF THE MUTANTS -- which makes sense, since X-MEN and X-FACTOR spend the bulk of the event in biweekly crossover status. The X-Men's portion of the story focuses on the corruption of Madelyne Pryor, and as such this volume opens with a recap page explaining what the X-teams were up to just before "Inferno", then continues with a handful of excerpted sub-plot pages from recent issues of X-MEN, focusing on Madelyne. These pages are rendered somewhat moot now, thanks to the publication of X-MEN: INFERNO PROLOGUE in 2014, but for those who simply want to read "Inferno" on its own, they're a nifty little lead-in.

Friday, February 5, 2016

GUNDAM: THE ORIGIN, VOLUME 8

OPERATION ODESSA
Written & Illustrated by: Yoshikazu Yasuhiko
Original story by: Yoshiyuki Tomino & Hajime Yatate
Mechanical Design by: Kunio Okawara

With his three-volume excursion into the past complete, Yoshikazu Yasuhiko returns to year 0079 in the Universal Century, and to the crew of White Base as they travel across the Atlantic Ocean from Jaburo to participate in the Federation’s all-out assault on Zeon’s Earth headquarters at Odessa in the Ukraine.

White Base stops for refueling and shore leave in Federation-controlled Belfast, where General Revil himself pays them a visit to provide their new instructions. The ship is to continue its role as a “Trojan Horse” and proceed alone to Gibralter, where it will act as the vanguard of the Federation’s operation.

But White Base is pursued as usual by Char, now hooked up with the “Mad Angler” squadron, an amphibious Zeon unit led by Captain Boone. The entire first half of volume 8 is dedicated to White Base’s battles with the Mad Anglers. Kai deserts White Base (again) and befriends an Irish girl named Miharu (doesn’t really sound too Irish, does it?), who is secretly a spy for Zeon. But when one of the Mad Anglers stages an unauthorized assault on the docked White Base, Kai returns to his shipmates and helps fend off the attacker. In the chaos, Miharu sneaks aboard the ship.

Kai has to be one of my favorite characters in the original MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM. In general I tend to favor the clean-cut, stiff types like Bright, but while I’m a fan of his as well, there’s something about Kai which appeals to me. He’s a loudmouth, an occasional bully and a sometimes coward and deserter, but we’ve seen before and we see again here that he can’t stand by while his friends are in danger. And Yasuhiko is quick to remind us, as he returns to action, that despite his frequent bouts of insubordination and desertion, Kai is clearly the second best Mobile Suit pilot aboard White Base after Amuro.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

FANTASTIC FOUR #240

"EXODUS"
Words and Pictures: John Byrne | Letters: Jim Novak | Colors: Glynis Wein
Editor: Jim Salicrup | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: The mutant Quicksilver arrives at the Baxter Building, and after a brief misunderstanding skirmish, informs the Fantastic Four that the Inhumans need help: they are assaulted from without by the sinister Enclave, while inside their hidden city of Attilan, a plague has infected them and led to the deaths of numerous Inhumans. The FF readily agree to assist, and Quicksilver summons the teleporting Inhuman dog, Lockjaw, to bring them all to Attilan.

There, the heroes find that the war is over, ended by the sacrifice of the Inhumans’s insane enemy, Maximus. But he plague remains. Reed determines it’s caused by exposure to the ever-increasing volume of pollutants in the Earth’s atmosphere and declares that the Inhumans must move. When he learns that Attilan has been moved before, Reed suggests that it be transported again, to the Blue Area of the Moon. The Inhumans agree and, after the FF assist in prepping the city and plotting a course, Inhuman king Black Bolt transports Attilan to its new home.

Later, in the aftermath of the move, Inhuman princess Crystal, wife of Quicksilver, gives birth to a daughter.

Monday, February 1, 2016

FANTASTIC FOUR #239

"WENDY'S FRIENDS"
Author: John Byrne | Letterer: Jim Novak | Colorist: Glynis Wein
Editor: Jim Salicrup | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: The Thing’s Aunt Petunia shows up at the Baxter Building and asks the Fantastic Four to come with her to Benson, Arizona, where seven people have been frightened to death. The FF and Frankie Raye travel with Penny and meet the Thing’s Uncle Jake, as well as a British historian and scholar of the occult named Dame Ruth Efford. Also present is Ruth’s friend, a young girl named Wendy.

As the FF investigate Dame Ruth’s excavation, which they believe may be related to Benson’s recent troubles, two more people are killed not far away. Later, Frankie brings Wendy home to find that her father is an abusive drunk. That night, Wendy runs away from home and into the desert. Soon, black creatures invade the town and the Fantastic Four fight to stop them.

Come morning, Benson is demolished and most of its citizens have departed. Wendy’s father shows up and declares he was tested by the black monsters and learned he could change, to become a better father. Declaring their mission in Benson complete, the FF depart. Later, Wendy heads back to the desert to sit with her friends, the black creatures.