Monday, February 27, 2017

DAREDEVIL #166

"TILL DEATH DO US PART!"
Writer/Co-Plotters/Penciler: Roger McKenzie & Frank Miller | Inker: Klaus Janson
Letterer: Joe Rosen | Colorist: Glynis Wein
Editor: Denny O’Neil | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: On the day of Foggy Nelson’s wedding, Daredevil’s old enemy, the Gladiator, holds the Digby Museum of Human History hostage, threatening to execute several visiting children unless a champion is sent to battle him. Matt Murdock changes to Daredevil and heads for the museum, where he challenges and defeats the Gladiator, then makes his way to the church, where he barely arrives in time for the wedding’s conclusion.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: The children’s chaperone happens to be Betsy Beatty, a social worker assigned to the Gladiator himself, a.k.a. Melvin Potter — who believes Betsy is in love with him.

As described above, Foggy is married this issue to his fiancée, Debbie. Matt serves as best man. Foggy’s family shows up for the wedding, including his mother and father, his sister Candice, and his fraternity brother Porkchop Peterson. Candice apparently has a romantic interest in Matt.

This is, according to my internet sources, the first appearance of Foggy's mom, a portly, friendly looking housewife with reddish hair like her son. Several years later, Karl Kesel and Cary Nord would introduce Rosalind Sharpe, a thin, angular brunette attorney as Foggy's mother during their brief run on DAREDEVIL. I'm uncertain whether these two depictions have ever been reconciled.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

THE UNBOXING - FEBRUARY 2017

We've got a couple books from outside the realm of the usual suspects (Marvel, DC, and IDW) this month, so I'll save those for last. First up are two offerings from Marvel: LUKE CAGE, IRON FIST, AND THE HEROES FOR HIRE Volume 2. and WOLVERINE: WEAPON X UNBOUND. Both conclude runs begun in previous collected editions, though you wouldn't know it based on the Wolverine book's name.


"Unboxing" aficionados will recall that the HEROES FOR HIRE series was fast-tracked, with volume 1 just released a couple months back. The WOLVERINE book, meanwhile, completes the Larry Hama/Marc Silvestri run that began in 2013's WOLVERINE BY LARRY HAMA & MARC SILVESTRI volume 1 and 2014's volume 2. Why wasn't this collection simply branded as volume 3 in that series? My guess would be that with a full three years elapsed since the prior volume (it came out in February of '14), Marvel opted to go with a new angle for the final installment. In any case it doesn't really matter; the important thing is that the complete Hama/Silvestri run is now collected in three nifty paperbacks.

Friday, February 24, 2017

GREEN LANTERN #76 – 78

Script: Denny O’Neil | Art: Neal Adams
Inks: Frank Giacoia (#77 & 78) | Editor: Julie Schwartz

“NO EVIL SHALL ESCAPE MY SIGHT!”

Right off the bat, our socially relevant excursion begins on something of a false premise. Green Lantern arrives in Star City to visit with his colleague, Green Arrow (and were they ever especially close prior to this run of issues?) but first bumps into a young man roughing up an older gentleman. Naturally, GL takes the older guys’s side and sends his assailant off to police headquarters for booking, which results in the area’s remaining citizens promptly pelting him with trash.

Green Arrow appears and explains that the fellow GL just saved, Jubal Slade, is a slum lord with plans to demolish the tenement housing the young man who attacked him, along with numerous other Star Citizens. Arrow takes GL on a quick tour of the building, which leads to our afore-mentioned false premise: an older black man confronts the Lantern, calling him out for working for “the blue skins” and helping the “orange skins” and “purple skins” but doing nothing for the black skins. Ashamed, Green Lantern has no rebuttal.

John Byrne, not exactly renowned for his racial sensitivity, nonetheless has an excellent point about this scene: Green Lantern has saved Earth countless times. He has saved the entire human race countless times. He has, therefore, saved the “black skins” countless times. He is above such things as petty racism. He routinely battles threats of intergalactic proportions. Going out of his way to help any particular race is absurd because he goes out of his way to help the entire human race every day.

Monday, February 20, 2017

DAREDEVIL #165

"ARMS OF THE OCTOPUS"
Script/Co-Plotters/Pencils: Roger McKenzie & Frank Miller | Inks: Klaus Janson
Lettering: Joe Rosen | Coloring: Bob Sharen
Editor: Denny O’Neil | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Having gotten wind of the impending theft of a shipment of adamantium, Daredevil visits Josie’s Bar & Grill to shake down some informants. Learning that the unbreakable metal is due to be delivered to Glenn Industries, DD pays a visit to their offices, where he bursts into a board meeting and informs Heather Glenn that something is going on within the company behind her back.

The next night, Matt Murdock learns that Heather never showed up for a date. He heads for the wharf, where the adamantium is in the process of being stolen, and is clobbered by Doctor Octopus.

Later, at Glenn Industries, Doc Ock brags to his prisoner, Heather, that he plans to use the adamantium to construct a set of new, unbreakable arms. But Daredevil arrives and attacks, defeating Ock.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: It's revealed that since her father’s death, Heather has had tenuous control over his company. We also learn how he died: enthralled by the Purple Man, he was jailed for embezzlement. Later he killed himself after Daredevil failed to prove his innocence.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

GREEN LANTERN/GREEN ARROW

I'll be the first to admit that I can be curmudgeon in some ways; I'm a guy who generally doesn't like to see social issues as the primary raison d'etre for any comic book story. I don't mind when nods to society's ills are slipped into a tale that's otherwise about something else entirely (see Storm discovering her childhood home is now a junkie-infested slum in UNCANNY X-MEN 122 or Wolverine scaring Kitty Pryde off smoking in issue 196), but I really don't get why anyone, child or adult, would want to read an entire superhero story about drugs or homelessness or whatever.

So now I'm about to cover a beloved run by two legendary comic superstars, Denny O'Neil and Neal Adams, dedicated to just that premise.

I've owned the GREEN LANTERN/GREEN ARROW trade for about four or five years now, but I've never quite been able to bring myself to read it. I've grabbed it off the shelf about three or four times over that span with the full intention of doing so, but just haven't found the will to crack it open -- and I think the main reason is that I love O'Neil and Adams on Batman. L-O-V-E. They crafted some of the most definitive and enjoyable Batman tales of all time. And because of that, I've had trouble jumping into what I'm pretty sure would quickly devolve into a "hate-read" of their other legendary run together.

Make no mistake -- I'm going into this thing with an agenda. I don't want to have one, but it's not like I can just force it out of my head. I'll do my best to be even-handed, but I fully expect to dislike the non-stop bleeding heart fest I'm about to cover for the next several weeks. Hopefully I don't scare anyone away in the process because I think I've got some pretty fun stuff planned after this run is over!

Friday, February 17, 2017

BIG O VOLUME 6

"LITTLE ROBOT LOST" | “ANGEL” | “THE MEMORY DISK” | “ROGER…”
Story and Art by Hitoshi Ariga | Created by Hajime Yatate

The final volume of BIG O ramps things up, giving us four chapters serialized together for one book-length story to close out the saga. We open with Dorothy, out for a walk on Paradigm City’s beach, grabbed and mangled by a new mystery megadeus which steals her memory unit. Roger and Big O defeat the new threat, but the memory unit remains missing.

The second story reveals that Alex Rosewater has been collecting all the various megadeuses and mechs Big O has defeated over the past twenty or so chapters, and is repairing them all for some unknown purpose. We also learn that Rosewater believes there are people beyond the sea who are infiltrating Paradigm, and who are responsible for the new megadeus which rose from the ocean in the previous chapter.

Meanwhile, Roger searches for Dorothy’s memory unit, a quest which leads him to a criminal hideout where he bumps into Angel. This meeting continues into the book’s third chapter, in which Angel escapes after teasing Roger with the fact that she has the memory unit. Angel hops into a megadeus she calls Big Four, but Big O is right behind her. As she battles Big O, Angel communicates with a mystery man about her acquisition of Big Four.

The battle between Big O and Big Four continues into the manga’s final chapter and heads into the ocean. While the megadeuses duke it out in a city sunk beneath the sea, Alex Rosewater speaks with his board of directors, telling them he believes Big Four’s arrival proves his theory that there are foreign powers at work outside of Paradigm City. Soon, during a lull in their fight, Angel sees a vision of Beck while Roger hallucinates a conversation with Schwarzwald. When Roger comes around, he spots Dorothy watching the fight from a nearby rooftop. The fact that she sought him out despite missing her memories reinvigorates Roger and Big O destroys Big Four, apparently killing Angel in the process.

Monday, February 13, 2017

DAREDEVIL #164

"EXPOSÉ"
Writer: Roger McKenzie | Artist: Frank Miller | Inker: Klaus Janson
Letterer: John Costanza | Colorist: Glynis Wein
Editor: Denny O’Neil | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: After spending some time in the hospital, in critical condition following his fight with the Hulk, Daredevil is upgraded to stable. Ben Urich pays him a visit and reveals that he knows DD is actually Matt Murdock, and that he's written an article exposing this fact. Ben asks Matt why he became Daredevil, and Matt recaps his origin. When the story is finished, Ben burns the article rather than publish it.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: Black Widow sits by Daredevil’s side the entire time he's at the hospital. She's visited by the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, and -- for some reason -- Power Man and Iron Fist, even though, as a later Miller issue will reveal, those last two have never actually met DD at this point.

As noted above, Daredevil’s origin is retold here. The short of it is that Matt Murdock is the son of a boxer who encouraged him to study regularly in order to make something of himself. Matt was blinded by radioactive chemicals which also gave him a “radar sense” but he kept the ability to himself as he made his way through law school. However when Matt’s father was killed by his crooked manager for refusing to throw a fight, Matt became Daredevil to avenge him.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

X-MEN: OPERATION: ZERO TOLERANCE

Hardcover, 2012. Collects 1997's UNCANNY X-MEN #346, X-MEN #65 - 70, WOLVERINE #115 - 118, GENERATION X #26 - 31, X-FORCE #67 - 70, CABLE #45 - 47, and X-MAN #30

In its way, "Operation: Zero Tolerance" seems to have had just as many hiccups behind the scenes as did "Onslaught" a year earlier. We got a taste of this last time in our look at THE TRIAL OF GAMBIT, and I'll elaborate further below.

But first, the contents: This volume opens withe the standard recap page, bringing readers up to speed on the status of the X-teams circa 1997. From there we move into GENERATION X #26 and 27 by Scott Lobdell with artists Joe Bennett, Chris Bachalo, and Pop Mhan, followed by X-FORCE #67 from the well-regarded John Francis Moore/Adam Pollina run. A short recap and an excerpt from X-MEN 64 featuring Jubilee and the crossover's villain, Bastion, come next. Then it's back to GENERATION X for issue 28, again by Lobdell (writing his final issue of the series) and Bachalo. The X-Men join the fray in X-MEN #65, which features most of the team (minus those off in space as seen in THE TRIAL OF GAMBIT) captured by Bastion's forces. UNCANNY X-MEN 346, which we discussed last month as part of THE TRIAL OF GAMBIT, comes next, and then we get another recap leading into GENERATION X 29, where temporary guest-writer James Robinson joins Chris Bachalo.

Next, X-MEN 66 by Lobdell and Carlos Pacheco follows the adventures of Iceman and introduces Cecilia Reyes to the X-Men's world. Then we catch up with the captured X-Men in WOLVERINE 115 by Larry Hama and Leinil Francis Yu. X-FORCE returns for issue 68, which continues into CABLE 45 through 47 by James Robinson with art from Randy Green and Rob Haynes, before returning to X-FORCE for #69. WOLVERINE 116 continues the saga of the X-Men, while GENERATION X #30 and 31 feature Jubilee's escape and the long-teased secret of team members Monet and Penance revealed, as Chris Bachalo follows Scott Lobdell off the series they had created together two-and-a-half years earlier.

Friday, February 10, 2017

BIG O VOLUME 5

"ANOTHER SIDE OF YOU" | “IN DARKNESS” | “PAST LIVES”
Story and Art by Hitoshi Ariga | Created by Hajime Yatate

The battle with Big Duo chronicled in BIG O volume 4 may be the climax of the manga’s major overarching story — the saga of Michael Seebach/Schwarzwald — but there are still questions to be answered and two more volumes in which to cover them.

Volume 5 opens mere days after the events of the prior story, with Big O still severely damaged after its showdown with Big Duo. The book’s first story is a character piece centered on Norman as he works to repair Big O while Dorothy covers for his household duties, as Roger goes about his “day job” as Paradigm City’s top negotiator. It’s a nice low-key tale following the massive battle in the prior installment, and in fact there’s not even a megadeus fight here! Big O simply spends the entire chapter undergoing repairs.

The stuff with Norman is interesting, as we learn that he likes to travel occasionally to Paradigm’s richest dome and visit a decaying statue of the Virgin Mary (which he calls his “confidante”), and we see that he has some expertise in the use of heavy firearms — but for me, the most interesting aspect of the story is once again related to memory and the Event. Roger’s client this time is an elderly man who worries that the opulent lifestyle he’s enjoyed for the past forty years is not really his. He woke up in a palatial mansion the day of the Event and has lived there ever since as its owner, but part of him wonders if he was simply a servant who happened to be the only person home at this time.

Monday, February 6, 2017

DAREDEVIL #163

"BLIND ALLEY"
Script: Roger McKenzie | Pencils: Frank Miller | Inks: Josef Rubinstein & Klaus Janson
Lettering: Jim Novak | Coloring: Glynis Wein
Editors: Jo Duffy & Dennis O’Neil | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Matt Murdock ducks out of a fundraiser for the re-election of District Attorney Blake Tower when his radar sense detects the Hulk nearby. Matt talks the Hulk into a calm state, reverting him to Doctor Bruce Banner.

The next morning, Matt and Banner converse and then Matt sends the doctor on his way with a wad of bills. But Banner is overwhelmed on a subway car and transforms into the Hulk. He begins a rampage through Manhattan, but Daredevil arrives to stop him. DD wages a futile battle against the Green Goliath, ultimately convincing him to leave town.

After the Hulk has departed, police find Daredevil lying in an alleyway, at death’s door.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: District Attorney Tower, a recurring character throughout the Marvel line of this era (readers of the blog may recall his appearances in CAPTAIN AMERICA and AMAZING SPIDER-MAN issues from a few years after this one) appears here. In fact, Tower’s very first appearance had been in an issue of DAREDEVIL some years earlier, where he ran against Foggy Nelson for the D.A. position.

Friday, February 3, 2017

BIG O VOLUME 4

"TO THE ONE I CAN’T FORGET" | “THE CHOSEN ONES” | “THE SUN WILL RISE AGAIN”
Story and Art by Hitoshi Ariga | Created by Hajime Yatate

BIG O’s fourth volume features a major showdown which the TV series saved for its penultimate episode — but we’ll get to that in a moment. First, the volume opens with an examination of Roger Smith’s psyche as he attempts to locate a bar once owned by the elderly father of his current client. During his quest, Roger is haunted by recollections of a woman he met in a bar years earlier, and eventually he discovers that the establishment for which he's searching is the same one in his memories; he has forgotten somehow.

This brings up a question we covered briefly last time: even now, in Paradigm City, do people still randomly lose their memories, either in whole or in part? It's been established that Roger is younger than forty years old; he was born after the Event. But does his fragmented recollection here mean that he's lost a few memories of his own over the years? Or are these just honest lapses? The manga presents no answer, leaving us to wonder.

The story also features Big O battling a mech piloted by Roger’s client, looking to break into a safe inside the old bar, but that's really just the obligatory giant robot fight. Roger’s inner struggles are the true plot for this one.

The second story, “The Chosen Ones”, takes another look inside Roger’s head while also furthering the mysterious agenda of the Paradigm Company. In this one, Roger has gone to investigate disappearances in the slums outside the domes, and is himself kidnapped by a pair of mad scientists looking to mine the memories of Paradigm’s lost souls for answers about the Event. The scientists have brainwashed a number of military policemen, who capture Roger for their masters. But when Roger is strapped into their memory extraction machine, he overloads it, breaks free, and saves the day with Big O’s help.