Wednesday, March 30, 2016


Story & Art: John Byrne | Colorist: Glynis Wein | Letterer: Jim Novak
Editor: Al Milgrom | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: At the dimensional interface between the Negative Zone and our world, the Fantastic Four begin work on a plan to return home without the use of their destroyed Negative Zone portal. Twelve days later, the plan is complete and the FF have created a spectral version of the Baxter Building within the Negative Zone. Reed activates a frequency modulator which should send the group home if someone in the real world has breached the barrier created by Annihilus.

And on Earth, Captain Marvel of the Avengers pierces the field and enters the Baxter Building. Annihilus is crippled by an explosion and hurled back into the Negative Zone as the Fantastic Four return home. The Thing finds Alicia Masters severely injured and rushes her to the hospital. The Avengers enter the Baxter Building and confer with Mister Fantastic and the Human Torch while the Invisible Girl scours the building for young Franklin. She finds him also injured, and the FF and Avengers depart immediately for the hospital as well.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: This issue is half of a semi-crossover with AVENGERS. While FANTASTIC FOUR 256 tells the story of the FF working to escape from the Negative Zone, AVENGERS 233, by Roger Stern and co-plotter/penciler John Byrne, shows us the Avengers struggling to penetrate Annihilus’s barrier and ultimately succeeding thanks to Captain Marvel.

Monday, March 28, 2016


Chronicler: John Byrne | Letterer: Jim Novak | Colorist: Glynis Wein
Editor: Al Milgrom | Tall: Jim Shooter

The Plot: As Daredevil patrols Manhattan, he bumps into an invisible barrier and sets out to find its cause. Meanwhile, Annihilus reveals to Alicia Masters that he plans to merge the Negative Zone with our reality, destroying both. He then reveals his true face to Alicia and prepares to kill her.

In the Negative Zone, the Invisible Girl, the Thing, and the Human Torch fight Taranith, but he escapes to the bridge of his starship and takes off with the Fantastic Four aboard. As the FF make their way to the bridge, Mister Fantastic’s intellect lives on in Taranith’s computer and he asserts control over the ship. Taranith departs in an escape pod, but it explodes.

Reed sets course for the Negative Zone portal, and two weeks later, as the FF make their final approach, he gains control over his body using a cyber-helmet. But the FF are soon alerted to the fact that the portal has been destroyed, leaving them stranded in the Negative Zone.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: Annihilus explains to Alicia that his body is wasting away thanks to an encounter with rival warlord Blastaar in MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE #75.

Sunday, March 27, 2016


The following began as a footnote to last week's UNCANNY X-MEN OMNIBUS volume 3 review, but grew so long I decided to turn it into its own post:

As I've noted before, whenever Marvel puts out a Silver or Bronze Age Omnibus, they include the introductions from prior Marvel Masterworks volumes which collected the same material. In the case of UNCANNY X-MEN, when Marvel started the line in the late eighties, most of their volumes featured intros from Stan Lee. Somehow, the first UNCANNY Masterworks had an intro from Lee but also one from Chris Claremont, possibly depending on the edition (I know mine had one by Lee, but the UNCANNY OMNIBUS volume 1 features the Claremont one, which I assume was produced for the very first printing in 1989).

Moving on, when the Masterworks program was revived in the mid-00s, volumes 4 and 5 featured intros from Claremont, 6 had one from inker Terry Austin, and then editor Louise Simonson arrived for volume 7 and the subsequent 8 and 9. I have no objections to Simonson; I'm quite happy she penned at least one introduction. My point, really, is -- why not spread the introduction love? If Chris Claremont is currently unwilling or unable to do them, what about others who worked on the series? Sadly, penciler Dave Cockrum passed away before Marvel got around to reprinting his second run in 2008 -- but what about his successor, Paul Smith? Or even longtime letter Tom Orzechowski and colorist Glynis Oliver -- were either of them approached to write an intro? They got the inker to do one, for Pete's sake (for a volume in which he worked on three out of ten collected issues)!

Friday, March 25, 2016


Created by Xavier Dorison & Terry Dodson
Script: Xavier Dorison | Pencils & Colors: Terry Dodson
Inks: Rachel Dodson | Letters: Clayton Cowles

It seems working on MUSE was an agreeable experience for Terry Dodson, as he subsequently chose not to re-up his Marvel contract and decided instead to continue working in the European comic market. The first follow-up to MUSE comes in the form of RED ONE, co-created by Dodson and French writer Xavier Dorison, which received a domestic release from Image in 2015 in the form of two single comic book issues followed by a lovely oversized hardcover album collecting both chapters together.

I had high hopes for this one for a few reasons. One, though I found the ultimate resolution of MUSE to be a bit iffy, I really did enjoy the story up until the eleventh hour twists came into play, and I found Dodson's artwork and colors to be tremendous. Two, from what advance material I saw, RED ONE was to be set in the seventies and feature a Cold War-themed plotline. For reasons even I don't entirely understand, I love the seventies. I'm fascinated by the decade and I tend to enjoy almost any period piece set in that timeframe.

Unfortunately, this first volume doesn't quite live up to my expectations.

The story concerns a fundamentalist movement in 1977 California, headed by gubernatorial candidate Jacky Core, which supports the actions of a vigilante called the Carpenter -- a man on a mission to cleanse the Los Angeles area of "undesirable" elements in the most violent ways imaginable. The KGB objects to Core's position, believing that if elected, she will work against an upcoming nuclear treaty and cause trouble for the Soviet Union down the line. To combat the Carpenter and undermine Core, KGB higher-ups send their best agent, Vera Yelnikov, to California to become a superhero and stand up for the Carpenter's oppressed victims.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016


Writer/Artist: John Byrne | Letterer: Jim Novak | Colorist: Glynis Wein
Editor: Al Milgrom | Overmind: Jim Shooter

The Plot: On a planet in the Negative Zone, a being called Taranith deems two of his followers worthy and takes them into an underground cavern where they are confronted by some unseen horror. Meanwhile, the Fantastic Four enter Taranith’s town incognito and rent a hotel room. Johnny and Ben explore the community and are forced to use their powers when a group of muggers sets upon them. Meanwhile, at the hotel, Sue and Reed are also attacked, but the fight is stopped by Taranith.

On Earth, Annihilus has used parts from Mister Fantastic’s Negative Zone portal to construct a huge device which he promptly activates. The machine pumps out radiation which drives all humans in the Baxter Building and surrounding structures to flee in panic. The Avengers' She-Hulk and the Wasp attempt to investigate, but are stopped by an invisible barrier.

In the Negative Zone, Taranith hosts the Fantastic Four for dinner, but drugs Reed and turns out the lights. When the Human Torch lights up the blackness, Reed and Taranith are gone. The alien reveals to Reed that he is not of this world, and that he has been connecting various worthy subjects to a large device which drains their intellects to restore power to his long-dead starship. Reed’s superior intelligence provides the final boost he needs to escape the planet.

The rest of the team arrive to save Reed, but Taranith reveals they are too late: their leader's mind has been drained and he is now a mental vegetable.

Monday, March 21, 2016


Story & Art: John Byrne | Letterer: Jim Novak | Colorist: Glynis Wein
Editor: Al Milgrom | Seeker: Jim Shooter

The Plot: The Fantastic Four’s exploratory module is picked up by a gargantuan spacecraft from the long-dead planet Kestor. After a brief skirmish, the Kestorans welcome the FF aboard and explain that 10,000 years ago, their planet was destroyed by a supernova. The entire population of Kestor was placed into suspended animation aboard the ship, which was to take them via auto-pilot to a new planet. But the ship was damaged as it left, and its computer awakened five hundred Kestorans to crew it. However its memory banks were also destroyed, and the ship has traversed the Negative Zone aimlessly for 10,000 years, now crewed by the descendants of those original five hundred.

Reed repairs the computer system and the Kestorans find the planet they sought, but its atmosphere proves incompatible with them. Reed argues that this is due to evolution, and the Kestorans in stasis should be fine on this new world. But the Captain disagrees and orders his ship away from the planet, sending his men to attack the FF during departure. The ship’s first officer then reveals a secret to the captain which proves too much for him to handle, and he dies.

The first officer calls off the attack and explains to the FF that all the Kestorans in stasis perished in the same blast that damaged the ship 10,000 years ago, and only his bloodline has known the secret for all this time. The Fantastic Four leave the Kestorans to continue their endless quest.

Sunday, March 20, 2016


Hardcover, 2016. Collects 1982-84's UNCANNY X-MEN #154 - 175, X-MEN ANNUAL #6 & 7, SPECIAL EDITION X-MEN #1, MARVEL GRAPHIC NOVEL #5, WOLVERINE #1 - 4, and MAGIK: STORM AND ILLYANA #1 - 4.

I like the X-Men, for the most part, throughout their entire history (at least up to around 2001 or so when I stopped following them regularly). But there are some eras I only tolerate, and others I consider definitive. For me, the most definitive period in X-Men lore is UNCANNY X-MEN issues 94 - 175 (technically I prefer to include 176 as well, but I won't quibble if a collection spanning that stretch omits it). This volume completes that run for me, and if Marvel never produces another UNCANNY X-MEN OMNIBUS, I'll be content.

While it's the Chris Claremont/John Byrne material which is the heart of those eighty or so issues, there's plenty to enjoy beyond Byrne's departure. Dave Cockrum, who shepherded in the era of the "new" X-Men with Len Wein and then Claremont on writing chores, returned as series penciler with issue 145, and the first chunk of his second run was included in the second UNCANNY X-MEN OMNIBUS. As I discussed when I covered that book a couple years ago, once upon a time Marvel's Omnibuses followed a pretty strict routine of cramming a few previously published Marvel Masterworks volumes into one book and sending it off to the printers, with no regard to story flow. This resulted in UNCANNY OMNIBUS volume 1 ending in the middle of the "Dark Phoenix Saga".

Not so anymore! UNCANNY OMNIBUS 2 broke the trend and reprinted only a portion of the seventh UNCANNY X-MEN MASTERWORKS, stopping after issue 153. The reason, as we see here, was to avoid separating the long "Brood saga" into two books. With some interludes for other adventures, the Brood storyline runs all the way from UNCANNY 154 through 167! And, thanks to modern Marvel's more enlightened decision-makers, the entire epic is reprinted here.

Friday, March 18, 2016


Writer: Denis-Pierre Filippi | Artist: Terry Dodson
Colorists: Rebecca Rendon & Terry Dodson | Translators: Quinn & Katia Donoghue

In 2004, France's Les Humanoïdes Associés published SONGES: CORALINE, volume one in a 2-book series written by Denis-Pierre Filippi and illustrated by Terry Dodson. The second volume, SONGES: CÉLIA, was finally released eight years later in 2012, and Humanoids, Inc. -- the American branch of Les Humanoïdes Associés -- released an English-language version collecting both books in one volume, retitled MUSE.

I'm not sure how, but I became aware of this book around 2008 and based on the images I found online, I fell in love with the artwork. Yes, it contains a ton of gratuitous cheesecake -- half the reason for hiring Terry Dodson, who here is able to shed far more clothes from his female protagonist than he'd be allowed in any mainstream American comic book -- but there's more to his work than that in these pages. The book is set primarily on the grounds of a sprawling estate in what is most likely rural France, at some undetermined point in the past. Dodson puts such remarkable work into the setting that one almost feels transported there through his illustrations, which appear to be reproduced directly from pencil art for a very "natural" feel, and which are complemented astoundingly by the lush color work of Rebecca Rendon and Dodson himself.

Our tale follows a young lady named Coraline, who arrives at the estate in response to an ad for a caretaker. Her charge is to be a brilliant boy named Vernère, who spends his days in a secret workshop constructing astounding mechanical devices, brewing unusually powerful nectars, and reading book after book. Coraline's job, as outlined by Vernère's housemaid and butler, is to get him out of the workshop and to help him rediscover his youth. And if Dodson's illustrations of the setting are a large part of the charm of this book, then his work on Vernère's fantastical devices is the other major attraction (taking his delightful renderings of Coraline in all manner of dress and undress for granted, of course). This stuff has sort of a turn-of-the-century steampunk vibe and while Steampunk as a genre has never really appealed to me, seeing such devices in this almost fairytale-like setting is very cool.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016


Chronicler: John Byrne | Colorist: Glynis Wein | Letterer: Jim Novak
Editor: Tom DeFalco | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: On a planet within the Negative Zone, the arrival of the Fantastic Four is observed by a group of primitive natives. These beings attack the FF, poisoning Mister Fantastic and rendering him unconscious. The fight is stopped by the village elder, Mama Shonti. She explains that the FF’s arrival was foretold in prophecy and that they are destined to destroy the massive walled city of Ootah, which expelled the natives years ago, forcing their devolution to a primitive state.

On Earth, Annihilus searches the Baxter Building for Franklin Richards, finds him, and takes him prisoner.

The natives prepare to sacrifice a young woman named Taiya to Ootah, but the Human Torch and the Thing rescue her. When the Thing proves that Ootah will destroy anything which attempts to pass through its walls, not just a living woman as the natives have long believed, the FF decide the city is malevolent and raze its walls. Reed comes around and attempts to stop them, but is too late. Ootah’s brain is destroyed and the villagers go berserk within the city limits, rampaging throughout.

As Ootah falls, Reed reveals that it was actually a highly evolved artificial intelligence which one day might have become sentient if not for the superstitions of its former inhabitants leading to its destruction.

Monday, March 14, 2016


Story & Art: John Byrne | Lettering: Jim Novak | Colorist: Glynis Wein
Editing: Tom DeFalco | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Reed shows Ben his new portal to the Negative Zone, then departs with Sue to host a meeting of the Baxter Building’s tenants. Meanwhile, Johnny visits Julie Angel at acting class, while Ben goes to pick up Alicia Masters from her apartment.

Later, at the Baxter Building, the Fantastic Four leave young Franklin in Alicia’s care and climb aboard Reed’s new Negative Zone Exploratory Module, Mark I. The team heads into the Negative Zone to explore, but less than two hours after their departure, Negative Zone warlord Annihilus emerges from the portal and assaults Alicia.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: Reed and Ben recap the villains of the Negative Zone, as well some of of its recent history.

Reed laments that perhaps buying the Baxter Building wasn’t such a great idea after all, as he now needs to deal with frustrated tenants. He makes plans to have his lawyers put together a service to attend to tenant issues. (Do Nelson & Murdock still represent the FF at this point in time?)

Sunday, March 13, 2016


Three Marvels and a DC arrived this month, with one Marvel delayed until April for unknown reasons.

We'll get DC's offering out of the way first: the BATMAN: HARLEY & IVY Deluxe Edition hardcover collection, reprinting the limited series by Bruce Timm and Paul Dini, as well as a number of other comic book team-ups from the BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES universe starring this duo and written by Dini. I've read every iteration of THE BATMAN ADVENTURES and its specials and annuals, but somehow I never got my hands on HARLEY & IVY when it was first published. I can't express how excited I am to read what is, to me, a "lost" Dini/Timm Batman production.

From Marvel, I've got an Avenger and two X-Men collections to look at -- first, CAPTAIN AMERICA: WHITE, the long-delayed fourth installment in the Jeph Loeb/Tim Sale "color" series. Readers will recall that early last year I looked at the original "colors", DAREDEVIL: YELLOW, SPIDER-MAN: BLUE, and HULK: GRAY, which were published between 2001 and 2004. Now, at last, Loeb and Sale have created the long-ago teased WHITE as a companion to those series. I intend to read this one pretty soon and post my thoughts on it to go with the previous colors in short order.

Friday, March 11, 2016


From January through December of 1992, NINTENDO POWER magazine serialized a manga adaptation of the then-newest LEGEND OF ZELDA videogame, A LINK TO THE PAST. The serial was subsequently collected by Nintendo of America in a trade paperback shortly afterward, and then just last year Viz Media collected it again. It is the 2015 volume which I'm using for this review.

Story and art are provided by the legendary Shotaro Ishinomori, creator of several popular Japanese franchises, beginning with CYBORG 009 in 1963. Though produced by Ishinomori in Japan, this manga was commissioned by NINTENDO POWER for the U.S. market, and Ishinomori drew it in the Western "left to right" reading order, rather than the traditional Japanese "right to left".

The story begins as does the videogame, with our hero, Link, awakened by a telepathic message from the captive Princess Zelda. Link follows Zelda's summons to Hyrule Castle, where he arrives in time to see his uncle slain by the evil wizard, Agahnim. Link takes his fallen uncle's sword and shield and rescues the princess, leading her to safety. But Zelda is swiftly recaptured after she describes Agahnim's plot to Link: he intends to sacrifice Zelda and six other maidens in order to open a portal the "Dark World" where his master, the diabolical Ganon, rules.

Link travels to a nearby village to enlist the aid of a wise man in hiding, and eventually after a few trials, makes his way to the Dark World, where he teams up with a mysterious knight named Roam, rescues Princess Zelda, and defeats Ganon, restoring peace to Hyrule.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016


Storyteller: John Byrne | Colorist: Christie Scheele | Letterer: Joe Rosen
Script Editor: Tom DeFalco | Plot Editor: Jim Salicrup
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Swinging over Manhattan, Spider-Man locates an unconscious Mister Fantastic and brings him around. As they head for the Baxter Building, not far away Gladiator is attacked by the X-Men. The Human Torch prepares to join the fray but finds the Thing, still knocked out following his fight with Gladiator, and stops to tend to him instead.

At the Baxter Building, Mister Fantastic figures out the key to beating Gladiator. As he gets to work on it, Spider-Man leaves to join the fight. Captain America soon joins in as well, helping Spider-Man against Nightcrawler. The Torch and the Thing arrive also, while Reed puts the finishing touches on his device at the Baxter Building.

As the X-Men overcome Gladiator, Cyclops is accidentally killed by Angel, and upon dying reverts to the form of a Skrull. Meanwhile, Reed and Captain America trick Gladiator into losing his confidence, which allows the Invisible Girl to take him out with a force blast. The Torch and the Thing defeat the remaining Skrulls, and when Gladiator comes to, he takes them into custody and leaves Earth after declaring the Fantastic Four his friends.

Monday, March 7, 2016


Chronicler: John Byrne | Letterer: Joe Rosen | Colorist: George Roussos
Editor: Jim Salicrup | Superior Being: Jim Shooter

The Plot: A Skrull starship emerges from hyperspace near Pluto, pursued by Gladiator of the Shi’ar Imperial Guard. The ship seemingly explodes under Gladiator’s assault.

On Earth, Johnny Storm and Ben Grimm are out in Central Park when they spot the Fantastic Four’s signal flare. Johnny is first back to the Baxter Building, where Reed explains that he monitored an explosion near Pluto, and some piece of debris from that explosion is rocketing to Earth faster than the speed of light. The “debris” is soon revealed as Gladiator, who appears in Manhattan to be challenged by the Thing.

Gladiator defeats the Thing, then the Human Torch. Mister Fantastic attempts to reason with him using his universal translator and learns Gladiator is after the Skrulls, but Gladiator then takes him out as well. The Invisible Girl follows, as does the Thing, back for a second round. Then, as Gladiator gloats over the defeated FF, he is confronted by the X-Men.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: Johnny and Ben bump into Julie Angel, dressed up as some kind of mime for a drama class exercise, in Central Park. Ben is thrown into a funk when he realizes how much he frightens Julie. Also, Johnny wears an absurdly fringed jacket during the scene.

Sunday, March 6, 2016


As I've done in past years, I plan to spend the majority of the spring on various assorted mini-series from publishers other than Marvel or DC. The next four Fridays will kick this off, beginning with THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: A LINK TO THE PAST, a reprint of the manga serialized in NINTENDO POWER magazine back in the nineties.

After ZELDA, we'll take a look two offerings from artist Terry Dodson and a pair of European writers, D-P Filippi and Xavier Dorison -- MUSE and RED ONE. Following the Dodson experience, I've lined up a review of the first volume in Walter Simonson's RAGNARÖK series at IDW.

Then it's into the realm of sword and sorcery for the month of April, and our gateway to that genre will be a MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE graphic novel I've owned for about thirty years, THE SUNBIRD LEGACY. Once that one's in the can, I'll be back to announce the second half of the Springtime Grab Bag, so stay tuned!

Saturday, March 5, 2016


I like to draw; I've done it forever. It relaxes me. Lately I do it in the Sketchbook app on my iPad, courtesy of Autodesk. Well, I opened the app this morning and found it advertising something called a "Draw Your Favorite Superhero" challenge. There was one for a male hero and one for a female hero, as well as one for a villain.

On a whim, I drew three pictures, created a DeviantArt gallery, and uploaded them for the event. I'm not sure what compelled me to do it, but this is pretty much the very first time I have ever shared my work with the world. Please be gentle.

Friday, March 4, 2016


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

GUNDAM: THE ORIGIN’s final volume begins exactly where the last one left off: Char and Amuro have annihilated one another’s mobile suits within A Baoa Qu, but both escape the damage unscathed and Amuro pursues Char deeper into the fortress.

For whatever reason, the destruction of the Gundam doesn’t feel as momentous here as in the original animation. It’s not necessarily for lack of trying on Yasuhiko’s part; he certainly draws it well. But I seem to recall that the TV series (and subsequent movie adaptation) made this out to be the big deal one would expect from the destruction of the series’ title device. Here it’s just something that happens, and not even Amuro seems too shaken up about it.

Char, on the other hand, is quite shaken, though not due to the destruction of his Zeong. Amuro pursues him into Ghiren’s private quarters, glimpsed in the previous volume, and in short order, just as in the original animation, the pair begins a duel with a set of Ghiren’s antique sabers. But while Lalah’s death is certainly on both their minds here — Amuro wants to kill Char for causing him to inadvertently kill her while Char wants to kill Amuro because he believes the other is not worthy to speak her name — there’s much more to the fight in Char’s mind this time around.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016


Author: John Byrne | Colorist: Glynis Wein | Letterer: Rick Parker
Editor: Jim Salicrup | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Beneath the surface of the Moon, the amphibious Inhuman Triton discovers a strange crystal hidden inside a cavern. Meanwhile, the Fantastic Four arrive in Attilan for the naming ceremony of the daughter of Crystal and Quicksilver. But the festivities are short-lived as the Moon leaves Earth’s orbit to be hauled into an enormous spacecraft.

Inside the ship, a massive alien studies and dissects the Moon. The FF attempt to reason with it, but it sprays them as if they were pests. As his teammates perish around him, Mister Fantastic screams out in protest. A moment later, all of the FF and Inhumans are in Attilan once more as if nothing happened. As the group compares notes of similar but different experiences, Reed speculates that some outside force induced hallucinations based on their deepest fears, but something eventually shut it down.

Back in the underground cavern, Triton overcomes nightmares induced by the crystal and departs to warn his fellow Inhumans about it.