Monday, November 28, 2016


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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.