Friday, March 30, 2018

X-MEN '92 #5 - #7

Writers: Chad Bowers & Chris Sims | Art: Cory Hamscher (#5) & Alti Frimansyah (#6-7)
Color Art: Matt Milla w/Dono Sánchez Almara (#6) | Lettering: VC's Travis Lanham
Cover Art: David Nakayama | Title Page Design: Nicholas Russell (#5)
Production Design: Carlos Lao | Assistant Editor: Heather Antos | Editor: Jordan D. White
Editor-in-Chief: Axel Alonso | Chief Creative Officer: Joe Quesada
Publisher: Dan Buckley | Executive Producer: Alan Fine

Following the first story arc of their ongoing series, Chad Bowers and Chris Sims give us a one-off story in issue 5 to remind readers that, while they've left the X-Men, Cyclops and Jean Grey are still members of the cast. We pick up with the couple in Alaska, from whence they're plucked to the future by an elderly woman named Rachel. Cylcops and Jean work with Rachel -- a.k.a. Askani -- to infiltrate the lair of Mister Sinister... but in the end it turns out Askani and Sinister are on the same side, working together to create the ultimate weapon against Apocalypse. That weapon proves to be a clone created by Sinister using genetic material grabbed from Cyclops and Jean while Rachel led them through his lair. The story ends with the couple transported back through time just after meeting their clone "son", Cable -- and when next they materialize, they find themselves in the year 2099, confronted by that era's X-Men.

As usual, kudos to Bowers and Sims for integrating the often labyrinthine continuity of the nineties into their story -- though in this case it's not really that difficult. Cable created by Sinister as a weapon against Apocalypse is pretty much the character's mainstream universe origin as well, and Rachel pulling Cyclops and Jean through time to Cable's future was the plot of the ADVENTURES OF CYCLOPS AND PHOENIX mini-series in 1993 (hence the title of issue 5's story). There's a twist here, with Sinister and Rachel in cahoots and Cable created in the future as a clone rather than in the present day as a biological child, but for the most part, this story adheres to existing continuity pretty well, just streamlining it a bit for the X-MEN '92 audience. And the cameo appearance by the X-Men of 2099 on the issue's final page is probably my favorite part of this one! I loved that series when I read it "first run" off the stands, and it's always nice to see it revisited.

Monday, March 26, 2018


Writer/Penciler: John Byrne | Inker: Karl Kesel
Colorist: Anthony Tollin | Letterer: John Costanza | Editors: Andy Helfer & Mike Carlin

The Plot: A maniac calling himself Bloodsport shoots up a diner occupied by Jimmy Olsen, who summons Superman to help — but by the time the hero arrives, Bloodsport is gone. Superman tracks Bloodsport to a bowling alley, where the madman is on another spree. Superman nearly stops Bloodsport until a new gun materializes in his hand and tags the Man of Steel with a Kryptonite bullet. Jimmy arrives and gets Superman to the hospital, where doctors remove the Kryptonine shrapnel.

Meanwhile, Lex Luthor, the man behind Bloodsport’s weaponry, realizes his experiment has gone haywire and dispatches his men to deal with the crazed vigilante. Superman catches up with Bloodsport first, but the latter’s weapons are still too much for the Man of Steel to handle alone. Luthor’s security forces soon arrive, but Bloodsport makes quick work of them as well. Finally Superman realizes Bloodsport is teleporting his guns in from another location and disables the teleporter by ionizing the air around the villain.

Bloodsport is about to kill himself and destroy ten blocks of Metropolis with a bomb when Jimmy arrives, having deduced Bloodsport’s true identity based on his words and the fingerprints on one of his guns. With Jimmy is Bloodsport’s brother, Michael. He convinces Bloodsport to stand down, and the massacre ends at last.

Friday, March 23, 2018

X-MEN '92 #1 - #4

Writers: Chad Bowers & Chris Sims | Art: Alti Frimansyah
Color Art: Matt Milla | Lettering: VC's Travis Lanham | Cover Art: David Nakayama
Production: Carlos Lao | Assistant Editor: Heather Antos | Editor: Jordan D. White
Editor-in-Chief: Axel Alonso | Chief Creative Officer: Joe Quesada
Publisher: Dan Buckley | Executive Producer: Alan Fine

The ongoing X-MEN '92 series picks up precisely where the "Infinite Comics" left off: Professor Xavier has opened his school to a new class of young mutants, Bishop and Psylocke have recently joined the X-Men, and Cyclops and Jean Grey are on a leave of absence. We're still apparently set in the SECRET WARS universe, as the X-Men's "world" is referred to once or twice as Westchester (which gets a little confusing since their local municipality is also, as in the source material, called Westchester too). It's pretty clear at this point, if it wasn't already, that this really isn't a straight continuation of the X-MEN animated series. The initial team lineup as seen in the Infinite Comics was the same as on the show, but the similarity ends there. These X-Men have fought in a human/mutant war and are lauded as great heroes by the world, for one thing. For another, references are made to events that never happened on the TV series -- and I'll note some as we get to them.

I'm not necessarily complaining about this; the series is still fun, and -- I'll note for the umpteenth time -- it's a treat to see the X-Men running around in their Jim Lee costumes. But, as with Chris Claremont's X-MEN FOREVER, something of a spiritual forebear to this series, Marvel advertised a "continuation" but what we've actually wound up with is more of a reinvention. To put it plainly, if you tell me that a series is going to "continue" the X-MEN cartoon, I would expect the series to pick up precisely where the cartoon left off: with Professor X away in outer space with Lilandra while the X-Men, still feared and hated by the world at large, live in a loosely brokered peace with Magneto. Start there. It's a continuation. Pick up where the series left off. It's not rocket science, people.

(And I'll give Claremont some credit -- X-MEN FOREVER at least did begin practically exactly where X-MEN #3 ended, with the mutants searching for Fabian Cortez. It just went off the rails pretty quickly after that.)

Monday, March 19, 2018

LEGENDS #5 & #6

Plotter: John Ostrander | Scripter: Len Wein
Penciler: John Byrne | Inker: Karl Kesel w/Dennis Janke (issue 6 assist)
Letterer: Steve Haynie | Colorist: Tom Ziuko | Editor: Mike Gold

The Plot: (Issue 5) Billy Batson sees a girl he had befriended hit by debris from a riot and finally changes back into Captain Marvel. Moments later, he’s spirited away by Doctor Fate. In Star City, Fate grabs Black Canary. He plucks Guy Gardner from Los Angeles, then the Blue Beetle from Chicago. In Gotham City, Fate grabs Batman. In New York, Captain Boomerang is captured by a gang of Gordon Godfrey’s rabid followers, and Fate takes Flash and Changeling before they can pursue. Finally, Doctor Fate appears in the White House as Superman confers with President Reagan and Vice President Bush. He grabs the Man of Steel as well, and they depart.

Elsewhere, G. Gordon Godfrey stirs up his mob in Metropolis and shows off the captive Captain Boomerang on TV. Amanda Waller orders Task Force X to either rescue or kill Boomerang before he blows the cover off their team. In Washington, D.C., Godfrey continues to speak to his followers, until Doctor Fate arrives with his team. On Apokolips, Darkseid prepares for the final act of his plan, while in Gotham City, a determined Robin leaves his hospital room.

(Issue 5) On Apokolips, Darkseid and the Phantom Stranger continue their chat, while on Earth the heroes battle Godfrey’s war dogs, soon augmented by a troop of parademons from Apokolips. Godfrey snags Doctor Fate’s helmet and makes a run for it, while not far away, the Suicide Squad rescues Captain Boomerang. Meanwhile Wonder Woman appears to help Guy Gardner against a war dog, while human agents of Godfrey storm the White House and attempt to assassinate the president — but J’onn J’onzz impersonates the commander-in-chief to thwart the intruders.

Eventually all the otherworldly threats are eliminated and the heroes are left to face Godfrey’s foaming mob. But the arrival of a number of children, spared from Godfrey’s power of suggestion, causes the adults’ frenzy to waver and wear off. Desperate, Godfrey dons Doctor Fate’s helmet, hoping to use its power to save himself, but it instead overwhelms him, reducing him to a gibbering mess.

In the aftermath, the gathered heroes decide to re-form the Justice League, while on Apokolips, Darkseid vows that his war against Earth’s legends is not over.

Sunday, March 18, 2018


Last month I did a quick "Junior Unboxing" of three Marvel storybooks I'd picked up to read to my son. Well, subsequent to that post, I went through all the books and came up with an order in which we could read the stories that would follow some minor train of continuity. I even tweeted about it:

Among other smaller issues, the main concern, from my perspective, was that the story introducing the Avengers gives us the original lineup of Iron Man, Thor, Ant-Man, Wasp, and the Hulk -- but all the stories in the AVENGERS STORYBOOK COLLECTION feature the more movie-centric team of Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Black Widow, Hawkeye, and Falcon. I wanted the stories to get from Point A to Point B, and while there was no specific story showing Ant-Man and Wasp leaving the group, there were tales about the Avengers recruiting Black Widow, Hawkeye, and Falcon. But then -- catastrophe!

Fortunately, I found a solution: a book called 5-MINUTE MARVEL STORIES featured Captain America's defrosting in the twenty-first century. I quickly ordered it from Amazon, and while I was at it, I picked up 5-MINUTE AVENGERS STORIES and 5-MINUTE SPIDER-MAN STORIES. These three books are hardcovers like the Storybook Collections, the stories are about at the same reading level, and they mostly feature different stories than those in the other books (with a few exceptions, particularly the bizarre fact that there's a story about Hawkeye joining the Avengers in three of these books, but it's basically the same telling, with different words and pictures, every time).

Anyway -- all this is my way to fill some space since I have nothing else -- no books, no digital stuff -- to unbox. And after typing all the above, I'm thinking maybe I'll write up a post on the "Marvel Storybook Universe" I've concocted at some point in the not-too-distant future. No one is likely to care other than me, but I think it'll be fun anyway.

Friday, March 16, 2018


Writers: Chad Bowers & Chris Sims | Artist: Scott Koblish
Colorist: Matt Milla | Letterer: VC's Travis Lanham
Assistant Editor: Heather Antos | Editor: Jordan D. White
Production: Annie Cheng | Production Manager: Tim Smith 3
Editor-in-Chief: Axel Alonso | Chief Creative Officer: Joe Quesada
Publisher: Dan Buckley | Executive Producer: Alan Fine

Before we get back to the X-MEN '92 story, I'll take a moment to discuss the format of these "Infinite Comics". I think they're something Marvel does at least somewhat regularly; digital-first stories, usually inconsequential to continuity, drawn and produced with digital consumption first and foremost in mind. This is the first one I've read, and it's pretty cool. It's meant to be read in a "landscape", rather than a "portrait" format like a traditional comic, presumably in order to better fit a tablet or computer screen. There are animated effects, word balloons disappear and appear in single panels as characters speak for extended monologues, and sometimes static images of characters move between backdrops as they talk. (In the earlier chapters, for example, as Cassandra Nova leads the X-Men through Clear Mountain, she also speaks with Professor X on the astral plane, and while her figure stays the same, her background changes between the two locales.)

Now my limited dinosaur brain will always prefer just reading a normal old-fashioned comic book without all these bells and whistles, but I do have to admit that the effects are cool as a novelty. Though I must wonder -- Marvel reprinted these stories in comic book format and then again in trade paperback, and I can't imagine how they were translated to paper! Specifically the bits where panels change and appear behind characters as they stand in static poses, talking... I can only assume there are several instances of repeated artwork in those books, which would look odd to a casual reader.

Monday, March 12, 2018


Writer/Penciler: John Byrne | Inker: Terry Austin
Letterer: John Costanza | Colorist: Tom Ziuko | Editor: Andrew Helfer

The Plot: While Lois Lane interviews G. Gordon Godfrey at the Metropolis Grande Hotel, Clark Kent is chased around the city by twin energy beams. The beams eventually catch up with him as he attempts to elude them in the sewer, and transport him to Apokolips. There, Darkseid is confused by the beams’ grabbing a mortal instead of Superman, and he tosses his guest out a window. Clark lands in Apokolips’s slums, where he loses his civilian clothes, grabs rags to hide his costume, and explores. Soon he is attacked by a Pacifier, which grabs him and pulls them both into one of the planet’s fire pits.

Writer : Marv Wolfman | Artist/Co-Plotter: Jerry Ordway | Co-Plotter: John Byrne
Letterer: Albert de Guzman | Colorist: Tom Ziuko | Editor: Andrew Helfer

The Plot: An addled Superman is fished out of the fire pit by a “hunger dog” named Graggin. Word spreads quickly, and the hero soon comes to the attention of a woman named Amazing Grace, who convinces the hunger dogs that Superman is the savior of the people of Apokolips. When the Man of Steel fights off a troop of Parademons sent to rout the hunger dogs, they begin to believe the hype. Soon Superman, his memories fragmented and powers reduced thanks to the fire pit, leads the hunger dogs against Darkseid’s forces, and though their battle is incredibly costly, the day is won. But as the gathered rebels celebrate, Amazing Grace and Superman reveal their true nature, allowing an even larger force of Parademons to swoop in and slaughter the hunger dogs.

Friday, March 9, 2018


Writers: Chad Bowers & Chris Sims | Artist: Scott Koblish
Colorist: Matt Milla | Letterer: VC's Travis Lanham
Assistant Editor: Heather Antos | Editor: Jordan D. White
Production: Arlin Ortiz | Production Manager: Tim Smith 3
Editor-in-Chief: Axel Alonso | Chief Creative Officer: Joe Quesada
Publisher: Dan Buckley | Executive Producer: Alan Fine

I seem to recall that advance buzz on X-MEN '92 explicitly described it as the continuation of the X-MEN cartoon series which aired on the Fox network from 1992 - 1997 -- and while the group lineup presented here supports that (Cyclops, Wolverine, Storm, Beast, Jean Grey, Gambit, Rogue, Jubilee, and Professor X), what we have, at least at this point, isn't exactly what was advertised. The reason is that X-MEN '92 debuted as part of Marvel's SECRET WARS event in 2015. I don't know a ton about the event, but I've gleaned that it featured a number of "Battleworlds", pocket universes joined together in some sort of large-scale multiverse governed overall (I think) by Doctor Doom.

So this world features the TV series lineup on a Battleworld called Westchester, ruled by Baron Kelly, Westchester's version of Senator Robert Kelly (who, in the cartoon's continuity, actually went on to become president). These X-Men are said to have fought in a mutant war, ultimately saving Westchester and becoming heroes to one and all.

But the majority of this Battleworld stuff is mere window dressing, thankfully. Aside from these sparse and occasional references, the story really could exist in the timeline of the X-MEN cartoon. As the action begins, the X-Men fend off an attack by a group of "free range Sentinels", and then travel to a facility called the Clear Mountain Institute, where the mysterious Cassandra Nova is overseeing the development of a large number of mutants, including a few bad guys like Toad, Blob, and Sabretooth. The scene where the X-Men first arrive at the facility, in fact, is a nice callback to the X-MEN show in a way, as we get a group shot of a bunch of totally unrelated mutants just sort of hanging out in their costumes. The cartoon did this often, especially in its first season.

Monday, March 5, 2018

LEGENDS #3 & #4

Plotter: John Ostrander | Scripter: Len Wein
Penciler: John Byrne | Inker: Karl Kesel
Letterer: Steve Haynie | Colorist: Tom Ziuko | Editor: Mike Gold

The Plot: (Issue 3) On Earth, civilian aggression toward superheroes increases, while on Apokolips, Darkseid continues his conversation with the Phantom Stranger. The Flash and Changeling leave Titans’ Tower despite a presidential order for superhumans to sequester themselves. Meanwhile, Task Force X is assembled to attack Brimstone at Mount Rushmore.

While Jason Todd recuperates at Gotham Hospital, Billy Batson continues to mope over what he believes to be his role in the “death” of Macro Man. At Mount Rushmore, Brimstone kills Task Force X member Blockbuster, but his distraction allows the rest of the team to defeat the monster. On Apokolips, Darkseid prepares to release his War Hounds on Earth.

(Issue 4) In Star City, Black Canary tussles with Count Vertigo. In Gotham City, Batman ends a killing spree by the Joker. In Los Angeles, Guy Gardner stops Ms. Magnificent and her Pretty Boys from carrying out a jewelry heist. In Chicago, Blue Beetle thwarts a robbery by Chronos the Time Thief. In Salem, Massachusetts, Kent Nelson transforms into Doctor Fate and leaves his sanctum. In Washington, Rick Flag releases Deadshot and Captain Boomerang from Task Force X, and Boomerang promptly leaves. In Gotham, G. Gordon Godfrey incites a mob and requests volunteers to become Warhounds. In New York, the Flash and Changeling stop Captain Boomerang from carrying out a robbery.

And on Apokolips, Darkseid and the Phantom Strange continue to discuss the fall of the Earth’s Legends. When the subject of Superman comes up, Darkseid fires his Omega beams to Earth on a mission to transport the Man of Steel to Apokolips.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

X-MEN '92

Time to delve once more into everyone's favorite digital subscription service, Marvel Unlimited, and look at something more recent from the ol' House of Ideas. This time around I'm going to dedicate a few weeks to X-MEN '92, a series which spun out of Marvel's "Secret Wars" event in 2015, and ran for a number of digital-first installments, followed by an ongoing series that was cancelled with issue 10. This one has been on my to-read list practically since it started, and I'm excited to finally read it.

As I understand, the idea is that this series is a continuation of the X-MEN cartoon series which aired on Fox in the early to mid-nineties, but that's practically all I know about it. I'm not really familiar with the creators, other than that co-writer Chris Sims is a comics journalist/reviewer of some repute -- and perhaps some notoriety? (I've never really been big on the whole comics journalism scene, for good or ill.) So the main draw to me is stories written by a guy who was a fan of the X-Men in the nineties, starring the X-Men wearing their Jim Lee-designed costumes. But I'm going in totally blind otherwise, so we'll soon find out what I think.

I'll be looking at this one a few issues at a time beginning this Friday, and I expect that overall, it should take a little more than a month to cover, so be back here in a mere five days as our journey into nostalgia begins!

Available on Amazon:
X-MEN '92 vol. 0: WARZONES!

Friday, March 2, 2018


Presented by Kenichi Sonoda
Translation: Dana Lewis & Toren Smith | Lettering and Retouch: Studio Cutie

And now we move into the final GUNSMITH CATS story arc, a relatively straightforward affair in which Misty gets kidnapped, along with some cargo being ferried by Bean, and Bean’s client. Rally and Bean team up to rescue Misty in an adventure involving a counterfeiter and a family of criminals out to steal his equipment. We get some fun moments involving Rally, May, Becky, Bean, and Misty (Ken sits this one out), and the overall story feels a bit like a palate cleanser following the larger epic of the final conflict with Goldie.

And then it’s on to chapter 75, the very last installment of the serialized manga, celebrating Rally’s twenty-first birthday. Sonoda delivers callbacks to the earliest segments of his story as Rally brings in Gray’s son and then visits the grave of the girl she failed to save (and whose death I complained about) in one of the very first chapters. Soon after, her friends throw her a surprise party, and besides the obvious attendees (May, Ken, Becky, Misty, and Roy), we also see Jeena and her friends from the “Kidnapped” storyline.

It’s a nice little note to close things out, as Rally — after briefly doubting her career — reaffirms herself as a bounty hunter. Oh, and May and Ken have married offscreen as well, which is another bow to tie on the story. Creepy as their relationship is, Sonoda at least sells them as a couple in love, so it’s nice to see them get a happy ending.