Monday, January 15, 2018

I grew up in a small town in northern Montana, and I may have mentioned this before, but the local radio was absolutely godawful when I was a kid. Anne Murray may have had the most hardcore songs in regular rotation. Top 40 countdowns were a rare treat. I don't think I heard Led Zeppelin until I went to college. So, for large swaths of my childhood, I listened to the Star Wars soundtrack (on 8-track!) and Power Records. Specifically, one LP with four stories adapting comics I wouldn't get to read for years; again, until I went to college: Amazing Spider-Man #125, "The Mark of the Man-Wolf!" Captain America and the Falcon #168 "And a Phoenix Shall Arise!" Fantastic Four #126, "The Way It Began!" And finally (although probably not in the order they were on the record) The Incredible Hulk #171, "Revenge!" Plot by Steve Englehart, script by Gerry Conway, pencils by Herb Trimpe, inks by Jack Abel.

The Power Records version ("At Bay.") actually begins slightly before the start of this issue, with Betty Ross and the Hulk trapped at an erupting volcano. The army sees them and rescues Betty, and while it had looked like the Hulk had left, he stowed away with them, hiding in a crate. Still, he might not have, even to be close to his "friend" Betty, if he had known they were going back to Hulkbuster Base. Betty and General Ross have a tearful reunion; possibly their first since the death of her husband, Major Talbot. Still, something else is up, as a soldier reports to Talbot's replacement, Colonel Armbruster, that the base was "completely deserted."

Aboard the plane, the Hulk had fallen asleep and reverted to Bruce Banner. Although confused, he finds some clothes and makes his way to the base's kitchens in short order. Meanwhile, another soldier tells Armbruster the base's radios had all been smashed as well, but since they still had the radios in their planes, Armbruster brushes it off, saying they'll figure it out after they unload. None of them see the cannon shell them from a hanger, destroying a jet, before--"Nightmare!...Not one uncrushable foe--but two!"

Ross, Betty, and the soldiers are captured quickly; and the Abomination and Rhino gruffly explain their team-up: to kill the Hulk, duh. They planned to use the Hulkbuster equipment to bring him in somehow, although it's not like it had been doing a bang-up job for the army, guys. Twelve hours later, said army has surrounded the base; and the Hulk's old friend Jim Wilson and his girlfriend Talia are blocked from entering. As they drive off, Bruce Banner wakes up from a nap in an emergency bunker: huh, the Hulk had slept, yet he was still tired, and he realizes he hadn't eaten yet, either. Still, Bruce has started to notice the base is somewhat empty, and stumbles across everyone locked in one of the "Hulk-retaining cells!" (How many of those do you need? Hulk-specific, anyway?) Bruce then badly fails an awareness check, as he is snuck up on by the 980-pound Abomination and grabbed. Panicked, Bruce becomes the Hulk again, who is confused to wake up and be immediately attacked, which I thought was how he usually "woke up." Maybe his last memory was going to sleep?

Rhino gets the Hulk from behind, but Abomination suggests using the Hulkbuster weapons instead. Seeing the Abomination packing heat, the Hulk takes off, but they're pretty sure he would be back. Outside, Jim and Talia have made it past the army blockade, and the Hulk meets up with them. They work out a plan, using Talia as an extremely unwilling decoy, to lure A & R out for the Hulk to hit; while Jim goes to get Ross and the rest out of their cell. Ross tells him there's no time for that, he has to disarm the gamma bomb first!

Abomination had set the timer on the bomb, which Ross explains was part of the self-destruct for the base, which sounds like a good way to make more Hulks, but okay. By turning up the intercom, Jim is able to hear Ross talk him through disarming it. It's not a bad sequence on the record, although Jim's "Far out! I did it!" is a bit cheesy. Up top, the Hulk had been mostly stalling at Jim's request, then decides "This is stupid," and ducks while Rhino and Abomination charge into each other, knocking themselves out. (It's far more dramatic on the record; a little anticlimactic in the comic.) With the base liberated, the TV news is there in short order--told nowadays, the government would cover that jazz right up. Ross thanks the Hulk for saving all of them, even though the Hulk distinctly remembers Ross being the guy chasing him all the time; yet it's Armbruster that attacks from behind, doing his "patriotic duty" and capturing the Hulk! He uses a clangy steel trap, that kind of reminds me of Arcade's garbage truck.

The next issue blurb here is for the Juggernaut, but the record ends with the narrator hopefully pointing out even though the Hulk was captured, he'd escape again soon enough: "He always does." That does make me feel better, Power Records Narrator! It's still available at Power Records Plaza, so check it out yourself!
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Friday, January 12, 2018

An Alan Smithee post--no, wait, I wrote this!


It's fallen out of use, but the name "Alan Smithee" used to be the pseudonym for film directors that wanted to disown a project. If the director wasn't satisfied with a finished film (for example, if they felt they lost creative control to producers, editors, or actors) they could have their name taken off it, and then more-or-less disavow ever working on it. So it wasn't a good sign to see him credited as writer for this issue...from 1995, Daredevil #339, written by Alan Smithee, pencils by Alexander Jubran, inks by Ande Parks, Don Hudson, Bud La Rosa, and Rodney Ramos.

This issue was set after Fall From Grace, a fairly substantial upheaval to the status quo for Daredevil: Matt Murdock was presumed dead, having faked his own death with the body of the doppelganger Daredevil from Infinity War. Matt was now "Jack Batlin," con man; and had a new, armored costume. That would be rolled back around Daredevil #345, but the writer of this issue, D.G. Chichester, was told he was being taken off the book, and opted to have his name taken off the last four issues he was apparently obligated to write. (We also checked out #343, from Warren Ellis, about a million years ago.)

The bad guy is the somewhat uninspired Kruel, formerly thug Vic Krueller, returned for revenge against the Kingpin, Ben Urich, anyone else he can revenge himself upon. Ben's rarely seen wife appears here, to get her skull cracked; and Ben's pretty cheesed with the Daredevil he considers a fake. (Matt has to bluff his way through Ben showing him a picture; which seems like a dick move.) The Kingpin's here too, at a low point in rebuilding his criminal empire: when his lackeys keep bringing up how great his old empire was.

Chichester had been the writer since Daredevil #292, per his Wikipedia entry, he wrote #292–309, #312–332, #338–342, and came back for #380 as well. This might not be his best issue, but it's better than the Alan Smithee name suggested.
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Thursday, January 11, 2018

I don't usually scan the covers, but rest assured, that's what sold this one.


Seriously, check out the link for the Carl Potts cover: from 1987, Strange Tales #9, featuring "The Luminous Lady" Written by Terry Austin, breakdowns by Brett Blevins, inks by Bob Wiacek; and "African Genesis!" Written by Peter B. Gillis, pencils by Terry Shoemaker, inks by Randy Emberlin.

Per the GCD, this was the first appearance of Mr. Jip: we saw him back when we checked out the X-Men chapter of Atlantis Attacks, but the GCD seems to think he would go on to be "a major villain." Uh-huh. Cloak had lost his powers, and worried he would lose Dagger; so he took them back from a mysterious figure who said he could pay later...man, kids can be dumb sometimes. Cloak again "became the cursed mad custodian of darkness," but Dagger, who only wanted a normal life, was not thrilled with him and left. Now, the creepy darkness inside of him (which may or may not have been a separate entity, referred to as the predator) needed to feed; and while he was absorbing the city's light, he needed the "living light" of souls. So this month's guest-star, Dazzler, isn't as much help as you'd think!

Cloak has just enough willpower left to keep from feeding on the innocent Dazzler; but is then beaten by Night and Day, who seem to have powers not unlike Cloak and Dagger's, and who turn Cloak over to Mr. Jip. Meanwhile, with most of their supporting cast insane and feeling like she needed to talk to a "clear-thinking, always together, functional adult," Dagger goes looking for Spider-Man. She may be barking up the wrong tree there, but she finds a different guest-star next issue...

Meanwhile, Dr. Strange is in Africa this month--an Africa that looks like the American image of it circa the eighties and probably doesn't really resemble reality, even before we get to the creepy temple that seems to be harvesting the locals. Strange was not at the top of his game here: he was trying to stop an evil he had inadvertently released, but seemingly no longer had access to 'white' magic, only dark. His new trainer, Kaluu, berates Strange for not working with the tools at hand, but also seems suspicious as all get out.

I didn't read this regularly when it came out, but I remember an issue where the two features crossover; and Strange has to, for whatever reason, reverse-psychology Dagger to save Cloak. "Let him die, Dagger! It's for the best!" Hopefully we'll see that issue at some point here.
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Wednesday, January 10, 2018

"Nakia."


Yeah, went all-in on the Black Panther figures as soon as Toys R Us put them out. Well, except for the Iron Man figure. Think I'll be okay there. Really looking forward to that movie, too.
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Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Superman has probably seen most of his ancestors having sex. Take that, Ancestry.com!

SyFy's new show Krypton, a prequel to the life of Superman, is still a couple months away; and while I'd like to be surprised, the stills from it so far I couldn't have identified if they hadn't been labeled as from that show. I also suspect it's not going to be as continuity-smashing insane as Fox's Gotham, nor is it going to have all the crazy crap we've seen in the comics. As in this issue! From 1981, the Krypton Chronicles #1, "The Search for Superman's Roots!" and #3, "The Race to Overtake the Past!" Written by E.Nelson Bridwell, pencils by Curt Swan, inks by Frank Chiarmonte.

Morgan Edge had his own scheme for a TV show about Krypton, but he did have his finger on the pulse of the country's zeitgeist...as of maybe a year or three prior, but still: after the success of mini-series Roots and Shogun; Edge figures a historical dramatization of the "complete, authentic story of Superman's family tree!" would be a smash hit. And that assignment goes to Superman's childhood friend, Clark Kent! Which really seems like setting him up for failure: I don't know how Edge legitimately expects Kent to come through here, but maybe Kent had pulled so many rabbits out of his hat over the years that he only has himself to blame.

Conveniently, Supergirl is at the Fortress of Solitude, since this was the day they could visit the now-in-another-dimension Kandor. The bottle city had seemingly been destroyed when its citizens were enlarged, but enough of it had survived that the Kandorians were doing pretty well at rebuilding it; and of course all their computer records had survived. Including statues of Superman's ancestors, with "mind-tape" memory playback! Those go back eleven generations or so, then Supes is able to see back further with his cousin (and former Nightwing!) Van-Zee's headband memory extractor...thingus.

Even though he had looked back about four millennia, Superman still isn't satisfied, which I think was less than due to curiosity than a brutal Midwestern work ethic. With Supergirl (who knew her parents, so doesn't seem as invested in all this...) Supes goes into space to use a "light-seeker" to look back on Krypton's distant past. They would only be able to see things that happened outside, and would have to read lips since they wouldn't get sound, but they're able to see the lives of an inventor, a religious prophet that wasn't quite Noah, several generations of sovereigns and the occasional tyrant, and the first El who was also basically Samson but looked like Superman.

The prophet one was the weird one for me: Jaf-El proselytized for the god Rao, and was able to predict a freak occurrence that seemingly changed Krypton's red sun to yellow. He also predicted the evil people would die in a flood, but the righteous would be saved by Rao...somehow. Jaf's brother notices the animals have begun preparing for floods, by damming themselves up inside caves or fleeing to higher ground; but the people are caught flat-footed when the floods come. Still, the winged beasts save the people, flying them to one of the higher mountaintops of Krypton: Superman explains, on earth Noah saved the animals, on Krypton the animals saved the people! Jaf also predicted Krypton would still be destroyed someday, but the people would find salvation under a yellow sun, Ariu: the Kryptonian name for our sun! Did he predict Superman's future, and Kandor's? Or were his predictions just vague enough to make sense for whatever? Supergirl also mentions this not only stopped the Kryptonians' slaughter of the winged beasts, but that some still survived in Kandor to this day: I always picture the spires and science of Krypton and forget about the weird wildlife.

It's pretty iffy that Superman, even with his magical light-seeker, would be able to find the exact point to look back at light from eight thousand years or more ago. Actually, I find it more odd that Supes and Supergirl can speak in space here, through "their special radio-like communication, which can travel in the airless void..." Which I'm not sure had been seen before, or since! And Rao, I think I got the later Byrne/Mignola World of Krypton outta the same quarter bin as this! Where the hell did I put that...
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Monday, January 08, 2018

Eternity and Infinity are looking at Adam like they need a better lock on the bedroom door...


Here's a quarter-box pick I've actually wanted forever--maybe not wanted enough to go out of my way and get it, but here we are. From 1993, Warlock Chronicles #3, "Dealing with the Devil!" Written by Jim Starlin, pencils by Tom Raney, inks by Keith Williams.

Hmm, was Mephisto even in Infinity War? Because I was thinking this crossed over from that, but it's from Infinity Crusade. Adam Warlock's "good" feminine side, the Goddess, had collected a number of "cosmic containment units," not unlike the Cosmic Cube. For his help against her, Mephisto names his price: he wants one of the units. Although his power was virtually limitless within his home dimension, Mephisto was itching to increase his juice in this universe. While Warlock refuses, Thanos agrees to Mephisto's terms, since he needs the secrets of the units, and how the Goddess was using them.

Mephisto doesn't get deep into it, but the containment units are "pre-sentient," and as such won't obey certain requests. (To drill down into that, the first Cosmic Cube evolved into Kubik; the Shaper of Worlds had been a Cube as well. I think the Beyonder and the Molecule Man may have been one too...) The Goddess intended to rally enough "universal will" to force the units to her end desire. Thanos calls in an old weapon of his, D-666, then takes some time to think things over; while Adam Warlock goes to confer with Eternity. And he walks in on "Eternity and Infinity--melded as ONE!" I'm sure that isn't unbelievably awkward or anything.

Eternity and Infinity...uncouple, long enough to tell Adam maybe he doesn't have to come to them with every little problem he has. Reality had existed for a long time before the Goddess's scheme, and they were pretty sure it would exist afterwards...in some form or another, whatever. Regrouping with Mephisto and Thanos, he orders Mephisto to leave: Thanos agrees with Adam, but tells Mephisto he will honor their bargain. Adam then explains he had already made their plan, and his Soul Gem would explain it to Thanos--as Adam's soul is seemingly absorbed back into the Gem!

Infinity Crusade is the lesser of the three mini-series (Starlin's other related series, like Marvel Universe: the End and Thanos: the Infinity Relativity are years removed and also not huge crossover events) but still has its moments. I always like seeing Infinity as well; I had thought she was a Mark Gruenwald creation, but he may have just been the first to use her as the counterpart of Eternity.
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Friday, January 05, 2018

Knew this was coming, but still hate it.


Spoiler alert for a 26-year-old comic, but I suppose it's on the cover as well: from 1992, Death's Head II #1, "The Wild Hunt Part One: Mergers and Acquisitions" Written by Dan Abnett, pencils by Liam Sharp, inks by Andy Lanning and Bambos Georgiou.

Tracking down an old foe, Death's Head finds his target in the process of being murdered by another large and angry robot, who tells DH after his "next appointment" he's next. It's Minion, the creation of Dr. Necker; who makes a progress report to her bosses in A.I.M. that while Minion had absorbed the talents of his first 103 targets, it was also becoming somewhat erratic. Target 104 is an alien barbarian named Lehdrox, who was in the middle of torturing a fortune teller for his future. Minion kills Lehdrox and absorbs his instincts, and the fortune teller tells "Death's Head" they will meet again.

Returning to the year 2020, Dr. Necker tries to get Minion to comply with a system check, when Death's Head catches up to him. Minion isn't worried, in fact, he welcomes it: DH was target 105! After a three page fight, Death's Head is decapitated, and Minion absorbs him, but something goes wrong. Distorted and disoriented, Minion time jumps after target 106, but with a flippant "I'll be back, yes?" like Death's Head might say. Dr. Necker is forced to go after him to the year 1992; while elsewhere, a pair of characters I'm not sure we've seen before check who the next target was: Reed Richards!

On the last page, I think that's Tuck in the last panel: she would be more prominent come Death's Head II #3, but with no transition it just seems like Dr. Necker had taken off most of her clothes! We saw another book with the not-so-good doctor last month, Death³ #1, which I think I got from the same quarter bin as this one, maybe. And I didn't get the other issues of that mini-series either, even if I have a fair idea what happened.
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