Monday, April 27, 2015

"Never let scoundrels dictate the terms of honor to you." Good advice.

Due to vacation, illness, and dental appointments; I haven't worked a full five-day work week for some time. Which means this week is going to suck so much. So, why not try to shore up my spirits with one of my favorite comics: X-Men Unlimited #49, written by Bill Willingham, art by Kelsey Shannon.

In New Mexico, a little girl named Sally is trapped in a cave collapse, and the X-Men send Cyclops and Nightcrawler to help with the rescue effort. The rocks are too unstable for Cyclops to blast through, but since the caves were well-mapped, Kurt is able to teleport in. There he discovers the cave-in was no accident, and the girl has been abducted by "another offshoot of one of the subterranean races, no doubt." Kind of like the guys that hang out with the Mole Man, but this batch seems more human. Kurt confronts them, and fights the lot of them, but takes a poison dart in the neck and is knocked out. (It didn't help that he may have been showboating a bit!) The leader, Tharkaris, wants Kurt's head on a pike...meanwhile, on the service, the 24-hour news cycle has turned to speculation that the cave-in may have been caused by the terrorist organization known as the X-Men, and that the little girl could be a mutant...

Kurt wakes up being attended to by a pretty cave girl, the leader's daughter. She explains they have to abduct a surface female every generation, "to keep our bloodlines strong." Or "to keep us from degenerating into small, trollish things" like a lot of the other subterranean types had, another points out. Although the leader wanted Kurt killed while he was unconscious, his men objected that would be dishonorable; so he agrees to kill Kurt in a duel instead. Kurt accepts, with the caveat that Sally be allowed to watch, so she'll know he died fighting for her, and he will get his "rightful warrior's place" in the afterlife. They buy it, and Kurt reassures Sally she'll be OK. The cave girl says that was mean, since there was no way he could win, but Kurt steals a kiss from her. Tharkaris is furious, and probably more so when Kurt merely teleports himself and Sally to safety!

After returning Sally to her mother, Kurt is interviewed by the press, which he watches back at the X-Mansion with Sammy Pare. (The fish-boy kid from Chuck Austen's run, whom I think was killed off so no one had to think about that run again...) Kurt makes a mockery of the reporter, and explains to Sammy that the world won't accept them, until it becomes used to mutants, and that won't happen if they stay in hiding. And he didn't fight Tharkaris because he wasn't there for that, his mission was to rescue the little girl. He could always go give Tharkaris the what-for later..."no hurry though. Let him stew a bit."

The cover for this issue was used for the poster book that came with the Marvel Legends Nightcrawler: I really wish they had just included the whole issue, because Willingham gets Kurt's character better than any X-writer had in years. Good news, though: Willingham will revisit Nightcrawler in the upcoming Guardians Team-Up #6, featuring Kurt vs. Gamora in an intergalactic sword-fighting competition!

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Saturday, April 25, 2015

Sick as hell? Why not fly home?

It's not ebola in this story, but eh, close enough: "Deadly Peril at 20,000" from House of Mystery #284, story by
Carl Wessler, art by Jess Jodloman. Mr. and Mrs Logan are returning to the United States after a second honeymoon in Africa; and it's pretty obvious from the start Mr. Logan is fading fast. A doctor examining him realizes Mr. Logan has deadly "pneumonic plague," but the plane is already near the halfway point and can't divert back.

Mr. Logan dies, but when the doctor says his body will have to be disposed off to protect the other passengers, Mrs. Logan loses it and starts threatening people with a pair of scissors. (This comic's from 1980, I'm not sure anything had to be checked then.) The doctor and stewardess try to give Mrs. Logan a chance, but they have to blow a window and suck the Logans out of the plane. Harsh but fair. (I figure everyone on that plane would've been exposed by then, but the story writes it off as a happy ending.)

(EDIT: "Stay your hand!" was the "Slow your roll!" of its day...)

Also this issue: early Keith Giffen art, in "The King and the Dragon!" (Story by Bud Simons, inks by John Celardo.) A mad king sends knight after knight to their deaths, in the hopes of stealing the dragon Goldclaw's treasure horde; but Goldclaw may have a plan to stop the senseless slaughter so he can get some sleep...

This was closer to the end than the beginning of House of Mystery's thirty-plus year run, but they still had some issues to go.

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Friday, April 24, 2015

Sounds better than my résumé, anyway.

In this exciting issue of Daredevil, the Black Widow laments her lack of employable skills, that have led to her living in a Rolls-Royce with a large Russian man.

The Owl runs into the people he moved across the country to avoid.

Daredevil spends most of the issue with what appears to be a suitcase on his back, lugging around about a mile of coiled rope, and protects his secret identity with an even more worrying lie.

I'm shocked anyone let Matt Murdock go anywhere unattended, since he would usually return looking like he just walked into traffic. "We know you're blind, Matt, but...geez." From 1974, Daredevil #116, "Two Flew Over the Owl's Nest!" (Groan...) Written by Steve Gerber, art by Gene Colan. (Colan was back to fill in this issue, per the letters page, he was busy with Tomb of Dracula, Doctor Strange, and an issue of Son of Satan that may not have seen print until 1974's Marvel Spotlight #18!)

I'm only four episodes into Daredevil, since I'm trying to save it for when I'm on my silly exercise bike. It's so good, guys.
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Thursday, April 23, 2015

For people who think Mothra's scary. Or the moth from Silence of the Lambs...

There's an early episode of Spongebob Squarepants named "Wormy," in which a friendly worm turns into a harmless butterfly. By "harmless" I of course mean eye-meltingly terrifying.

I'm not sure at what size butterflies would become horrifying to me. Any spider bigger than a dinner plate? Scary. A butterfly might have to be the size of a compact car before it reached the same level of disturbing. A butterfly the size of a man, possibly startling; a guy in a butterfly suit? Not so much. A guy in a butterfly suit with a gun? That's more confusing than anything.

I swear to god, I would love to read a comic where the night watchman actually took care of this himself: "Yeah, I was on my rounds, when this freak dressed up as a butterfly jumps out at me. So I pistol-whipped him a few, then called the cops. Yeah, I think 'jump out dressed as a butterfly' was his whole plan."

So, he can't fly in that suit, but he's swinging by a rope and shooting at Captain America in it? Well, it had the virtue of not having been tried before, at least. Although, I guess a lot of stuff may not have been tried yet, since this story first appeared in Captain America Comics #3 in 1941! "The Queer Case of the Murdering Butterfly and the Ancient Mummies," story by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, art by Jack Kirby, inks by Reed Crandall. It was reprinted with some edits as "The Weird Case of the Plundering Butterfly and the Ancient Mummies!" in 1966's Fantasy Masterpieces #3.

Bonus: Cap talks some smack and hits a huge brute with a dinosaur tusk. Hey, pull a knife on Cap and see what happens...

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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

"Planet Debrief."

I love Star Trek so much, but it and a lot of sci-fi only pay a bit of lip service to the idea of germs, bacteria, viruses, whatever; cross-contaminating alien worlds. If you somehow visited an alien world without any animal life, you would probably contaminate it just by exhaling. Of course, that's assuming there was any oxygen, and you didn't have some sort of god-awful allergic reaction to any plant life there or anything.

They Might Be Giants did a song about a stowaway germ, that may have helped me come up with this one.

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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Well, I guess they have to save something for the fourth season.

Arrow has continued to be a very entertaining show, even though I still think it's weird for a character who was at various times in his history, a knockoff or fanboy of Batman, to have so much success swiping from Batman. Of course, I think a huge amount of the show's success hinges on the casting of Stephen Amell, who seems so legitimately enthusiastic to have the role. Anyway, it's hard to fault them for appropriating Batman villains when Green Arrow's comic book rogues' gallery includes highlights like the Rainbow Archer and Auntie Gravity.

Swear to god, Auntie Gravity.

From 1980, World's Finest #261, "The Relativity of Auntie Gravity!" Written by Gerry Conway, pencils by Alex Saviuk, inks by Frank Chiaramonte. Pollution dumped in a local river inexplicably gives an old woman powers, and with her three hillbilly nephews, she soon begins a crime spree and takes the name...ugh...Auntie Gravity. As she moves up to the big time in Star City, Green Arrow and Black Canary are visiting a friend on the police force--a friend I'm not sure was seen before or since, since I don't think Ollie usually had the best relationship with the cops. Taking the call, Green Arrow gets knocked out when Auntie drops a potted plant on his head; then she decides to try to extort the city for their entire operating budget--per a newspaper headline, 55 million--by levitating city hall!

The cops try to grab Auntie at the ransom drop, but are no match for her powers. Neither are Arrow or Canary, although they beat up her nephews again; but as Auntie escapes by helicopter, her powers fail to stop Arrow from using a grappling hook arrow to come after them. Reasoning her powers don't work if she's not touching the ground, Auntie and her nephews land to face Green Arrow, and she sweeps him into a cyclone, so strong it forced the air out of his be continued!? Auntie Gravity gets a two-parter? Seriously?

Also this issue: "Showdown in Gotham City!" Written by Denny O'Neil, art by Rich Buckler and Dick Giordano. The Penguin claims to have discovered Butch Cassidy, who instead of dying in Bolivia or Spokane (?!) was kept in suspended animation in a cave. Batman calls Penguin out on that, on live TV, pointing out that's how Buck Rogers got to the 25th century in the old newspaper strip. Still, the story gets the attention of Terra-Man...y'know, I was going to give Terra-Man some grief, but after looking at the post-Crisis version, he seems a lot more charming. Still, making Superman villains is hard, guys. Anyway, there's mind-control umbrellas, a Superman vs. Batman shootout, and some fun Batman smack talk.

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Monday, April 20, 2015

An excuse to bring out that "War on Thera" joke again.

One of my favorite pieces of blog-type writing ever is from over at Jake Hates Everything, "U.S. Foreign Policy as Explained by Resident Evil 4." Generally speaking, if you have a rocket launcher with unlimited ammunition, yeah, you're going to try to use that to solve all your problems. So, today's book takes a look at two video game cliches--that this comic predates! Playing a level again with a better weapon, and your princess is in another castle. From 1981, Warlord #42, "War" Story and art by Mike Grell.

In the hidden world of Skartaris, the golden city of Shamballah is under siege. Travis Morgan explains to his companion Shakira that the Shamballans' enemy, the Therans, saw the Shamballans as "an inferior race, to be subjugated and enslaved." The Shamballans fought back for their freedom; and Travis either really believes in the unalienable rights of all men, or really gets off on the thrill of battle. He plans on fighting his way, through the Therans surrounding the city, to get back to Tara. Shakira is positive this is suicide--even if he got through, they'd still be surrounded--and refuses to watch him die.

On horseback, Travis tears through the Therans--he had the magic Hellfire Sword, a .44 Automag, and a big black horse--but is set back when his horse hits a gopher hole. Battered, he's barely able to escape; worse, the Hellfire Sword was developing a form of bloodlust. Travis passes out after pulling an hour out of his shoulder, and in a subplot, Travis's daughter Jennifer is shipwrecked after leaving and ends up back in Skartaris...which, ominously, is described as "her nightmare just beginning" as she's rescued by a man reporting to an unseen master. Shortly thereafter, Shakira returns to the passed-out Travis, with a gift: a laser rifle from an Atlantean armory they visited a previous issue. Now upgraded, Travis is able to fight his way to the city...only to find Tara wasn't there, she had been captured by the Therans!

Shoot, I need to see if I have the next few issues: I know I've blogged #48 (where the big bad "Master" is revealed) and #46 already, but those might be the only other ones I had before #50.
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