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Old 08-20-2014, 12:09 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Watch as The Batlord Descends Into Comic Book Nerd Oblivion

As anyone who reads the Comic Book/Graphic Novel thread might know, I've recently been reading a lot of comic books. A lot of them. It's getting pretty bad honestly, and whatever chance I could have at a real life is quickly slipping away. Not that I care of course, cause... ****ing comic books, dude. Hell yeah. And seeing as how I'm reading so many of them, am too lazy to join another forum, and really want to talk about what I've been reading, I'm setting up yet another journal so I don't keep spamming the other thread. This will usually take the form of longish reviews. I'll try to keep spoilers to newer titles in spoiler tags, but if it's an older comic that one might expect a nerd to be more familiar with, then I won't be as cautious. If you don't know that the Green Goblin killed Gwen Stacy *spoiler alert* then you're in the wrong thread. But I may also do something on an artist or writer that I'm digging, or bitch/praise some new development in the comic book world (expect my thoughts on the new female Thor when that finally happens in October). The sky's the limit. Unless you're Superman.

Oh yeah, I checked out the first issue of the New 52 relaunch of Superman the other day. Not particularly impressed. I don't want to read captions of a newspaper article narrating a battle while I'm watching it. I thought we'd left behind the overuse of narrated exposition in comic books years ago. If I wasn't trying to get to Superman/Wonder Woman for some cheesy love stuff then I'd probably set that aside for a good while. I hear Action Comics, another Superman title just like how Detective Comics is a Batman title, is cool though, so we'll see.

Anyways, join me as I create the nerdiest, most girl-repellent thread on this forum since Urban's Doctor Who thread...


Giant-Size X-Men #1

May 1975




Story, edits — Len Wein
Pencils, cover inks — Dave Cockrum
Cover pencils — Gil Kane
Inks — Dave Cockrum & Peter Iro
Letters — John Costanza
Colors — Glynis Wein


Just read this about a half hour ago and it seems like an excellent place to start. For anyone not familiar with this particular issue, it's probably one of the most important in X-Men history, not to mention the comic book industry in general, as it started the run that pushed X-Men and Marvel comics to the top of the heap. It was also important because before this, the series had been out of print for five years due to bad sales. So it wasn't just a change in creative direction or an attempt to end a sales slump, it was a Hail Mary to resurrect a title that would have otherwise been forgotten in the sands of time. And since it was the first X-Men movie that kicked-started the comic book movie craze that goes strong to this day... Heavy ****. But does it stand the test of time? Kinda, sorta, not really.

I'm just going to get this out of the way first so we can move on. Now, I understand that the writing of comic books has become much more sophisticated since the mid-seventies, but certain basic elements of comic book writing from back in the day are still kind of goofy these days. Like I mentioned earlier, the overuse of narration throughout an issue, especially in battle scenes, can take you out of the story. It certainly builds a pulpy, "comic book atmosphere", but if one weren't already culturally conditioned to accept these tropes they would be very jarring. Still, when the writer or a character explains something with far too much cheesy dialogue it does have a certain charm that taps your childhood on the shoulder.

But there's no excuse for a character to use alliteration out loud. At one point Cyclops actually says, "Quickly, Bobby-- throw an air-tight ice-dome over this raft! It's our only chance to survive this miserable maelstrom!" I lol'ed, but I definitely wasn't lol'ing with the comic book.

Alright, finally onto the meat of this review. This issue must have been pretty bold for its time. To bring the series back from the dead they obviously went all out in trying to draw people in. The X-Men had previously been a collection of pretty, white people who, though they may not have been fascists, would otherwise have been Hitler-approved. New team members include an African woman, a Russian, a German, a Native American, and a Japanese guy. I don't imagine there were many of those kinds of people in comic books at the time, at least not in anything other than villain or bit parts. Why a series about people battling discrimination had previously avoided this kind of diversity I don't know. White people are tricksy like that. It's kind of funny though. They were obviously trying their best to be inclusive, and it's commendable, but they make more than a few faux pas.

One of the new members, John Proudstar, aka Thunderbird, is Native American. Apache specifically. The mere fact that he's not shooting arrows at cowboys while beating his hand against his mouth and whooping in All-American Western is already a pretty revolutionary thing. He's also not too fond of white Americans for obvious reasons, and isn't afraid of saying it out loud, which is even more bold. They could have taken the easy way out and made him proudly stoic, with a dash of mysterious, letting any anti-Manifest Destiny sentiment be subtextual at best. Good for them. But does he really need to wrestle buffalo and wear a feathered head band with his costume? That also has cowboy tassels? I suppose that's a minor complaint though, considering this is the seventies we're talking about. There are other gaffs, such as Sunfire, the Japanese guy, living in a rice paper house and wearing a kimono, or Storm being a topless,rain-making goddess for superstitious, animal-sacrificing, loin cloth-wearing African tribesman, but all in all, this is probably about as decisive a blow for diversity as one could hope for.

But who really cares about a bit of unintentional offensiveness when this book has the first appearances of Colossus, Storm, Nightcrawler, and Wolverine? Okay, technically Wolverine had previously made a cameo in The Incredible Hulk, but this was his first real introduction. How ****ing cool is that? There aren't many issues that make this much comic book history in their first fifteen pages.

Unfortunately this is also a part of one of this book's two big problems. This is a single issue that tries to introduce seven new main characters, setup their issues and interpersonal dynamics, and then tell an actual story, all while trying to make like Jesus and raise this series from the dead. Granted, it's a double-size issue, but in a perfect world this kind of storytelling would preferably take place over an entire, multi-issue story arc. They attempt to keep this thing organized by dividing it into four "chapters", but it only partially works, although given the circumstances I don't suppose there was much they could do about that. So the mere fact that this is actually readable is a triumph.

The first "chapter" shows Professor X meeting each of the newcomers, Nightcrawler, Storm, Colossus, Wolverine, Banshee, Thunderbird, and Sunfire, and convincing them to join the X-Men for an unspecified mission. Due to the short amount of time they can afford to spend on each character this usually comes across as...

"Hey, I need you to join the X-Men."

"I don't know, man."

"Pretty please?"

"Okay, why not."

Understandable that they would have to rush this section of the book, but when Storm, who was introduced as she was ending a drought for her worshipers, seems to decide on a whim to follow some bald guy and leave her followers to fend for themselves without a backward glance, it's kind of odd.

The other big issue is that with all of this (thin) character stuff going on, the actual story itself is pretty much entirely pulp. When the new team gets to the mansion they find the only remaining member of the original X-Men, Cyclops, who informs them that the others, Jean Grey, Iceman, Havoc, Angel, and Lorna Dane (Polaris), have all been kidnapped. They had traveled to a supposedly deserted tropical island to search for a mutant whose power level had lit Cerebro up like a Christmas tree on the Fourth of July (a cookie to the person who gets that reference), where they were attacked by an unknown assailant. Cyclops awoke on the "strato-jet" alone, with the plane on auto-pilot back the mansion. Unable to turn it around he returned and now here we are.

Long story short, the island was the mutant. Atom bomb tests, yadda yadda yadda, big monster with sharp teeth, feeds off mutant energy, cue screaming Japanese civilians. Not that there are any Japanese people on the island, you know, except for Sunfire, but you get my point. As I've said over and over, this was a book that was supposed to revitalize this series, and yet it consists of the X-Men going to a tropical island, fighting giant birds and crabs, exploring a mysterious temple, and then battling a cliched monster. I don't know whether that's Conan or Godzilla-type ****. Either way, as this was obviously supposed to get people interested in the X-Men again, why was the main story not about the X-Men dealing with anti-mutant prejudice? Or, you know, absolutely anything that might actually be relevant to the series as a whole? Nightcrawler almost got burned at the stake in the first few pages of the book, but other than that there was almost no mention of any kind of greater mutant struggle. Just pulp. Fun pulp, but not exactly what should have been called for. I have to give them a pass though. This thing was over-stuffed as it is, and a more fleshed out story would have been impossible. Whaddaya gonna do?

The story is sort of saved at the end with some inventive use of teamwork and mutant powers. Storm uses lightning to charge up Polaris (who shares her father Magneto's control over magnetism), who then uses her powers to separate the island from the Earth's magnetic field (or something), sending it flying off into space (shut up, it makes sense). It also gives us one of the greatest panels in comic book history.




There's no way Dave Cockrum wasn't sitting over this after drawing it and chuckling like a cretin. I know I was.

So yeah, all things considered, storywise, this is mediocre, but as a historical document, it's priceless. And considering that the next issue would bring on Chris Claremont, who would go on to write the Pheonix Saga about twenty issues later, things were certainly looking up in the world of the X-Men. Yeah, and I'm totally gonna do the Phoenix Saga when I get to it.

Excelsior sayeth The Batlord!
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Old 08-20-2014, 07:32 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Suicide Squad

November 2011 - Present (New Suicide Squad #2)




There have been a few Suicide Squad series, most notably in the eighties, but I haven't gotten around to those yet. This is about the newest series. The basic concept is that the US government is using a team of incarcerated supervillains to perform missions so dangerous that they don't want to risk the lives of non-douchebags. For this iteration this team consists of a rotating (and routinely dying) series of B, C, and D level villains, with the only mainstays being Deadshot, Harley Quinn, and King Shark (who looks exactly like the hammerhead dude from Street Sharks). Also popping up here and there, Captain Boomerang (smh), James Gordon Jr. (Commissioner Gordon's serial killer son), Unknown Soldier, and a few other nobodies. On the plus side though, the team has just added Deathstroke and Black Manta. All led by a ruthless government agent by the name of Amanda Waller, who controls her not-even-anti-heroes with "nano bombs" implanted in their necks.

I hear a lot of criticism about this series, and I can understand why. The characters aren't really developed all that much. Deadshot, who's sort of the main character of the series, doesn't ever really come across as much more than an amoral, grumpy guy who tends to shoot his comrades in the back at seemingly random times. Amanda Waller, I suppose the other main character, gets as much personality as anybody, but she's still just a notable version of the cold, calculating secret agent trope. Even Harley Quinn is generally just a two-dimensional, homicidal maniac whose main purpose is to be unsettlingly chipper as she crushes some poor guy's brains into pulp with her giant sledgehammer.

And the stories aren't much more than excuses for long scenes of graphic violence. Occasionally they inexplicably unfold into some kind of story arc that's just an excuse for long scenes of graphic violence. This violence usually comes in three forms: Deadshot shooting things, Harley Quinn hitting someone with a hammer, or King Shark eating people. NGL, it's pretty awesome when King Shark eats somebody. There's plenty of other people shooting things, burning things, electrifying things, boomeranging things, and... stretching people to death, but those three are the main focus.

The series also have a tendency to drop things, like characters and even a subplot or two, without so much as an explanation. If you're somebody who is infuriated by such things then Suicide Squad will likely have you pulling your hair out at times. Even characterizations sometimes change with little to no warning. But on the plus side, you probably won't care enough about the characters, subplots, or characterizations to really be too bothered.

That being said, I tore through the first thirty issues, two (boring) Amanda Waller one shots, and two issues of New Suicide Squad (no idea why they've decided to re-relaunch it). It's a "rollicking" good time, with more than enough blood, guts, and juvenile exploitation to satisfy even the most jaded of action movie fans. What can I say? I'm a whore for dumb action movies. Die Hard? **** yeah. Crank 2? Masterpiece. Expendables? Terrible, but the second one was pretty cool. So, this series is perfect for someone like me who's long on "Bitchin'!" but short on taste. I mean, how can you not love this...

God damn it! I really tried to find the panel from issue #17 where King Shark yells "DIM SUM!!!" before devouring a Chinese girl with an over-size flail, who was not at all a ripoff of the Japanese girl with the over-size flail from Kill Bill, but I have failed. Instead, have these NSFW pics of King Shark devouring other people...

Spoiler for A bad way to go.:
Yeah, that's a robot zombie. So what?






And I couldn't leave without a more in-depth look at Harley Quinn. I'm sure without her this series wouldn't exist. DC obviously didn't feel inspired to resurrect it with some grand vision and they certainly didn't give it some great writing team who could knock an offbeat title like this out of the park. They just seem to have wanted to give her a vehicle. They kinda succeeded, but her depiction is seriously lacking. I understand that they wanted to make her grittier, to fit with the new tone of DC, and that keeping her original character intact at the same time would have been a very tough job for anyone, but the guy they gave her to, Adam Glass, just flubbed it. Gone is the adorable maniac that actually made me dislike the Joker at times for how he treated her. Now she's just crazy. But at the same time she's still enjoyable. She gives the series a zany, unpredictable sense of dark fun that it wouldn't have otherwise. What can I say? I'm a whore for Harley Quinn. (call me, baby)

The one good thing they did though, was give her back her brain. That really bothered me about the Arkham games. Harley had been ditsy in Batman: The Animated Series sure, but whenever she had her own episode, she always managed to get out of a jam with an unconventional resourcefulness. In the games though, she was just a ditz, and it took away a lot of her likability. Now, or at least partway through the series (inconsistent characterization, remember), you get to see her become more competent again. She still isn't the same lovable goofball she once was, but she gets to be a bit devious. Unstable, but devious.

So, Suicide Squad, dumb fun for only certain members of the family. I certainly can't recommend it for everyone, but for the violence lovers who don't need to take their comic books too seriously then I say give it a shot.

Excelsior, mother****ers!
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Last edited by Doug McClasky; 08-20-2014 at 02:15 PM.
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Old 08-20-2014, 02:05 PM   #3 (permalink)
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This journal looks great and I've got absolutely loads of these Marvel and DC stories to read, problem is I never get the time to as there are just so many of them. Even if you lived two lifetimes you'd probably never get through the whole Marvel and DC comic's list.

I know that Giant-Size X-Men so well and yer it did kick start the whole X-Men saga as the original was a flop (even though I loved most of those 60s issues) X-Men got to its best as Uncanny when Claremont teamed up with Byrne, used to love that whole Hellfire Club story from that time. In the late 70s to early 80 X-Men may have been the best comic around with Master of Kung-Fu and Thor was pretty great as well. But Amazing Spider-Man probably was consistently the best, based on what I've read. Probably only Batman ever rivalled Spider-Man when it came to brilliant super-villains.

Interested to see what you think about the Incredible Hulk as one of my best friends who must be one of the biggest comic nuts on the planet (he'd sell his soul for any hard to get stories) always swears that the Peter David run in Hulk is one of the best ever in Marveldom. I've hardly read any of those and the few I did never really impressed me.

By seeing this, you've woken my desire to delve back into these comics.
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Pounding Decibels- A Hard and Heavy History

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Old 08-20-2014, 03:02 PM   #4 (permalink)
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I'm currently plowing through from Giant-Size all the way through to the eighties with X-Men. I'm around #100 atm, and will keep on till the end of the Phoenix Saga at least. I'll probably be talking about story arcs on this journal as I go along too. I'm rather impressed that they're bringing in the Shi'ar this early in the run. They were obviously laying the groundwork for some seriously long-term storytelling

Haven't checked any Hulk stuff out yet, although the current She-Hulk series has piqued my interest. Just never been that interested honestly. And if you dig Thor then you totally need to check out the current Thor: God of Thunder series. It's easily one of the best things I've come across yet. The first eleven issues are first-rate epic fantasy.
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The Batlord is amazing man. He loves some fine woman and he gets horny easily. What is better than that.
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Old 08-20-2014, 04:47 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Harley Quinn

November 2013 - Present (issue #9)




To paraphrase those wise philosophers, Manowar, if you're not into Harley Quinn, you are not my friend. Seriously, you have to hate fun if you don't have any love for her, and her new series is everything I was hoping for her character but didn't receive from Suicide Squad. Where in SS there was a disconnect between the character she was and the character DC wanted her to be, they've now managed to bridge the gap between homicidal and adorable by meeting in the middle at bizarre, black humor. Not that either trait suffers for it, she just manages to do both at the same time.

Now, the one bad thing about this series is that I doubt her characterization could transfer to the rest of the New 52 DC universe. Where DC Comics has created a more gritty world, full of anti-heroes and conflicted actual heroes, Harley Quinn ignores all of that, even paying little to no attention to current continuity in order to place Harley in her own little zany bubble. I'd be sad if this series just wasn't all that is good in life.

To give you an idea of the tone, at one point in issue... something or other, Poison Ivy is visiting her friend, and they are attacked by bounty hunters/ninjas (this happens often, though not so much with actual ninjas). Harley hurls one of them out of a window to land on her back on a barbed-wire fence, and Harley and Ivy then make a $20 bet on which side of the fence the ninja will fall. Fortunately they both end up winning when the poor unfortunate tears in half with a "RRRRIIIIPPPP!!!!". It's kept from being too gruesome by concentrating on Harley and Ivy's faces, which go from expectant fascination, to covering their eyes in moderate disgust, and finally to jubilation that both of them get to win. I also seem to remember that at least two people get eaten by a group of cute little dogs that Harley saves from an animal shelter. I think this book might actually be even more gruesome than Suicide Squad in all honesty, even to the point of exploitative depravity, lack of Street Shark-related human-feasting aside. It just balances it out with a morbidly off-the-wall sense of humor. Sugar with vinegar, you know. The real accomplishment though, is that Harley is never anything less than charming no matter who, how, or why she is murdering somebody.

The storyline, though it's so purposefully random that "storyline" is a bit misleading as it implies reason, is relatively simple: one of her former Arkham patients has just died and left her with a large property in Statton Island, New York. It consists of a ground floor with a freak show and a wax museum dedicated to famous murderers, including her "puddin'", a second floor that houses the various carny folk who sort of adopt Harley, a third floor that eventually houses her horde of friendly-though-occasionally-man-eating pets, along with a veritable forest courtesy of Ivy, and a top floor all to Harley. Unfortunately she has no money to pay the taxes and bills, so the majority of the series is dedicated to her search for honest employment, which she eventually finds as a psychologist for an old folk's home and joining a roller derby team (who overlook her tendency for extreme violence that violates even league rules).

A large part of the charm of this series is in the familial atmosphere of the tenants of the building. There's her new best friend (aside from Ivy and her imaginary friend/stuffed beaver), a fishnet-shirt-wearing midget by the name of Big Tony, his large girlfriend, a goat-person, and a menagerie of other misfits. One might expect even carny folk might be nervous around such a lunatic, but no, they provide a support system that she's never had, while Tony provides the odd bullet to the head of any assassin foolish enough to mess with Harley. I suppose one could call this situation slightly disturbing, but it's far too heart-warming for such cynicism. Eventually, she even befriends an elderly man with a cybernetic arm and leg that look more steampunk than robot. Sy Borgman, or "Syborg", is an ex-secret agent who enlists Harley's help in hunting down a retired group of former Soviet spies now secretly living in New York. It's not made clear at first whether these are actual spies or Mr. Borgman is just senile, but Harley doesn't seem to mind either way.

One final thing I'd like to mention is that this book sort of answers the question as to whether or not Harley and Poison Ivy have a sexual relationship. It's implied to the point of being blatant. One of my favorite parts of this series is Harley introducing her friend to her beaver...

"You wanna meet my beaver?"

"Um... okay... why not?"

"Bernie, meet Poison Ivy. Ivy, Bernie."

"Oh. It's an actual... beaver."

God I love this series.

Ex-****ing-celsior!


Oh, and just cause, here's the full-spread cover of Harley Quinn Invades Comic-Con.

Spoiler for kjn:
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The Batlord is amazing man. He loves some fine woman and he gets horny easily. What is better than that.
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Old 08-21-2014, 12:07 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Uncanny X-Men #94 - #100

August 1975 - August 1976




Fair warning, this is gonna be long as ****, but in order to do these issues justice for their historical significance I don't want to do just the bare minimum.

First thing to notice about this run, which picks up exactly where Giant-Size X-Men left off, is that the writer, Chris Claremont, is already laying the groundwork for big things in the future of the X-Men that will unfold over the course of years, and whose aftershocks are still being felt to this day. "Ambitious" is as appropriate a word as any. I haven't dived into the Phoenix Saga, which begins with #101, so I can't yet gauge its quality, but the fact that it's one of, if not the most famous storylines in comic book history probably speaks for itself. Claremont obviously wants to take his time with this. Elements of what is to come are dropped without much explanation a few issues in, leaving us to wonder just what the frak is about to happen, and this foreshadowing is generally dramatic enough that you want to keep reading. Having the benefit of hindsight, and having watched the 90s cartoon series, which by all accounts is supposed to be relatively faithful to the comics, these events are not quite as mysterious as they could be, but they're still cool nonetheless.

Way back in issue #94 a subplot of a government-funded scientist out to destroy all of mutantkind is introduced, though not explored fully until later. Not exactly the most original of plots, but it reestablishes the idea of mutant persecution into the series, and also sets the scene for some very heavy **** that will happen later...

The most obvious sign of what is to come though is the first appearance of Lilandra and the Shi'ar in issue #97. It's in the form of a confusing dream sequence in Professor Xavier's mind of a space battle and someone in a helmet that looks like a bug that provides little answers, and with artwork that is simply spectacular. Even though I already know what is going on I was still fascinated. This was no throwaway pulp silliness. Even if I were reading this for the first time in 1976 I probably would have realized I was about to delve into something special.

Cyclops is likewise being set up for the okie doke. First, his friends are kidnapped in Giant-Size X-Men, which I'm sure does nothing for his confidence as a leader, then in the very next issue the entire rest of the original team, people who he had fought and laughed with since he was in his teens, quits the X-Men, leaving him alone with an entirely new team of strangers. It also further eats at him that while his teammates can easily live among humans (I guess Angel can retract his wings into his body), his eyes mean that he must remain isolated from humanity. Things quickly escalate even further when Thunderbird is killed on a mission, partly because of an order he gives. And did I mention that his brother is currently under the mind control of some goofball who calls himself Eric the Red? But with issue #100, Jean seemingly chooses to sacrifice herself to save the rest of the team, which must be the blow of all yet. Oh ****, and with all this space stuff going on his dad is probably gonna show up at some point in the near future too. Then of course there's the whole Phoenix thing. Ten bucks says he is cutting himself off-panel during this period. Much of this is covered in the 90s cartoon, but not in the way that ****ty bull**** is piled on top of ****ty bull**** right on his head. His characterization is definitely more ambitious in the long-term in this run. If I'm not careful I might actually start to see Cyclops as more than just a boring boy scout.

While this might not seem as important as other things that are about to hit, consider this... in the current run of Uncanny X-Men, Scott Summers has become disillusioned with Professor Xavier's dream of peace between mutants and humans, and so has split with the X-Men to become a terrorist agitating for mutant rights. He's also working with Magneto, so that should give you an idea of where he's at right now. I've not read the original original X-Men comics, so I can't say for sure, but I imagine this is where his idealism first starts to erode (though the original team will be addressed later in this journal when I cover the new All-New X-Men series ). How his character evolves between 1976 and 2014 I'm not really sure, but for this character arc to still be having repercussions almost forty years later, then this is probably stuff you should be paying attention to.

However there are problems with this arc. I guess with all of Claremont's big plans the actual issue-to-issue plots that aren't necessarily connected to what is coming are kind of phoned in. The mission where Thunderbird is killed is about stopping some guy who is actually called "Count Nefaria", who has the audacity to wear a ****ing monocle. I won't even dignify his douchey goatee and Dracula cape with a proper insult. He also has henchmen that are a frog guy, a gorilla guy, a cat guy, and a dragonfly chick. If I'm forgetting any of them it's because I don't give enough of a **** to go and look them up. They're called the "Animen". I believe that derides itself. And aside from its affect on Cyclops, Thunderbird's death is pretty shrug-worthy. He'd been in exactly three issues, and for the most part his sole character trait was regularly telling Scott to go **** himself. I'm paraphrasing of course. So, who really cares that they killed the guy who wore feathers in his hair? We have Wolverine to give Cyclops a hard time anyway. Then in the next issue they fight some Cthulhu-lite demon who isn't exactly the most inspiring villain.

Even the mad scientist out to destroy all mutants is kind of half-assed, and really just there for the purpose of having a space base. And the base's sole purpose is to give Jean a reason to fly a space shuttle back to Earth through a solar flare, where she of course picks up the Phoenix. A plot line involving resurgent sentinels that are just sort of there, evil X-Men-doppleganger robots, and a villain who is forgotten as quickly as it takes for him to fly his goofy hover craft into a giant TV aren't exactly the stuff of legend.

Characterization is kind of thin as well. With six new characters this is understandable, but it doesn't make Colossus or Banshee anymore interesting at this point. They're really just there to say Russian and Irish things like "comrade" and "me boyo". While it is humorous to hear Nightcrawler referred to as a "davarish", I can't say I am enthralled by it. I'm sure Colossus will be developed much more soon though, as I'm assuming one of the most beloved X-Men in history can't be summed up as merely a shiny, Russian stereotype.

I would be totally happy if Banshee had been replaced by Sunfire though (the Japanese guy from Giant-Size X-Men). Sunfire is just an *******, and I respect that. He seems to have gone along with the team merely as a favor to Xavier, and proceeded to spend the entirety of the issue mocking his teammates and being an arrogant douche who made sure that everyone knew just how little he cared about them or the plight of mutantkind in general. To drive this point home, he leaves the team in the first few pages of the next issue, #94, and all but gives them all the finger on his way out the door. His only loyalty is to his Emperor after all. (I'm just going to pretend that that, his implied xenophobia and isolationism, and one of the X-Men casually referring to him as a Jap aren't racist.) I suppose Wolverine already has "Resident Team Asshat" covered, but everyone knows that while he may be hard on the outside he has a creamy filling. Sunfire is just a cunt. I like that.

Nightcrawler receives a bit more of a personality, likely due to his being so ****ing cool looking. How could you not concentrate on him? One might expect someone who has to have had such a hard time as him to be tormented and withdrawn, but in fact he is rather colorful and flamboyant, playing the circus performer working a crowd in battle, and pointing out a nice pair of legs to a Colossus who is a bit uncomfortable with these Western women and their immodesty.

Storm definitely has the most panel time of any X-Man besides Cyclops and Professor X though. Not surprising, as between a strong personality gained from her years assuming the role of a benevolent goddess, the most visually impressive powers of the entire comic, and being a beautiful black woman with white hair she is obviously a star in the making. Much old school comic book dialogue can be seriously cheesy at times, but with Storm's flair for the dramatic she manages to make it sound appropriate. Likewise, action scenes tended to lack the dynamic quality of modern comics, with panels tending to look more jumbled and two-dimensional the more things are going on at any one time, and X-Men being a team-based series, this can be an issue. But no matter these problems it's still bad-to-the-ass when Storm forms a hurricane over the buildings of New York city to destroy a sentinel. And I'm sure many a comic book nerd around this time was diagnosed with a previously dormant case of Jungle Fever.

In contrast, for such an iconic character, Wolverine starts out as pretty much just a grumpy guy with a few funny lines. But Claremont is obviously taking his time with Logan as well. Around the end of this arc he gets a few tasty moments of character building that show his potential. The most obvious would be during the battle with the doppleganger X-Men (aka the X-Sentinels) aboard the space base in issue #100. All of the other new X-Men are under the illusion that their predecessors are being mind-controlled. Havoc and Polaris have previously been shown to be under the control of Eric the Red after all, so this is a reasonable assumption. Using his sense of smell however, Wolverine realizes that these are in fact machines, and in a berserker rage seemingly eviscerates Jean Grey, to the horror of his teammates. Having seen his violent, unpredictable nature in previous issues they assume that he has just murdered her. Obviously this isn't the case, but the other X-Men's reactions are telling.

It's also interesting to see the seeds of Wolverine's relationships with Cyclops and Jean. For the most part he doesn't say much to Scott, but when he does it's usually rather unfriendly, such as "critiquing" Cyclops for refusing to cut down his mind-controlled brother in issue #97. For the most part nothing so blatantly insulting as Thunderbird, but I'm sure their dynamic will soon deteriorate even further. Having quit the X-Men, Jean doesn't feature much in earlier issues, but is still apparently in a relationship with Scott, so she has a cameo or two. She is a major player in the mad scientist/sentinel/space base arc though, for obvious reasons. Most of the team seems to let Wolverine get away with his standoffish attitude, but Jean is the one person who's willing to get in his face and tell him to **** off. I'm paraphrasing of course. At any rate, she certainly doesn't think much of him at this point. This culminates in a brief, but intense argument just before Jean pilots the space shuttle through the solar flare. He doesn't say much, but the look he gives her over his shoulder immediately afterward seems to be the first hint of the Scott-Jean-Logan love triangle. It's subtle though, and in 1976 I probably wouldn't have thought it anything more than him being butthurt.

Speaking of the space shuttle, though Claremont had up to this point shown promising but occasionally mixed results with building emotional tension, he really tops himself with this scene at the end of #100. Basically, the space shuttle that the X-Men used to go into space had been damaged in a previous battle, and so the auto-pilot is now no longer functional. But the largest solar flare in recent history means that any human pilot will be exposed to lethal levels of radiation. While a few of the X-Men may be able to survive outside of a shielded "life cell", the only qualified pilot is a human. The only solution is for Jean Grey to use her psychic powers to extract the knowledge to pilot the shuttle directly from his brain, and then use her telekinetic powers to shield herself from the solar radiation. This being a comic book, it's pretty hard to sell that a character is about to die, but Claremont manages this. Thunderbird's death was pretty anti-climactic, but Jean Grey is a main ****ing character, so the stakes are obviously much higher. Claremont keeps this scene from being overblown however. It would be easy for Scott and Jean's farewell to be eye-rollingly cheesy, but Jean knocking him out with a mental blast in order to prevent him from stopping her after only a panel of Scott nearly panicking over Jean's safety keeps this exchange from becoming too melodramatic, while building tension at the same time. They could have spent a few more panels on this, but space limitations probably played a part. The inevitability of Jean's death is brought home even further when, after a tearful farewell, she asks Storm to tell Scott that she "loved him". A understated little line, but it's still powerful. The issue then ends with Jean, alone in the cockpit of the shuttle, about to set out for Earth, supposedly to her death...

While this batch of issues may have some hiccups, the potential they show is obvious, and knowing what is about to happen gives me an appreciation that I might not have had at the time, even if it comes at the expense of suspense. I'm pretty stoked to start the first half of the Pheonix saga with issues #101-108, so stayed tuned for that review pretty frakking soon. Not that this journal will be all X-men, all the time, but for the foreseeable future they'll definitely be featuring pretty prominently.

X-celsior!
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Old 08-21-2014, 12:45 PM   #7 (permalink)
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This is fucking awesome my man, especially the Harley Quinn post. I've been reading that series too and it's absolutely fantastic and just made me love Quinn even more.
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Old 08-21-2014, 02:49 PM   #8 (permalink)
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This is fucking awesome my man, especially the Harley Quinn post. I've been reading that series too and it's absolutely fantastic and just made me love Quinn even more.
Hell yeah. The Harley episodes of B:tAS were always some of the best, but there were only a few of them. This series let's you get a much more in-depth look at her that's just pure fun.
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Old 08-21-2014, 04:21 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Nice knowing you!
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Old 08-21-2014, 07:28 PM   #10 (permalink)
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X-Men #101
October 1976




Well, I'd originally intended to do the whole arc in one post, but I imagine trying to do eight issues, let alone these eight issues, would make my previous post look like a Post-It note. So, I'm doing this issue by issue.

Right from page one this issue goes big rather than going home. A shot of the space shuttle screaming through the Earth's atmosphere is set over a larger than life portrait of a terrified yet determined Jean Grey in vibrant shades of orange, yellow and red. Above her face is a caption that reads simply, "Welcome to the last moment's of a young woman's life." I wish I could find the entire page, but the only version I can find only shows about half of it. Good enough.




This is actually a reproduction based on the last page of the previous issue. Obviously the second pic has been... remastered or whatever, but even so, and even though the first is missing the top half I still think the page from #101 is the more dramatically compelling.



She proceeds to pilot the shuttle to a crash landing at Kennedy Airport, and then into the ocean, where it sinks. At no point do we actually see Jean, so her fate is unknown until she rises from the sea in the green version of her Phoenix costume, and declares to her astonished friends, bobbing up and down in the waves, "I am fire! And life incarnate! Now and forever -- I am PHOENIX!" So yeah, by page four the X-Men universe has pretty much been forever altered. I'd have flipped my **** in 1976. I wouldn't have known what the **** was going on, but I'd know it was about to get even more epic.

After a moment she collapses, and the X-Men take her to shore and make good an escape before the authorities show up to start asking uncomfortable questions. For the rest of the issue she is off-panel and unconscious in a hospital, though we're eventually informed that she will recover.

The first half of this issue is easily the most character intensive group of pages in the run so far. From the uncertainty of Jean's fate in the beginning, to the shock and mystery of her rising from the sea and calling herself Phoenix, and the strain her unknown condition has on her friends, it's an emotional roller coaster with real depth and maturity. Scott's reaction is what you'd expect. Shocked and miserable at his inability to do anything useful, followed by relieved sobbing in an empty hospital room when he learns that Jean will recover, revealing just how close he was to a nervous breakdown.

And we finally learn that Wolverine indeed has developed feelings for Jean as he spends an entire dollar on a bouquet of flowers to bring to Jean at the hospital. Unfortunately he didn't count on the entire X-Men team being there as well. So he does what any emotionally mature person would do; he throws the flowers in the trash and pretends that nothing ever happened.

The second half of the comic isn't quite so dramatic unfortunately. Apart from Professor X and Cyclops, the X-Men are ordered to go on a vacation to keep them out of the way of Jean's recovery. It's not exactly the most believable pretext to send them on an adventure, but let's just go with it anyway. It's a nice way to keep you guessing about what's going on off-panel, but I'd like it if Claremont didn't feel the need to put a bit of pulp in the middle of all of this to keep those fans who might not have the longest attention spans for this kind of drama from dozing off (i.e. dumb kids).

Apparently Banshee has just inherited a castle in Ireland, because who doesn't inherit a castle or two in their lifetime? So, the team heads off to Ireland to get their medieval on, but of course a pulp villain is waiting for them. On the bad side, he's some guy called "Black Tom Cassidy" who is also Banshee's cousin or brother or uncle or roommate's gay boyfriend or something, so he says Irish things that make it a tad hard to take him seriously. He's not so ridiculously Irish as Banshee, but he also has a shillelagh. Honestly, I'm too amused to take much offense at the shillelagh, but Black Tom still sucks balls. He's kidnapped the castle steward's family to get him to betray Banshee and pretend like everything is hunky dory, so the X-Men proceed to hang out in a castle.

The reason that this subplot isn't completely retarded is that it gives us some much needed character development. We've seen hints of Storm's claustrophobia, but being in a cramped stone castle really bugs her, so of course she strips naked in her room and starts a rainstorm. Sounds goofy, but it's also an interesting look into her psychology, as it shows her as an almost ethereal free spirit who really only feels at home among the elements.

To bring us back down to Earth, Nightcrawler then shows up to take her down to dinner. Colossus previously had shown interest in Ororo, and now Kurt is throwing his hat into the ring, setting the stage for yet another love triangle. Nightcrawler was already shown to be a bit of a ham, but he takes it to another level by trying to flirt with Storm with some cheesy impressions of Clark Gable, Groucho Marx, and some guy with a top hat, all with the aid of his holographic image inducer which allows him to appear like a normal human. It actually kind of works too. Get it, Nightcrawler.

Soon they all head off to dinner dressed in formal wear (which for Wolverine of course includes a cowboy hat), and being a comic book this also means that they all fall down a trap door into some dingy catacombs. For some odd reason Black Tom has a throne right next to where the X-Men fall. I mean, who doesn't have a throne in a dingy catacomb? The only thing not awful about all of this is that apparently Tommy has enlisted the help of the Juggernaut. That's sounds promising at least.

So, excellent first half, mediocre second half, but with good character moments to bring up some slack, and a hint of badassness at the very end. Oh yeah, and the castle was pretty cool too. Claremont is brilliant when he's trying, but I just don't know why he falls back on goofy pulp so often, as it just doesn't at all fit with the tone of what he's trying to do.

XXX-celsior!


And if you need evidence that Black Tom sucks then here is Exhibit A. Note the shillelagh.


Spoiler for Black Tom blows.:
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Last edited by Doug McClasky; 12-16-2014 at 02:12 PM.
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