Friday, October 29, 2010

X-MAN #31 -#33, October-December 1997

The Last Innocent Mind

Credits: Mark Bernardo (writer), Rick Leonardi (penciler), Dan Green (inker), Comicraft (letters), Mike Thomas (colors)

A fill-in issue by Marvel editor Mark Bernardo and Rick Leonardi, who’s actually a better artist than any of the regular pencilers ever assigned to this title. Bernardo uses the fill-in to create a sequel to, all of things, the ROM storyline that guest-starred the X-Men. (Check out Siskoids' look back here and here.) X-Man follows the trail of a young boy he sees in his dreams to a hospital in upstate New York, where he learns that the boy is actually Hybrid, the unholy child of a human and Dire Wraith. Hybrid uses X-Man’s psychic power to reconstitute his solid form, but X-Man defeats him after he finds the tiny fragment of an innocent child that still lives inside the monster. The execution of the ending is actually much better than it sounds on paper, and I’ll give Bernardo credit for having X-Man use his powers in a few creative ways in the issue. (Everyone remembers what psychometry is, right? Well, X-Man can do that, too.) Bernardo also has more of a knack for natural dialogue than many of his editorial co-workers who are called upon for quick fill-ins. Perhaps he should’ve replaced Ralph Macchio as the X-office’s routine “guy across the hall” who’s brought in at the last minute.

Catching Up From Behind

Credits: Terry Kavanagh (writer), Roger Cruz (penciler), Bud LaRosa & Wellington Diaz (inks), Comicraft’s Albert Deschesne (letters), Mike Thomas (colors)

Terry Kavanagh returns, as X-Man reunites with the three “bad girls” who rescued him after his encounter with the Brotherhood. This issue reveals their names as Bux, Jam, and Marita, and wouldn’t you know it, they’re into clubbing, piercings, and tattoos. X-Man spends a night at the club with them, attracting the romantic attention of a blonde woman who turns out to be one of the bad girls’ parole officer (a parole officer with a Playmate’s body and a penchant for wearing skintight jeans that are ripped in strategic places). Meanwhile, Roust, the former follower of the Abomination who’s been looking for X-Man, is stalked by Jackknife. The new villain is another homeless person taken in by Abomination, who’s now driven insane by his mutant powers. He’s on a killing spree, murdering anyone with a connection to X-Man. The story hints that Threnody was one of his casualties, but on the final page, we see her “feeding” off Jackknife’s other dying victims. Aside from the extended club scene, which tries so hard to show us how hip X-Man and these girls are, this is pretty unobjectionable material. At least X-Man doesn’t act like a total idiot, and the story’s even setting him up to play the hero in the next issue.

Blood Will Tell

Credits: Terry Kavanagh (writer), Roger Cruz (penciler), Bud LaRosa (inker), Comicraft (letters), Mike Thomas (colors)

Jackknife continues to act irrational and insane, which may or not be a deliberate parallel to the way X-Man usually behaves in this series. He reveals that he was a bystander to X-Man’s earlier fight with Abomination, and his exposure to X-Man’s powers triggered his own. Now, he’s a powerful enough psi to counter X-Man, and his motivations don’t go any deeper than some vaguely defined revenge plot. X-Man protects the locals and finally defeats Jackknife by using power lines to shock him into unconsciousness. The police want to arrest X-Man, but all of the bystanders defend X-Man, which is apparently supposed to solidify his role as the Village’s superhero. Jackknife is rather lame, unless he really is an intentional parody of X-Man, then he’s great. I wholeheartedly endorse more Jackknife appearances if he’s used to make fun of X-Man. Roger Cruz is still sticking with the book, and his work on the lengthy, chaotic fight scene isn’t bad at all. Nothing else to say about this issue, so I’ll just recite the Statement of Ownership numbers. Average sales were 148, 203 for the year with the most recent issue selling 125,862 copies.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

GENERATION X #35-#36, February-March 1998

Pool of Tears

Credits: Larry Hama (writer), Jason Johnson (penciler), Edwin Rosell w/Parsons & Russell (inks), Comicraft (letters), Chris Sotomayor (colors)

Summary: Gen X obeys Tracy’s demand and takes her to the school. When Husk realizes her teammates are inside fighting M-Plate, the new entity formed out of M and Emplate, she locks Tracy in the Biosphere for protection. The conflicted M-Plate decides to go along with Chimera, and teleports away with Synch. Before leaving, M-Plate psi-blasts Jubilee, which forces her to hallucinate. The team regroups and checks on Tracy in the Biosphere, but she’s gone. Emma declares the Pooka has returned.

Continuity Notes: Emma says “Pooka,” but her dialogue is probably supposed to reference the Token, the mysterious creature from the Wolverine issue Hama wrote that guest-starred Generation X.

Review: The craziness of this run starts to unfold, as more science fiction/fantasy characters and concepts begin to emerge. Personally, I’d rather see more of Gen X’s run-ins with the local hooligans, since the action in this issue mostly consists of some light shows and cryptic dialogue exchanges. Jubilee’s hallucination sequence is apparently supposed to hint at M’s origin, but nothing new is revealed and the artist doesn’t seem able to convey the Alice in Wonderland scenery Hama was going for. Jubilee does point out, when talking to the St. Croix twins during her hallucination, that one of them should be autistic, which at least shows that one of the earlier mysteries hasn’t been forgotten. M’s autism hadn’t been mentioned in over a year by this point, even though Scott Lobdell’s hinted that this was supposed to be a major aspect of her character.

Strange Doings

Credits: Larry Hama (writer), Andy Smith (penciler), Walden Wong (inker), Comicraft (letters), Mike Rockwitz (colors)

Summary: Gen X splits up and searches for Tracy inside the Biosphere. Jubilee and Chamber encounter a Pooka named Elwood, who claims he can find Synch. He takes them to the Landau, Luckman, and Lake offices in Manhattan, where they enter a dimensional warp. Meanwhile, Chief Authier arrives with Dorian and Weasel, looking for his daughter Tracy. While Authier looks around, Dirtnap hands Banshee a Lepton Imploder, which he claims will take them to Synch. In a strange dimension, M-Plate explains his/her plans for the Universal Amalgamator to Synch.

Continuity Notes: Emma’s line in the previous issue is a mistake; Elwood confirms Pookas and Tokens are two different species (aren’t you relieved?). Elwood says he “bent the rules” and planted hints that will help the team find the Token. Where Dirtnap disappeared to in-between issues, and why he’s suddenly altruistic, isn’t explained. Dorian and Weasel witness Banshee and the others disappear in a flash of light after they use the Lepton Imploder. Tracy, along with Artie and Leech, are imprisoned with energy-chains inside the Biosphere’s tree house. Some mystery force is apparently preventing Chief Authier from noticing them. As established in the Venom vs. Wolverine miniseries, Landau, Luckman, and Lake have an office at 387 Park Avenue South, the building that housed Marvel’s offices in the ‘90s.

I Love the ‘90s: Chief Authier wonders if the imploder device is a digital pet. Dirtnap brags that he can do the Macarena.

Review: Another issue, more fill-in art, more zany characters, and a few wacky contraptions. This really isn’t any more ridiculous than the Lobdell issues, but Lobdell was lucky enough to have Chris Bachalo as the regular artist and Tom Grummett as the fill-in guy. At this point, the series has gone six months without a regular artist, and the caliber of fill-in penciler assigned to the book is pretty weak. I’m not pretending that Hama’s telling the greatest story in comics history here, but having the characters and settings appear consistent from issue-to-issue would’ve at least helped. Elwood the Pooka just looks goofy and out of place under Andy Smith’s pencils; the character doesn’t seem like a particularly great idea, but if Bachalo had a shot at designing him, I’m sure he would’ve had an interesting visual at the very least. Overlooking the art, you’re left with a group of characters running around and dealing with wacky plot devices that lead them into the next issue. Not particularly exciting. Hama apparently wants to do something fanciful and fun, but it’s not really coming together.

Monday, October 25, 2010

EXCALIBUR #116-#117, January-February 1998

Death in Venice

Credits: Ben Raab (writer), Mel Rubi (penciler), Rob Hunter (inker), Comicraft’s Kiff Scholl (letters), Kevin Tinsley (colors)

Summary: Excalibur travels to Venice, where Cerebro has finally located Nightcrawler. Nightcrawler’s captors reveal themselves as exiles of the Sidri. Years earlier, Nightcrawler and Shadowcat disobeyed Corsair’s orders and sent a vaccine to a Sadri ship that was adrift in space. The cure mutated the Sidri, who now seek revenge on Nightcrawler. Excalibur arrives and fights against the Sidri. Colossus is isolated during the battle and left alone against the aliens.

Continuity Notes: The Sidri say that Nightcrawler was delivered to them by Black Air, which is supposed to explain where he’s been for the past few issues. An extended flashback scene, detailing Nightcrawler and Shadowcat “curing” the Sidri, is supposed to take place when Xavier was infected with a Brood embryo circa the extended Brood arc that began in UXM #154.

Review: This is one of the few Excalibur stories to actually take advantage of Nightcrawler, Colossus, and Shadowcat’s history with the X-Men. Raab seems to like that era of the X-Men so much, he dedicates a lengthy flashback to the early ‘80s team, faithfully presented in their proper costumes, riding through space while angsting over Xavier’s Brood infection. They encounter a wandering Sidri ship, which for some reason leads the team to believe the crew is sick. Corsair refuses to stop and help, so Shadowcat and Nightcrawler find a vaccine and shoot it like a torpedo into the Sidri’s ship. The dialogue isn’t clear if Shadowcat misread the Shi’ar description and shot a mutation virus by mistake, or if the vaccine is also a mutagen, but whatever. The Sidri are now mutated and have returned years later to kill Nightcrawler. It’s always amusing to see an “altruism gone wrong” story, but this is just filled with holes. Why did the X-Men assume the Sidri were sick in the first place? Why would Shadowcat presume to know which specific vaccine was needed to cure the Sidri? How do the Sidri even know the X-Men were involved with this; let alone with specific members of the team sent the vaccine? Raab is apparently testing the waters for his latest pitch, Untold Tales of the X-Men That Don’t Make Any Sense.

Aside from this, last issue’s cliffhanger is essentially ignored, with only Douglock briefly reflecting on how much he misses Wolfsbane. No one can be bothered to mention how utterly dumb both Moira and Wolfsbane acted last issue, or muster up enough energy to actually free them from the quarantine? Plus, for the thousandth time, I’ll mention Raab’s sad interpretation of Peter Wisdom’s accent, which now has him using “ye” instead of “you.” Artistically, Mel Rubi has moved on from imitating Jim Lee to a Joe Quesada pastiche. It’s still ugly in places, but Quesada seems to suit him more. Eventually, Rubi will move on to J. Scott Campbell, and actually do decent work in that style.


Credits: Ben Raab (writer), Mel Rubi (penciler), Rob Hunter (inker), Comicraft (letters), Kevin Somers (colors)

Summary: Excalibur regroups and defends Colossus against the Sidri. When the aliens realize Douglock is Phalanx, they steal some of his components. Meggan and Pete Wisdom combine powers for a fire blast, which forces the Sidri to retreat. Douglock reveals that the Sidri are also techno-organic, and stealing his communication components will now enable them to rejoin their race. Meanwhile, Wolfsbane consoles Moira inside the quarantine, while Shadowcat returns home. Lockheed mysteriously disappears in a flash again. Unbeknownst to Kitty, her Bamf doll now has an evil grin.

Continuity Notes: Douglock says that giving his communication components to the Sidri has severed him even more from the Phalanx. Shadowcat is returning from the Kitty Pryde: Agent of SHIELD miniseries, but she’s now wearing elaborate body armor that never appeared in that series.

I Love the ‘90s: Kitty lets out a “Not!” while talking to Lockheed.

Review: At least the Sidri are taken care of relatively quickly. Raab works in a few character moments during the fight, and the Sidri actually do come across as rather formidable, although the claim that they’re also techno-organic and can intuitively use Douglock’s technology to rejoin their race is suspect. Over in Subplot Land, Moira tries to get Wolfsbane out of quarantine, but she’s talked out of it. Of course, if Moira hadn’t stupidly set the door to unlock only when a Legacy Virus cure was found, she wouldn’t be in this predicament. Lockheed goes back to whatever it was Raab had him doing a few months ago, while one of Kitty’s Bamf dolls is apparently evil. Nice cliffhanger, and hopefully the Lockheed subplot will actually get some closure soon.

Friday, October 22, 2010


Pryde Goeth Before the Fall

Credits: Larry Hama (writer), Jesus Redondo (penciler), Sergio Melia (inker), Glynis Oliver (colors), Jim Novak (letters),

Summary: Ogun resumes control of the Helicarrier’s computer as he possesses Rigby. Kitty accepts a duel in the Astral Plane in exchange for Rigby’s life. As Kitty duels Ogun, Rigby and Wolverine shut down the Helicarrier’s computer. When Kitty wins the fight, she spares Ogun’s life. Humbled by her compassion, Ogun reflects on what he’s become and ends the conflict.

Review: Oh, it’s another exciting issue of the Helicarrier acting wacky while someone tries to shut its computer down. Jesus Redondo is actually given an opportunity to show his knack for drawing machinery and landscapes, but his action sequences and character moments are still flat. The story itself is just as dull. I do like the small twist that has the villain actually appreciating the hero’s act of mercy, since these stories usually end with the villain scoffing at the hero’s compassion and rejoining the fight…which of course means the hero has to kill him anyway. Outside of that brief moment though, we’re left with a gratuitous miniseries by a creative team that seemed to enjoy working on the book as much as they enjoyed filling out their taxes.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

X-FACTOR #142-#143, February-March 1998

Give Me Shelter

Credits: Bill Rosemann (writer), Leo Fernandez (penciler), Dan Green (inker), Comicraft (letters), Ian Laughlin (colors)

Summary: Wild Child locates Val Cooper, who is spending Christmas with her ex-husband Edmond Atkinson. Val reveals to Edmond her first meeting with Wild Child as a young bureaucrat. She was assigned to look over Wild Child, not knowing her superiors were actually agents of the Secret Empire, a group looking to develop remorseless killers. Sabretooth abruptly enters, revealing that Val covered up for the Secret Empire in order to protect her career. After government agents chase Wild Child and Sabretooth away, Val reads the note Wild Child left her. He forgives her for not revealing the conspiracy, because he knows she’s used her government career to help mutants. Wild Child escapes into the night, as his feral mutation continues.

Continuity Notes: According to Val, Wild Child left Alpha Flight after the mutant Wyre went on a killing spree at Department H. I know Wyre was a character created towards the end of Alpha Flight’s run, but I don’t know if this event ever occurred on-panel.

Review: This is a fill-in issue, which apparently exists to explain away some of the mysteries that surrounded Wild Child joining the team, and to write him out of the book. Rosemann doesn’t have Mackie’s tin ear for dialogue, and the demands of a one-issue story require him to actually resolve the ideas he introduces, so we actually get a tolerable issue of X-Factor. I don’t like the idea that Val has been involved in a government cover-up (to the point that she witnessed a drugged out Wild Child killing a homeless person), but Rosemann does try his best to humanize Val and keep her motives sympathetic. How exactly Sabretooth knows this information isn’t clear, but I guess we’re supposed to assume he knows about these kinds of things due to his long life and various connections to numerous characters in the Marvel Universe. The art comes from Leo Fernandez, who decides to avoid following Matsuda and Rouleau’s example and instead draws the issue in an Andy Kubert style. It’s a little lifeless in places, but for the most part he’s able to tell the story, and I like his interpretation of Sabretooth.

The Fall of the Brotherhood

Credits: Howard Mackie (writer), Duncan Rouleau (penciler), Art Thibert (inker), Comicraft’s Kaff Schoil (letters), Glynis Oliver (colors)

Summary: Fixx, Archer, and Greystone assume the bodies of three bus crash victims. Following orders from their mysterious leader, they arrange to meet with Mystique. When she agrees to hear them out, they claim they have to stop Havok. Meanwhile, Shard is heading for the city when she senses the arrival of the XUE officers, as Havok and an injured Ever protect citizens from Dark Beast’s experiments. Havok tells Aurora to leave the Brotherhood’s hideout, before he finally confronts Dark Beast. Suddenly, Mystique enters with the XUE officers, as Shard arrives to protect Havok.

Continuity Notes: Mystique is willing to hear the XUE officers out when they deliver a message from their leader, telling her that this is the time Destiny foretold. Dark Beast claims that Fatale was “created by me, over and over again,” indicating she’s another one of his genetic experiments. The XUE characters are able to resume their true forms, even after possessing bodies in the present.

We Get Letters: Editorial response from a fan disgruntled by Wizard’s announcement that X-Factor will now focus on individual characters, rather than a team: “You can’t believe everything you read…after all, Wizard said X-Factor was going to be cancelled, and look at us now!”

Review: It seems as if X-Factor is starting to resolve its numerous dangling storylines, even though no one at Marvel seems to know they’re getting cancelled yet. Havok is fully in his “I was just fakin’!” phase, retroactively declaring that he was still under Dark Beast’s influence when he nearly killed Polaris months earlier. Never mind all of those narrative captions and inner monologues that proclaimed that we’re finally seeing the real Havok, of course. While I’m glad the grievous mistake of turning Havok evil has been rectified, we still have a lot of nonsense with Shard, Mystique, and the XUE. I have no idea what the point of the XUE is even supposed to be, but they’re apparently the new stars of the series. After damaging established characters like Havok, Polaris, Mystique, and Sabretooth for years, why not invent totally new characters to portray illogically and inconsistently? They want Havok “taken down” for mysterious reasons, they need Mystique to do it for mysterious reasons, and their leader in the future has to stay in the dark for mysterious reasons. Par for the course for this book. I’m sure they’ll be shown the same care as the mysteries surrounding the Hound Program, Bowser, Graydon Creed’s killer, and Trevor Chase.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


The Mission

Credits: Larry Hama (writer), Jesus Redondo (penciler), Sergio Melia (inker), Glynis Oliver (colors), Jim Novak (letters),

Summary: Wolverine jumps his motorcycle off the Brooklyn Bridge and lands on the Helicarrier’s flight deck. Lockheed emerges from Kitty’s duffel bag, as she phases through Ogun’s spirit and shuts the Helicarrier’s computer down before it crashes into a boat. The Helicarrier is soon back in the air, and Rigby is assigned the task of purging Ogun from the system. Instead, Ogun possesses Rigby.

Review: So, Wolverine and Lockheed show up and…do nothing. Wolverine does recap Ogun’s origin and give Kitty advice on her latest crush, Rigby, but really…nothing. And Lockheed just seems to be here to be jealous of Rigby. Considering the lack of plot in the second issue, perhaps the first issue should’ve had a slower setup, with the Ogun revelation saved for this issue. Something should happen in every issue of a miniseries, especially if it’s only three issues long. Kitty’s soon-to-be-forgotten crush getting possessed by Ogun on the final page isn’t enough to justify an entire issue.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

MAVERICK #6-#7, February-March 1998


Credits: Jorge Gonzalez (writer), Jimmy Cheung & Leo Fernandez (pencilers), Andrew Pepoy (inker), Kevin Somers (colors), Chris Eliopoulos & Virtual Calligraphy (letters),

Summary: A friend volunteers to give Maverick and Chris medical exams. Chris walks in on Maverick’s exam and discovers the scars created by the Legacy Virus are gone. Chris is angry Maverick kept his remission a secret, but Maverick must leave after getting a call from his contact, Gregor. He soon learns Gregor has been placed in a trap by Sabretooth, who knows Elena is hunting him. After rescuing Gregor, Maverick follows the note left by Sabretooth and heads for the sewers. In the tunnels, he discovers Sabretooth and an unconscious Elena.

Continuity Notes: Chris Bradley is now referred to as “Brian,” the false identity given to him by Maverick. Maverick even calls him Brian during their private conversations, even though the recap page still lists his name as Chris Bradley.

Review: Elena’s vendetta against Sabretooth has never been too interesting for me, but Gonzalez does explore one angle that works in the opening of this issue. Because she’s a telepath, Elena can recall all of her memories. This allows her to dream of Sabretooth’s murder of her pregnant mother and her own c-section, and recall the details with absolute clarity. This truly is haunting, and it’s certainly a great opening for the issue. Unfortunately, what follows is pretty bland. Chris overreacts to Maverick keeping his remission a secret, while his technology dealer Isabel reminds him that her ex-husband will start a custody battle if she doesn’t cut ties with him. This is the drama this gruff, shadowy secret agent has to deal with -- teenage emotions and divorce issues? Maybe if Chris and Isabel were fleshed out more as characters I would actually care about these plots, but as it stands they don’t seem appropriate for the series. The art still carries a lot of this weight, and I’ll give the editor credit for finding a co-artist who meshes with Cheung. I can’t really tell where Cheung’s pages end and Fernandez’s begin, which is extremely rare for an issue with two artists.

Desperate Moments

Credits: Jorge Gonzalez (writer), Jim Cheung (penciler), Andrew Pepoy (inker), Kevin Somers (colors), Chris Eliopoulos & Virtual Calligraphy (letters),

Summary: Maverick battles Sabretooth, as he begins to suffer seizures and his powers go haywire. Elena regains consciousness and psychically attacks Sabretooth. When she discovers her mother amongst the memories of his victims, a psychic backlash is triggered. Maverick destroys the pipes and creates a flash flood, escaping with Elena. He soon discovers Elena is now in a coma. Meanwhile, Chris begins to lose control of his powers.

We Get Letters: The editorial response to rumors Maverick is close to cancellation: “If we ever find the guy who’s spreading these rumors around, we’re going to string him up! Maverick is here to stay…!” Maverick is cancelled with issue #12.

Review: It’s an issue-long fight scene, and Jim Cheung really gets the most out of it. The actual content of the fight is extremely shallow, though, as Jorge Gonzalez is still unable to give Maverick or any of his foes much in the way of personality. I remember Scott Lobdell giving Maverick some snappy, action movie quips in his early appearances, which might not be the most original take on a secret agent character, but at least he doesn’t just sit there on the page. Gonzalez’s Maverick has the charm and wit of a sack of potatoes, which has to be a partial reason why this series died at #12, while its contemporary Deadpool lasted for several years, buoyed by a vocal and devoted fanbase. Couldn’t Maverick say something slightly clever while fighting the villain, rather than dryly spelling out how each of his weapons work, or explaining how his powers are acting up? Gonzalez does get some decent material out of Elena, though. The trip through Sabretooth’s psyche, which recalls the glimpses of his childhood seen in the Sabretooth miniseries, is a nice scene. Revealing that Sabretooth has a mental gallery of all of his victims gives him another creepy touch, and using Elena to expose that uses her character wisely. Like the previous issues, there are some ideas that work quite well, but it’s hard to really care about a book with such an uninteresting protagonist.

Monday, October 18, 2010


The Calling

Credits: Larry Hama (writer), Jesus Redondo (penciler), Sergio Melia (inker), Kevin Somers (colors), Jim Novak (letters),

Summary: SHIELD agents travel to Muir Island to recruit Kitty Pryde as an intern. For unknown reasons, their computer system is down and refuses to acknowledge anyone but Kitty. Kitty arrives in New York and befriends fellow intern, Rigby. Kitty fixes the problem, but the SHIELD Helicarrier soon loses power. Ogun reveals himself as the ghost infecting the computer system. Digitally disguising himself as Kitty, he asks Wolverine to meet at the Brooklyn Bridge.

Continuity Notes: Ogun explains that he’s acquired a taste for possessing technology after seizing control of Lady Deathstrike in Wolverine. Kitty still believes Ogun is dead, even though he already tried to possess her body months earlier in Excalibur #111.

Production Note: This issue is hand lettered by Jim Novak, making it one of the few Marvel comics of this era not to be computer lettered. Novak seems to be using the opportunity to create the biggest, widest letters of his career.

I Love the ‘90s: Kitty is ordered to purchase a pair of stone-washed jeans at the “G.O.P. Jeans Outlet” and head to a specific dressing room, which will transport her to the Helicarrier. Stone-washed denim had already been out of style for five years before this comic was published, so I’m assuming this was an intentional joke. Later, Kitty asks if the SHIELD computers can play Quake.

Review: Here’s another comic that fueled the internet’s contempt for Larry Hama in the late ‘90s. Hama even labeled this the worst series he worked on in an interview, so it’s hard to have high hopes for this one. The actual handling of Kitty in this issue isn’t bad, really. Peter Wisdom is given some atrocious dialogue (“SHIELD is an international spy ring of over-armed control freaks who are suffering from a deficiency of childhood toilet training!”), but Hama has a general idea of how he plays off of Kitty. She’s annoyed by his bad attitude and selfishness, so she views an internship with SHIELD to be a decent change of pace. She’s also much nicer to the SHIELD agents than they are to her. Hama goes out of his way to portray even established characters like Countess Valentina and Duggan as jerks. Revealing that Ogun is the behind the computer system’s reaction to Kitty is a nice reveal that I honestly didn’t see coming (I wondered if the computer mystery had something to do with the X-Men erasing all of the government’s files on them back in the ‘80s). I’ve never heard of Jesus Redondo before, and while I’ll give him credit for not turning in a bad manga pastiche, his style is so understated and dull it’s hard to believe Marvel ever hired him.

Friday, October 15, 2010

X-FORCE #75 - March 1998


Credits: John Francis Moore (writer), Adam Pollina (penciler), Mark Morales and Company (inks), Comicraft’s Kolja Fuchs (letters), Marie Javins & Gloria Vasquez (colors)

Summary: X-Force arrives in Texas for the Colossal Man Festival. At the event, they run into Karma and Cannonball. Unbeknownst to Cannonball, Sunspot and Meltdown shared a kiss while dancing earlier. Moonstar and Warpath are soon ambushed by Selene, who uses Moonstar’s Asgardian blood to open a box that contains an ancient staff. They defeat Selene, but the staff is knocked inside the Colossal Man construct, which brings it to life. X-Force destroys the Colossal Man, as Cable proudly watches from the crowd.

Continuity Notes: Karma, who now has a pink buzzcut, says she’s found a doctor who can undo the damage done to her siblings in the Beast miniseries (even though world-class intellect Hank McCoy declared their transformation was permanent in the same series). The first hints that Karma is a lesbian are dropped, as she’s traveling with two females, one of them with the stereotypical butch look, and declares that Cannonball is “definitely not my type.” Warpath decides he doesn’t like his codename, which leads to him simply going by “Proudstar” for a while. A narrative caption says Sunspot became a mutant at fifteen, although his earliest appearances had his age at thirteen. More pedantry: Cable claims he’s been “keeping tabs” on the team since their road trip began, even though his solo series leaves barely enough of a gap for even this appearance.

Miscellaneous Notes: The Colossal Man Festival is an obvious riff on the Burning Man event, and the Colossal Man is inspired by its giant wooden “Man” statue. Selene’s mystic staff is called a “runestaff” which is apparently a reference to Michael Moorcock’s novels.

Review: John Francis Moore showcases his sympathy for the counterculture again, as X-Force spends time with their fellow “freaks” and parties at a hippie music festival. I probably wouldn’t go to Burning Man if you paid me, so the setting holds no interest for me, but Moore’s character work is still enough to make the book enjoyable. He’s perhaps trying too hard to emphasize that the young cast is still searching for their individual identities, to the point that Karma is now unrecognizable, but his work with characters like Moonstar and Warpath is great. My favorite scene in the issue has Moonstar using her powers to psychically draw out Warpath’s fading memories of his family. Taking a real concern, forgetting the little details of lost loved ones, and combining it with supernatural elements is one of the unique opportunities genre fiction allows a writer. It’s a genuinely sweet scene; the kind most of the other X-books just weren’t doing by the late ‘90s. More than ever, this cast feels like real characters, and it seems like Moore’s having fun telling their stories.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

X-MEN UNLIMITED #18 - April 1998

Once an X-Man…

Credits: Tom DeFalco (writer), Marcello Frusin (penciler), Jose Marzan, Jr. (inker), Comicraft’s Emerson Miranda (letters), Shannon Blanchard (colors)

Summary: In San Francisco, Gambit robs from criminals while searching for Mr. Sinister. Overwhelmed with guilt over his involvement in the Morlock Massacre, Gambit is haunted by visions of the X-Men. When Gambit’s contact, Oscar, gives him the option of finding Mr. Sinister or ending Hydro-Man’s killing spree, Gambit decides to be a hero and stop Hydro-Man. After defeating Hydro-Man, Gambit discovers Sinister has killed Oscar. Eventually, Gambit realizes he’s hallucinating, as a dog sled arrives to rescue him in the Antarctic.

Continuity Notes: This takes place during Gambit’s missing months after the X-Men left him for dead in the Antarctic (and, retroactively, we of course learn that they never intended to leave him for dead). I don’t know if the man leading the dog sled was ever identified, as we’re later told the Green Mist Lady, and then New Son, saved Gambit in the Antarctic.

Review: X-Men Unlimited has a new editor, Frank Pittarese, with this issue, which might explain why we’re not getting more of the Howard Mackie/Terry Kavanagh tag-team. Tom DeFalco didn’t do a lot of work on the X-titles, but he did show up more than you might expect in the ‘90s. DeFalco has said in interviews that he was given What If…? (which then led to Spider-Girl) as an assignment because Marvel contractually had to offer him writing jobs during these years. I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that this was an open job that was also offered to him, since the book never kept a regular writer and any of the issues not written by Howard Mackie or Terry Kavanagh just seemed like random assignments.

DeFalco actually drops his typical Silver Age, borderline-cornball, scripting for the story. He instead adopts a 1970s, “Your name is Iron Fist…” second-person narrative style, which does help to set the story’s mood. Gambit’s overcome with guilt after his role in the Morlock Massacre has been exposed, but he’s determined to prove to himself that he truly is a hero. In the end, this just turns out to be a self-indulgent fantasy, but as the narration says, “It may be a lie…but you cling to it nonetheless.” This is one of the better examples of how to write what is essentially filler; the character is in the same place he was when the story started, but he’s undergone an emotional arc and learned something about himself. Plus, we get an appearance from a villain from outside of the X-canon. I know Tom DeFalco has advocated for this in interviews, so I’m glad he was able to work Hydro-Man in, even as a hallucination.

Guiding Light

Credits: Bill Rosemann (writer), Marty Egeland (penciler), Howard M. Shum (inker), Comicraft’s Emerson Miranda (letters)

Summary: A group of city workers comes near the area of the sewers where Callisto is recuperating. Marrow singles out the supervisor, shows him Angel’s bloodstains on the wall, and demands he stay away from their sacred place. He soon orders his men to leave the tunnels.

Continuity Notes: A footnote places this story prior to X-Men #72.

Review: I forgot “Your Man @ Marvel” had written a few comics during these days. This is a very brief story that plays off Marrow’s original motivation for joining the X-Men -- Callisto wanted her to find a “better way.” Rather than killing the men, she just scares them off, and then goes back to nursing Callisto. Nothing particularly memorable here, except for artist Marty Egeland’s decision to transform the leaves that covered Callisto’s wounded chest in her previous appearance into a skimpy leaf bra that barely covers her nipples. Classy.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


: Doug Moench (writer), Michael Outkiewicz (penciler), Jimmy Palmiotti (inker), Comicraft’s Emerson Miranda (letters), Mark McNabb w/Dennis Calero & Atomic Paintbrush (colors)

Summary: Mariko Yashida is visited by a relative who claims to have been revived after a thousand years in suspended animation. He alleges a demon that will destroy the world is being released from a temple in Thailand. When Mariko asks him to investigate, Wolverine travels with Silver Samurai to Thailand. They discover that Clan Yashida’s ancestors were responsible for unleashing the Doombringer demon, and that another tribe froze the temple in time to prevent its release. Rebel members of Clan Yashida are now using technology to recreate the earthquake that released their ancestor and free the Doombringer. When the demon is released, Wolverine and Silver Samurai narrowly defeat it. Silver Samurai agrees to keep Clan Yashida’s role in the Doombringer’s emergence a secret from Mariko.

Continuity Notes: Mariko is still alive, Wolverine is in Madripoor using his “Patch” identity, Silver Samurai has the Honor Sword, and Wolverine is wearing his brown costume. Clearly, this story takes place in the past, although there isn’t a footnote that ever indicates that.

Production Notes: This is a $5.99 prestige format book with cardstock cover.

I Love the ‘90s: Wolverine refers to the people who believe the world will end when the calendar hits the year 2000.

Review: Marvel just couldn’t let go of those overpriced Wolverine one-shots. Here, we have a story clearly set in the past, written by a writer who barely did any work for Marvel in the ‘90s, and drawn in a style that’s broadly consistent with John Buscema’s look from the early issues of Wolverine. If the comic didn’t have computer lettering by Comicraft, I’d say it sat in the drawer for almost ten years before being published. I think the script was probably that old, but the lettering is clearly new, and I couldn’t guess when Outkiewicz did the artwork. The cover looks like it was signed in 1997, so maybe it’s just a coincidence that the one-shot was drawn in a traditional style and avoids any ‘90s excesses.

Moench does have some insight into Wolverine’s personality, and he incorporates the long-ignored romance with Mariko into the story, so this doesn’t feel like blatant filler. I believe this is the only story that actually expresses some frustration on Wolverine’s part over Mariko’s heightened sense of responsibility. He can’t bring himself to agree with the idea that she’s personally responsible for all of Clan Yashida’s sins, so he refuses to let her know about her family’s role in unleashing the Doombringer (the ancestor who told her about the temple didn’t reveal which side of the battle the Yashida Clan was on). Moench adds the final twist that she can see through Wolverine’s lies, but decides to keep her knowledge a secret. This might’ve added another level to their relationship, but we all know these one-shots never tie in to the ongoing continuity; plus Mariko had been dead for over five years at this point.

Outkiewicz’s art might look like a throwback to an earlier day, but he tells the story and handles the action scenes well. The imagery of the frozen temple, with the arrows hanging in the air and wounded samurai warriors standing still while blood refuses to drip from their bodies, is certainly memorable. Moench closes the story by drawing a parallel between the frozen temple and the immobile state of Wolverine and Mariko’s relationship, which works the “real” justification of their separation (Marvel probably didn’t want Wolverine to get married) into an actual plot point. While none of this really justifies the luxurious format, it’s still an enjoyable read. I can’t believe Marvel still pumps out Wolverine one-shots, even if they’re no longer “prestige,” when they haven’t reprinted all of the original ones yet. You could pair three or four of them together and get a decent-sized trade paperback.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

X-MEN ‘97 - February 1998

Not a Cloud in the Sky

Credits: John Francis Moore (writer), Steve Epting (penciler), Dan Green (inker), Comicraft (letters), Brad Vancata (colors)

Summary: Joseph awakens to learn that Iceman is a teen idol, Rogue can touch Gambit, Beast has cured the Legacy Virus, and Cyclops has control of his optic blasts. When he realizes Jean Grey is missing, he convinces Rogue and Gambit to help him find her. With Cerebro, they track her to a nearby department store. They soon learn Gamesmaster kidnapped her while she was shopping; with Xavier in government custody, the X-Men’s remaining telepathic defense has been removed. Gamesmaster explains that he’s psionically granted the X-Men their greatest desires, and manipulated the population into abandoning mutant prejudice. He offers to keep the scheme alive if Joseph joins him. Joseph instead frees Jean, who battles Gamesmaster in the Astral Plane. Gamesmaster abandons the fight, leaving his motives a secret.

Continuity Notes: This story has to take place shortly after "Operation: Zero Tolerance," since the team hasn’t been splintered by their extended outer space adventure yet. Gamesmaster explains that he’s able to telepathically turn off Rogue’s powers, which is another hint her problems are psychological in nature. Why exactly Gamesmaster wants Joseph to join is left as a mystery.

Review: Gamesmaster returns, joining the ranks of Gene Nation in the “Villains Who Were Supposed to Be Huge, But Now Headline Annuals” Club. Aside from overseeing the early ‘90s Upstart massacres, I’m convinced (based on the “Child’s Play” crossover) Gamesmaster was supposed to be the original antagonist of Generation X when that series was in the planning stages. Now, he’s threatening the X-Men in an untold tale from the recent past. What the story has going for it is John Francis Moore, who was doing solid work on X-Force at the time, and has apparently given Gamesmaster more thought than his creators ever did.

It’s obvious from the opening that this is a fake-out, but I was genuinely surprised to see the mysterious utopia isn’t a dream or hallucination, but instead the actual Marvel Universe. Could an “omnipath” like Gamesmaster eliminate mutant prejudice and solve the X-Men’s problems? Would the X-Men be willing to let him do it? Those are intriguing questions, and while we all know the heroes won’t go through with it, the dilemma suits the type of story you need for a one-shot annual. I also like the fact that Moore has kept Gamesmaster inside the store, a thinly veiled Target parody, where he kidnapped Jean Grey. Seeing the X-Men fight mind-controlled department store employees could’ve been too ridiculous, but the story doesn’t dwell on it for too long, and it’s a nice break from where we usually see action scenes in these books. So, this is a step above the typical annual filler of the time; and Steve Epting provides the art, so the readers are even spared the horrible fake manga or bad Image impersonators that often marred the annuals.

Monday, October 11, 2010

NIGHT MAN VS. WOLVERINE #0 - August 1995

: Steve Englehart (writer), Kyle Hotz (penciler), Jimmy Palmiotti (inker), Vickie Williams (letters), Micky Rose & Malibu (colors)

Summary: Night Man finds himself transported to an amusement park in the Marvel Universe. He escapes from overzealous guards through a maintenance hatch, and soon discovers Wolverine. Wolverine believes that Night Man is another simulation created by Arcade, but he eventually realizes the truth. Teaming up, the heroes are able to outsmart Arcade and escape Murderworld.

Continuity Notes: Night Man is a hero from Malibu’s Ultraverse line. This story takes place after the Godwheel miniseries, which I assume was one of the early attempts at integrating the Malibu characters with Marvel after Malibu was bought out.

Commercial Break: Did Malibu Comics have some community service it needed to work off or something? Almost every ad in this book are from charities or advocacy groups.

Review: I remember seeing ads for the various Malibu/X-Universe team-up comics and thinking, even in the depths of X-completism, that I would never read the things. Every comics fan who’s been around for more than a year knows the inter-company crossovers don’t “count,” and since I never followed the Malibu line, I couldn’t pretend that seeing Sludge hanging out with Rogue for the first time was particularly exciting. Steve Englehart does have a higher reputation than the typical no-name who was stuck writing these things, so there’s at least the potential this could be entertaining, but it’s clear from the opening page that this is a continuation of the ongoing Night Man series and has nothing to do with Wolverine. Englehart writes the generic tough guy interpretation of Wolverine; the kind you would’ve seen in Marvel Team-Up in the late ‘70s before Claremont got around to fleshing out his character. If this is supposed to be a showcase for Night Man, all we learn about him is that his father apparently owns an amusement park, and he sure is confused by this Marvel Universe. Occasionally the story reaches such levels of absurdity you wonder if Englehart is just going for pure camp. I certainly hope this scene was intentionally hilarious:

Friday, October 8, 2010

WEB OF SPIDER-MAN #54-#55, September-October 1989

The Wolves of War

Credits: Gerry Conway (writer), Alex Saviuk (penciler), Keith Williams (inker), Rick Parker (letterer), Bob Sharen (colorist)

The Plot: The Lobo Brothers attack the Kingpin’s penthouse, but are unable to find him. Spider-Man barely reaches home after being injected with a virus by Jonah Jameson. He awakes two days later and learns the Daily Bugle is blaming him for the gang war. He angrily confronts Jameson at his home, only to learn that he’s the Chameleon in disguise. After Chameleon escapes, Spider-Man rescues the captive Jameson.

The Subplots: Kristy Watson is admitted into the hospital to treat her bulimia. MJ begins to buckle under all of the pressure she’s experiencing.

Web of Continuity: Peter refers to Kristy as being thirteen, but other issues list her age as fifteen. The letter column later confirms she’s fifteen. MJ’s modeling career is now dead, thanks to the efforts of Jonathan Caesar. Carlos Lobo begins to wonder if Glory Grant is making Eduardo weak.

*See _________ For Details: The Chameleon, disguised as Jonah Jameson, injected Spider-Man with a virus in Spectacular Spider-Man #153. Kristy was taken away by an ambulance and diagnosed as a bulimic in the same issue.

“Huh?” Moment: Chameleon unleashes a gas to stop Spider-Man, bragging that the nose filters he wears protect him. What about his open mouth, which he’s using to taunt Spider-Man? Considering that Spider-Man wears a full mask, he’s actually more protected from the gas than Chameleon is.

Review: Revealing that the Kingpin is in hiding drags the main story out for a few more issues, which doesn't seem necessary, unless Conway really wanted Jameson rescued before the gang war storyline concluded. This is essentially the same as the past few issues; the gang war escalates, Nick Katzenberg annoys his coworkers, Kristy gets sicker, and MJ grows more distressed. The Chameleon-posing-as-Jameson subplot is resolved, ending a storyline that has been growing in all of the titles. Although Web never really explored the idea, the other titles emphasized that Chameleon had essentially blacklisted Peter at the Daily Bugle in favor of Katzenberg’s more scandalous Spidey photos. This added to the Peter and MJ’s money problems, and made the prospect of moving out of Aunt May’s even dimmer. Like I’ve said earlier, I’ve always loved that status quo, and Conway’s handling of the boarding house’s “family” is one of my favorite aspects of his run.


Credits: Gerry Conway (writer), Alex Saviuk (penciler), Keith Williams (inker), Rick Parker (letterer), Bob Sharen (colorist)

The Plot: The Lobo Brothers wreck havoc in New York, hoping to draw Kingpin out of hiding. He eventually returns, offering a truce. Spider-Man tails Glory Grant, who’s taken to the secret meeting by Eduardo Lobo. The peace conference is interrupted by mobsters working for Chameleon and Hammerhead, who start a shootout. Kingpin escapes, as Glory uses the Arranger’s gun to kill Eduardo during his fight with Spider-Man. When Spider-Man thanks her, she reveals she wasn’t aiming for Eduardo.

The Subplots: Jameson returns to work, and refuses to run a deceptive photo by Nick Katzenberg. Peter and MJ continue their futile search for an apartment in Manhattan. Katzenberg learns Glory is dating Eduardo and follows her to the meeting, taking photos of the entire ordeal.

I Love the ‘80s: Glory Grant now has a hairstyle reminiscent of something you would’ve seen on the first season of In Living Color.

“Huh?” Moment: The Lobos Brothers, who are mutants born with the ability to turn into werewolves, only transform during a full moon, and are vulnerable to silver. This only makes sense if you believe they’re descended from mutant werewolves who somehow inspired the traditional werewolf legends, which sounds like Chuck Austen nonsense.

Review: After several months of buildup in Spectacular and Web, the Lobos Brothers story concludes. Oddly enough, even though there are numerous directions Conway could’ve gone after this issue, he moves on and doesn’t really look back. After this issue, Glory Grant fades into the background, and the repercussions of her relationship with Eduardo are never explored. Chameleon and Hammerhead make a few more appearances together, but never take on Kingpin, and within a few months, Chameleon is working on his own again. And what does Carlos Lobo do now? What happened to these threads? Maybe Conway was just bored with the underworld stories, but he left so many potential doors open, it’s a shame they weren’t explored.

Regardless of the wasted potential, this is an exciting conclusion for the arc. Conway really has a strong handle on all of the characters, so the Kingpin appears appropriately imposing, Eduardo seems genuinely conflicted, and Peter’s standard anxieties feel real. Aside from his inability to console MJ on their current problems, he also has no idea what to tell Glory when she asks him for help. He gives the horrid advice of “follow your heart,” which is exactly what she does a few pages later when she tries to kill him when he’s fighting her boyfriend. Really, Glory should be an emotional wreck after the events of this issue, so again I’m left wondering why her character was brushed aside after this arc. Oh, well. The next issue brings us the Rocket Racer vs. Nazi-blob storyline, so at least I have something to look forward to.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

WEB OF SPIDER-MAN #52-#53, July-August 1989


Credits: Gerry Conway (writer), Frank Springer & John Romita, Sr. (art), Rick Parker (letterer), Bob Sharen (colorist)

The Plot: Jameson attempts to break out of his chains while the Chameleon is away. He flashes back to his experiences as a young reporter investigating police corruption. When his editor refuses to pursue the story, Jameson goes to work for the Daily Bugle. Jameson’s sidekick, a copyboy named Danny, is soon killed by a trap intended for Jameson. Jameson works through his grief and connives a way for the cop behind Danny’s death, Kenner, to confess on tape. In the present, Chameleon returns as Jameson is freeing himself. He locks Jameson in the closet as retaliation.

The Subplots: None.

Web of Continuity: We learn about the history of Jonah Jameson and the Daily Bugle in this issue. Jameson is a twenty-year-old reporter in the flashback, working for the New York Herald Journal Express, after a stint at the Daily Bugle. He’s courted back by Bugle owner William Walter Goodman, who encourages Jameson to pursue the story and inspires him to keep going after Danny is killed.

Review: This is a “special” issue, from back in the day when stories that didn’t feature superhero action were rare. John Romita, Sr. is the co-artist, which is another indication Marvel probably wanted this story to have more weight than the average issue. Gerry Conway parallels Jameson’s struggle to expose police corruption with his fight to escape the Chameleon’s imprisonment, while also providing another justification for Jameson’s hatred of heroes. Following his experiences with Kenner, Jameson knows heroes “are the bunk” and he’s determined to know the truth about the people who claim to be selfless defenders of the innocent. He’s paired with Danny, a thinly veiled Jimmy Olsen analogue who actually gets offed during the course of the story. Conway goes a long way towards humanizing Jameson in the flashbacks, playing up his admirable qualities while not shying away from his blatant hypocrisy and inflated ego. Jameson’s one of the better supporting cast members in comics, and while it’s easy to play him for laughs, the stories that convincingly portray him as more than a cartoon character are also worth trying.

Wolves in the Night

Credits: Gerry Conway (writer), Mark Bagley (penciler), Keith Williamson (inker), Rick Parker (letterer), Bob Sharen (colorist)

The Plot: Spider-Man intercepts an arms shipment into New York and learns that the Lobos Brothers are planning to attack the Kingpin’s tower at midnight. As Peter Parker, he tries to tell Jonah Jameson, but “Jonah” refuses to run the story. After investigating Glory Grant’s apartment, Spider-Man locates the Lobo Brothers, but can’t prevent their escape. Soon, the Arranger sees their helicopter outside of his window.

The Subplots: Kristy Watson collapses in the bathroom, and Aunt May is unable to help her because the door is locked.

Web of Continuity: Notice that Alex Saviuk draws Spider-Man with larger eyes on the cover, which means the McFarlane look is now the “official” style. Mark Bagley’s interior art also follows the McFarlane design.

“Huh?” Moment: Peter storms out when “Jonah” refuses to print his story on the midnight attack, upset that a potential bloodbath won’t be prevented. There are other newspapers in New York, Peter. You’ve even worked for a few of them. Why does he act as if the Daily Bugle is his only option?

Review: The Lobos Brothers storyline continues, as Spider-Man finally pieces together that the Lobos Brothers are actually werewolves, Joy Mercado comes clean about spying on Glory Grant (a Spectacular Spider-Man storyline referenced here for the first time), and the Chameleon and Hammerhead sit back and wait for the Lobos to handle the Kingpin. You would think that the story is reaching the climax, but it actually runs until #55, with a few more chapters showing up in Spectacular Spider-Man. While Conway advances the plot, he works in some nice character moments. Spider-Man is disgusted by working with the Arranger, Arranger is terrified of Kingpin, Joy feels guilty for spying on Glory, Kristy is jealous of MJ and still trying to hide her crush on Peter, and Kate Cushing is sticking with the Daily Bugle out of loyalty to Robbie Robertson, even though Jonah appears to be worse than ever. To me, this is the material that makes a Spider-Man comic, and it’s one of the reasons why over-the-top “events” never seem to work with the franchise. If there's no room for the characters, it's not Spider-Man.

Monday, October 4, 2010

WEB OF SPIDER-MAN #50-#51, May-June 1989

1,000 Words

Credits: Gerry Conway (writer), Alex Saviuk (penciler), Keith Williams (inker), Rick Parker (letterer), Bob Sharen (colorist)

The Plot: Tabloid photographer Nick Katzenberg catches Spider-Man robbing millionaire Winston Walker’s home. His photos land Katzenberg a staff position at the Daily Bugle, while former associates of Spider-Man are disturbed by the story. Spider-Man tails Walker to a hidden vault, where he’s kept secret documents. Spider-Man takes the papers to Ellis Island, where Silver Sable and her employee Sandman are waiting. Puma, Rocket Racer, Will O’ The Wisp, and Prowler individually track Spider-Man to Ellis Island, still believing him to be a thief. They try to apprehend him, but he stops the fight by unveiling the secret documents that prove Walker is laundering money for the mob. Silver Sable explains that robbing Walker’s home was a ruse, designed to lure him to his secret vault.

The Subplots: After hiring Nick Katzenberg, Jonah Jameson returns to his empty apartment (his wife is away on a research sabbatical). He’s kidnapped by the Chameleon, who assumes his identity. Elsewhere, Robbie Robertson’s trial carries on, as the Lobos Brothers continue attacking the Kingpin’s interests.

Web of Continuity: This is the first appearance of Nick Katzenberg, who becomes a recurring supporting cast member during this era. Robbie Robertson is on trial for “misprision of a felony” because he stayed quiet about one of Tombstone’s murders for years. Peter and MJ are now living in Aunt May’s boarding home, following their eviction from the Bedford Condos (orchestrated by MJ’s obsessed fan Jonathan Caesar).

I Love the ‘80s: Silver Sable gives Spidey a beeper to use during the mission. Peter’s fellow grad student Anne-Marie wonders why a college student would need a beeper.

Miscellaneous Note: The Statement of Ownership has the yearly sales average as 238,115 with the most recent issue selling 197,700 copies.

Review: Aside from the introduction of Nick Katzenberg, this issue leads to quite a few storylines during Gerry Conway’s tenure. Chameleon will go on to impersonate Jameson for months, which ties in with the ongoing Lobo Brothers arc. The Puma feels that he’s disgraced Spider-Man, which leads into the next Daily Bugle subplot. Prowler and Rocket Racer take Silver Sable up on her offer of employment, which gives the characters something to do for the next few years (Will O’ The Wisp is also offered a job, but he just disappears after this issue for some reason). Rocket Racer also plays a large role in an upcoming two-parter, in addition to starring in several back-up stories in Marvel Tales and the various Spidey annuals. Judging by his comments in this issue, this is his first appearance in years. I don’t know if Conway had all of this mapped out when writing this story, but it’s nice to see an anniversary issue that works as a fun story, but also has a larger impact later on.

Along with the revival of several forgotten and nearly-forgotten enemies-turned-allies, Peter and MJ’s new living arrangement is acknowledged in Web for the first time. This is one of my favorite status quos for the character -- living in his childhood bedroom with his wife, with no prospects for a new apartment, and a house packed with elderly couples he has to hide his secret identity from. It’s pathetic, but not comically pathetic, which is where I think modern writers go too far. Peter’s been hit hard by life, but the situation isn’t so over-the-top that it’s implausible, and it’s not screamingly obvious that an outside force is trying to impose “hardship” on the character. There’s also a certain irony to Peter and MJ living in Aunt May’s home, just a few weeks after they pawned Kristy off to the same location. I’ve heard people complain about this kind of “domestic” setup in the Spider-books, but as a kid this is one of the situations that made me realize Spider-Man wasn’t like all of the other superheroes.

The Crimelord of New York!

Credits: Gerry Conway (writer), Mark Bagley (penciler), Keith Williams (inker), Rick Parker (letterer), Bob Sharen (colorist)

The Plot: After hearing rumors of a gang war, Spider-Man searches for the Arranger. He arrives in time to stop Eduardo Lobo from killing the Arranger, but isn’t able to apprehend him. Arranger proposes Spider-Man pool resources with the Kingpin’s side in order to prevent the gang war. Meanwhile, Chameleon reveals his intention to become New York’s new crimelord. Under the Maggia’s direction, he forms a partnership with Hammerhead, aimed at taking down the Kingpin.

The Subplots: Peter overhears Kristy throwing up in the bathroom. The stress of losing her condo and life savings to Jonathan Caesar causes MJ to snap at Peter. Later, they visit Lorraine in the hospital together, only to learn she isn’t making progress. As Jonah Jameson, Chameleon searches for a confidential file on the Kingpin, but Glory Grant has already given it to Eduardo Lobo.

Web of Continuity: This story takes place immediately after Spectacular Spider-Man #150, the issue that confirmed that the Lobo Brothers are in fact werewolves.

Review: And now the gang war storyline that was building in Spectacular Spider-Man moves over to Web. Conway is essentially writing the two titles as one bi-weekly series at this point, yet he tends not to end the individual chapters in cliffhangers, which theoretically means you don’t have to buy the other book. Mark Bagley penciled two of the 1988 Spider-Man annuals (one of them even introduced future New Warrior Speedball), and this issue marks his debut as the rotating fill-in artist for Web and Amazing. If Sal Buscema ever needed fill-ins on Spectacular, I’m sure he would’ve shown up there, too. Bagley’s work isn’t quite recognizable yet, but he does a capable job on an issue that largely consists of subplot scenes.

With this issue, a new wrinkle in the gang war is introduced -- the Chameleon. As he explains to the Maggia in this issue, he’s leaving international espionage behind in order to concentrate on the more lucrative career of organized crime. Aside from using the Daily Bugle to batter Spider-Man’s reputation, he also believes the Bugle’s files will help him topple the Kingpin. Little does he know his secretary is in love with the other mobster seeking to destroy the Kingpin, Eduardo Lobo. The Lobo Brothers are great; I think it’s about time Spider-Man faced Mexican mutant werewolf gangsters. The werewolf fight is only a small portion of the issue, as the story cuts back and forth between the various ongoing storylines. Conway has a solid handle on the Chameleon, and his interpretation of the “new” MJ (she now takes on everyone’s problems to avoid her own, as opposed to just running away like she did in the past) is interesting. The combination of personal drama, superhero drama, and underworld drama gives Conway a lot to work with, and he seems to enjoy juggling the various threads.

Friday, October 1, 2010

WEB OF SPIDER-MAN #49 - April 1989

Corner Business

Credits: Peter David (writer), Val Mayerick (artist), Rick Parker (letterer), Janice Cohen (colorist)

The Plot: MJ spots her friend Lorraine on a street corner, talking to a stranger named Winston. When Lorraine later collapses in the bathroom, MJ realizes that she’s on drugs and Winston was her dealer. Spider-Man begins to tail Winston, disrupting his drug sales and pressuring him to skip town. Frustrated, Winston heads to his supplier for protection. Instead, he’s killed for leading Spider-Man to their operation, which is soon shut down. Meanwhile, MJ searches for a rehab facility for Lorraine, who soon disappears and overdoses in an alley. As Peter and MJ leave to visit her in the hospital, another drug dealer emerges on the street corner.

The Subplots: None.

Review: It’s an ‘80s “Just Say No” comic! Does kid entertainment still do these stories, or is it all about saving the environment now? This isn’t quite as heavy-handed or preachy as most of the anti-drug stories from the era, which isn’t surprising since Peter David wrote it. Much of the story deals with the futility of the drug war, as even the Amazing Spider-Man is unable to chase one measly dealer out of town. Another dealer emerges only a few hours after Lorraine’s pusher is killed; just a few panels after Spider-Man declares that the drug war must be fought one street corner at a time. David is either using the scene as a call to arms or ending the story on a cynical note of hopelessness. How exactly a drug addict receives help is also dealt with, as MJ learns that all of the government-run rehab facilities have a six-month waiting list, and the one private institution she finds costs $50,000 a year. (According to this issue, rehab takes a full eighteen months of inpatient treatment. TV tells me today it’s no longer than three months! Also, rehab is spelled “re-hab” here, which reminds me of Stan Lee spelling “teenager” with a hyphen back in the ‘60s.) I like Spider-Man stories that deal with actual issues, as they go back to his roots as a more realistic hero, and David does a good job of making this feel like a genuine story and not a PSA. Lorraine turns up a few issues later but is soon forgotten, which is a shame since MJ needs more of a supporting cast on her own, and more could’ve been done with the character.

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