Wednesday, May 30, 2012

UNTOLD TALES OF SPIDER-MAN - Part One



Side by Side with the Astonishing Ant-Man!
Written by Will Murray

The Plot: Ant-Man, wary of the new adventurer Spider-Man, sends a message to his ants to bring him any information on Spider-Man. Egghead intercepts the message and hatches a new scheme. Soon, a giant tarantula appears in Manhattan, sending an arachnid-specific message to Spider-Man, offering a partnership. Spider-Man investigates and runs into Ant-Man, who assumes he’s responsible. Ant-Man overwhelms Spider-Man by shrinking him and setting him against an ant colony. After investigating the tarantula and realizing it’s a robot, he discerns Egghead’s involvement. Calling a truce with Spider-Man, the heroes team up and defeat the villain.

Web of Continuity: According to the Continuity Guide in the back of the novel, this story takes place in-between Amazing Spider-Man #2 and #3.

“Huh?” Moment: Ant-Man’s costume is repeatedly described as being red and purple. Purple?

Review
: There is a strong premise here, although the story drags in places. Set during the days before Spider-Man established himself as a hero, Ant-Man learns of this new costumed adventurer and wonders if Spider-Man’s identity has been inspired by his own. After all, there aren’t that many costumed characters around yet, and spiders and ants are natural enemies.

Egghead learns of his curiosity and takes a page out of the Chameleon’s book by somehow using a spider to communicate with Spider-Man. How long exactly he thought he could convince Spider-Man that this phony robotic spider was his ally is questionable, but his scheme is utterly plausible by Silver Age standards. And it’s that innocence and charm of the Silver Age that Will Murray is trying to evoke. It’s not hard to imagine this as a Tales to Astonish issue that never made it to press. And while the story is filled with great moments, such as Spider-Man’s guilt over hurting an ant he accidentally throws out of a window, it feels like it runs on for too long. Perhaps because it’s the first story in the book, an inordinate amount of time is spent patiently spelling out each character’s costumes, powers, and gimmicks. That’s understandable, but the lengthy exposition helps to push the story to a full twenty-one pages of prose, making it one of the longest stories in the book.

After the First Death…
Written by Tom DeFalco

The Plot: When sibling thieves Kent and Wayne fight Spider-Man on a rooftop, older brother Wayne accidentally falls to his death. Shaken, Spider-Man leaves the scene. Soon, Kent has informed Wayne’s estranged wife Jeannette of his death. As Peter Parker sinks into a depression, Jeannette visits Jonah Jameson, who helps her file a wrongful death suit against Spider-Man. Later, Spider-Man’s given a chance to redeem himself by rescuing a group of hostages at a grocery store. And when Kenny learns that Jeannette has cut him out of the lawsuit, he concocts a story that implicates himself in his brother’s death. Spider-Man is officially cleared, but he knows he’ll always carry the guilt.

Web of Continuity: This story takes place “in the general vicinity” of Amazing Spider-Man #10.

Review: Tom DeFalco would’ve been a more obvious choice to write the campy Spider-Man/Ant-Man team-up, but I’m glad he’s been given a chance to show another side. This is one of the least “comic-booky” stories in the novel, as DeFalco takes advantage of the prose format and creates a grim psychological drama for the young Peter Parker. The only levity in the story comes from a handful of in-jokes, all of the villains in the piece are named after DC characters or staffers, which the average reader probably won’t catch. After setting up the dark premise, DeFalco drives the knife deeper into Peter’s gut when he’s forced into selling photos of the event in order to make an overdue mortgage payment for Aunt May. Classic Spider-Man melodrama, of course; he’s already mentally convicted himself of manslaughter, and now he’s making blood money. There isn’t a clean way to get Peter out of this dilemma, so DeFalco ends the story by giving him a small victory and opportune advice from Aunt May about the importance of acknowledging your mistakes and moving on. Nice work; probably one of DeFalco’s best Spidey stories.

Monday, May 28, 2012

UNTOLD TALES OF SPIDER-MAN (the book)



Marvel has a history of licensing its characters to prose novels that goes all the way back to the 1960s (when Captain America carried a gun), so it’s not much of a surprise to discover that a series of Marvel novels was published in hardback and paperback throughout the ‘90s. Unless you regularly visited the sci-fi/fantasy section of your local bookstore on a regular basis, however, you might not realize just how many of these novels were published. (This site has a comprehensive list if you're interested.)

I don’t pretend to have anything approaching a complete collection of the line, but I do have a couple of the novels; almost all of them purchased years after they went out of print from Amazon sellers. Obviously I was a hardcore X-completist for much of the ‘90s, and I tried to keep up with the Spider-titles whenever the current status quo didn’t infuriate me, but the novels were way off in whatever land for me. Marvel didn’t see fit to acknowledge them in their comics, not just in the stories but in house ads or Bullpen Bulletins blurbs, so I didn’t see the point in pursuing the prose novels.

I’m assuming the novels sold well, considering how many were made, but I’m not sure who the target audience for the books was supposed to be. Presumably hardcore fans who must have every appearance of their favorite character, regardless of format, although just keeping up with the comics can often be a financial burden. If you only read the comics, you wouldn’t be aware of the novels anyway. I guess the overlap of “comics readers” and just “general readers” was enough to help keep the line afloat. I can see this working -- someone looking through the sci-fi/fantasy section probably has some familiarity with the Marvel heroes. You’re looking for a book to buy, you recognize the name of the writer, and you remember the characters from the comics, so you risk a couple of bucks and try it out. It’s also likely that many of the viewers of the X-Men and Spider-Man cartoon shows never stepped inside a comic book shop or paid attention to a spinner rack, but did visit bookstores. If you’re already inclined to read prose instead of comics and like the characters, I can see why the novels would be appealing. Lots of Star Trek and Star Wars fans have probably never read those comics either, but they’re more than willing to read the various novels.

All of this brings me to the first in my series of prove novel reviews. Untold Tales of Spider-Man, published in October 1997 and co-edited by Stan Lee and Kurt Busiek expands on the critically acclaimed comic of the era and brings us untold stories from various eras of Spider-Man’s life. Most of the short stories are penned by genre writers, although a few comics scribes make appearances. No one seemed to treat the prose novels as a part of the comics’ “official” continuity, but each story is given a specific back issue reference to show the reader when exactly it’s supposed to take place. (Can you imagine the actual comics being this anal today?) Everyone seems to know and love Untold Tales of Spider-Man the comic book, what about the novel? It’s lived in obscurity for years, but I think it’s worth another look.

Friday, May 25, 2012

JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA #8 - March 1993



Whispering Death!
Credits: Len Strazewski (writer), Mike Parobeck (penciler), Mike Machlan (inker), Bob Pinaha (letterer), Glenn Whitmore (colorist)

Summary: Hourman visits his son in the hospital, joined by Johnny and Jesse Quick, and Sandman, who’s recovering from a stroke. Outside, a group of white supremacists are protesting anti-Apartheid leader Bishop Tumutuu, who’s receiving gall bladder surgery. When the protesters turn violent, Johnny and Jesse Quick try to contain them. Hourman also miraculously regains his powers and joins the action. When a protester invades Bishop Tumutuu’s room, he’s stopped by Sandman. Meanwhile, Hawkman and Hawkgirl discover Kulak the Sorcerer in Egypt.

Irrelevant Continuity: Sandman and Bishop Tumutuu have been good friends since the 1950s. Jesse Quick remarks that Sandman seems to know everybody.

I Love the ‘90s: The story ends with Green Lantern watching television in bed. He comments that he never believed Johnny Carson would hang up his microphone, shortly before Kulak's infomercial begins.

Total N00B: Kulak is a three-eyed purple-skinned humanoid that apparently brainwashes Hawkman into hosting an infomercial that introduces him to the public. The story acts as if we should already know whom Kulak is, which is a stretch. I initially wondered if he was supposed to be the dying alien in Green Lantern’s origin story.

Review: An issue dedicated to the unofficial JSA members, even though we’re still not sure what exactly the JSA’s role is supposed to be in the modern DC Universe. Strazewski does handle the Hourman material quite well, as the hero deals with the guilt that’s consumed him since his son was diagnosed with cancer. Obviously, Strazewski is eager to have Hourman back in action, so he’s given what appears to be the third non-drug related return of his powers, conveniently when the story needs him to be repowered, of course. This isn’t quite as cheap as it sounds, since Strazewski is playing off Johnny Quick’s earlier discovery that his powers existed in his genes all along (the story opens with Johnny Quick unsuccessfully coaching Hourman). If Johnny Quick can be super-fast without his formula, Hourman doesn’t need his Miraclo drug either, which I guess is fair enough.

Now, are white supremacists the best opponents for the JSA to be fighting? They do seem an odd match for the book’s tone, but I suppose Nazis and bigots were standard foes in the Golden Age. Strazewski hints that some outside force is driving them into a murderous rage, and they do have a giant eye drawn on their hoods, so perhaps this is somehow tying into the Kulak subplot. I wonder why the book doesn’t identify the bigots as Klansmen, even though Parobeck is drawing them in KKK garb (with that added eye…and boy is it strange to see Parobeck-style Klansmen). Was DC afraid of a lawsuit?

Thursday, May 24, 2012

GUNFIRE #6 - November 1994



It’s all done with Mirrors
Credits: Len Wein (writer), Ed Benes (penciler), Brian Garvey & Rus Sever (inkers), Lois Buhalis (letterer), Martin Thomas (colorist)

Summary: Gunfire investigates one of Ragnarok’s warehouses, only to get caught in a trap. He narrowly escapes, leaving with no answers. Elsewhere, his aunt Lacey hires Mirror Master to stop him from announcing Van Horn Industries’ conversion from munitions to alternative energy. As Andrew Van Horn, Gunfire hires the Gemini siblings as bodyguards. When they’re unable to stop Mirror Master from invading the press conference, Gunfire steps in. Using his armor’s technology, he sees past Mirror Master’s tricks and defeats him. Meanwhile, Benjamin is ambushed by his twin brother in his apartment.

Irrelevant Continuity: Mirror Master is upset that someone has been impersonating him. A footnote points to Justice League of America #90.

Review: This is the virtually the same plot from two issues ago, only now the comedy of errors element is gone. Lacey’s back to order more (non-lethal) hitmen to target Andrew before he can give that important speech, and this time she has the date right. The first absurd assumption is that stopping a press conference is actually going to stop a business plan from going forward. As if Apple would’ve never sold an iPad if that original press conference had been interrupted by a 1960s Flash villain. The second is the new direction that Gunfire is forcing upon V.H.I. Wein uses comic book pseudo-science relatively well to justify the switch (a giant laser is now going to be used to explore geothermal energy instead of cutting people into pieces), but how is V.H.I. going to totally change operations in one day? How can the business afford to stay open during the period when it isn’t selling weapons but has no geothermal energy to sell, either? Was this business model dreamed up by Ben or Jerry?

So, the basic plot has problems, but it’s nice to see Gunfire face another non-armored foe, his second in seven issues. Mirror Master is an unexpected choice for Gunfire to fight, and while it’s not hard to figure out how this battle is going to end, Wein has some fun with the action. I don’t know if the Gemini siblings have a compelling reason to be in the story, but there’s a certain logic behind their appearance. If Gunfire truly is a reluctant hero, and he’s rich, it would make sense for him to hire bodyguards to take care of all of the fights he’d rather avoid. That doesn’t mean that Gemini siblings are a gripping concept on their own, though. I get the sense that they’ve appeared in some other series and I’m supposed to be carrying over some existing fondness for them. All I know about them from reading this issue is that they’re freakishly tall, tan, and can’t take on Mirror Master. I’d ask for a refund, Andrew. You’re going to need that money soon, anyway.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA #7 - February 1993



…Or Give Me Death
Credits: Len Strazewski (writer), Mike Parobeck (penciler), Mike Machlan (inker), Bob Pinaha (letterer), Glenn Whitmore (colorist)

Summary: Jesse Quick stumbles across suspicious activity in Bahdnesia, and soon runs into Dr. Midnight in an underground jail. They discover that Pol St. Germain is keeping undesirables from around the world in the underground cages. They set the prisoners free and give them medical attention. Meanwhile, Wildcat is abducted by Bahdnesian security, and then brainwashed by St. Germain into turning against the JSA. When the JSA unite to confront St. Germain, Wildcat breaks free of his conditioning. However, St. Germain unleashes the island’s volcano, forcing everyone to evacuate.

Irrelevant Continuity: Johnny Thunder learns that the Bahdnesians abandoned their island long before Pol St. Germain arrived -- because he accidentally stole the island’s magic when he bonded with Thunderbolt. Kiku, the last known Bahdnesian, is given the Bahdnesians’ sacred history book at the end of the story.

We Get Letters: The series’ cancellation is announced in the letter column, following a fan’s letter expressing his concern after reading about it on a computer bulletin board.

Review: Sadly, this is a terrible conclusion to the Bahdnesian arc. As always, Mike Parobeck delivers great superhero cartooning, and I like Len Strazewski’s development of Johnny Thunder, but the overall storyline doesn’t work at all. The previous issue introduced the mystery of St. Germain and the “economic utopia” he’s created on Bahdnesia, and while this issue resolves the mystery, I can’t say the resolution makes a lot of sense. St. Germain’s plan is to present Bahdnesia as an island paradise, sell his economic planning skills to other countries, and then blow up the island if anyone gets too close to the truth. Okay, but…

I get that St. Germain is brainwashing people, but the story isn’t clear on who exactly is getting the treatment. Just his security guards, or the entire populace? He brags that everyone has a job in Bahdnesia, so is he brainwashing everyone into working the jobs he assigns them in this “progressive planned economy”? I guess the idea is that the citizens are working for free, which enriches St. Germain and allows him to reinvest in the island, but nothing in the story confirms this theory. The story’s also vague on where these citizens came from following the departure of the native Bahdnesians. He’s brought in people from various countries, yes, but somehow this ties in with the sick and poor undesirables he’s keeping as prisoners underground. How did he end up with these people? Why did he take them in? They're clearly too weak to be working as his slaves, and if he’s supposed to be keeping them as human experiments, we’re never told this during the story. What kind of a master plan is this?





Tuesday, May 22, 2012

GUNFIRE #0 - October 1994



Forward Thrust!
Credits: Len Wein (writer), Ed Benes (penciler), Brian Garvey (inker), Lois Buhalis (letterer), Martin Thomas (colorist)

Summary: Gunfire invades the offices of Ulti/Tech, giving Benjamin time to hack into their records and reveal their connection to Van Horn Industries. Following the trail of a mystery man named Ragnarok, Gunfire travels to a castle in the Adirondack Mountains. After defeating Ragnarok’s armed guards, Gunfire faces Ragnarok. To his horror, Ragnarok reveals himself as Gunfire’s father. In disbelief, Gunfire agitates the air particles around him and creates a giant explosion. He escapes, but discovers Ragnarok is still alive.

Irrelevant Continuity:
· Following the Zero Hour miniseries, every mainstream DC title released a #0 issue. Each zero issue was supposed to reveal a secret about a major character, or serve as an origin recap (or an origin clarification, depending on how Zero Hour impacted the book’s continuity). After Zero Hour, of course, DC continuity was never altered again.
· Gunfire learns how to turn a round object into a grenade, and how to “agitate air” and create explosions this issue.
· Benjamin’s brother is flying to the United States. He has an ominous smile, so you know this isn’t going to end well.

I Love the ‘90s: Benjamin downloads all of Ulti/Tech’s database, including several video files, on to one floppy disc.

Review: Gunfire began as a very ‘90s concept executed in a very ‘70s style (maybe '80s). And while Len Wein is still writing straightforward action stories about a reluctant superhero and his assorted supporting cast members, the capable artwork of Steve Erwin has been replaced by future internet punching bag Ed Benes. Yes, why keep an artist who can draw like Mike Zeck around when you can hire someone who draws like Jim Lee on a bender? This is perfectly logical in 1994.

Benes’ work is pretty much what you would expect here. He really likes Jim Lee, but doesn’t have the underlying drawing skills, so he produces a steady stream of grimacing characters bathed in superfluous detail lines striking awkward ballet poses at one another. The layouts are also a mess during most of the action sequences, making me appreciate Steve Erwin’s clean page designs even more.

The story is on the same adequate-but-not-great level as the previous issues, although the revelation that Gunfire’s father is still alive (“N-no…It’s not possible…We buried you!!”) drags this down past the level of predictable melodrama. Of course his father is still alive and is secretly a supervillain with crazy armor and Dr. Doom’s speech pattern looking for the elusive answer to immortality. That makes perfect sense. In fairness, Gunfire refuses to believe the revelation, so maybe Ragnarok will turn out to be some form of imposter. Still, the shift in direction doesn’t leave me excited for future issues.

Monday, May 21, 2012

JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA #6 - January 1993



Give Me Liberty…
Credits: Len Strazewski (writer), Mike Parobeck (penciler), Mike Machlan & Carlos Garzon (inkers), Bob Pinaha (letterer), Glenn Whitmore (colorist)

Summary: The JSA travel in their civilian guises to Bahdnesia, telling Jesse stories about their WWII adventures. When they arrive, Dr. Midnight slips away to investigate the island, which is owned by the mysterious Pol St. Germain. Meanwhile, Wildcat and Atom go to a boxing match. When a boxer is allowed to brutalize his opponent, Wildcat enters the ring and attacks the boxer, attracting numerous security guards.

Irrelevant Continuity: The girl from issue #3 with the mysterious connection to Thunderbolt is revealed as Kiku, a descendant of Bahdnesia immigrants. She travels with the team to Bahdnesia.

Total N00B: I have no idea why Kiku’s ancestry as a Bahdnesian apparently allows her to control Thunderbolt.

We Get Letters: One fan is upset that Green Lantern isn’t wearing his toupee in this title, which contradicts his appearances in Green Lantern Corps Quarterly.

I Love the ‘90s: Green Lantern is disappointed that the government is spending billions on the Gulf War while people are out of work. The Gulf War was almost two years old when this comic was published, but I guess the news was still new to GL.

Review: The only member to appear in costume during the lead story is Dr. Midnight, which I suppose was the motivation for opening the book with a lengthy flashback to one of the JSA’s WWII battles. This adventure takes place on the White House lawn, as the JSA stop an elaborate assassination attempt that we’re somehow supposed to believe never became public knowledge. The flashback doesn’t seem to have any real relevance to the main story, which I’m sure breaks a few of the accepted writing rules, but it’s nicely illustrated and allows the issue to open with an unexpected cold action sequence. The story then moves on to the Bahdnesian plot, which has the various teammates wandering around the island, remarking that something is Not Quite Right. With a name like “Pol St. Germain, I can’t imagine anything is fishy about the island’s leader, but we’ll see how this turns out. Strazewski can still make the camaraderie between the JSA readable, so the leisurely nature of this storyline isn’t a problem at this point.

Friday, May 18, 2012

GUNFIRE #5 - September 1994



The Day of the Exomorphic Man
Credits: Len Wein (writer), Steve Erwin (layouts), Brian Garvey (finishes), Bob Lappan (letterer), Martin Thomas (colorist)

Summary: Gunfire is released from prison on the condition that he continues adventuring when the police need his help. Meanwhile, Gunfire’s aunt Lacey retrieves the remains of Slater. Using Van Horn Industries technology, she reanimates him as the Exomorphic Man. Lacey sends the disoriented Exomorphic Man to stop Andrew before he can publicly announce that V.H.I. will no longer produce weapons, unaware that the press conference has already been cancelled. As Gunfire, Andrew shows Exomorphic Man his face in the mirror after their fight, which leads to him deliriously falling several stories out of an open window.

Irrelevant Continuity:
· Gunfire mentions odd events that are happening around the globe, such as “the fall of Metropolis” and numerous dinosaur sightings. He also hears his deceased father’s voice later on in the issue, an event he dismisses as a part of the global oddities. Presumably, these are Zero Hero tie-ins, since this comic is filled with ads for the event.
· Gunfire can now fly, thanks to the new armor upgrades created by Benjamin and Yvette.
· Yvette is mysteriously broke, and Lacey Van Horn is somehow using this to her advantage by allowing Yvette to live in her mansion.

I Love the ‘90s: We see a couple of giant car phones this issue, as Lacey tries to contact her assistant Meagan and cancel Exomorphic Man’s attack after she discovers the press conference has been cancelled.

Review: Since this is the last issue before the Zero Hero-related #0, why doesn’t the story end with whiteness consuming the world, followed by several all-white pages? Or did that only happen in the issue of Robin I have from this cover month? Anyway…

Gunfire’s journey as a reluctant hero continues, as he’s forced to prolong his role as Gunfire in order to avoid jail. That’s a respectable angle for Wein to play out, and he adds another wrinkle by revealing that Gunfire’s associates, Benjamin and Yvette, don’t really want to continue doing this, especially if they’re being pressured by the police into helping. Wein also introduces another supporting character subplot, as the audience learns that Yvette has somehow gone broke and must turn to Gunfire’s shady aunt for help. Lacey Van Horn so far comes across as a typical soap opera villainess, but she is humanized a bit by her edict that Exomorphic Man merely scare her nephew and not kill him. And speaking of Exomorphic Man…hey, at least he’s not another ‘90s Guy in Armor. Erwin and Garvey do a great job on his visual, and I’m glad they’re getting something else to draw. Steve Erwin is the kind of underappreciated Buescma-style artist that unfortunately began to disappear during the mid-‘90s, so I’m glad DC hasn’t replaced him yet. Oh, wait. It’s his last issue? Never mind.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA #5 - December 1992


Only Human
Credits: Len Strazewski (writer), Mike Parobeck (penciler), Mike Machlan, Matt Banning, & Jeff Albrecht (inkers), Bob Pinaha (letterer), Glenn Whitmore (colorist)

Summary: With the aid of Jesse Quick and the modern-day Flash, the JSA defeat Ultra-Humanite. When the team receives word of Johnny Thunder’s injuries, they travel to the hospital to visit him. Johnny reveals that he’s discovered that his investments have made him rich during his years away, but remains unhappy. He then explains that he traveled with his genie Thunderbolt to Bahdnesia, the place where they first met, only to discover that all of the native Bahdnesians were gone. Meanwhile, the Ultragen goons who invaded Dr. Midnight’s office are killed by a green goo.

Irrelevant Continuity: Hourman visits his son in the hospital, who’s apparently contracted cancer after consuming Hourman’s addictive superhero pill Miraclo. He then attends an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting.

Total N00B: When Johnny Thunder goes on his misery tour of the modern US, he visits Dinah Lance’s grave. I’m familiar enough with DC continuity to know that she’s Black Canary, and an original JSA member, but when was she dead? And why was the ‘80s and ‘90s Black Canary also named Dinah Lance?

Review: The Ultra-Humanite arc finally concludes, although Strazewski doesn’t allow the JSA to arrest him, since the heroes can’t bring concrete charges against him yet. I’m personally ready to move on, although I’m sure hardcore JSA fans were thrilled to his “classic” simian form return as Ultra-Humanite’s trump card in the fight. And the fight is fun, with the modern Flash learning lessons from the original, Jesse Quick meeting her idols for the first time since infanthood, all executed with pages of spotless Parobeck action. I just don’t view Ultra-Humanite, at least as he’s presented here, as a villain strong enough to support a five-issue arc.

Moving on from Ultra-Humanite, a few subplots staring Hourman and Johnny Thunder are developed. Hourman’s dealing with the horrors of addiction, which I’m sure somebody thought was clever at some point in the ‘80s, but it hasn’t aged too well. Johnny Thunder recovers from his wounds while his genie behaves erratically, which is setting up the next issue’s storyline. Johnny’s sense of meaninglessness after decades away is skillfully portrayed; it’s inevitable that the Rip van Winkle angle will have to be explored in this book, but the obviousness of the concept doesn’t undermine the execution. I don’t know if the disappearance of the Bahdnesians (who?) is that great a setup for the next issue, but I am curious to see how Thunderbolt’s story plays out.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

GUNFIRE #4 - August 1994



Squeeze Play
Credits: Len Wein (writer), Steve Erwin (penciler), Brian Garvey (inker), Bob Lappan (letterer), Martin Thomas (colorist)

Summary: Gunfire leaps from the train, protected by his armored suit. The train derails and destroys what remains of his father’s weapons technology. Later, Andrew is visited in his new apartment by Detective Rivera, who’s still investigating Gunfire. Suddenly, the armored Marauder breaks in, targeting Rivera. Andrew exposes himself as Gunfire and chases away Marauder. Rivera promises to keep Andrew’s identity a secret, but is incensed the next day when Gunfire illegally trespasses on the property of the company he suspects employs Marauder. Rivera stumbles into Gunfire and Marauder’s fight and stops Marauder by destroying the computer network connected to his armor. Gunfire is then placed under arrest.

I Love the ‘90s: Ben, who’s watching the Marauder fight on a series of monitors, compares the picture quality to a laser-disc.

Review: The issue doesn’t get off to a great start, as it opens with a predictable cop-out resolution to the previous chapter’s cliffhanger. The basic premise to the new storyline, Gunfire versus his third Armored ‘90s Guy in a row, isn’t very promising either. However, Wein has worked around some of the standard superhero clich├ęs by changing the dynamic of Gunfire and Rivera’s relationship. Rivera discovers Gunfire’s secret ID when Gunfire protects him from a mob hitman (conveniently hired by the same mob family we know has ties to Van Horn Industries), and is actually pretty reasonable about the ordeal. He thanks him for saving his life, but still expects him to make a statement, which will be kept confidential. So, Gunfire’s secret ID is known to the police, but not the general public. He can live with that. Gunfire isn’t a “duly deputized officer of the law” though, so when Rivera catches Gunfire breaking and entering the very next day, he isn’t going to let him get away with it. The nuanced relationship between Rivera and Gunfire has a lot of potential, and I’m glad Wein isn’t taking the more obvious route of making Gunfire and the police automatic allies or enemies.

Is there anything else of note this issue? Oh, yes. The first hints that Monika can’t be trusted are dropped. How else do you explain her lusty desire for Gunfire’s half-mullet/half-ponytail?



Tuesday, May 15, 2012

JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA #4 - November 1992



Life on the Line
Credits: Len Strazewski (writer), Mike Parobeck (penciler), Mike Machlan (inker), Bob Pinaha (letterer), Glenn Whitmore (colorist)

Summary: The modern-day Flash attempts to rescue Wildcat, Atom, and Dr. Midnight, but finds himself a captive of the Ultra-Humanite as well. Dr. Midnight uses one of his devices to free his teammates while Ultra-Humanite is preoccupied by Flash, then rescues Flash from the Ultra-Humanite’s genetically modified trap. Meanwhile, Johnny Quick sends information to his daughter on Ultra-Humanite’s connection to Ultragen. She contacts the JSA and travels with them to rescue the heroes.

Irrelevant Continuity: Ultra-Humanite is now in a genetically modified body of his own creation. After burning out of his ape form, he possessed a number of humans and founded Ultragen as a front for his genetic research. The first issue’s villains, the New Order, were test subjects that turned on Ultra-Humanite.

Total N00B: The current Flash wishes he could vibrate through walls like he used to do with his predecessor (Barry Allen). He wonders if the original Flash can show him how to do it. Why exactly has he forgotten?

Review: Okay, I’m not sure how the ‘90s Flash got involved with this, but Parobeck certainly draws a nice rendition of Wally West. Strazewski moves the story along by revealing the origin of Ultra-Humanite’s new body (but not his stutter), and his connection to Ultragen. This brings us to another wild coincidence: the X-parody characters from the first issue also have connections to Ultra-Humanite/Ultragen. By a colossal twist of fate, Flash and Green Lantern just happened to be watching TV in a diner when a news report of their terrorist attack on a nuclear plant aired. So, virtually every event in the series so far goes back to Ultra-Humanite’s plot, even though the JSA have kept stumbling on to his schemes through sheer luck. I personally find these plot conveniences grating, but I guess it’s something the reader has to accept by this point.

Ignoring the master plot, we do have numerous action sequences that are masterfully handled by Parobeck, so there’s still plenty to enjoy. Parobeck’s also drawing a few more of the modern DC characters this issue, allowing his Byrne influence to become more noticeable. This might sound like an odd match for his style, but he makes it work.


Monday, May 14, 2012

GUNFIRE #3 - July 1994



Enter: Purge!
Credits: Len Wein (writer), Steve Erwin (penciler), Brian Garvey (inker), Bob Lappan (letterer), Steve Mattson (colorist)

Summary: The police spy on Van Horn Industries, suspicious of Gunfire’s connection to the company. Andrew is caught using his powers to destroy his father’s weapons technology. Solomon Perggia, a.k.a. Purge, arrives to steal the weapons, killing all of the police except for Detective Connover, whose life is saved by Gunfire. Soon, Gunfire ambushes Purge and his men on a train that’s carrying more weapons components. When Purge attempts to use his powers on Gunfire, he agitates the molecules of Purge’s armor and sends him exploding into the sky. Gunfire, however, is left on a runaway train.

Irrelevant Continuity: Purge reveals that he’s an Italian mobster who discovered his metagene after getting shot twice in the chest. He has the power to absorb life energy, but unlike a southern X-lady with bad taste in men, Purge’s power devolves his victims into goo. He turned to Gunfire’s father for help, only to discover Gunther Van Horn was mechanically replicating Purge’s power and using it as a weapon. He now wants all of the Van Horn technology based on his biology. So…does the post-post-post-Crisis DC Universe still have “metagenes”?

Review: The Solomon Perggia/Purge storyline continues, as we discover that the elderly mobster from the previous issues not only has super powers, but his own indestructible suit of armor that rivals the one worn by Iron Man…or F.A.C.A.D.E. at least. This is obviously ridiculous, but Wein plays it so straight I’m compelled just to go along with it. Purge is given a fairly convincing death scene this issue, which doesn’t stop the creators from ending the story with yet another cliffhanger, as Gunfire is trapped on a runaway train that’s about to go off the tracks. This is very traditional, old school superheroics. I personally enjoy it, but it still seems an odd fit for a character once described as having “the most ‘90s powers ever.”

The subplots offer the first real glimpse of Gunfire’s love life, and we discover that he is absolutely not Peter Parker. Gunfire’s having casual sex with his chauffeur Monika, which bothers his friend Ben (who’s perhaps better versed in sexual harassment law than Andrew). Yvette’s still in the background, literally, as she hides out in their base and watches the events from a distance, helping out whenever the plot needs her to. Another addition to the supporting cast is made when Detective Connover debuts as an investigator on the Van Horn case. He discovers Gunfire’s secret ID and is rescued from sure death by him within a few pages, quickly setting Connover up as Gunfire’s ally on the police department. Those always come in handy in superhero comics. Again, this is all very traditional stuff (although Gunfire’s relationship with Monika is a little racy for a Code-approved comic of the time). That doesn’t mean it’s bad, but the series does feel somewhat tame for the era.

Friday, May 11, 2012

GENERATION X #54 - August 1999



Land of the Rising Sons Part Two
Credits: Jay Faerber (writer), Terry Dodson & Derec Aucoin (pencils), Rachel Dodson & Scott Elmer (inks), Kevin Tinsley (colors), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (letters)

Summary: After evading the Rising Sons, the team joins Jubilee and Paladin on Noy’s train. Jubilee discovers that Adrienne’s sword is worthless; Noy simply enjoys keeping it because it annoys Adrienne. She takes the sword, and with Skin’s help, rescues Paladin from Dragonwing on top of the train. Upon returning home, Gen X learns from Emma that the sword killed Adrienne’s husband. She thinks Adrienne wants to use her psychometric powers to stay connected with her husband’s final hours. In reality, Adrienne ordered her husband’s murder and wants the sword as a keepsake.

Continuity Notes: Viper is shown video footage of Generation X in Madripoor by one of her subordinates. She comments that she should pay them a visit, but doesn’t appear in the rest of the issue.

Review: It’s another issue of Gen X fighting the Rising Sons, with barely a subplot in sight. Faerber avoids making the issue a simple-minded slugfest by throwing in a few twists to the story, such as the revelation that the sword is actually an old piece of junk. Noy is simply keeping it out of spite, Emma mistakenly believes Adrienne has an emotional connection to her husband through the sword, and finally Adrienne’s inner monologue reveals that she’s even more of a sadist than anyone suspected. The final page reveals more about Adrienne than any of the previous issues, so in terms of the ongoing continuity, there is still some significance to the storyline, even if the vast majority of the arc was spent setting up and executing fight scenes. Not that there’s anything wrong with the occasional action arc in Generation X, anyway. I’m still puzzled by the Viper subplot scene, though…

Thursday, May 10, 2012

WOLVERINE/PUNISHER: REVELATION #4 - September 1999



So This is Hell
Credits: Tom Sniegoski & Christopher Golden (writers), Pat Lee (pencils & colors), Alvin Lee (inks), Sigmund Torre (background assist), Angela Tsang (colors), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (letters)

Summary: The Punisher finds Revelation and protects her from the robots. To stop her from reaching the surface, he reaches into his angelic arsenal and summons a weapon that can’t harm her -- a crystal that holds the essence of her slain parents. The warhead robot appears and, despite the efforts of Wolverine and Punisher, fatally injures Revelation. Punisher places the warhead inside the hole in his chest and absorbs the blast. The Council of Thrones arrives and takes Revelation to Heaven. Healed, the Punisher reflects with Lucy. Meanwhile, Wolverine ponders the afterlife.

Review: The last issue hinted that, perhaps, this mini could redeem itself a bit by giving the Punisher a meaningful moral dilemma -- killing Revelation for what could be his only chance of ever seeing his family again. This issue resolves that ethical quandary by giving the Punisher whatever magic powers he needs for a Get Out of the Plot Free card. Just a few pages after magically pulling out a “weapon” that works like a Hallmark card, he’s also able to fill up the hole in his chest with a bomb blast and walk away none the worse for it. It’s hard to imagine why this status quo didn’t last, isn’t it?

Meanwhile, Wolverine remains incredulous at the idea of an afterlife, even after a lengthy battle with angel-powers Punisher, and witnessing first hand a host of angels taking a young woman to Heaven. Oh, yeah, Wolverine also traveled to HELL with Punisher (and let’s not forget Ghost Rider) in one of the highest-selling prestige format comics of all time. He still can’t wrap his head around this stuff? If the writers wanted to explore Wolverine’s willingness to believe in Hell but his skepticism towards Heaven, that’s an interesting idea that could work as a legitimate character arc, but that’s not what we’re getting. Wolverine’s disbelief doesn’t offer any insights into his character, and none of the events of the story seems to impact him in any way. His skepticism about the afterlife has barely been mentioned in the previous chapters, so pulling it out now as an emotional hook for this issue just seems like an odd choice, anyway. The final page of the comic even has Wolverine wistfully staring at the night sky, fruitlessly looking for answers…probably the most banal conclusion you could execute in any “faith” story. All of the Photoshop tricks in the world can’t cover up writing (and art) this shoddy.





Wednesday, May 9, 2012

MUTANT X #11 - August 1999



And a Child Shall Lead Them.
Credits: Howard Mackie (writer), JJ Kirby & Mike Miller (pencilers), Pepoy/Greene/Elmer/Mei/Koblish/Candelario (inks), Gina Going (colors), Chris Eliopoulos (letters)

Summary: Madelyne briefly escapes her Goblin Queen persona, but is soon consumed by demonic influences again. She sends Bloodstorm to the X-Men’s mansion to kidnap Scotty, who’s later kept prisoner when he turns away from his mother. When Brute visits him, Scotty uses his telepathic powers to erase Goblin Queen’s mental control. Brute is attacked by the rest of the Six, but when the Fallen targets Scotty, Goblin Queen turns on him. Madelyne apparently reasserts herself and sends Brute and Scotty back home with the X-Men.

Better Than X-Factor?: Not particularly, although I have to say the artists have done an admirable job under what had to be tight deadlines. Two pencilers and six inkers are not going to produce the most consistent comic ever, but I have to say that the majority of this issue looks perfectly okay. I think JJ Kirby is responsible for most of the issue, but even the pages by perpetual fill-in guy Mike Miller are decent. I’m assuming his pencils for the most recent X-Force issue were extremely rough. The story, unfortunately, does read like a last-minute deadline crunch. Scotty develops powers out of nowhere, Madelyne wastes numerous pages having a literal battle with her inner demons, more demons appear for no discernible reason during Brute and Scotty’s escape, and Madelyne’s personality abruptly changes again when it’s time for the story to end. The execution of the events is so disjointed it’s hard to care about anything that happens.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

X-FORCE #92 - July 1999



Strange Interlude
Credits: John Francis Moore (writer), Mike Miller (penciler), Holdredge/Mei/Candelario/Collazo/Palmiotti (inks), Marie Javins (colors), Comicraft (letters)

Summary: Domino finds herself trapped inside Halloween Jack’s citadel. After enduring his mind games, Domino finally learns that Jack’s escaped the flooding of the polar ice caps by traveling back in time one hundred years. While examining this era, he’s fallen in love with Domino, and is now offering her a chance to live with him and avoid being killed in a future X-Force mission. She refuses and intimidates him into returning her home. Meanwhile in San Francisco, Sunspot faces deportation and a mystery figure seeks Moonstar for help.

Continuity Notes:
· Halloween Jack is a character created by John Francis Moore during his run on X-Men 2099.
· Domino is initially led to believe she is in Firenze, Italy. An inner monologue reveals that she first met Cable there while tracking an international arms dealer.
· Halloween Jack lists the names of people inadvertently hurt by having Domino in their lives: “Your sister. Your ex-husband Miles. Grizzly. Victor Lomenzo.” The stories behind her ex-husband and Grizzly have already been told. Her sister and Victor Lomenzo are new mysteries. The story ends with Domino attempting to “make amends” by calling Victor.

Review: I followed X-Men 2099 for most of its run, but only have vague recollections of any specific storylines. I tried to reread the series a few years ago but for some reason it couldn’t hold my interest after the first few issues. I do remember Halloween Jack as a Joker-style “embrace chaos” mad scientist who was friends with one of the X-Men in his previous life, which somehow gave Moore license to insert him into numerous issues of the series. Like I said, nothing in X-Men 2099 made much of an impact on me, so I can’t say I’m thrilled to see an issue of X-Force dedicated to an obscure villain from a mostly forgotten ‘90s imprint. (He was a villain, right?)

Moore tries to justify the insertion of his old creation by making this a Domino solo adventure, which of course means more vague hints about her shadowy past will be dropped. And, naturally, since Halloween Jack is from the future, he knows how Domino is going to die and it just so happens to tie in with the large Deviants story Moore’s been building for years. I don’t mind this so much, but the rationalization that Halloween Jack just happened to come across Domino’s photo while studying this era and is now madly obsessed with her is…well, I guess it’s elegant in its simplicity, but it doesn’t feel like much of a motivation. Unfortunately, at no point during the story did I ever get a sense for why Moore likes Halloween Jack so much, which is a problem. Obviously rushed fill-in art by Mike Miller and five inkers doesn’t help matters either, making this the weakest X-Force issue in a while.

Monday, May 7, 2012

GAMBIT #7- August 1999



Pig Pen Part 2 - Dirty Troughs
Credits: Fabian Nicieza (co-plot/script), Steve Skroce (co-plot/pencils), Rob Stull, Scott Hanna, & Scott Elmer (inks), Shannon Blanchard (colors), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (letters)

Summary: The pig extracts Shirow’s mind-control gas, while Gambit and Zoe are interrogated by the Mengo Brothers. When Zoe is brought to Pig’s torturer Hole, she manages to escape by tricking the guards into shooting at combustible machinery. As the Pig’s complex collapses, Zoe rescues Pig’s child-slaves while Gambit confronts the Pig. Using a portion of Shirow’s gas, Gambit forces Pig to follow his orders and walk off the top floor. He rescues Shirow and escapes with Zoe inside the Mengo Brothers’ ship. Meanwhile, Fontanelle “scrapes” the dreams of Scalphunter, revisiting Gambit’s role in the Morlock Massacre.

Continuity Notes: Scalphunter’s dream shows Gambit rescuing a young Marrow from Sabretooth (an expanded version of the flashback in Uncanny X-Men #350). The colorist has so badly mis-colored Marrow, with blonde hair and white skin, she’s almost unrecognizable. A brief conversation between Gambit and Scalphunter establishes that they know each another.

Review: The initial Pig storyline wraps us, as Nicieza establishes Pig’s motivation of orderly, clean control -- an obvious contrast to his hideous appearance. The Pig wants to eliminate all divisions amongst humanity and impose his discipline on the public, confident that he’s not motivated by ego but a benevolent desire to clean up the messes left by other leaders. It’s not the most original motivation in the world (Nicieza will go on to explore these themes in Cable & Deadpool), but it does make Pig more than just a generic crimelord. The creators could’ve just coasted on the villain’s horrific appearance, so I’ll give them credit for adding some layer of complexity to the Pig.

Meanwhile, the Mengo Brothers are still decent comedic relief, Gambit is given some cool action sequences, and Skroce gets to draw more explosions and collapsing buildings. The subplots are also building real tension for the upcoming storylines, as we learn that Nicieza isn’t going to be shying away from the Gambit/Marauders retcon at all. Nicieza’s willingness to broach these touchy issues head-on was one of my favorite aspects of this series during its run.

Friday, May 4, 2012

WOLVERINE/PUNISHER: REVELATION #3 - August 1999



One Shot at Heaven
Credits: Tom Sniegoski & Christopher Golden (writers), Pat Lee (pencils), Alvin Lee (inks), Sigmund Torre (background assist), Angelo Tsang (colors), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (letters)

Summary: The Punisher is injured while fighting the robots, discovering that his angelic powers seem unable to heal the hole in his chest. He carries on with Wolverine, but both fail to apprehend Revelation. After she knocks the heroes down with an energy burst, the Punisher realizes he’s sick. Meanwhile, a failsafe bomb designed by Soteira is triggered. Elsewhere, the Council of Thrones watches the events, fearful that Revelation will reach the surface.

Continuity Notes: A series of narrative captions attempts to explain how exactly Soteira built a sci-fi lab inside the Morlock Tunnels. The explanation is that the Morlocks often stole the material she needed from the surface, and that the failsafe bomb was appropriated from the Dark Beast.

Review: Assuming you’re willing to go along with the angelic Punisher makeover, there are a few decent character moments this issue. The Punisher is close to dying, his redemption mission incomplete, which means he’s damned to Hell and will never see his family again. This is motivation enough for him to kill Revelation, leaving Wolverine (who just lost his girlfriend to Revelation) to be the unlikely advocate for mercy. This is just a brief scene that doesn’t characterize the issue, but it is adequately written and I have to admit that it’s a justifiable use of the characters. Plus, a few narrative captions are thrown in to rationalize the peculiar misuse of the Morlocks in the previous issue, so...they tried, at least. The idea that the Morlocks had a secret futuristic anime lab in one corner of the sewers while their general population lived like paupers (and easy targets for a group of mercenaries) is still too absurd to buy, though, even if you’re bringing in the Dark Beast to help sell the idea. While I’m handing out backhanded praise, I’ll also point out that the art has noticeably improved this issue, even if many of the pages still look wonky.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

GENERATION X #53 - July 1999



Land of the Rising Sons
Credits: Jay Faerber (writer), Terry Dodson (penciler), Rachel Dodson (inker), Kevin Tinsley (colors), Comicraft’s Liz Agraphiotis (letters)

Summary: Paladin reveals that he was injured by the Rising Sons in Madripoor, while on a mission for Adrienne. Later, Gen X travels to Madripoor with Paladin to retrieve Adrienne’s missing sword from the mysterious Noy (M stays behind to bond with her sisters, Penance). As Jubilee and Paladin spy on Noy in a restaurant, Gen X tries to search his apartment, only to be ambushed by Nightwind of the Rising Sons. Nightwind retreats, but rejoins her teammates as Jubilee and Paladin are tricked into following Noy inside a bullet train.

Continuity Notes: The Rising Sons consist of Dragonwing (a human/dragon metamorph), Spoilsport (a girl with gravity-defying skates), The Sign (a magician with power-specific tattoos), Jet-Black (a human/motorcycle hybrid), Nightwind (girl with magic sword), and Tough Love (the resident strongman who’d rather read than fight).

Review: Paladin gets his own guest-starring arc, apparently just because Jay Faerber likes the guy. Nothing wrong with that, of course; creators should be working with characters that excite them, and it’s not too hard to fit Paladin into most action-oriented stories. The characterization hook for the issue is that Jubilee has a massive crush on Paladin, which she uses to justify the team’s jaunt to Madripoor. Adrienne apparently has no qualms about sending the team into danger, especially if it’s to help her retrieve a vague plot device that she wants back, so it’s off they go.

To counter the team, Faerber and Dodson have created the Rising Sons. I don’t think anyone else has ever done anything with these characters, and while on the surface they appear to have a similar genesis as Alpha Flight (“create a team that can fight the X-Men”), they’re perfectly suited as villains for a short arc. Each of the X-teams needs at least one opposing team to regularly fight, and Gen X really doesn’t have any. You might argue that some of the Rising Sons too closely resemble fighters from Street Fighter II or Mortal Kombat, but Dodson makes them look credible as villains. Setting the story in Madripoor also allows Terry Dodson to show more of his design skills, and create the sense that the team really is sneaking out and getting into too much trouble this time (Banshee’s in San Francisco and Emma’s too busy to notice when Adrienne allows them to leave). It’s nice to see the characters out doing something, especially if it doesn’t involve another X-Man crossover.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

MUTANT X #10 - July 1999


The X-Men Cometh!
Credits: Howard Mackie (writer), Carey Nord (penciler), Andrew Pepoy (inker), Gina Going (colors), Chris Eliopoulos (letters)

Summary: Magneto and Polaris rescue Havok from the Sentinels, but they’re soon drawn into another fight with a new breed of Sentinels designed by Reed Richards and imbued with demons by the Goblin Queen. Nimrod also materializes and joins the fight. The tide begins to turn when the X-Men suddenly arrive.

“That’s Crazy Because They’re Different”: Along with Magneto and Polaris, the X-Men consist of Nightcrawler, Rogue, Mystique, and Quicksilver. Nightcrawler has a new costume but seems to be fundamentally the same. Rogue wears Ms. Marvel’s costume and has Colossus’ armored skin. Mystique appears as a giant monster. Quicksilver is covered in a bizarre armor.

Better Than X-Factor?: I suppose, if only because this is a straightforward action story that isn’t hinting at various conspiracies or vague future events. It would be charitable to say this makes perfect sense, though. Apparently, Reed Richards isn’t being brainwashed by the Goblin Queen, which is certainly an odd characterization choice. Havok also seems incredulous that Magneto is a hero on this world, ignoring the fact that Magneto did reform on his earth and was even chosen by Professor Xavier to run his school during his absence. We also have another example of Mackie misusing Mystique’s powers, although there could be an explanation for this reality’s Mystique’s new abilities. The only alternate reality twist in the issue I enjoyed was the revelation that Polaris is discreetly powering up Magneto, who’s weakened after an outer space battle. And, perhaps, Mackie can do something with Havok and this new Polaris’ relationship. Pretty much anything would have to be an improvement over the way Mackie handled it in X-Factor.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

WOLVERINE/PUNISHER: REVELATION #2 - July 1999



Ascension
Credits: Tom Sniegoski & Christopher Golden (writers), Pat Lee (pencils & colors), Alvin Lee (inker), Angelo Tsang (colors), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (letters)

Summary: In the sewers, Wolverine discovers a holographic message left by a Morlock scientist named Soteira. She tells the story of a girl named Revelation who emits an uncontrollable death aura. After Revelation’s parents died, Soteira tried to help her control her powers. When Soteira grew too sick, she placed Revelation in a cryogenic freeze and created robotic guards to prevent anyone from disturbing her body. Wolverine tracks down the adult Revelation but is nearly killed by her. Using his powers of psychometry, the Punisher reaches the scene and is attacked by Wolverine as he gains consciousness. The Punisher subdues Wolverine by shooting him in the head. Clear-headed, Wolverine agrees to team with the Punisher, as robotic guards suddenly emerge.

Continuity Notes: I’m sure ninety-eight percent of my readers already know this, but the Morlocks are not a hi-tech race of scientists with access to advanced robotic and cybernetic technology. They live like homeless people.

Review: I think this is obviously Not Very Good, but I’ll try to list the few highlights. The concept that Revelation was raised religious and can’t let go of the guilt she feels for accidentally killing her parents has potential. Sniegoski & Golden get some use out of the idea this issue by revealing that she imagined herself in Hell during her years in the cryogenic freeze, which is causing her to hallucinate Wolverine as a demon and motivate her desire to reach the surface, which she now perceives as Heaven. The idea could also work as a parallel to the Punisher’s new status quo, assuming you think the angelic Punisher deserves any attention in the first place.

But…c’mon. It’s rather obvious that the creators behind this comic don’t know what a Morlock is, yet feel oddly compelled to drag them into the story. This extremely vague knowledge of X-continuity, where writers seem to only be aware of a character’s name and perhaps a one-sentence description, will infiltrate the X-books once the Marvel Knights approach dominates Marvel. (I believe Geoff Johns will go on to write a Morlocks miniseries that places them in Chicago, living in a world where Sentinels openly kill mutants on sight.) In my opinion, it’s one of the main reasons why the X-books have collapsed in popularity since the dawn of the new millennium. That ongoing soap opera that continued to build and build and build on the past was gone, replaced by arbitrary characterizations and relentless shock value that only served to alienate even more fans. I’m not saying that someone writing Fantastic Four or Avengers has to be an expert on X-continuity, but if you want the sales bump that comes with Wolverine as a co-headliner, perhaps you should do ten minutes of research before using these characters so casually? (And, yes, I know the next issue has a throwaway rationalization that brings Dark Beast into the mix, but it's not enough to make the idea work.)

Ignoring the continuity complaints, the book still has problems. Any page that describes the Punisher’s angelic psychometric powers just feels wrong, and the obligatory fight scene between Wolverine and Punisher is a poorly executed waste of time. Pat Lee’s goofy interpretation of these characters also doesn’t suit the story, although I see the colorists have worked overtime to distract from the amateurish art.