Thursday, August 13, 2015

FOXFIRE #3 – April 1996

Welcome to the Monkey House
Credits:  Ian Edginton (plot), Dan Abnett (script), Kevin J. West (penciler), Bob Almond & Philip Moy (inkers), Edd Fear (letterer), Rob Alvord & Malibu (colors)

Summary:  Foxfire awakens inside a cage, surrounded by young Ultras.  She’s welcomed by Mustang, who explains that power-inhibitors keep them in their cages.  Recalling the past few days, Foxfire remembers a cop named Tyburn shooting her with a tranquilizer.  Foxfire overpowers her cage’s inhibitor and then frees Mustang.  Close by, Jack Dancer is taunted by Mourning Star for trying to free her captives.  Foxfire and Mustang soon discover her father, who has been dismantled.  He explains that Mourning Star is Mariah, Foxfire’s dragoon mother, now corrupted by The Entity.  Her armed guards, the Custodians, arrive and destroy the remains of Foxfire’s father.  Jack Dancer leads the teens to a transmat terminal, which is hit by an energy blast as the trio teleports.  They arrive in New York, in the middle of one of the Punisher’s firefights.

Continuity Notes:  
  • Jack Dancer, who may or may not be an established Ultraverse character, is immortal.  Apparently, he commits good deeds out of boredom.
  • Foxfire is able to break free of her cage because she isn’t technically an Ultra.
  • Apparently the dead body the police thought belonged to Foxfire’s father was one of Mastodon’s victims.  Except…there was no body; the police didn’t know if her father was alive or dead, only that he went missing during the Phoenix attack.
  • Foxfire’s mother, previously believed dead, is responsible for pulling her father out of the timestream.  She was aiming for Foxfire and grabbed her former “husband” by mistake.

Total N00B:  The teleportation device is “used to link Earth with Godwheel,” whatever that means.  Later, Mourning Star says that the heroes aren’t “on the Godwheel” and have landed outside of the universe.

Miscellaneous Note:  The title of the issue is a reference to the Kurt Vonnegut book.

Review:  I seriously doubt the Punisher was that much of a sales draw by 1996, yet someone still had faith, since his one-page appearance is enough to merit the cover.  This issue exhibits more wonky issue-to-issue continuity, which has quickly become the hallmark of Foxfire.  The story opens with Foxfire awakening inside a cage, surrounded by the young Ultras that were featured in brief cameos in previous issues.  (One of them, the Chaotician, had a hole blown in his chest, but now we’re supposed to accept that the Ultras were merely being kidnapped.)  I’m fine with an in medias res opening, but the subsequent flashback just leaves more questions unanswered.  Foxfire explains: “When dad and I got back from the future, he disappeared.  The police found a body which they thought was his.  Of course, I was their main suspect...but I knew it wasn't my dad, ‘cause he's a bio-mucinoid, not flesh and blood.”  Okay…when did that happen?  The flashbacks to the events of the Phoenix Resurrection miniseries all have footnotes, but there’s nothing for these scenes.  Later, she claims, “Ultraforce cleared my name with the cops and I got assigned to a cop called Tyburn from the Juvenile Welfare Division.”  Oh, you did?  I love the creators’ commitment to the “Foxfire accused of murder” plot.  They were clearly so invested in it, they had to resolve the story in-between issues.

A few pages later, Foxfire is reunited with her father.  Since he’s a robot, he has nothing to do with the villain’s scheme of harvesting young Ultras’ antibodies, but as fate would have it, the evil mastermind turns out to be his sentient-energy-possessed robotic ex-wife, long believed dead.  Sure.  In another unseen story, Mariah (now at the point of her career where she’s christened herself “Mourning Star”) plucked Robot Dad out of the timestream by mistake while aiming for Foxfire.  This occurred during Foxfire’s unexplained, unseen journey back from the future into the present day.  At this stage, the number of “behind the scenes” events outnumbers what’s actually happened in the published series.  So far, Foxfire has snuck out of a police station, bumped into Ultraforce, and gotten kidnapped.  Her unseen adventures sound more stimulating.  

Daddy Robot has a death scene and the heroes escape, some Malibu continuity I don’t understand is tossed around, and suddenly the Punisher is making a guest appearance.  West’s interpretation of the Punisher is at least twenty years too young, which isn’t a huge surprise since his male characters don’t seem to have much of a range.  West’s art tends to be a blend of early Tom Grummett and Jeff Matsuda, and if you assume those two styles don’t blend particularly well, you’re right.  Foxfire herself usually looks okay, judged by the standards of the time, even though she’s occasionally too pneumatic this issue.  I could live with the art -- I wasn’t expecting an unofficial X-spinoff set in the Ultraverse to be penciled by Alex Toth -- but the overall storytelling in this series is appallingly shoddy.

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