Tag: marvel comics

FIRST LOOK: Alpha Flight #0.1

I’m very pleased to see Alpha Flight back as a series. I’ve never understood John Byrne’s assertion that they were dull and he could never figure out how to make them work as a team. The fact that he focused on the individual members and only had them band together every few issues made for some great and different comics. Now they are back. Let’s see how Marvel treats them this time.

Marvel is pleased to present your first look at Alpha Flight #0.1, from New York Times bestselling writers Greg Pak & Fred Van Lente and acclaimed artist Ben Oliver! As Fear Itself approaches, The fan-favorite super hero team returns in this special POINT ONE issue, a great starting point for new readers! Meet the founding members that made Alpha Flight great! Super-powered terrorists attack as the nation goes to the polls on Election Day and the country’s greatest heroes rise to stop them – but are they on the right side?

Alpha Flight Fans rejoice! One of comics’ greatest teams is back in their own book! Fred Van Lente and Greg Pak have crafted a perfect jumping on point for the new reader and AF loyalists alike,” said Marvel Senior Editor Mark Paniccia. “In just a few pages, the two scribes get you caught up with your favorite heroes, get them right into the action and seed a major plot point for the new maxi-series debuting in June with fan-favorite artist extraordinaire, Dale Eaglesham. Get on the horn, the message boards, communication devices of all types and tell your friends that Alpha Flight is back!”

Get in on the ground floor for one of this year’s hottest new series before they head into the fight of their lives during Fear Itself! Do you fear your country turning on you? Watch as the team gets drawn into a civil war all its own this May, only in Alpha Flight #0.1!

ALPHA FLIGHT #0.1 (MAR110629)
Written by GREG PAK & FRED VAN LENTE
Penciled by BEN OLIVER
Cover by PHIL JIMENEZ
Rated T+ …$2.99
FOC – 4/25/11. On Sale – 5/18/11

Two-Bit Comics: The New Warriors #50

In these economic times, finding inexpensive entertainment is difficult. Thank goodness for my local comic shop and a slew of comics nobody cares about anymore! Each week I randomly grab a comic from the bargain bin (for 50 cents) to see what kind of bang I can get for my two-bits. These are those tales.

April 6, 2011 – paid 50 cents for:
THE NEW WARRIORS #50
Published by Marvel Comics
Written by: Fabian Nicieza
Art by: Darick Robertson

I HAVE HAD ENOUGH OF YOU!!

Do you remember when the first NFL game was broadcast on the upstart Fox Network (an exhibition game between the 49ers and the Broncos)? Do you remember when Tiger Woods won the 94th US Golf Amateur Championship? Do you remember when Tyke the circus elephant crushed her trainer before hundreds of horrified spectators? Do you remember when the Rolling Stones kicked off their Voodoo Lounge World Tour? Do you remember Boyz II Men’s hit “I’ll Make Love To You”? Do you remember the second Woodstock? If you do, then you were paying attention during August 1994. If you do, then you may remember seeing The New Warriors #50 on the stands.

How could you forget The New Warriors #50? I mean, it had a glow in the dark cover!

Love them or hate them, The New Warriors have been around since 1989 and they still try to be significant to Marvel continuity today. Remember Civil War? Issue #50 is the conclusion to a long arc called “Time and Time Again” and it is the last issue drawn by Darick Robertson (who had taken over from Mark Bagley on issue #26). This was also inker Larry Mahlstedt’s final issue. Even writer Fabian Nicieza only lasted for another three issues after this one. I guess you could say that The New Warriors #50 was pretty much a farewell for everyone involved. The book limped along for another 25 issues before being canceled. Don’t even get me started on the subsequent attempts to revitalize the franchise.

But on to the book at hand.

The New Warriors #50 begins with a page that introduces our heroes, our villain, and gives a nice little wrap up of everything that has happened before:

We’ve apparently got fourteen New Warriors up against a long-time Nova baddie, The Sphinx. Of the fourteen, half are “original members” including Night Thrasher, Speedball, Firestar, Nova, Kymaera (aka Namorita) and Justice (aka Marvel Boy). The other half is composed of “new” New Warriors, including Dagger, Power Pax, and my personal favorite, Hindsight Lad (not to be confused with Captain Hindsight of South Park fame).

The Sphinx has exiled the original members of The New Warriors to “different points in time and space”, and the “new” New Warriors have come to together to save them.

Nova is the first to return:

Darick Robertson is one of my all time favorite artists working in comics today. His art in Transmetropolitan and The Boys defined those books as much as the writing of Morrison and Ennis. Darick Robertson is a great artist, but this splash page is ridiculous. What’s up with Nova’s left arm and leg? This was the 90’s, though, and I guess everyone was doing crap like this.

So that’s two splash pages to start a comic. Why not a third?

So we got everything going now. We know what happened before the issue began. We got our hero (Nova), and we got our villain (Sphinx). What comes next? Why they fight, of course. Nova levels The Sphinx with “an explosive Gravimetric Pulse” (which apparently sounds like “SHAKREEEEEESHOOW”), but it does no real damage.

The Sphinx tells Nova that by enduring the “emotional and physical travails of the alternate timeline” he sent him to and by coming back “a better person than the one who left,” Nova is a true hero. Nova asks The Sphinx “what the $%#@ do you know about being a hero?!” To which The Sphinx answers that as he has lived several lifetimes and has “played the part of hero and villain – enough to know – that the petty constraints of both” are beneath his “Needs.”

Nova asks him “So what is it you need?” The Sphinx responds:

Epic!

The book then cuts to Darkhawk, Dagger, Power Pax, Bandit, and Hindsight Lad trying to figure out how to use The Sphinx’s “Cross Chronal Monitor” and “Timeline Scanning Device” to save the banished New Warriors. During this conversation Meryet Karim (aka Lady Sphinx) proposes that The Sphinx always provides “a means unto which he can be defeated”, which Hindsight Lad takes to mean that, “He has a psychological profile – that perpetuates a wish-fulfillment cycle – in which he desires to fail in his endeavors.”

So, The Sphinx is a seemingly immortal being with god-like powers who suffers from masochistic personality disorder. This is a pretty complex characterization, I must say.

Lady Sphinx tells them that all of the Warriors are going to be the “Catalysts” for The Sphinx to realize “the inevitable futility of his power-lust.” I guess this means they are going to kick his ass?

Back then to the fight between Nova and The Sphinx. This comic is getting all full of psychological motivations now, even as The Sphinx’s hand blasts go “SHAKOOM SHAKOOM”! Nova questions The Sphinx as to what he hopes to gain through all the power he has amassed. The Sphinx answers, “It is a quest for the sake of the quest! What more is left for me, who has lived through the span of millennium?!”

Nova tells The Sphinx that power means nothing, ultimately. What is really important is “family and friends – responsibility to the people I care about” The Sphinx points out then that these things can hold no meaning for him as he is immortal and lives “filled as they are with love and sorrow and madness and joy – are but the blinking of an eye to me!!”

He does have a point here. Immortality, while seemingly desirable, does carry with it the baggage of everyone else’s mortality. You get to watch everyone you love age and die. I would imagine that might harden a person — maybe even piss them off a bit.

The book cuts back to the new New Warriors and the “Cross Chronal Monitor” trying to locate the regular New Warriors. They are able to quickly locate Speedball because he is “a being comprised of kinetic energy” and, as Hindsight Lad conjectures, since “all of time is measured by our forward movement through this plane of reality … and (Speedball) embodies that movement by existing as being of kinetic energy … then the instants in which all of the other Warriors were taken from the here and now – exists within his form!”

You got that?

Heavy……

So, somehow or another by using their powers and by having Dagger give him “a shock of awareness” the new New Warriors are able to get Speedball back to the present:

Horray.

Speedball’s return allows the rest of The New Warriors to return to the present and go kick some Sphinx Sphincter:

But remember, the Sphinx is a heavy dude, thick with self-reflection and a bad case of masochistic personality disorder. He ruminates on his fate. He considers that time and time again “the tidal swell of what is to come – will always fight against the undertow of the past”. He finds himself “forever denied” his chance to find “a sense of purpose” to his “useless life”

This is pretty heavy stuff – not at all what I was expecting from a New Warriors comic book from the mid 90’s. “I have had enough of me!! Of my failures, of my sorrow, of my long, substanceless life! But most dearly – most deadly – of all, is that I HAVE HAD ENOUGH OF YOU!” Boom! Now this is characterization! This is some motivation I can sink my teeth into. This is pretty damn good stuff!

The battle ensues and New Warriors drop left and right. Night Thrasher tries to get them to function as a team, but they can only knock The Sphinx down, not out:

“Idiots! Maggots! Fleas!” Indeed.

After Power Pax clears the perimeter of civilians, Night Thrasher gives Firestar the OK to open it up and give The Sphinx everything she’s got:

Holy Sphincter!

She hits The Sphinx with a “SHAKKATHAKKRAMMMM” but even this heavily consonated blast is not enough.

It turns out the only thing that can defeat The Sphinx is ‘THE TRUTH!”

No, not Carl “The Truth” Williams. He couldn’t even last a round with Mike Tyson.

We get a “Suffering Shad!” from Kymeara and a “Blue Blazes” from Nova, who then launches into this diatribe about how through their recent trials they have all learned something about themselves, and this new self-awareness is the key to defeating The Sphinx. The TRUTH is the power they need to defeat him.

This is where things get a little vague. I’m sorry.

Suddenly Veritas, the Sayge, shows up and tells the New Warriors that the TRUTH will set The Sphinx FREE! Veritas is apparently the living embodiment of TRUTH and one hell of a deus ex machina!

Veritas is able to connect The Sphinx to the power of Love???

The Sphinx falls to his knees and says that through his “misbegotten zeal over the love of power – did (he) fail, once again, to anticipate the power of Love.” He and Lady Sphinx then join hands and:

POW! BOOM!

“There is hope that life can be better. That love IS worth struggling for. That the truth, inevitably, will win out.”

Speedball then yells, “Holy Hermaphrodite!” as a new creature of hope or love or something sweet like a baby’s laugh or a puppy’s smell is brought into being through the union of The Sphinx and his lady:

That’s the Power of Love all right….

Veritas then disappears as quickly as he arrived, telling all the loving Warriors that he is “forever at your call – all you need to do to find me … is look within … yourselves”

Then, in the last panel of the book, Speedball asks:

Apparently the answer for the creative team behind this comic was to jump ship.

So what’s the final verdict on The New Warriors #50? For fifty cents, this comic had me in the palm of its hand. Robertson’s art (other than that one Nova Splash Page) is dynamic and exciting. Nicieza’s characterization of The Sphinx is filled with pathos and you feel for this villain and understand why he does what he does. IT’S GOT A FREAKIN’ GLOW-IN-THE-DARK COVER! Hell, the book even features Hindsight Lad! I mean what’s not to like here? Sure the bit about Speedball’s kinetic energy and time is confusing, but forgivable. The vague sudden appearance of Veritas is disjointed and feels a bit like a cop-out, but how else can they end this book on a positive note. This is the creative team’s farewell song, it seems. They didn’t want to go out on a downer.

No. The New Warriors wanted to remind us that it is our connections with others that give our lives meaning. Our family and our friends are the true source of power. That’s the Power of Love.

Hmmmm… Huey Lewis was right, after all…

Two-Bit Comics: Thunderstrike #13

Random Pulls from the Bargain Bin

In these economic times, finding inexpensive entertainment is difficult. Thank goodness for my local comic shop and a slew of comics nobody cares about anymore! Each week I randomly grab a comic from the bargain bin (for 50 cents) to see what kind of bang I can get for my two-bits. These are those tales.

March 23, 2011 – paid 50 cents for:
THUNDERSTRIKE #13
Published by Marvel Comics
Pictures, Plot, and Script by: Ron Frenz & Tom DeFalco
Finished Art by: Al Milgrom

HOO-BOY!

Other than the announced cancelation of The New Mickey Mouse Club after its triumphant five year run, October 1994 had a lot going for it. This was when both Pulp Fiction and Clerks were released, and the radio had Kurt Cobain telling us “About A Girl” and REM asking us “What’s The Frequency, Kenneth?” This was also when Thunderstrike #13 hit the shelves.

In the spirit of full disclosure, in October 1994 I wasn’t reading Marvel Comics. To be honest, I have only heard of Thunderstrike peripherally, usually as the butt of a joke. Needless to say, jumping into this series at issue #13 with little to no prior knowledge added a layer of confusion to an already confusing comic, and this confusion certainly helped to paint my initial reading experience with a further thin coat of gray. In the interest of journalistic objectivity, though, I did some research and then gave the book a re-read. What follows is the best I could do under the circumstances.

According to The Marvel Comics Encyclopedia: A Complete Guide to the Characters of the Marvel Universe (DK Publishing, 2006):

Eric Masterson was an architect who was working at a building site where Thor, under a secret identity, was also employed. Thor was attacked by the Mongoose, and during the battle Eric was injured by falling girders. He was left with a permanent limp. After becoming friends with Thor, Eric was wounded again, this time mortally, and Odin merged him with the thunder god to save his life. Thereafter, Masterson would assume the form of Thor whenever the hero was needed on Earth. When Thor seemingly slew his brother Loki and was banished from this plane of reality, Eric took his place as Thor II. Eventually the real Thor returned, and Eric was given his own enchanted mace and became Thunderstrike. Thunderstrike eventually sacrificed himself to save Thor.

Got that? Confused? Yeah, I know. But it was the 90’s, I guess. You can see why I may have stopped reading Marvel Comics during this decade…..

Thunderstrike #13 opens with a splash page that, while impressive in terms of perspective and layout, is incredibly static. The Minotaur looking dude, who apparently is Bison, looks like a poseable action figure or a bull-headed contestant in the Mr. Universe contestant (or maybe like a former Republican Governor from the great state of California – with horns!). That big white swath is, I assume, supposed to give the illusion of motion, but all it does is look like part of the St. Louis Gateway Arch.

So the Bison is attacking some sort of SHIELD convoy, looking for “The Package” (although from his stance on the page above, it appears he already has a sizable one), and apologizes to everyone as he tosses them about. Of course, this will not stand….

Enter, one Lucas Cage, Power Man! Cage seemingly appears from behind a nearby bush, riding what seems to be a flying motorcycle. And he’s wearing tight red pants. Can someone give me some back story on that? Why is Luke Cage wearing tight red pants? Was this a fashion in the early 90’s that I missed? I thought it was all ripped jeans and flannels. Tight red pants? I also have to point out that the flying kick that Cage is delivering looks rather uncomfortable, but it does, I think, reveal the location of the package Bison was seeking???

A fight ensues between Power Man and Bison for six panels, ending with Bison fleeing. It is followed by five panels of a rather confusing bit between Cage and SHIELD Special Agent DePaul, in which Cage threatens to use the power of the press to get out of being held in custody? Cage drives off with some sort of device attached to his shoulder.

Then BOOM, we’re in Manhattan at the “loft which is shared by Eric Masterson and Samantha Joyce.” These two apparently needed a third roommate to “share expenses” and are welcoming Leah Princess, who, according to Eric Masterson, is really “Stellaris, a super-powered warrior from outer space who specializes in slaying Celestials.” Eric reveals that Stellaris and Thunderstrike have some sort of adversarial connection, so her moving in brings up the likelihood of all sorts of “Three’s Company” hijinxs. Ha! Ha! Ha!

By the way, check out the mullet on our hero.

Eric gets a call from the Black Widow to head to Avengers Mansion (did I mention he was an Avenger?), Thunderstrike up and heads on out, leaving Stellaris unattended. Quick cut to Luke Cage asking to use a phone, quick cut to Special Agent DePaul meeting with Thunderstrike and Black Widow asking them to find Luke Cage, quick cut to Widow and Thunderstrike suspecting that they are being used somehow. Then we get this:

At least Thunderstrike is a self-deprecating hero. I love the look on Black Widow’s face in this scene. Not sure about Thunderstrike’s choice of earrings, though.

Quick cut to Erik Materson’s son, Kevin, expressing dismay over the prospect of moving to Los Angeles and away from his father. Quick cut to Doctor Paretsky taking Susan out on a dinner date (I have no prior knowledge, so no idea who these people are). Quick cut to a guy on the phone talking to his “Master” about “Inferno 42” which is “the most destructive element of all time!”, which is apparently the “package” Bison was looking for.

Quick cut to a woman looking at a picture of a guy in a basketball uniform. And then there is this:

I love the smell of Bison in the rain. I assume he got the green trench coat from Ben Grimm, but where the hell did he get those shoes?

Luke Cage sees the Bison in the rain and is about to jump on him from the top of a four-story building when Thunderstrike makes the scene. Cage wants Bison and is about to make his leap when Thunderstrike throws his enchanted mace and tangles up Cage. Cage yells, “SWEET SISTER!” Then we get this:

Props to the writers for Cage’s line about black men and gutter mouths, but honestly, as Thunderstrike notices, “What the heck kind of expletive is that..?” The look on Cage’s face is priceless, though, especially with the pin-point pupils and the way the rain is depicted on his face. If it wasn’t for the tiara, this would be one seriously scary dude. A dude about to “raise” some “consciousness!” But raising consciousness, in this case, is not enough for Cage:

“Hoo-Boy” is right. This is some crazy stuff. Look at Cage’s hands! They’re almost twice the size of Thunderstrike’s head.

In the midst of battle, Cage makes fun of Thunderstrike’s expletive, “Hoo-Boy,” and knocks him off the building. Thunderstrike, while falling, gets all proud of himself for using some Captain America training and making Cage take the brunt of the impact. Smashing into the ground is all it takes to end the four-panel battle, and Cage decides that “a conversation would be nice.”

Cage explains that Bison is actually his old buddy, Billy Kitson, who lost a basketball career due to an injury, only to vanish and come back as Bison. I think that happened to Detlef Schrempf also. The boys decide to work together to find Bison. Because Cage still “eats red meat, avoids musicals, and leaves flying to the airlines”, they taxi around New York looking for Bison. That’s right, they take taxis. A huge African-American wearing tight red pants and a tiara and a long haired body builder type wearing a leather vest and carrying a mace – I’m sure finding a taxi in Manhattan was no problem. Anyway….

They end up at a deserted barber shop which used to be the main entrance to SHIELD’s New York Headquarters, sit in the barber chairs, and are whisked down to some sort of sub-basement. DePaul (remember him) is alerted to their presence, dons some sort of metal super suit, and blasts through a wall with a “KRAKA-PWOOM!” He then calls Thunderstrike a moron and threatens to arrest them for trespassing!

The three of these guys are then suddenly SHRRAAAKOOMMed with sand, which leads us to the final page:

As if DePaul wasn’t enough, now they have to fight Bison, Quicksand, and The Merciless Mongoose! How’s that for a cliff hanger? Oh, and by the way, look at the size of Cage’s hand. It’s grown even BIGGER! I wonder if Bison got gloves to go with his shoes, I think Cage could borrow them.

What can I say about Thunderstrike #13? There’s not a lot of action. On the other hand, there is a whole bunch of seemingly unnecessary sub-plots, characters who have very iffy motivations, Luke Cage in skin-tight red pants, some distracting art, lame jokes, a mullet, and Inferno 42? Hoo-Boy. I guess I can see why Thunderstrike only lasted from June of 93 to September of 95. I guess I can see why the powers that be at Marvel decided to kill this guy off eventually. I guess I can see why I was hard pressed to find anyone pining for the return of Thunderstrike.

Was Thunderstrike #13 worth the fifty cents I paid for it? I am a big fan of Luke Cage, so I guess it was nice to see him, even in red pants. I learned about Thunderstrike, although I am not sure how this will aide me in my life in any way. Reading the comic distracted me from the news from Libya and Japan for ten minutes or so, which was kinda nice. So, I don’t know – I guess that all justifies fifty cents….

Would I buy another Thunderstrike comic? Hoo-Boy.

FEAR ITSELF: Iron Breaks. Soldiers Fall. Gods Die.

FEAR ITSELF: BOOK OF THE SKULL #1 (JAN110692)
Written by ED BRUBAKER
Pencils by SCOT EATON
Cover by MARKO DJURDJEVIC
Variant Cover by JOE QUESADA
Rated T+ …$3.99
On-Sale—3/16/11

FEAR ITSELF #1 (of 7) (FEB110500)
Written by MATT FRACTION
Pencils by STUART IMMONEN
Cover by STEVE McNIVEN
Variant Cover by STUART IMMONEN
Rated T+ …$3.99
FOC—3/14/11, On-Sale—4/6/11

A New Look At X-Men: First To Last

Marvel is pleased to present your new look at X-Men: First To Last, as acclaimed writer Christopher Yost returns to the X-Men with fan favorite artists Paco Medina and Dalibor Talijic. Starting in X-Men Giant-Size #1 and continuing in June’s X-Men #12, a dangerous villain from the X-Men past travels to the present with one objective in mind—destroy their future! The Evolutionaries are coming and their rampage through the Marvel Universe will push the X-Men to their limits. This May two generations of X-Men in two different times give it their all, but will it be enough? Find out as the next great X-Men arc begins in X-Men Giant-Size #1!

Plus, no X-Men fan can miss the all-new X-Force Archangel action figure, available exclusively at Marvel.com. One of the most popular members of the red-hot Uncanny X-Force team, this is the only way for you to get the first figure of Archangel in his all-new, all-deadly uniform.

X-MEN GIANT-SIZE #1 (MAR110718)
X-MEN GIANT-SIZE #1 MEDINA VARIANT (MAR110719)

Written by CHRISTOPHER YOST
Penciled by PACO MEDINA & DALIBOR TALIJIC
Cover by ED McGUINNESS
Variant Cover by PACO MEDINA
Rated T+ …$4.99
FOC – 4/25/11, On Sale – 5/18/11