Archive for November, 2009

Lights, Camera, FUNday!

November 30, 2009

Had enough turkey, cranberry sauce and football games? Had enough drunk uncles, rowdy second cousins and unsolicited psychoanalysis from your loving family? Gain 10lbs in one day? Well, fear not. It’s all over now (until next year, or unless you’re not American in which case go eat as much as you can until you feel like you could burst so you know what it feels like here, ugh), so sit back, relax, and save room for dessert: FUNday is back and this week, it’s astonshing. Well, it’s a tale. Actually, it’s both!

Astonishing Tales #3
Jun 2009

Marvel’s anthology series for 2009, Astonishing Tales, lasted 6 issues, a shortened sequel to its predecessor that also used a recycled title from years past, the 12-issue Marvel Comics Presents. Astonishing Tales originally started as digital comics on the website, containing material already seen by subscribers. Puck makes a single panel cameo appearance in one story.

The third of four stories is, “Civil War”, the third of six 8pg installments of “Bobby and Sam in Mojoworld”, previously printed as a digital comic series titled, “Astonishing Tales: Mojoworld” This madcap parody of the film and entertainment business features Mojo, who challenges Cannonball and Sunspot to make eight movies in one month. Of course, they recruit dozens and dozens of Marvel’s heroes and villains to be the cast and crew, which overlaps the film parody on top of the Marvel Universe in a very clever way. On top of that, the plot of this episode is a parody itself of Marvel’s Civil War crossover, set instead in America’s Civil War.

It should be noted that most of the cast of the movies are A-list Marvel characters and lesser-known characters are in the crew. However, the A-list cast doesn’t fare too well in this episode: Captain America wears an absurd powdered wig over his mask, Iron Man looks ridiculous wearing Union Blues over his armor, and Luke Cage is simply hilarious in a particularly awful Clark Gable toupee. The crew are spared these indignities, as they are just dressed as themselves while they apply makeup to the cast, serve drinks and carry stage equipment. In one panel, a cartoon Puck is shown carrying a stage light.

Credits for this story are w-Jonathan Hickman and a-Nick Pitarra, who do an excellent job writing and illustrating a complex and funny story that manages to include dozens and dozens of Marvel characters, sometimes all in the same panel!

Mister Jeffries in Uncanny X-Men #507

November 28, 2009

Uncanny X-Men #507
May 2009

The Manifest Destiny story line concludes for the Uncanny X-Men title in this issue as the Science Team continues its 2009 recruitment drive. Left in a cliffhanger from last issue, the team encounters a giant godzilla-type monster while recruiting the Japanese scientist Dr. Yuriko Takiguchi. Mister Jeffries appears as a regular member of the X-Men Science Team, having joined up in issue #505.

The Beast takes the opportunity right before their expected demise to rename the group “X-Club” after a group of 19th Century scientists who included Charles Darwin in their ranks. There’s actually an entire page where they just stare up at the monster in shock and wonder as the team is shown in ever-shrinking perspective. At the final panel, Jeffries is just a tiny blob of orange paint. Then the monster says, “BWWWWOOOOOOAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRR”

Mister Jeffries asks Dr. Takiguchi if he has any machinery for him to transmute into weapons. Despite the fatalistic answer he receives, he is able to find enough junk lying around to build an awesome-looking gun. A big awesome-looking gun, so big you’d think it was mocking Rob Liefeld and the oversized guns he’d typically draw on a Cable cover.

As he’s assembling the gun, Dr. Nemesis calls him a “Redneck”, to which he counters “Snob”, not the worst insult exchange you’ll ever read in a comic book. The panel where he’s assembling the gun is 100% Classic Jeffries: his hands are held out, the metal bits are flying around and floating in front of him to form the big awesome-looking gun. This is similar to the previous two issues where similar panels showed Jeffries doing the same thing, and it’s nice to see him in such a canonical way. From the way the panel is arranged, you can’t tell how large the gun really is, but in a subsequent panel, Jeffries can be seen very tiny holding it.

Big awesome-looking gun

Unfortunately, he never gets the chance to fire the big awesome-looking gun because Archangel takes down the Godzilla monster singlehandedly. One odd thing done by Matt Fraction in this issue is a juxtaposition of the Colossus/Emma Frost story right over the Science Team story. It’s sort of clever, and sort of a fun moment when you realize how the panels are laid out, but it’s also sort of pointless because the stories are independent of each other and unrelated in theme, character and plot. It doesn’t take away from Jeffries little appearance in this issue, and the big awesome-looking gun he made is still just as big and awesome-looking with or without it.

Note: there are two variant covers for this issue:

Uncanny X-Men #507 – Michael Golden variant
Uncanny X-Men #507 – Planet Comicon variant, a convention exclusive available at the 2009 Planet Comicon in Overland Park, Kansas, where Matt Fraction and Michael Golden were on hand for signings and re-marking

Madison Jeffries’ Famous Giant Crab Cake recipe

November 25, 2009

Uncanny X-Men #506
Apr 2009

The Manifest Destiny story arc continues in this issue of Uncanny, telling several concurrent tales related to the X-Men’s relocation to San Francisco from Westchester. One seemingly unrelated part of this is The Beast’s Science Team, tasked to solve the mutant birth crisis that began on M-Day. Mister Jeffries appears as a regular member of this team, having joined up in the previous issue.

The team moves quickly from Canada to Kunashir Island, a disputed territory currently claimed by Russia and Japan. There, they intend to recruit Dr. Yuriko Takiguchi, a Japanese scientist associated with raising Godzilla and creating Red Ronin. On the beach near his facility, Mister Jeffries detects nearby machinery – a sensory power not previously seen, but perfectly plausible given his power set.

The machinery he detects, buried in the sands of the island’s beach, are motion sensor/Geiger counters which are triggered by the team’s approach. Dr. Takiguchi’s defenses activate and giant crabs emerge from the sands to attack the team. Jeffries brilliantly morphs one of the motion sensors into an awesome lightning gun and blasts two of the giant crabs, but their superior numbers force a retreat into the facility. After introductions are made, Godzilla shows up and says, “BWWWWOOOOOOAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRR”.

Unlike his bizarre behavior in the previous issue, Jeffries shows no signs of psychosis whatsoever. While readers were left unsure as to his mental state in issue #505, readers in this issue are sure to notice his role on the team as a sane, respectable and stable member. Either he snapped out of it and regained his bearings quite rapidly, or he never had any instability in the first place.

Awesome lightning gun

The quick scene where Jeffries morphs the beach machinery into a weapon is really done well, down to the bits of unused floating scrap metal near the gun. It’s good to see Alpha Flight characters properly written and I’m glad Matt Fraction wrote this simple scene right, in an expository way to inform the reader of Jeffries’ powers and to establish Jeffries on the upper end of offensive power on an otherwise intentionally cerebral team.

The Bynars do not approve.

He does do one odd thing, though, one line of binary-speak. Ugh. While he’s examining the motion sensor/Geiger counter, right in the middle of a sentence, Jeffries says “00111 10010”, as if he’s communicating with the machine. Binary-speak is really not a good device for a writer to use as it’s just not realistic for him to say “zero zero one one one” and so on. Writers, if you want to show a character communicating with a machine, please give the machine a voice so they can talk in English to each other instead. He did a little bit of binary-speak in issue #505, too, but hopefully we won’t see anymore of this silliness again.

Note: Jeffries appears on the cover looking all bad-ass. Here is an inset enlarged to show detail. Also, here is a recipe for giant crab cakes:

Jeffries’ Famous Giant Crab Cakes

Ingredients and equipment:
13 dozen eggs
6 bottles Worcestershire
1 gallon of mayonnaise
1 quart lemon juice
2.5 gallons of Dijon mustard
5 gallons olive oil
1 pint dried parsley flakes
2 lbs Old Bay Seasoning
120 cups breadcrumbs
200 lbs lump crabmeat
1 awesome lightning gun

Kill a giant crab using the awesome lightning gun. Pick out all the meat. In a good size-mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients together except for the lump crabmeat. Fold in the crabmeat into this mixture but be careful not to overwork it or the nice large “lumps” will break into small pieces.

How to Cook
Sauté the crab cakes using the awesome lightning gun in a little bit of olive oil and butter mixture. Alternatively you can transmutate the awesome lightning gun into an oven and bake them in a 375° F oven for 12 to 15 minutes.

Serves: 320

Spidey Balloon Preview pics

November 25, 2009

I sent my crack team of investigative reporters to the Upper West Side today to snag some preview pics of the new Spidey Balloon for tomorrow’s Macy*s Thanksgiving Day Parade. They scored some great pics of the new balloon which had just been inflated. This actually does have something to do with Alpha Flight: the variant cover of the Marvel Holiday Spectacular Magazine 2009, in which Northstar, Persuasion and Puck appear, has an image of the Spidey Balloon, but really it’s just holiday fun. Enjoy:

Note the reporter in the foreground.

Closer shot of Spidey’s head

A somewhat more foreshortened view


Mister Jeffries joins the X-Men Science Team

November 24, 2009

Uncanny X-Men #505
Feb 2009

Returning home to the pages where Alpha Flight was born, an Alpha Flight member is once again seen in the pages of the flagship book of the X-titles. Having recently lost nearly all but a handful of mutants following the events of M-Day, the future of mutantkind is further in question as only one mutant has been born since the depowerment. The Beast assembles a team of scientists tasked with solving the mutant birth crisis and out of the blue, Madison Jeffries is asked to join up.

Jeffries hadn’t been seen since Weapon X: Days of Future Now #1 (2005) where he was still brainwashed and working for Malcolm Colcord. Later, in The 198 Files (2006), we learned that his whereabouts were still unknown. It turns out he fled to a facility somewhere outside of the isolated area of Old Crow in the Yukon Territory, Canada. The actual Old Crow is north of the Arctic Circle and inaccessible by road, so this is likely meant to be about as isolated as one can get.

What he was doing in that facility is very unclear. He is shown scribbling furiously in a siege journal, describing a series of attacks that have been going on for weeks, something about sentient halogen lamps and Japanese toilets. After some impressive technomorphing, a bit of robot warfare and some odd binary-speak, he makes his way down to a nanolab, a strategic location that mustn’t fall into enemy hands for an unknown reason, when Dr. Nemesis suddenly calls out his name, almost giving him a heart attack. Nemesis, a character also lost in Marvel limbo for [many more] years who had been recruited in the previous issue, mentions that he thinks Jeffries is brain-damaged, probably because Jeffries asks him if he’s a robot, which is a very odd question. Unfortunately, this rude “brain-damaged” comment, taken at face value by readers who don’t already know from the previous issue that Nemesis is an arrogant jerk and just talks that way about everyone, tied in with all the Japanese toilet attacks and furious paranoid scribbling really leaves readers wondering about Jeffries’ mental state at the time, especially since we hadn’t seen him with all his marbles since, well, 1994 or so around the end of the first Alpha Flight series.

Jeffries’ own explanation for what he was doing there is also difficult to understand and adds to the notion that he’s still unstable. He says to McCoy, without being asked any particular question:

They got into my head, man. They used my powers to make automated mutant death camps. I came up here ’cause I wanted to be hard to find. Get it back together, yeah?

Ok, that part makes sense but when The Angel invites him to join the Science team, Jeffries responds:

I came up here to create in peace. Just wanted to make my machines and get smarter, yeah? Problem is, I did. Got too smart. So did the machines. They decided they didn’t need me anymore. Learned how to self-replicate and adapt. Sealed off the bunker to the outside world and have tried to kill me ever since.

His response to Angel is hard to understand. How Jeffries planned to get smarter is not clear, nor is the line he uttered right as he entered the nanolab, “I could’ve saved the world from this lab”, all hinting to some sort of delusional state suffered by a paranoid hermit.

Then he agrees to join the Science Team and tosses a bomb pack into the room, blowing it up.

Note that when Dr. Nemesis was recruited in issue #504, there was a similar type of “under attack” scenario by a team of Supernazi assassins, and in the subsequent issue #506, Dr. Takiguchi is also under siege by giant beach crabs and, oh yeah, a giant Godzilla creature (!!??!). Fraction was on a roll with these bizarre recruitment situations, for an unknown reason.

In future issues, Jeffries shows no signs of psychosis, plays a stable and respectable character, and actually does emerge as a much smarter version of the guy we knew and loved from the first series, so this confusing introduction by Matt Fraction far missed its mark and I’m still not sure what he was trying to do.

I will give him a high score for using the correct title “Mr. Jeffries” when The Beast first addresses him and for one line that Dr. Nemesis says: “He’s not even a doctor.” I have a thing about this (see previous rant).

Madison also sports a new look: no mustache, no muttonchops and newly greyed temples, presumably from the stresses of his experience with the Weapon X program. These signature greyed temples make him easy to spot: he would go on from here to appear in various X-books, in some issues unnamed and otherwise unrecognizable without them.

Note: this issue has a variant cover.

Uncanny X-Men #505 – Villain variant by Greg Land

We’ve got Growing Pains on FUNday today!

November 23, 2009

In this week’s FUNday, we put down our already dog-eared copies of Sarah Palin’s memoir for a few moments to return to an old favorite, the zany gag magazine, What The-?!, in which two Alphans appear in cameo.

What The-?! #2
Sep 1988

The Marvel Mag of Mirth and Mayhem! That’s the tag line and the best way to describe this irresistibly silly humor book that lacked all boundaries. Filled with short parody pieces, fake ads, fake letter pages and fake bullpen bulletins, this series relentlessly tore apart anything that wasn’t nailed down while at the same time showcasing the best and most popular creators of the time.

In this issue, Puck appears tiny in the first story in one panel. Also, Shaman (as Talisman) appears in another panel in the fourth story.

The first of four 8-page parody pieces, “Superbman vs. The Fantastical Four” is written and drawn by John Byrne, the most suitable artist for such a piece.  In a back alley near the headquarters building of the Fantastical Four, Doctor Bloom’s elaborate twenty-nine phase plan unravels as Rex Ruthless out-elaborates his logic and precision with an incomprensible, rambling explanation.

As Doctor Bloom gives up, a tiny Puck can be seen holding an “Alan Thicke Fan Club” sign, a shout-out from Byrne to fellow Canadian Alan Thicke, a TV actor who was widely popular as Dr. Jason Seaver on Growing Pains, an ABC sitcom that ran from 1985 to 1991, and was at the height of its popularity in its third season, airing right around the time this issue was published.  Note Puck’s red costume, which may be a miscoloring, as Byrne never had him in red. Puck wouldn’t put on a red costume until Alpha Flight #104 and this issue was concurrent with Alpha Flight #62.

In the fourth story, “Doctor Deranged”, written by Peter Gillis and illustrated by Phil Foglio, Shaman appears in one panel chanting, “Hail to the Sorcerer Supreme!” as he and various other mystics surround [and thoroughly irritate] Doctor Deranged in his Sanctum Sancyouverymuch.  At the time, Shaman was going by Talisman, and can be seen wearing his black and white fur costume.

In the fake Checklist, Alpha Flight is listed as “Alfalfa Flight”, a recycled joke from the previous issue.

Well, that’s all for this week’s FUNday and don’t forget to include this issue as a John Byrne Alpha Flight issue the next time it comes up in an Alpha Flight trivia game!

Oh, we are us, sir. They are also us. So, indeed, we are both us.

November 22, 2009

X-Men: Legacy #229
Jan 2010

The “Devil at the Crossroads” arc continues with part 3 in this Nation X issue of X-Men: Legacy. Mister Jeffries appears as a regular member of the X-Men Science Team, having joined up in Uncanny X-Men #505.

While Rogue is off in Emplate’s scary, twisted pocket dimension trying to rescue Bling, the Science Team is back on Utopia, the X-Men’s island nation, in their science lab. Dr. Nemesis is building, testing and explaining a new gadget that does… well, something to stop Emplate. In the first issue of the arc, Mister Jeffries described it as a “dragnet”, but that became a “firewall” when Cyclops asked about it in issue #228. Anyway, the goal is to prevent travel across dimensional barriers. In the science lab, Jeffries is shown very tiny operating part of the machine on a few pages, but has no lines.

To test the device, Ariel, a mutant best described as a “doorway teleporter”, tries to use her powers, but ends up opening a doorway back into the same room, confirming the function of the dragnet. Ariel, Dr. Kavita Rao, Dr. Nemesis and Jeffries see themselves in the other room, generating what might be the tiniest image of Mister Jeffries you’ll ever see. It’s really just four little splotches of Acuña’s paint.

This scene is highly reminiscent of the Mannheim Effect from the Star Trek episode, “We’ll Always Have Paris” where a time distortion aboard the Enterprise causes Data, Riker and Picard to see themselves through a turbolift door.

In a later scene where the Science Team presents their findings to Cyclops, Mister Jeffries looks on as Dr. Nemesis technobabbles on and on about the device. Note that Mike Carey finally gets it right and leaves Jeffries out of the fancy talk. He also got something else right: earlier, right before the device is tested, Dr. Nemesis says, “Very well, Mister Jeffries. I think we’re ready.” In X-Men Legacy Annual #1, he was erroneously referred to as “Dr. Jeffries” twice, deserving a bit of rant from me about it, so I’m happy that Mike Carey corrected the error.

Second printing added to Dark Avengers/Uncanny X-Men: Exodus #1

November 22, 2009

The post for Dark Avengers/Uncanny X-Men: Exodus #1 has been updated to show the new 2nd printing.

HULK SMASHES puny Wild Child in Hulk: Broken Worlds #1

November 19, 2009

Hulk: Broken Worlds #1
May 2009

This two-issue series contains short pieces by various artists and writers that feature the Hulk in eight different alternate realities. The first of four stories in the first issue is titled, “Punyville” and takes place in the House of M reality. Wild Child appears as a member of Magneto’s Red Guard, having previously joined at some unspecified point.

It’s very helpful to have read the corresponding Hulk issues for the House of M crossover (#83-87) to understand the plot of this story. Those issues explain what Punyville is (a coastal shantytown in Australia for human refugees), why Bruce Banner is in Australia, how he became its leader (by deposing Magneto’s appointed mutant governors), why he’s marked with aboriginal tattoos and most importantly, why the leader of an entire country is wearing tattered shorts with a rope sash for a belt.

One stark omission from those issues was Betty Ross, who now arrives at Punyville as Betty Talbot. Her husband, Glenn Talbot is a resistance fighter who intends to use a superpower inhibitor collar on the Hulk. Joining Talbot in their assault on the Hulk are three other human refugees who agree to help. The three are actually undercover agents from Magneto’s Red Guard sent to take out the Talbots: mutants Arclight, Mentallo and Wild Child.

They break into Prime Minister Banner’s home and Wild Child bursts into action. He breaks a guard’s neck, snatches the collar from Talbot’s hands, slaps it around Banner’s neck and slashes him across the chest. Unfortunately, the collar doesn’t work or the Hulk’s power is too great for it to inhibit, and he transforms into the jolly green giant. The Hulk smashes Wild Child with both fists really hard into the ground, possibly killing him.

KyleGibney@JeanneMarie: lol just got smashed by Hulk 🙂 awesome HULK SMASH this is teh awesome zOMG ribs are killing me BTW how r u?

If it weren’t such a distinctive honor to be smashed by the Hulk, it would be disappointing to see Wild Child taken down so quickly. Similar to the surprise revelation that Diamond Lil turned out to be a member of Magneto’s Red Guard in House of M: Masters of Evil #4, we had no clue about Wild Child’s whereabouts during the crossover, as he made no other appearance in any House of M book. It was nice of Fred van Lente to include Kyle in this issue as one of the three mutant infiltrators, and even nicer for him to have remembered, of all Kyle’s various incarnations and personas, that Kyle was once dashingly handsome as Wildheart, so much so that he caught Aurora’s eye (mentioned in X-Factor #116), and could easily pass as a Homo Sapiens. Note that at the time of the House of M crossover in 2004, Kyle was still the grey-skinned gargoylish version from Tieri’s Weapon X series, so Fred van Lente got this just right, as it would make perfect sense for Kyle to look like he did in the House of M reality, where characters generally live out their heart’s desires.

Preview of Astonishing Tales One Shot (Snowbird)

November 19, 2009

Here are the cover and first four pages of the 8 page digital comic Astonishing Tales One Shot (Snowbird). The rest of the pages are available only to subscribers. So subscribe, or wait until it is printed in February 2010, where it will be collected in Marvel Heartbreakers #1. Written by Karl Bollers with art by Harvey Tolibao. Enjoy!


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