Archive for December, 2009

Northstar / X-Men (Part II) page added

December 30, 2009

I’ve put up a page listing Northstar’s recent appearances as an X-Man. I said a while back that I was going to try to organize all these posts, so here is one group of issues with a conceptual theme. The little unassuming link is in the sidebar to the right or you can click on the logo above. It’s another one of many static pages I hope to complete, eventually forming a coherent hierarchical archive of appearances by story arc, by character, by era, by theme, etc.

Since Northstar is currently still an X-Man, the page will be updated as new issues are collected and new posts get onto the main page.

Jeffries drinks a ton of coffee, kills 3000 people.

December 29, 2009

Uncanny X-Men #512
Aug 2009

Taking a break from unmanageable multiple storylines, company-wide crossovers and mutant-based story arcs, this 38pp stand-alone issue of Uncanny X-Men features the X-Club (Beast’s Science Team), as they finally get down to doing what they originally were formed to do: solve the mutant birth crisis. Mister Jeffries appears as a regular member of this team, having joined up in issue #505.

Following Jeffries’ suggestion in issue #509 that they build a time machine, the Beast suggests, over a round of coffee, that they go back to 1906 San Francisco to obtain blood samples from Dr. Nemesis’ parents. The entire team goes, of course, arriving just around the time when Dr. Nemesis’ dad, Nicola Bradley, is about to invent a generator-battery for the Hellfire Club, who would then implant it as a power source into a steampunky-looking Sentinel, the first of its kind.

Dressed in period clothes and an orange t-shirt, Jeffries appears extensively throughout the book as part of the seven member team. An initial attempt to directly obtain the blood samples fails miserably. While the team is sitting around drinking more coffee, trying to figure out what to do next, Dr. Nemesis breaks up the group into two teams; one to obtain the samples from his mom and one from his dad, using one of his best lines ever:

“Old Man, Powerless Girl and Winged Psycho, you go for Mom; Giant Cat, Redneck and New Girl, you go for Pop.”

Translated, that’s Dr. Takiguchi, Dr. Kavita Rao and Archangel on one team, Beast, Mister Jeffries and Psylocke on the other. Don’t get bristled at the “redneck” insult hurled at Jeffries – it’s actually such a wonderfully crafted invective that it would have been much worse to omit him from this derisive tirade!

While the “Mom” team is off saving Mom, the “Pop” team storms into the Hellfire Club headquarters in a somewhat confusing panel: Jeffries is shown either transmutating a light fixture or smashing it, but you can’t really tell. He’s shown manipulating the electricity from the exposed wiring, which is inconsistent with his usual power set. It’s possible that he could have some sort of limited influence over local electric fields, but what we see in that panel might just be a careful control of the wires to aim the sparks around. In any case, the story abruptly shifts to the “Mom” team right after this panel, so we never find out what was up with that electric fist scene.

Shortly thereafter, the Hellfire Club releases its Sentinel, sending the “Pop” team running into the street. While Psylocke and Archangel take out the operators of the Sentinel, Jeffries asks Nicola Bradley how to take out the power source. He then transmutates a nearby antique-looking car (it wasn’t antique at the time, I know) into an awesome lightning cannon powered by nearby electric transmission lines. He blasts the Sentinel with the awesome lightning cannon, causing an explosion which destroys it, but also unfortunately sends a giant serrated piece of shrapnel through Nicola’s chest, killing him. Oh, and the explosion probably caused The Great 1906 San Francisco Earthquake too, which killed an additional 3000 people or so, probably not one of Jeffries’ best achievements, whatever, that lightning cannon was totally awesome though!

Awesome lightning cannon.

The X-Club then returns back to Graymalkin, the new home of the X-Men, where they drink even more coffee and prepare to retrieve the blood samples left behind for them in stasis. Jeffries, in an absolutely classic scene which could have come out of any of the great Alpha Flight comics of the past, sits at the table and assembles a handheld tracking device from a floating mass of machine parts. He then leads the team right to the stasis tubes in Golden Gate Park.

Jeffries makes a strong showing in this issue, once again driving forward just about all of the plot elements for the X-Club. He has the idea to build the time machine, defeats the Sentinel, builds the tracking device… just about every task they set out to do, he’s involved with coming up with a tech-based solution how to do it. It is just exactly how he should be written. Kudos also to Matt Fraction for writing an excellent time travel issue free of the usual painful headaches of paradoxes, contradictions and (dare I say it?) temporal copies.

The only thing that takes away from this otherwise perfect appearance for Jeffries is the puzzling fact that he destroyed the Sentinel in an indirect way: by blasting the power source with the awesome lightning cannon rather than directly disabling it with his technomorph mutant abilities. But for him to do that, he’d have to run through a hailstorm of bullets coming from the Sentinel, which wouldn’t make any sense to do while he has that antique car and high-voltage power lines right next to him. Also, just as the X-Club faced off with the Sentinel, Beast gave an order to take out its operators, not directly attack the machine. Besides, the awesome lightning cannon is completely excellent, and I’m glad his skills in making lightning-based weapons has improved since issue #506 when he made an awesome lightning gun, which, at the time was also completely excellent, but not as big.

Note: this issue has a variant cover.

Uncanny X-Men #512 – 80s Decade variant by Stephane Roux

Letterers can be fun too, on FUNday!

December 28, 2009

No new comics this week! Oh, the agony, wait, this is not AGONYday, it’s FUNday! What to do… what to do… well, on FUNday, we just get out some of our old comics and read them, eh? How about this one :

Marvel Age #38
May 1986

Marvel Age was a monthly series featuring previews of upcoming comics, news articles about various subjects, advertisements, humorous pieces, and the occasional interview with creators and Marvel staff. Long removed from the Internet age, it was a great way (sometimes the ONLY way) to get news about what was going on in the world of Marvel Comics. Cartoon Puck appears in this issue on the back cover.

This issue was concurrent with Alpha Flight #34 and solicited issue #35 in the section, “Marvel Coming Attractions”:

ALPHA FLIGHT #35~Puck confesses his love to Vindicator! The tormented Snowbird returns to Alpha Flight! Shaman begins his trial for power! The merciless Attuma captures Marrina! And that’s just the beginning! “The Child is Father to the Man” is written by Bill Mantlo, penciled by Dave Ross and inked by Gerry Talaoc. 75¢.

In the Newswatch section, the Top Ten lists the ten best-selling direct Marvel titles for the month of November:

  1. X- Factor #2
  2. X-Men #203
  3. Secret Wars II #9
  4. Firestar #1
  5. Fantastic Four #288
  6. Marvel Universe #4
  7. New Mutants #37
  8. West Coast Avengers #6
  9. Amazing Spider-Man #274
  10. Alpha Flight #32

“Marvel Universe” in the number six slot is the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe Deluxe Edition, which was referred to as just “Marvel Universe” back then. Alpha Flight had disappeared off of the top ten list for a bit, last seen three months prior when issue #29 was in the tenth position, although the 2nd issue of the X-Men/Alpha Flight Limited Series reached the number three position one month after that. For those of you who can’t stand the suspense, Alpha Flight would rebound to the number 3 slot with issue #33 in the following month.

The back page broke from the usual calendar format which was suspended for the 1986 year, since Marvel was publishing their own wall calendar that year. Instead, advertisements ran on most back pages that year. So what’s fun about that? This is supposed to be FUNday, after all! Well, this issue’s back cover was a 12-panel grid titled, “Alter Ego (the confessions of a comic book letterer)” by Rick Parker, who lettered Alpha Flight #4,15,16, and 18 through 28, and left with John Byrne to work on the Incredible Hulk in the creative team switch after issue #28. Puck appears in one of the panels repeatedly asking, “eh?”

Note: Although this back page wasn’t fully credited, it is likely to have been drawn by Rick Parker himself, not Ron Zalme, who had been the regular calendar artist.

Note: I wrote to Ron Zalme to check this, and he was kind enough to very quickly respond, saying, “I don’t recall ever doing art for a script by Rick Parker, a good friend of mine. I could tell for certain if I saw it… But, Rick is a fine artist in his own right and mostly illustrated his own ideas. I’m fairly certain that if the page you are referring to is marked “by Rick Parker”, then he probably wrote it and drew it himself.” How nice of him to correspond with Alpha Flight Collector!

Diamond Lil resurfaces in X-Force #22

December 27, 2009

X-Force #22
Feb 2010

No, not THAT X-Force, the other one. The one that Cyclops created as a covert mutant operations squad, led by Wolverine. The team started out before the Utopia storyline and continued on its own, gathering up the New Mutants and X-Men: Legacy titles to run into the Necrosha storyline. In this issue, Necrosha makes it to Utopia Island, the new floating home of the X-Men. Madison Jeffries appears in one panel as a regular member of the X-Men Science Team, having joined up in Uncanny X-Men #505 and Diamond Lil appears in two panels.

As Utopia Island is being attacked by a bunch of very dead and very bad bad guys, the X-Men feel the tide turning against them. Many of their opponents are lost loved ones whose bodies need to be hideously mutilated in order to be defeated. In the heat of battle, Cyclops turns to Jeffries to ask if he can interface with the techno-organic invaders. Note that Jeffries is not drawn with his signature greyed temples, the only time since joining up with the X-Men that he’s drawn this way. Clayton Crain’s style is so impenetrably murky that it’s not all that surprising, but since Cyclops addresses him directly as “Madison”, there’s little doubt who he is.

It would have been nice to have Jeffries transmorph some nearby machinery into a suit of Box armor and start cleaning up the place. He could singlehandedly wipe out all 30 invaders, but is relegated to just monitoring the battle and devising interface schemes, which is a shame. Since Matt Fraction had repeatedly under-used his incredible offensive combat abilities, it’s becoming par for the course for writers to use him this way, so I’ll blame what Craig Kyle and Christopher Yost are doing here on the other guy instead.

The real gem of this issue is the resurfacing of Diamond Lil. She hasn’t appeared since X-Men: 198 #4 (Jun 2006) when she appeared briefly as a member of a tiny group of disaffected mutants who survived M-Day with their powers intact. Fans had been wondering about her whereabouts, especially since her husband Madison has been quite busy in various X-books since the beginning of 2009 as a member of the X-Men Science Team.

She is shown in one panel tending to Iceman, who was taken out in battle. Shown wearing her classic green and yellow diamond patterned costume and her yellow diamond mask, she’s not identified outright, but her identity has been confirmed by Chris Yost on an internet forum. Lil shows up again very tiny at the end of the story in a 2pg spread, in the background and in the same position as earlier, tending to Iceman. It’s not clear if she’s joined the X-Men, just visiting, living on Utopia, or even if she’s still married to Madison, but this little cameo is very good news for Alpha Flight fans and I’m delighted to have her included in this comic.

Note: this issue has a variant cover, also by Clayton Crain:

X-Force #22 – Clayton Crain variant

Uh oh, fifteen minutes to Judge Wapner.

December 26, 2009

Uncanny X-Men #519
Feb 2010

The Nation X storyline continues in this issue of Uncanny as the X-Men deal with various emergencies on their new island nation of Utopia. Let’s see… Cyclops has an all-consuming evil in his brain, the Beast is about to quit, the island is sinking… you know, the usual daily grind. Mister Jeffries appears as a regular member of the Science Team, having joined up in issue #505 and Northstar makes a very tiny cameo appearance as a member of the X-Men, having joined up in issue #508.

In the previous issue, Jeffries suggested they use Magneto as a power source to generate electricity to raise the island. The Science Team tries out this theory down in the lab, and as the coffee-lovin’ team sips their coffee, Magneto gives it his all but falls far short of their goal. Jeffries appears to be completely distracted by something and is shown with a new power: tech-vision, which enables him to see floating surveilliance nanobots that have infiltrated the island. He condenses them out of the air and forms them into a cube. He then returns to his coffee, seemingly unaffected by their presence.

A few things happen in this appearance that ought to raise an eyebrow, the first of which is this tech-vision, something not shown before this issue. New powers for Jeffries are explainable as being enhancements obtained during his time in the Weapon X program, so it’s OK for Matt Fraction to add these sorts of things. Look, it’s not X-ray vision nor heat vision, but it’s still neato, and fits in with a general understanding he seems to have with machinery. This understanding is quite extensive in this scene, as he’s able to communicate with the nanobots, easily determining their function, origin and purpose in just a few panels.

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Second, he’s able to count the number of nanobots he condensed with uncanny precision: 784 trillion. In an attempt to make Jeffries smart, which Matt Fraction has over-done in a few issues, the reader is left with more of an impression of the toothpick scene in “Rain Man” than anything else, unless you remembered that in issue #512, Jeffries was introduced with a small caption that read, “Mechanical Mastermind. Savant-y” and were expecting something like this all along.

I'm an excellent driver.

Third, Dr. Nemesis refers to him as, “Box”, the first time anyone has done so since he joined the X-Men. This would also seem to come out of the blue, unless you remember that small caption again which mentioned his codename, “Madison Jeffries–Box.” It’s not clear why Dr. Nemesis suddenly starts calling him Box when he hasn’t suited up in the armor, even in two major battles on Utopia, and was just sitting there drinking coffee at the time.

Later in the issue as Beast whines on to Iceman about how numbingly disaffected he is about his membership in the X-Men, you can see Northstar in one panel very tiny walking on the deck of Utopia with an unnamed student.

Cartoon Puck in the spotlight for FUNday!

December 21, 2009

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays this collector from the swift completion of FUNday! I just throw a few old comics into the fireplace to keep warm and melt all the snow around here. Let’s see, Action Comics #1, big deal, no Alpha Flight, toss that one in the fire… Amazing Fantasy #15, bleh, Spidey’s ok, but he’s no Guardian, burn that one too… now what do we have here, this week’s FUNday issue? Well, that one’s worth saving!

Marvel Age #35
Feb 1986

Marvel Age was a monthly series featuring previews of upcoming comics, news articles about various subjects, advertisements, humorous pieces, and the occasional interview with creators and Marvel staff. Long removed from the Internet age, it was a great way (sometimes the ONLY way) to get news about what was going on in the world of Marvel Comics. Puck appears in this issue on the back cover.

This issue’s Top Ten list appeared on the inside front cover, listing the ten best-selling direct Marvel Titles for the steaming hot month of August, 1985:

  1. X-Men #200
  2. Secret Wars II #6
  3. Marvel Heroes for Hope #1
  4. X-Men/Alpha Flight #1
  5. Marvel Universe #1
  6. New Mutants Special #1
  7. Fantastic Four #285
  8. Nightcrawler #2
  9. West Cost Avengers #3
  10. Alpha Flight #29

Alpha Flight dropped precipitously from the number four slot to number ten with the creative team switchover between issue #28 (Byrne’s last issue) and issue #29. Note that “Marvel Universe” in slot number five is the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe (OHOTMU) Deluxe Edition, which was referred to as “Marvel Universe” back then. Alpha Flight would drop off the top ten list for a few months, returning next in Marvel Age #38, though the X-Men/Alpha Flight LS would chart in Marvel Age #36

This issue was concurrent with Alpha Flight #31 and solicited issue #32 in the section, “Marvel Coming Attractions”:

ALPHA FLIGHT #32 – How do you lead a group of super heroes when you, yourself, have no powers? Heather finds out in “Short Story” written by Bill Mantlo, guest penciler John Bogdanov, inked by Gerry Talaoc. 75¢.

Well the calendar is the FUN part of FUNday! The back pages of many Marvel Age issues featured a comical calendar with staff birthdays, one-liner jokes and parodies of various Marvel characters. The back cover of this issue had a calendar for November 1985 featuring cartoon Puck (again!) on the 9th, announcing controversial Alpha Flight writer Bill Mantlo’s birthday. At the time, Mantlo had just taken over writing the title from Byrne, and would continue until 1988 until James Hudnall took over. Credits for the calendar are w-Jim Salicrup, a-Ron Zalme and c-Adam Philips.

Mister Jeffries beams me up in X-Men: Legacy #230

December 19, 2009

X-Men: Legacy #230
Feb 2010

The four-part “Devil at the Crossroads” arc comes to its conclusion 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.

The story arc had a rather predictable ending as the X-Men defeat Emplate when Rogue brings his pocket dimension into the Science Team’s interdimensional dragnet firewall thingy. Mister Jeffries, at the helm of the machine, is shown in a few panels rooted in the same control chair he’s been sitting in since issue #228. Must be a comfortable chair, eh? You can see his hand in one panel, too, engaging the liminal field, but it looks like he’s doing something else. They can put “click click click” all they want into the panel, but it will still look like he’s engergizing the transporter controls.

Oh, man, this is just like when Scotty beamed up the bridge crew from the surface of Gamma Trianguli Five, awesome!

Man, I love this chair. I could sit here for at least the next 3 story arcs.

For those of you keeping track of these sorts of things, when Cyclops addresses him, he neither refers to him as “Dr. Jeffries” nor “Mister Jeffries.” Just “Jeffries” this time around. He had been erroneously referred to by Mike Carey as “Dr. Jeffries” in a few other issues, so this nit must be picked.

It would have been nice to see him in action throughout this arc, but this was really a story about Rogue, so he was only involved as a Science Team accessory role. He’s made it into each of the issues of the arc in this fashion, providing solid behind-the-scenes support for the main characters. It’s a good way for him to appear in a large number of books, but I’d rather… well, it needs not even be mentioned what someone who writes in a blog called “Alpha Flight Collector” would rather be collecting.

Daniel Acuña’s detailed painted style was perfectly suited for this “horror story resolved with old-fashioned sci-fi” story arc, down to the minutiae of warming Jeffries’ face and Dr. Nemesis’ white jacket with the green phosphor glow of the control console, a nice bit of excellent coloring.

Comic Book Legend (soon to be) Revealed!

December 19, 2009

I need to come clean with my readers about something. In a recent FUNday post, I said something that might not be correct.  I suggested that a comic book legend might not be true, but actually, I have no idea if it is or not.  With regard to the Marvel Illustrated Swimsuit Special, I wrote:

There is a rumor (on wikipedia, of course) that subsequent swimsuit issues were titled without the word, “Illustrated” to avoid litigation from Sports Illustrated, but that’s highly doubtful. The Supreme Court decision Hustler Magazine v. Falwell in 1988 paved the way for parodies of exactly this type to be constitutionally protected free speech, so Marvel had little to worry about, especially since it was clearly stated in the inidicia, “This publication is a parody of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED”

Feeling guilty about posting something that might be completely false without checking with real sources first compelled me to contact Brian Cronin, the author of the incredible “Comic Book Legends Revealed” column over at CBR.  

Today, he wrote back, saying “I’ll see what I can find out” and if he’s able to settle this question, I’ll either be exhilarated to have gotten it right, or excoriated for journalistic FAIL. I do feel bad about dumping the research on him, but I have no means nor ability to verify this legend either way. Let’s see what Brian comes up with!

Northstar does… uh, something… in Uncanny X-Men #511

December 17, 2009

Uncanny X-Men #511
Aug 2009

The Sisterhood arc comes to its conclusion in this issue, as the X-Men defeat the bad, bad girls and gain back another old member (Psylocke) for the mutant dogpile at Graymalkin, their new headquarters. Northstar appears in a few panels as a regular member of the X-Men, having joined up in issue #508.

Following the sneak attack on the X-Men headquarters in the previous issue, a team of X-Men fly to Westchester for the final showdown. Interestingly, they fly in the old Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird, which I thought was a nice nostalgic touch – it’s certainly the fastest way for them to get there and we haven’t seen it for a while. Northstar is shown inside the Blackbird in a quick moment of comic relief when he stumbles upon an awkward moment in the Scott/Jean/Logan love triangle.

What he’s doing strapped into a jumpseat in a fast airplane is a bit puzzling. He can fly, you know. Very fast. It’s what he does. He could get from the X-Men’s headquarters in San Francisco to Westchester in far less time than the bird could. In Marvel Fanfare #28, he ran about the same distance in 30 minutes. When flying, he’s surely faster.

Northstar was recruited into the X-Men for exactly this stated purpose: they needed his speed to round out their power set. Yet, Cyclops puts a seat belt on him and straps him down inside a plane rather than send him as an advance scout. Perhaps they just wanted him to stay together with the group – what would he really do anyway against the Sisterhood – take them all out singlehandedly?

Once they arrive in Westchester, Northstar’s role becomes apparent: he’s one of the X-Men who directly take on the Sisterhood in the cemetery by the old mansion. Shown flying in (finally!) on a full-page splash, he takes on Spiral as the X-Men pair up with their opponents. This splash panel would be used as the cover to this issue’s second printing variant. Note that Greg Land forgot to trace the “X” on Northstar’s uniform, and made him all whitey-eyed, too.

The battle scene takes place over a 2pg spread that falls far short of what you’d expect as not only the climax of this issue, but the entire story arc. First of all, each of the characters say exactly one word to the other character in each of the panels, as if the hated Brian Michael Bendis were writing the scene! Even if it were meant to mock BMB, I’d rather see absolutely no reference at all to anything he’s ever done. Secondly, there are two exceptionally weak panels depicting… something… that Northstar is doing with Spiral. Greg Land traces him running around in circles in one panel and all blurry in another one.

What the heck is he doing in these panels?

Northstar could land hundreds of blows on Spiral’s face in less than a second – when he tried this on the Hulk in Alpha Flight #29, Hulk said, “RARRGH! Hulk felt that! Puny human has hurt Hulk!” He could scoop her up and throw her straight into the ground, or smash her into a tree – when he tried this on Sabretooth in X-Men #163, he knocked him out cold! It’s a shame that he was so underutilized and made into such a useless combatant in this scene by Land’s inability to trace characters in battle and Matt Fraction’s seeming lack of understanding of how super-speed can be used in combat. The only saving grace for Matt Fraction is “respect by association” – the guys Northstar is fighting alongside are three of the top heaviest hitters in the X-Men and it’s nice to see him part of an offensive force quartet that also includes Colossus, Cyclops and Wolverine.

It’s not even clear if Northstar won his little blurry dance battle, but the X-Men win the war, and later in the issue, Northstar can be seen again in one panel standing behind Cyclops after its conclusion.

Note: although Mister Jeffries was a member of the X-Men at the time, he does not appear in this issue.

Uncanny X-Men #511 – Second Printing variant featuring Northstar!

Northstar cameo in Uncanny X-Men #510

December 16, 2009

Uncanny X-Men #510
Jul 2009

The Sisterhood arc continues in this issue as the X-Men are attacked physically, psychically and magically at their new Graymalkin headquarters by the Red Queen’s gang of bad girls. Northstar appears in one panel, possibly more, as a regular member of the X-Men, having joined up in issue #508.

In the previous issue, Cyclops had been sleeping on the couch, separately from Emma Frost, when Northstar, Dazzler and Pixie arrived home from a night of partying. The Sisterhood then launched a psychic attack with the help of Empath, who was in the X-brig. The attack continues in this issue: Cyclops is immobilized, as the manifestation of the attack in Cyclops’ mind is shown as a sensation of being trapped in a classroom, with some easily recognizable dead X-Men and some unnamed figures. One of the unnamed figures could possibly be Northstar, but it’s hard to tell.

Once the attack ends, Cyclops recovers as Emma embraces him. Northstar is in the background to Scott’s right, which is where he was right before the psychic attack. He’s not named but it must be him because he’s similarly dressed, in the same position, and the only other person in the room was Dazzler, who you’d not mistake for Northstar, even in the persistent red emergency lighting used in half the panels of the book. His identity has since been confirmed in the Official Index to the Marvel Universe #13.

It's like, how much more red could this be? And the answer is none. None more red.

Note: although Mister Jeffries was a member of the X-Men at the time, he was in the “vault” with the rest of the Science Team and did not appear.

Note: there is a variant cover and a 2nd printing variant for this issue.  The variant cover also has a sketch variant (not shown until I get a copy!).

Uncanny X-Men #510 – J. Scott Campbell variant
Uncanny X-Men #510 – Second Printing variant