Archive for May, 2010

Drill, Mister Jeffries, drill!

May 26, 2010

New Mutants #13
Jul 2010

Chapter 7 of the Second Coming storyline continues with this issue as Bastion’s forces wreak even more havoc on Utopia Island. For Second Coming fans, it’s an enjoyable issue with a moving plot, but for New Mutants fans, it’s quite thin. For Alpha Flight fans, we’re good: Mister Jeffries appears on two pages as a regular member of the X-Men Science Team, having joined up in Uncanny X-Men #505.

Having previously been assigned to check out Bastion’s towers by Cyclops in Chapter 6 (Uncanny X-Men #524), the X-Club lands on an offshore oil rig near Utopia. The site of this rig is noted to be 3.5 miles off the coast of San Francisco, and we know from the recently released OHOTMU: A-Z Hardcover entry for the X-Men that Utopia is 4 miles offshore, so this rig must be very close, likely within sight of Utopia. First seen in Uncanny X-Men #523, the towers’ function have not yet been revealed to the reader, except to remind us of the Human Torches from the Earth X trilogy.

The X-Club, consisting of Dr. Nemesis, Dr. Kavita Rao and Mister Jeffries, arrive in a nifty looking V-TOL X-craft. Jeffries then uses his new psycho-tech powers to try and talk with the machinery, only to wave off some plumbing and discover hidden tech within. This “talks to machines” power had been previously been added into his power set by Matt Fraction (remember the coffee pot conversation from Uncanny X-Men #509?), and its use by Zeb Wells indicates it’s here to stay. The oil rig then transforms into a very scary, very giant, very red tower.

Later, after Dr. Nemesis is able to access the tech software, they discover a countdown clock, which is of course, in true comic book adventure mode, already at 00:00:06 seconds. Understandably, their next course of action is to run, and this portion of the issue ends with an editor’s box instructing the reader to continue the story in X-Men Second Coming Revelations: Blind Science!

Though not credited on the cover, Omega Flight colorist Brian Reber lends his painted style to this issue, and succeeds in overwhelming the so-so pencils. Luckily, we get a real treat from him, as he completely dominated the art in this issue. Glad to see you again, Brian!

Note: there is a variant cover by David Finch, Matt Banning and Peter Steigerwald and a Heroic Age variant by John Tyler Christopher. Additionally, there is a 2nd printing variant with interior art by Ibraim Roberson and Lan Medina, colored by Brian Reber.

New Mutants #13 – Finch variant
New Mutants #13 – Heroic Age variant
New Mutants #13 – 2nd printing variant
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Northstar finally goes to Hell!

May 23, 2010

X-Men: Hellbound #1
Jul 2010

This offshoot issue from the Second Coming story line begins a three part miniseries dealing with the X-Men’s attempt to rescue Illyana Rasputin, who was teleported away by unknown means in X-Men : Second Coming #1. It is one of several “Revelations” issues that accompany the main Second Coming series but are not numbered chapters. Northstar appears significantly as a regular member of the X-Men, having joined up in Uncanny X-Men #508.

Cyclops assigns Cannonball to put together a team to rescue Magik, who has once again been taken away from the X-Men and sent to Limbo. The team consists of some characters who haven’t been getting too much exposure: Pixie, Anole, Dazzler, Gambit, Trance, and Northstar. Cannonball recruits each with varying degrees of resistance, and Northstar’s little recruitment scene is really on spot. Like many of the other recruitment scenes in this issue, you can tell Chris Yost did his homework and wrote Northstar as the “arrogant hero.” Northstar agrees to go, but not without first rudely interrupting Cannonball’s “I need a speedster” request with:

“A leader would just tell me I was going, Guthrie. Stop asking.”

Ha, perfect! Just what you’d expect Jean-Paul to say. This is really one of the few times since Northstar recently joined up that a writer has nailed the character, and it should be noted. Jean-Paul also mentions a somewhat vague reference to losing teammates, which likely refers to the recent deaths of Diamond Lil and Marrina (possibly Wild Child?) since moving to Utopia, but could refer to any number of lost teammates in the recent or distant past.

For those of you keeping track, in the panel where he’s getting dressed, Northstar’s pants seem to have a starburst pattern on both the left and right sides. In later panels, he’s drawn correctly with just a right-side starburst.

The team teleports into Limbo on top of a 2pg splash panel that shows Harvey Tolibao’s best and worst. Best would be the hellish depiction of Limbo and its countless snarly mindless creatures; worst would be Northstar’s rounded ear. This is really a big error on his part, one made before by several other artists, but still just awful.

Northstar had been chosen for his speed, and Cannonball sends him off to reconnoiter the landscape. Reminiscent of a similar scene in Wolverine: First Class #5 where Aurora speeds around and shortly reports back, Northstar leaves with a Fwwt!! and returns seconds later with his report. This is exactly what Northstar is supposed to be doing on an X-Men mission: flying around very, very fast, and I’m glad he’s finally being used this way. He can do much more than just reconnaissance of course, but at least we’re not getting some blurry fight scene where you can’t even see what he’s doing, or another standing around scene, or a bizarre scene where he’s buckled into a seat on an airplane. The team is shortly overwhelmed by a nasty horde of Limbo-baddies as Northstar appears in a few more panels fending of a mass of tentacles and fangs from all directions.

Note: Despite his accurate portrayal of Northstar in this issue, Christ Yost is still in the official Alpha Flight Collector dog house for unceremoniously killing off Diamond Lil in X-Force #23.

Note: There is a 2nd printing variant for this issue with interior art by Harvey Tolibao, featuring Northstar, shown in excerpt already in the panel above.

X-Men: Hellbound #1 – 2nd printing variant

Northstar’s leg in New Avengers Finale #1

May 21, 2010

New Avengers Finale #1
June 2010

Nothing could make Alpha Flight Collector happier than seeing the word “Finale” next to “New Avengers” on the cover. I giddily snatched this off the rack to silently cheer at the end of the line for the much hated Brian Michael Bendis (who I hate and who is a stupid jerk for killing off Alpha Flight in issue #16), but my smile turned upside down into a frown when I realized I would have to buy this for the collection: Northstar’s leg appears!

The book itself takes place at the immediate end of the Avenger-centric Siege story line and right before the Heroic Age story line begins. After the actual story ends, many major events that took place during the New Avengers title run are shown in flashback as narrated by Luke Cage. The flashbacks are in the form of reprinted 2pg spreads of iconic images from the run, including the opening 2pg spread from House of M #7 (2005) featuring an inverted Northstar just to the left of Spidey and to the right of She-Hulk. Here is an inset from the original spread:

This book ought to be found in a fifty cent bin at some point in the near future, so please don’t give Bendis (who I hate and who is a stupid jerk for killing off Alpha Flight in issue #16) the satisfaction of the direct sale.

Note: there are two variant covers, featuring two of the two page spreads from interior art:

New Avengers Finale #1 – Battle Ready Wraparound variant
New Avengers Finale #1 – Unmasked Wraparound variant

Mac and Heather in Origins of Marvel Comics #1

May 19, 2010

Origins of Marvel Comics #1
July 2010

What had been a free promo introducing the Siege storyline earlier in the year is expanded with additional material and is no longer free. The Siege prologue and preview material was dropped, and the number of character/team origins was expanded from 12 to 36. The format of this one-shot is 35pp of single page character origins, nearly all of which are written by Fred van Lente with the exception of four, and one double-page Power Pack origin. Mac and Heather appear in the 1-page Wolverine origin.

For those of you keeping track, this is a direct reprint of the same material originally published in Origins of Siege #1 but here’s the image again for your enjoyment.

Art by Mike Choi and Sonia Oback.

Cargo pants or Superhero costume… what to wear to a funeral?

May 14, 2010

Uncanny X-Men #524
July 2010

Chapter 6 of the Second Coming storyline continues with this issue, taking place just after Hope’s arrival on Utopia Island and Nightcrawler’s death in Chapter 5 (X-Force #26, not an Alpha Flight appearance). Poor Kurt, we’re going to miss ya. Mister Jeffries appears as a regular member of the X-Men Science Team, having joined up in issue #505 and Northstar appears as a regular member of the X-Men, having joined up in issue #508.

The frenetic pace of the past few chapters of Second Coming comes to a grinding halt as Matt Fraction has the unenviable task of writing a memorial issue to Nightcrawler. He gets a few things wrong in this issue, starting off with a bizarre exchange between Karma, who had part of her leg severed in Chapter 3 (New Mutants #12), and Mister Jeffries, in the infirmary. Jeffries is shown tending to her leg stump as if he were a medical doctor, an inexplicable role for him, unless he’s taken on nursing duties on the side. Matt Fraction just got this wrong – it ought to have been someone else tending to the leg. If he absolutely had to have Jeffries in the infirmary with Karma, he ought to have had him use his mutant powers to create some sort of awesome lower leg prosthetic for her.

As strange as it was having him there, the dialogue between the two was even stranger. Karma, who is certainly a young kid compared to the grizzled, grey-templed Mister Jeffries, berates him in a pissy exchange, calling him a “clumsy ox.” Not the worst insult hurled at an Alpha Flight member, but just inappropriately disrespectful, even for someone going through the trauma of having a limb severed. Jeffries response back is apologetic to the point of humiliating meekness, to which Karma digs in even deeper. It’s out of character for both of them and unfortunately portrays Jeffries as clumsy and supplicantive.

Meanwhile, up on deck, the X-Men gather round Nightcrawler’s corpse. Northstar’s feet and hand can be seen in one panel right behind Dazzler, who he later embraces in support. Don’t read too much into the embrace – he just happened to be the closest X-Man. Northstar is shown in a few more panels, standing around, and again in the Utopia control room with Mister Jeffries nearby, shown very tiny but still resplendent in his cargo pants. Mister Jeffries can be seen more clearly when Cannonball, the leader of the New Mutants squad, suggests to Cyclops that the X-Men investigate some large towering structures that Bastion has been building. Cyclops assigns the X-Club to investigate and take down the towers.

Later on, the X-Men gather on the roof near the blast furnace for Nightcrawler’s night-time funeral, a scene reminiscent of Dr. Takiguchi’s cremation in issue #515. Mister Jeffries is identifiable in shadow by his aforementioned cargo pants, while the rest of the X-Men show up in costume. Why superheroes show up to funerals in costume is still not clear to me. Northstar isn’t shown in that scene but is presumably among several shadowy figures, hopefully not in costume as well.

At the funeral, several X-Men utter pathetically awkward and short eulogies that sound trivial compared to the overwhelming moment at hand. Matt Fraction really missed the opportunity to capture the essence of 35 years of Nightcrawler’s role as an X-Man and the true impact of his death on his friends, his family, his teammates and the Marvel Universe. A simmering Wolverine then utters what is supposed to be an angry dramatic outpouring, but Alpha Flight fans don’t fall for it:

“Kurt was the only guy that ever looked me in the eyes like a man, and spoke to me like one, and treated me like one… he was my best friend and he never treated me like a damn animal.”

Yes, they were close friends, but it was a huge mistake on Matt Fraction’s part to phrase it this way, as if he forgot Mac had ever existed. It should have read, “Kurt was one of the only guys…” and “he was one of my best friends”, which would have made a lot more sense. James MacDonald Hudson would be the man most suitable for these remarks as phrased, not Kurt Wagner, and for lack of any funeral scenes so far for any of the Alpha Flight members killed in New Avengers #16, this little Logan-ism comes off to Alpha Flight fans as perplexing, not furious.

Note: there is a variant cover by David Finch, Matt Banning and Peter Steigerwald and a Heroic Age variant by Stephane Roux. Additionally, there is a 2nd printing variant with interior art by the Dodsons, featuring Northstar’s right arm and left leg in the upper left corner.

Uncanny X-Men #524 – Finch variant
Uncanny X-Men #524 – Heroic Age variant
Uncanny X-Men #524 – 2nd printing variant

Inked Finch variant added to X-Men: Second Coming #1

May 12, 2010

I have updated the page for X-Men: Second Coming #1 to include the inked version of the Finch variant. You’d think this would be a fairly difficult collectible to get ones hands on, seeing as how it was a retailer give-away at an industry event, real closed-door insider stuff, right? Well, when you give a free comic to people who sell comic books for a living, they become rather willing to part with their copy with little hesitation.