Archive for June, 2010

Marrina gets a modern-era Handbook entry

June 28, 2010

Avengers Assemble #1
Jul 2010

This one-shot is an OHOTMU-style handbook published to coincide with Avengers-oriented events in the Marvel Universe, notably the end of Siege and the beginning of the Heroic Age story lines. Published just at the tail end of the incredible run of A-Z Hardcovers and during its subsequent A-Z Update miniseries, many entries are brand new or update recent developments to mainstream characters. Marrina, who served as a honorary Avenger, has a two page entry and appears on the cover.

What is notable about this entry is that unlike all of the other members of Alpha Flight, and some Beta Flight members, Marrina had not had an entry in the modern-era (2004 and newer) handbooks. She did have previous entries in the original OHOTMU series in 1983, the Deluxe Edition in 1986, the Master Edition in 1992 and the X-Men Encyclopedia in 2003, so it was expected that she’d have her own entry in the modern versions, but she hadn’t. Of course, not much was happening on the Marrina front since a single panel cameo in 1998 (Avengers v3 #47), so it’s somewhat understandable.

The main illustration is the same classic Marrina pose first seen in the first OHOTMU entry from 1983 and re-used again in the Deluxe Edition and X-Men Encyclopedia. You’d think we could get a new image every 27 years or so! But, while Gus Vasquez has been busy drawing lots of new images for this and other recent handbooks, such as Manbot’s recent entry, this image is so complete that no new illustration was warranted. Note that the costume is incorrectly colored blue in the image, but correctly shown as green everywhere else.

Other illustrations are the same as seen in the 1986 Deluxe Edition with one additional image of her floating in the Master’s tank from Avengers v3 #47 (2001) and two additional images of her in Leviathan form, one from Avengers #293 (1988) and the other from Dark X-Men: The List #1 (2009).

This entry does have some new information, notably the location of her hatching pinned down to Lady Cove, Random Island, Newfoundland. Where this came from is a mystery to Alpha Flight Collector, but it makes sense and fits in with her origin as told by Mac in Alpha Flight #2. Also, her stats have been corrected: previous entries mentioned an erroneous top speed of 51 knots while it ought to have been 900 knots.

Strange omissions from this entry are her encounters with the Collector in Marvel Team-Up Annual #7, which was mentioned in her OHOTMU: Deluxe Edition entry, its quick sequel in Power Pack #’s 9 and 10 and the troubling encounter with the Dire Wraiths in ROM #56-58. Seeing as how Marrina really hasn’t appeared in that many issues, dropping these 6 issues is rather noticeable. None are critical to her entry but could have easily fit in the space. Also, there is an unfortunate error in the text quoting Llan as uttering the soporific “sleeping a false sleep under the waves” which should be the hope-inspiring “sleeping a false death under the waves.”

For those of you who keep track of these sorts of things, her stats have changed since Marvel Encyclopedia Vol. 2: X-Men: Intelligence (2) is now (3), Speed (2) is now (4), and Fighting Skills (2) is now (3). So, between 2003 and 2010 she got smarter, faster, and mad skillz. Her Leviathan form stats are also included, bringing her Intelligence from 3 to 1, Speed and Strength to 7, Durability from 3 to 6 and the eye blasts increase her Energy Projection from 1 to 5.

Inset from the cover

The cover art by Mike McKone and Morry Hollowell shows Marrina wearing her spirally arm costume. This costume, a more demure version of her sporty one-piece, debuted in Alpha Flight #14, and didn’t last long, turning out to be rather impractical. Also seen is the decorative choker she wore to replace the Alpha-signal necklace. You can tell they did their research on this one, and it’s a nice touch that they picked the classier version of her costume for the cover art.

Diamond Lil cameo in Dazzler #1

June 25, 2010

Dazzler #1
Jul 2010

This One-Shot exists along the dimensional axis of the Necrosha story line juxtaposed with the Women of Marvel conceptual meta-arc. What the heck does that mean? Well, it’s labeled as a “Necrosha Aftermath” issue, the only one of its kind at the time of its release. It’s also part of Marvel’s “Women of Marvel” promotion of female comic characters and creators. Diamond Lil appears in one panel, in flashback to the unfortunate events of X-Force #23.

The story line picks up some time after Necrosha ends, but before Second Coming begins, telling the story of Dazzler re-uniting with her sister Mortis. Diamond Lil appears in the 2nd segment of the book, titled, “Tough Call”, referring to a phone call Dazzler makes to their mom after she brings her captured sister to Utopia for treatment. Penciled by Italian artist Francesca Ciregia, the image in flashback is among several images of Mortis as remembered by Dazzler, up to and including the Necrosha arc.

The Women of Marvel project, which includes a disorganized smattering of one-shots, miniseries, an omnibus edition and an OHOTMU collection, is explained in part by Marvel’s Senior Vice President of Sales, David Gabriel:

…one facet of the program is to celebrate women of the industry, whether they are super-heroines, super-villainesses, artists, writers, editors, colorists, inkers, proofreaders, models, [etc.]

which would be fine if any of Alpha’s women were included besides for the meaningless and technically impossible death choke shown in this issue. Where are: Aurora, Snowbird, Talisman, Persuasion, Goblyn, Pathway, Witchfire, Murmur, Ghost Girl, and/or Stitch? Not to be found in this company-wide promotion! We’ll have to wait until Canadian Women of Marvel starts up, hopefully soon!

You think I’m obsessed…? Okay, okay, a little, but this is ridiculous!

June 21, 2010

Obsessed with Marvel
Jun 2010

This fun little hardcover book from Chronicle has an incredible 2,500 trivia questions related to Marvel comics. The book itself is 8 1/4 inches square by 1 3/8 inches thick, a nice compact size. On the lower right corner is a little beepy electronic computer module (thankfully you can turn the sound off!) where you can enter your guesses to the multiple choice questions. It keeps score in 1 or 2 player mode, and it can pick numbered questions at random out of the book for you or allow you to enter a question by number. Interestingly, there is no answer key printed in the book, so if you want to know the answer, you have to use the little computer. Because the electronic module needs to be accessible for all questions, the pages are die-cut around it, a clever design.

The questions are written by arguably one of the greatest Marvel Comics experts there is: Peter Sanderson, whose expertise lends credibility to the project. There are separate sections for the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, The Avengers, X-Men, The Incredible Hulk, Marvel Knights, Horror Heroes, Cosmic Characters and Marvel Time (a catch-all category). Each 2 page spread has a central illustration on the right page and accompanying text on the left, so it’s much more than just 2500 trivia questions in a row. The illustrations are printed in a sepia tone and are either comic covers, classic panels or promo pieces.

In the Avengers section, the cover for West Coast Avengers #1 appears for question #851, featuring Puck’s head on the cover. In the X-Men section, Alpha Flight gets its own page! The cover for Alpha Flight #1 appears for question #1195, with accompanying text about John Byrne, the creation of Alpha Flight, and the following trivia question:

Who was not a member of Alpha Flight when the team first appeared?
A. Shaman
B. Snowbird
C. Sasquatch
D. Puck

There are six other questions related to Alpha Flight in the book, none of which are any harder than that one, but still very fun to read. Not surprisingly, Alpha Flight Collector got all of them right, but was infuriatingly stumped on too many of the 2,493 non-Alpha Flight related questions to admit my score.

Jeffries cameo in Uncanny X-Men #525

June 20, 2010

Uncanny X-Men #525
Aug 2010

The Second Coming storyline continues with Chapter Ten as various teams of X-Men try to deal with Bastion’s evil plan to exterminate them. Cyclops and the main team have their hands full inside of a giant red sphere surrounding Utopia, the island headquarters of the X-Men, as they are continually attacked by super-Nimrod mutant hunters from the future. Another team is off in Limbo rescuing Magik (including Northstar, as shown in the Hellbound mini-series), another team is sent to the future to prevent the super-Nimrod mutant hunters from going back in time and the X-Club is stuck outside the giant red sphere. Mister Jeffries appears in a few panels as a regular member of the X-Men Science Team, having joined up in issue #505.

The story picks up shortly after the beach scene in X-Men Legacy #236 when the X-Club and the Avengers (?!) tried to get inside the sphere. At some point, they moved from the beach to the roadway of the Golden Gate Bridge. Perhaps feeling that it wasn’t random enough for just the Avengers to show up, the Fantastic Four decide to join in the fun. Unfortunately, nothing they try works to crack open the barrier. Mister Jeffries can be seen in a few panels standing behind Dr. Nemesis and in another panel, also standing around.

There is a particularly striking two-page splash in this issue showing a giant wall-poster in homage to the cover issue #141, containing head shots of various mutants with “SLAIN” tags across their faces. Though the original image included captions, the Dodsons removed the names, making it somewhat difficult to identify many of the mutant faces that are partially obscured by the tags or by other elements in the foreground. It is possible that some Alphans are included in that image, but without the captions, it’s not possible to get a positive ID on them.

Note: there is a variant cover by David Finch, Matt Banning and Peter Steigerwald and a predicted 2nd printing variant, which will be added once I get it.

Uncanny X-Men #525 – Finch variant

Northstar in X-Men: Hellbound #2

June 17, 2010

X-Men: Hellbound #2
Aug 2010

This issue, the second of a three-issue miniseries spin-off from the Second Coming story line, continues the X-Men’s attempt to rescue Illyana Rasputin from Limbo. 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.

The team finds themselves dispersed after the initial attack of baddies upon entering Limbo, and start gathering up, realizing very disturbing time and space shifts all around. Northstar “whoosh“es in to save Dazzler from some snarly toothed baddies, and appears with her for a few pages. Their association seems to be growing from the embrace in Uncanny X-Men #524, possibly hinting of a friendship developing off-panel.

Northstar doesn’t pull his punches when he explains to Dazzler their situation, contuing his criticism of Cannonball’s leadership from the previous issue:

Dazzler: What happened, Jean-Paul? How did this go to hell so fast?
Northstar: Most likely because our little team here was being led by Samuel the Slack-Jawed Yokel.

Okay, so that’s the token arrogant line from Northstar this issue, not much really there, but at least we get some consistent characterization from Chris Yost.

Gambit shows up, in Death form (he had been one of Apocalypse’s Horsemen) and starts shooting demonic playing cards at Northstar, who deftly dodges them in a cleverly drawn panel showing three superimposed Northstars moving very fast to avoid the attack. Just like in the previous issue, the guys who made this comic really get it – Northstar can move very, very fast and I’m glad to see this panel showing how fast he can move. Unfortunately, Dazzler gets nailed with a demon card, distracting Jean-Paul and giving Gambit the edge to whack him with his staff.

Right before the playing cards, Gambit tosses out a line in French, as he often does, and Northstar, a French-Canadian, picks it up. Christ Yost gets Northstar right yet again with this linguistic beat and I’m glad two French-speaking characters actually have a line in their own language for a change!

Unfortunately, Gambit succeeds in taking him down, transforming him and Dazzler into white-haired minions of death, but not without a very cool demonic look and a slight costume modification with extra pointy starbursts.

Note: Northstar appears on the cover by Marko Djurdjevic, with unfortunately rounded ears. He’s got pointy ears, people!

Inset from lower left corner of the cover

Mister Jeffries in X-Men Legacy #236

June 14, 2010

X-Men Legacy #236
Jul 2010

The Second Coming storyline continues with Chapter Eight as Bastion’s evil plan to exterminate the mutants comes to fruition. Picking up right where the reader left off in Chapter Seven (New Mutants #13), the X-Club narrowly escape from a massive explosion on the oil rig they were sent to investigate. Mister Jeffries appears as a regular member of the X-Men Science Team, having joined up in Uncanny X-Men #505.

Just prior to the explosion, Jeffries can be seen running inside a corridor inside the rig, along with fellow X-Club members Dr. Kavita Rao and Dr. Nemesis, who insults Jeffries once again, calling him a “toy-maker”. They escape just in the nick of time, and fortunately, three little splashes in the water next to the rig indicate they successfully made it off. Much thanks to the creative team for the little splashes, because it would have been so cheesy to make us think the team had been killed, only to appear safe and sound later in the book.

This issue was released a week before X-Men: Blind Science #1, and has a bit of a continuity problem in that the explosion is portrayed in this issue as being intentional – along with explosions on other rigs in the area – somehow causing the big red sphere to come into existence. However, we learn later that the explosion on this particular rig was actually set off by Dr. Kavita Rao, so the connection between the giant red tower that emerges on top of the rig, the explosion and the giant red sphere becomes confusing to the reader, but only in retrospect.

The team washes up ashore right next to the edge of the big red sphere. Mister Jeffries is unable to communicate with any tech associated with the sphere, showing another [attempted] use of his “talk to machines” power. Then, as randomly as one can get, the Avengers show up, a painfully obvious attempt to cross this issue into the Heroic Age storyline going on in the other half of the Marvel Universe. After a big whack from Thor’s hammer, Jeffries can be seen again from behind next to Spider-Woman as everyone stands around the sphere trying to figure out how to crack it open.

It should be mentioned that about a month before this issue was published, eleven platform workers were killed aboard the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig when it exploded in the Gulf of Mexico. The rig would later collapse, leading up to the massive BP oil spill, one of the worst environmental disasters in US history. The imagery of an exploding offshore oil rig, though eerily coincidental, could not have been inspired by real world events, as the written story and finished artwork preceded the real-world explosion by a considerable margin.

Note: there is a variant cover by David Finch, Matt Banning and Peter Steigerwald and a Heroic Age variant by Mike Choi. Additionally, a 2nd printing variant has interior art by Greg Land.

X-Men Legacy #236 – Finch variant
X-Men Legacy #236 – Heroic Age variant
X-Men Legacy #236 – 2nd printing variant

Mister Jeffries in X-Men: Blind Science #1

June 10, 2010

X-Men: Blind Science #1
Jul 2010

This issue is tied in to the Second Coming storyline as a “Revelations” issue and does not get a chapter number. It fits in chronologically between New Mutants #13 and X-Men Legacy #236, which are chapters 7 and 8, so this could be chapter 7.5. This one-shot is so successfully self-contained that it was released after chapter 8 of Second Coming, with no continuity problem. Mister Jeffries appears extensively as a 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 discovers hidden tech on the oil rig before it transforms into a red tower, engaging a countdown timer. This issue picks up at 00:00:13, a minor error since the clock had started at 00:00:06 in New Mutants #13. While Rao frets helplessly, Dr. Nemesis bickers with Jeffries, unleashing a torrent of insults against him which include, but are not limited to: Neurotic-machine-Canuck, Redneck, and later, Insane tech-guy.

Nemesis also calls Mister Jeffries, “La Forge”, encouraging him to “Save it for the balding thesp.” For those of you who were in a coma from 1987 to 1994, he is, of course, referring to Lieutenant Commander Geordi La Forge, the Chief Engineer of the Enterprise from Star Trek: The Next Generation; the “balding thesp” being Patrick Stewart, a Shakespearan actor (thespian) who played Captain Picard on the same ship. Simon Spurrier should know that he can’t sneak a Star Trek reference past Alpha Flight Collector so easily!

Two interesting panels are shown in this opening sequence. The first is one that shows the oil rig within sight of Utopia Island, the X-Men headquarters. As predicted in the post for New Mutants #13:

“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.”

Sure enough, it’s right there. The second image sets the comical tone of the book just perfectly. As the countdown timer approaches zero, Dr. Rao frets away, musing what the other X-Club members are thinking, supposing that they too are experiencing their lives flashing before their eyes. The text for what she imagines Jeffries is thinking displays quite a high opinion of him and reads:

“Madison Jeffries, a mechanical telekine. Sort of Rain Main with added diodes–” “Lingering, she figures, on some tech-head moment of cyber-success– just one among many…”

But the mismatched image hysterically shows Jeffries scampering away from a mechanical insect robo-beast creature, clearly something gone very, very wrong!

Note too the Rain Man reference – one Alpha Flight Collector made in the post for Uncanny X-Men #519 when Jeffries counted the nanobots with savant precision.

The X-Club is then apparently teleported to a dystopian future San Francisco where Hope has mutated into the Hub, a sentient collection of mutant energy destroying the Earth. Encountering a human-looking Hank McCoy along the way, the team is fit with collars to hide them from the Hub’s psychic senses. Jeffries is shown in several scenes in this adventure absentmindedly playing with floating bits of metal, including one of the best images of him yet on the painted cover by Gerald Parel.

When he finally uses his powers to create something instead of just floating bits of metal, he creates a nanotech oscillator when the Hub starts attacking. With all the metal and machinery around, he just as easily could have created an awesome-looking gun instead of a miniature spikey gadget. Later, he uses his powers again to create a mighty… mirror? Yes, a mirror, which Dr. Nemesis needed to perform a medical procedure on his own brain. It’s nice for Simon Spurrier to have remembered that Jeffries can also manipulate glass, not just metal, which is a nice touch, but again, it’s a huge underestimation of his powers. It reminds me of the coiled tentacle scene in the Utopia book Dark Avengers/Uncanny X-Men: Exodus #1. The guy can transform into a Robot Tyrannosaurus Rex and rip out the throat out of a real T-rex and all we get now is tiny spikey gadgets and hand-held mirrors. He does create a nifty night-vision scope though, a respectable piece of military hardware which saved this from becoming a full-blown rant about his power set.

Simon Spurrier does get one thing very right, and that’s the common man ditch-digger dialogue. One of Jeffries’ lines in response to the silly barbecue kitten scene is:

A-and at least this way the critter’s got a fighting chance, Dr. Rao. That feller was sellin’ ’em with ketchup.

with many other lines peppered with “s’posed”, “typa” instead of “type of”, and other elements of the rough-edged dialect which we would expect him to be using instead of the highbrow technobabble we read in X-Men Legacy Annual #1.

Unfortunately, during one of the action scenes, Jeffries’ protective collar falls off momentarily, allowing the Hub to psychically invade his veins. He’s shown on a rooftop with the X-Club inspecting his own infected arm in a panel which could have used a small bit of explanation. Later, he borrows a page from Witchfire’s book and gets completely flamey-eyed and blows up when the Hub attacks, triggering the psychic infection. It’s not clear if this kills him or not but don’t worry though, it was all a holographic illusion (with another little ST:TNG reference made to the holodeck) set up by Graydon Creed, one of Bastion’s evil henchmen, to trick the X-Club into surrendering a mutant-power neutralizing serum formula.

There have been so many versions of Jeffries now that elements of his personality are chosen a la carte by whoever is writing him in any given month, some getting it right, some not so much. Jeffries’ behavior is flat out comical in this book as he plays against Dr. Nemesis’ persistent sarcasm and Dr. Rao’s cerebral hero. In fact, most of the panels in which he appears just shows him with an astonished look of a country rube on his face. Also, he unfortunately takes the insults from Dr. Nemesis rather passively. Contrast this to another time he got called a “redneck” in Uncanny X-Men #507 when he offered an actual retort. However, as a stand-alone issue to the otherwise over-the-top seriousness of Second Coming, the comical nature of the far-fetched plot is a welcome relief. I do wish Spurrier had toned down the “insane tech-guy” routine a bit, though.

The team ends up escaping from the rig just as Dr. Rao’s deus ex machina discovery of Graydon Creed’s plot results in a massive explosion. They bob up and down in the bay celebrating their harrowing escape as the big red sphere appears, whose radius is just shy of their position.