Archive for October, 2010

Northstar in Uncanny X-Men #528

October 31, 2010

Uncanny X-Men #528
Nov 2010

Though this issue has no tag line, it’s clearly part three of “The Five Lights” story arc, continuing from the previous issue as another one of the five recently discovered mutants joins the fold. Northstar appears on two pages as a regular member of the X-Men, having joined up in issue #508.

Similar to many other issues in his run, Matt Fraction writes a jumpy set of multiple plot lines with the main story of The Five Lights occupying half the pages. The rest are a mishmash of two or three page beats, one of which shows Kitty Pryde, still trapped in her containment cylinder which we saw Jeffries working on last issue. Another story is a two-page Northstar/Dazzler team-up, reminiscent of the wordless arrest scene in issue #522. The story stands alone, seemingly inserted for the sole purpose of giving Northstar and Dazzler some face time, as they hadn’t shown up for a few issues in this title.

At the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (a real museum), criminal super-villains Nekra and Frenzy have blown up an exhibit as a political protest. Alpha Flight Fans should recognize Nekra from Alpha Flight #’s 79-80 where she fought Heather in Winnipeg, making her an official Alpha Flight enemy. Frenzy ought to be recognized from her appearance in the X-Men Annual #1 (2007), when Northstar, along with Aurora and Mystique fought her, ultimately tossing her out of the S.H.I.E.L.D. heli-carrier. Their ire has been irked by what they perceive to be a sexist exhibit by an artist named Barry Richardman, which is a veiled reference to controversial photographer Terry Richardson.

After some incomprehensible fight banter, something about art (?), Northstar easily takes out Nekra with a “Krak” and Dazzler takes out Frenzy with her light powers. Northstar then comments on their skill as costumed crimefighters, as this is one of several times they’ve teamed up like this. It’s hard to find him in that panel, but if you look hard, you can see him just to the left of Dazzler’s butt.

Whilce Portacio draws Northstar with an interesting version of his recent X-Men costume, modifying the usual starburst around his shoulders into a chevron, with white stripes going down his arms. On his hands are padded white gloves, and he’s drawn with a white belt and white stripes going down the legs, somewhat similar to how he was drawn in Nation X: X-Factor #1. It’s a fairly good costume, much better than the one he drew in issue #522, and though it seems to contain a random combination of elements and minor modifications, he’s got the pointy ears done just right, so all is good.

Alpha Flight Collector is Legendary!

October 29, 2010

As a long-time reader and great admirer of Brian Cronin’s amazing Comic Book Legends Revealed! blog over at CBR, I’m humbled and honored to be mentioned in the 284th installment. Much, much thanks to Brian for mentioning Alpha Flight Collector on his very widely read comic book blog!

Captain America comments on Alpha Flight members in Heroic Age: Heroes #1

October 28, 2010

Heroic Age: Heroes #1
Nov 2010

Note: Despite the really big “Super Heroes” title on the cover, the inidicia drops the “Super”, and just leaves “Heroes”. A counterpart issue, “Villians” is solicited at the end, so it makes sense.

This files-type handbook as narrated by Captain America, who recently took over as official head honcho of all superheroes, contains 64 pages of entries in the form of note cards for various heroic characters and teams in the Marvel Universe. Written from the standpoint of a New Age “moment of clarity” as explained in the trippy introductory page, it gives a brief summary of each character, along with an comment about how the character could or couldn’t be used as a potential ally or Avenger. Aurora, Northstar, Sasquatch, Snowbird and Talisman have 1/3pg entries.

The format of the entries is a small inset picture, usually a head shot, then a listing of “Affiliations” and “Status” followed by a short set of comments. Pros and Cons are listed for each entry right above a Power Grid, a bizarre new power rating system based on heroic attributes (altruism, conscience, courage, etc.). Since most of the heroes are pretty much good guys, they all score 8s, 9s and 10s, with the exception of a few oddballs. The writers pulled off an excellent job with these entries, having only a few paragraphs to summarize entire characters, give recent info and Cap’s opinion about their suitability to join forces with him. You can tell they had a lot of fun with this one, as some of the “Cons” listed for certain characters are snarkily honest as described previously.

Each of the entries for Alpha Flight are very nicely done, factually correct, well-balanced, and sounding likely what Steve Rogers might say about them. One particularly amusing detail is in Aurora’s entry, where one of her Cons is:

usually operates under jurisdiction of the Canadian government

which at first might just be a comment on how she is outside of Captain America’s jurisdiction, until you look at what it says for other foreign nationals:

operates under jurisdiction of a foreign government

and no other foreign nationals have their country named in this manner, as if to say that working with the Canadian government is a singularly vexing Con.

Northstar’s entry has an inset image taken from the same panel of the X-Men Annual (2007) as Aurora’s, and Cap flat out says he could make a “very talented Avenger” which is an interesting comment, but unlikely to happen any time soon.

Sasquatch’s entry has an inset image taken from the cover of Alpha Flight v3 #10 and also suggests that Captain America will be “reaching out to [him] as a potential ally”, but how and where this would occur isn’t known. Strangely, he doesn’t mention “Walter Langkowski” by name, which is just as good because it would likely be misspelled, anyway.

Snowbird’s entry has an inset image taken from her 8pp story in Marvel Heartbreakers #1 and reveals more explicitly about the ending of her second marriage, mentioning the unfortunate events of New Avengers #16 where several Alphans were killed, “the stress of which caused her marriage to self-proclaimed demigod Yukon Jack to fall apart.”

Talisman’s entry has an inset image taken from the cover of Omega Flight #1 and makes a particular point to refer to her tribe as Tsuu T’ina, but also as Sarcee, the deprecated Blackfoot term. Unfortunately, her power is only listed as 8/10, which really ought to be higher if Captain America had more experience working with her.

The individual Alpha Flight members listed have had less association with the Avengers than some others, and most all of them are dead: Gary Cody from Avengers #249; Roger Bochs from Avengers #272; Marrina from Avengers #282-293; Puck, Heather, Diamond Lil and Shaman from Avengers #320-324; all dead! Notably missing from this issue is Madison Jeffries who appeared in the Crossing Line story arc in the Box armor. Why Aurora and Northstar were listed but not Jeffries is puzzling, as Jeffries has had about the same interaction with the Avengers as the twins, and they were all active X-Men members at the time of publication. Otherwise, five surviving members of Alpha Flight did make it onto Captain America’s radar, a very nice showing in an enjoyable handbook.

Alpha Flight Collector knows who shot first, too

October 25, 2010

Much thanks to Robo Panda at GammaSquad, the “geek blog that knows who shot first, but isn’t telling” for a mashup of the New Mutants #17 Easter Egg post and for mentioning Alpha Flight Collector. He must have been in a hurry because he abbreviated it AFC (WTF?) but that’s OK because of his careful citations on both the text and rearranged images. That post in turn got picked up by Fark.com, the “It’s not news” news aggregator, putting Alpha Flight Collector just one click away from infinite awesomeness.

Alpha Flight Collector is Cool! Bleeding Cool!

October 23, 2010

Apparently, foul language is quite popular in comics these days. Yesterday’s post about the Easter Eggs in New Mutants #17 was mentioned on BleedingCool.com, as part of what turned out to be a series of posts about curse words sneaking into in comics. What’s even better is that another, completely unrelated article about Wil Wheaton happened to have been on the front page at the same time as well, making it even more awesome. Well, a big thanks to Rich Johnston at Bleeding Cool for the link!

Witchfire and some Easter Eggs in New Mutants #17

October 22, 2010

New Mutants #17
Nov 2010

The New Mutants show up in their own title this issue, returning to Limbo to prevent a possible future where the X-Men and New Mutants are slaughtered. That possible future, including Witchfire’s flamey-eyed death, was confusedly explained by a weirded-out Magik in New Mutants #9. Since, Pixie has been kidnaped by Project Purgatory, causing Illyana to sense the exact moment to jump into her own timeline to prevent the deaths of her teammates. Witchfire appears in this issue in a few panels, rather bloodied up but none the less feisty for it.

Yes, another Limbo issue, and writer Zeb Wells makes reference to the very recent adventures in the Hellbound miniseries as Cannonball complains right upon arrival, “Oh, No… No! You’ve got to be kidding me! Dammit, Illyana! We just left Limbo.” They really did just leave, as this issue picks up very shortly after, likely within a day or so, of the ending of the Second Coming storyline.

The mysterious group of mutants seen in the last issue has apparently taken out the massive army of Limbo baddies led by Witchfire. Captured by Magik’s horde on their way to rescue Pixie and brought out to a central square in an abandoned Limbo village, she is announced as “The Burning Witch”, a reference lost on Karma (who I still want to smack in the mouth), but picked up (somehow) by Danielle Moonstar.

In a very intense exchange between Magik and Witchfire, which writer Zeb Wells skillfully pulls off without making either one of them sound cheesy at all, we learn that she’s lost the bloodstone amulet. She then surrenders Pixie’s location willfully, hoping the New Mutants face the same fate she did when she and her baddies attacked Project Purgatory. After flat out asking to be put out of her misery, Witchfire is hauled away, as Magik instructs her horde to “Make sure she suffers”.

Thinking she’s left to be tortured and killed? Well, not to worry… in a later interview, Zeb Wells hints, “I wouldn’t be surprised if she got out of her predicament…” so this post won’t carry the too-often used “death” tag.

Okay, that’s the Alpha Flight-related part of the book, and usually I’d stop here, but there’s a little more to say. In a few panels, Illyana and some other characters speak with a demonic script. Cypher translates a few of these speech bubbles for us, which led me to wonder what was being said in some of the untranslated speech bubbles. One can tell that it’s a simple substitution cipher and I put together a handy chart to figure out what letters match with which demonic script characters, with the exception of J, Q, X and Z, which weren’t shown:

Click to see full-sized image

Well, once I started translating, I almost fell on the floor! It turns out Zeb Wells left us a doozy of an Easter Egg!

In a panel where Magik first meets up with her one of her horde commanders, this exchange takes place:


See that guy’s balls? Yeah…they were weird.

As she returns to Cannonball, she addresses him with this one:


Hey, dick-breath.

While valiantly riding off on her armored steed, she exlcaims:


Pork Chop!

Right before Witchfire is dragged out, Cypher can be seen walking Illyana’s three little red limbopuppies and he says:


Fuck nuts!

Here it is a little bigger so you can see the smallish demon script a little better:


Fuck nuts!

Go ahead and check out the demonscript chart above and you’ll see for yourself!

Note: this issue has a Super Hero Squad variant cover, inspred by the famous Byrne cover from the Days of Future Past issue of Uncanny X-Men #141, with art by Leonel Castellani.

New Mutants #17 – Super Hero Squad variant

Jeffries suddenly appears and disappears in X-Men #3

October 21, 2010

X-Men #3
Nov 2010

The vampiric storyline Curse of the Mutants continues in the adjectiveless X-Men series hosting the main storyline. This issue is labeled “Part Three” but is arguably the 7th or so book if read in a sensible order in this sprawling event. Having read the tie-ins Namor: The First Mutant #1 and X-Men: Curse of the Mutants – Storm & Gambit #1 helps to fill in a major plot hole between the last issue of this series and this, namely, how the X-Men come into possession of Dracula’s severed head and headless body. Mister Jeffries appears in two panels as a regular member of the X-Men Science Team, having joined up in Uncanny X-Men #505.

Readers paying close attention to what goes on in the background with Wolverine and Dr. Nemesis in this book will be startled to see Wolverine getting an injection, bandaid and all, in the infirmary. A magnified image of creepy crawley thingies could be the parvodrones Jeffries created in the Smoke and Blood one-shot released in the week previous to this issue, but it’s not clear to the reader what is going on.

Hmm... How did I get here? Wasn't Pixie just standing here?

Jeffries’ appearances are “standing around” shots, the first of which is quite odd. Penciler Paco Medina draws a series of three panels depicting Namor delivering Dracula’s severed head, passing it off to Gambit, who departs. The position of the characters in these panels is non-sensical and confusing. At first, Namor, Gambit and Cyclops are standing in a circle, in that clockwise order, meaning Gambit is to Cyclops’ left, and Namor is holding the head right above Gambit’s hands. To the right of the circle is Pixie, a firmly planted Blade, and Colossus standing in a straight line formed behind Cyclops while Storm approaches Cyclops from the other side. In the very next panel, Gambit is on Cyclops’ right and holding the head as Cyclops says, “Take this”, not “Take that”, indicating he was holding the head at some point. How Gambit got on Cyclops’ right is not clear, nor is the reason why Cyclops said “Take this” which is what you say when you are holding something and you pass it to someone else, and not “Take that”, which is what you say when you want someone to take something you aren’t holding. In the panel after that, Gambit is shown departing, having passed Cyclops on the right and Cyclops is shown facing Blade. Storm, who must have completed her transit in an arc to left of Cyclops is now to Blade’s left. Suddenly, where Pixie was standing, is Emma Frost, Mister Jeffries and Angel, none of whom were anywhere near this dance party in the first two panels! It’s really just a poorly drawn sequence that the editors should have blocked back into sense.

Is not impressed by vampire-o-matic assembly machine

In a control room above a bizarre machine whose sole purpose is to reattach a severed head onto a restrained headless body and then remove an impaled stake from the body, Jeffries can be seen behind Cyclops, detachedly observing or possibly controlling the bizarre machine with his technomorph powers. Like the previous sequence of weird disappearing and appearing background characters, he suddenly disappears in the next shot of the control room as Angel, Storm and Pixie suddenly appear to Cyclops’ right. Not to beat a dead horse on this, but in the next panel that shows this control room, Pixie disappears and Angel is replaced by Blade and Emma Frost on the far left. In the panel after that, Angel and Pixie reappear on the far left, Storm moves to the far right, and Emma switches positions with Blade, all of whom are now to Cyclops’ left. In the panel after THAT, Emma moves to Cyclops’ right! It’s just all over the place with these weird shots of characters dancing around each other with no continuity from panel to panel.

Note: there is a variant cover by Paco Medina, taken from one of the teaser “We are the X-Men” promo images released in April 2010, a low-print run variant by Marko Djurdjevic, and a Second Printing variant featuring interior art.

X-Men #3 – Paco Medina variant
X-Men #3 – Marko Djurdjevic variant
X-Men #3 – Second printing variant

Jeffries in X-Men: Curse of the Mutants – Blind Science #1, uh, no make that Smoke and Blood #1

October 20, 2010

X-Men: Curse of the Mutants – Smoke and Blood #1
Nov 2010

The vampiric story arc Curse of the Mutants continues in this one-shot that takes place just after the events of X-Men #2. This is the X-Club one-shot for the story line, very similar to the way X-Men: Blind Science #1 spun out of Second Coming. In fact, it’s creepily similar in its plot as well, probably because the same guy wrote both issues. Mister Jeffries appears extensively as a member of the X-Men Science Team, having joined up in Uncanny X-Men #505.

Though clearly the chronology of the story is placed after X-Men #2 (we know this because the X-Men are loading a newly captured vampire monster into the lab), there is a minor continuity error: Wolverine has a surprised reaction when he realizes that removing the light-bending medallion off the vampire creature removes immunity to sunlight. He ought not have this reaction, as the medallions’ function was clearly explained by Blade in that issue.

Similar to Blind Science, the X-Club are physically segregated from the rest of the X-Men – though this time in lockdown in the lab under Utopia. An opening scene introduces Dr. Kavita Rao and Mister Jeffries along with five quarantined civilians who have contracted a vampiric virus from a bio-terrorism attack in San Francisco as depicted in X-Men #1 (not an Alpha Flight appearance). A completely hysterical panel shows Jeffries feeding himself takeout Chinese by a chopstick-o-matic device, no doubt of his own design.

Greatest. Invention. Ever. The Chopstick-o-matic!

The dark scratchy cartoon art by Gabriel Hernandez Walta, first seen by Alpha Flight fans in the Armor/Danger story in Nation X #3 is spot-on for this issue and a great match for Simon Spurrier’s “humorous horror story” style. He draws Jeffries with an unusually flat head for some reason, which is no worse than Clayton Crain’s choice to expose Dr. Rao’s sexy bare midriff on the cover.

The vampire monster escapes, and Jeffries tries to get to the patients before the monster does. Unfortunately, the monster has the classic vampire power of being able to assume a gaseous form and materializes nearby. A large splash panel shows him transforming nearby equipment and HVAC machinery from a vent in the ceiling to create a pair of totally awesome-looking guns to hold off the monster long enough for the patients to escape. Unfortunately, he never gets to fire either one because one of the patients wanders into the line of fire, babbles in vampire tongues, and is then eaten.

Pair of totally awesome-looking guns

Dr. Rao then blasts the monster with her vampire “cure”, aided by a another one of Jeffries’ creations: microscopic parvodrone robots that serve as delivery agents. That doesn’t work, prompting Dr. Nemesis to lock himself into the fully quarantined lab. Simon Spurrier writes Nemesis just as he did in Blind Science, ripping off unanswered insults against Jeffries such as Space Cadet and the classic Maple-Gobbling Moron. Jeffries really ought to have enough of a spine to defend himself against this sort of abuse, and it is a shame that Spurrier thinks his head is so far into the clouds that the insults are lost on him.

Just as he was accidentally infected by the thing infecting everyone in Blind Science, it turns out that Jeffries is himself had accidentally been infected by the the vampire virus, allowing the vampire monster to exert a subtle psychic control over him the entire time. Once the psychic link is discovered and overcome with a painful feedback blast from Emma Frost, Jeffries finally does something extremely kick ass – he simply clenches his fist and with his mind, crushes the vampire monster to death using the previously injected parvodrones. Completely frakkin’ awesome.

In addition to the parvodrone micro-robots, the chopstick-o-matic and the pair of totally awesome-looking guns, Jeffries also uses his powers to create a giant vampire-killing UV lamp (also never used), a piezoelectric-powered cellphone (which came in handy when the power went down), as well as a fairly traditional-looking six-shooter. A nice mixture of contraptions: some high-tech, some weaponry, and overall an excellent use of Jeffries’ mutant powers, in direct contrast to how Matt Fraction just couldn’t figure out what to do with him with the coiled tentacles in Dark Avengers/Uncanny X-Men: Exodus #1 and flying metal shards in Uncanny X-Men #517, so nice job there, Simon Spurrier.

Jeffries and Nemesis then incinerate what’s left of the vampire monster’s corpse and exchange yet another little discussion about the science/magic axis of this entire plotline, something that seems to be difficult for the writers in this arc to deal with. In that exchange, Jeffries uses the same sort of rough-edged dialect written by Spurrier in Blind Science:

‘S what I’m trying to explain — It don’t matter if you believe in it or not… They do– and they been around a lot longer’n we have.

So if you are having a feeling of déjà vu while reading this issue, it’s normal – there are so many similarities to Blind Science. The major difference between that issue and this one, though both are enjoyable reads, is that in this issue Jeffries is portrayed as less of a bewildered bumpkin and more of a vampire-crushing ass kicker.

Northstar and Jeffries in Origins of Marvel Comics: X-Men #1

October 18, 2010

Origins of Marvel Comics: X-Men #1
Nov 2010

Similar to other “Origins” style books, this is a collection of single-page illustrated origin stories. Written, drawn and colored by a wide variety of creators, thirty-six X-Men members (out of a much larger pool) have entries that cover the basics of their origin and backstory. Though it’s laughably impossible to write anything remotely comprehensive in a single illustrated page, the writers succeeded in telling a nice synopsis in the short space allowed, and in some cases include well-researched details that surprise even the sophisticated reader. Some of the material is directly reprinted from earlier books of this type, and some entries for characters previously included were re-written, notably Wolverine’s entry from Origins of Siege #1 (which had already been reprinted) to exclude Mac and Heather. Northstar gets a full page entry and Jeffries appears in the full page entry for the X-Club. Additionally, Vindicator (Mac), Sasquatch, Shaman, Snowbird and Aurora appear in Northstar’s entry.

The page layout of Northstar’s entry is divided into quadrants using the Beaubier’s signature starburst shape. The upper left quadrant shows a highly glared-out version of what Nightcrawler saw when Northstar and Aurora used their brilliant light power in Uncanny X-Men #120, their first appearance. Here are the panels from that book depicting the event from a different perspective:

Note that in that issue, the reader was shown only shadows of the twins (which are reversed left to right from what you would expect to see from the rear perspective), and it wouldn’t be until issue #121 that we would see a full appearance.

The second quadrant shows Alpha Flight standing on stage with Canadian Flags draped behind them at some unspecified time, but likely before they were disbanded by the Canadian government and before issue #1, since neither Puck nor Marrina are shown. The lower left quadrant shows a re-creation of Northstar’s absurdly arrogant portrayal in Uncanny X-Men #414 just prior to his failed rescue of the explosive mutant boy Peter, marking the first time he joined up with the X-Men. The final quadrant shows him kicking Skrull ass in San Francisco, in re-creation of what was otherwise an off-panel brawl in Secret Invasion: X-Men #2 (2008). Overall, a nice single page summary with accurate art elements from David Yardin, who got the pointy ears right (though it is sad that it needs to be mentioned since it’s a basic element of the character’s appearance). He put a circumscribed “X” on Northstar’s costume in the Secret Invasion portion of the page, which could be either an error, since he wasn’t wearing the X in that issue and wasn’t an official member back then, or just artistic license to show a canonical image of his current costume.

Mister Jeffries appears in a catch-all page for the X-Club (the X-Men Science Team), with individual panels for each current member, one panel showing Beast recruiting them, and a posed team image in a larger panel. A younger version of Jeffries is shown (before his temples grew in grey), working on his Box armor – a great choice made by writer Si Spurrier to show Madison’s super-heroic origins.

Note the “A” (for Alpha) on his jacket indicating again the image is from a time when he was still in Alpha Flight. Compare this to the erroneous Lambda symbol we saw on a similar or same jacket in X-Men Legacy Annual #1, now corrected very nicely by Phil Noto.

space

A current (older) version of Jeffries is also shown, now with his signature greyed out temples, flannel shirt and absentminded floating bits of metal – another great canonical image!

Overall, a good showing for Jeffries for this type of book, but Alpha Flight Collector would have preferred Jeffries have his own page rather than share it with two other members.

Red tentacled amoeboid crawls onto Guardian; fans excited and confused

October 14, 2010

Avengers #4
Oct 2010

Sold as a convention exclusive at the Fan Expo Canada 2010 in Toronto, this variant cover by penciler Phil Jiminez and colorist Frank G. D’Armata is one of the greatest Alpha Flight team shots ever published. Advertised as a low print run of 1,000 copies on the Fan Expo website, it originally sold for $10 in Canadian dollars at the show, which is like, what, $3.99 in US dollars? 1.583 Euros? Something like that. Alpha Flight only appears on the cover, not inside, leaving Alpha Flight Collector to happily tape shut this book forever, never having to read a single word from its much hated writer Brian Michael Bendis (who I hate and who is a stupid jerk for killing off Alpha Flight in New Avengers #16), whose accursed name is thankfully left off the cover, allowing fans to enjoy an unblemished blast of pure awesome.

The choice of classic characters (including Snowbird in arctic owl form) hints to honor Canadian creator John Byrne, as only Byrne-era characters and costumes are shown. Note also that Heather is shown out of the E-M suit, just as Byrne left her. The only flaw on the image is the oddly shaped maple leaf element on Guardian’s costume, which Jiminez actually attempted to copy from a Byrne image. The soft snow effects were added later by Frank G. D’Armata and is an excellent example (as particularly emphasized by Jiminez) of the impact a colorist can have on a piece.

A very large full-sized version of the artwork without the title block and letters can be found here (LGT comicbookresources.com)