Archive for November, 2010

Northstar cameo in Generation Hope #1

November 30, 2010

Generation Hope #1
Jan 2011

What is likely the most gradual ever spin-off from another title, the first issue of this series could just as easily have been Uncanny X-Men #530, as the storyline, characters and art is seamless with an ongoing arc that started at the end of Second Coming and weaved through Uncanny X-Men #’s 526-529. During those issues, the new mutant signatures that became visible upon Hope’s return, known as the “Five Lights”, become known to the reader one at a time over four issues, the fifth being this one. Northstar’s legs and right arm appear in one panel.

After the main story, a very well-written 8pp summary of the character Hope, as told from her own point of view, fills in the reader on her entire backstory. Included in this is the Second Coming storyline and a portion of a panel taken from Uncanny X-Men #524 – the scene up on deck immediately after Nightcrawler was killed by Bastion and the X-Men gather around. Here is a portion of that page as originally printed:

This was actually a full page panel with two insets that was later cropped, rotated 90deg and magnified to form the cover of the second printing of that issue.

For the truly insane, here is a highly magnified image of the reprinted panel from Generation Hope #1. Notice by comparing to the above image, which is scanned from the very upper and right edge of the original page, that the reprinted artwork extends a bit in both the vertical and horizontal where now Dazzler’s entire hair can be seen and slightly more of Northstar, but only a freak obsessed fan would even notice this.

In the actual story of the book, each of the Five Lights muses to themselves some random thoughts about their current situation. One of the Five Lights, Laurie, a blue-skinned Canadian naked mutant girl mentions her possibilities:

My parents would be disappointed. If I was going to be a super hero, they’d want me to be an Avenger. Second choice would be Alpha Flight. (At least I could commute there from home.)

OK, not the greatest shout-out ever (second choice?) but a far cry from Matt Fraction’s outright insults against the team, so I’ll take what I can get from writer Kieron Gillen, who, at least as far as this throwaway line goes, seems to be more pro-Alpha Flight than his soon-to-be writing partner on the Uncanny X-Men title.

Note: there are two variant covers, one of which is inscrutably referred to as the “Transonic Variant” by Greg Land and Frank Martin, and the other is the very pricey “X-Men Montage Variant” by Marko Djurdjevic (misspelled as Djudjevic in the credits), which is taken from a much larger X-Men poster.

Generation Hope #1 – Transonic (??) Land variant
Generation Hope #1 – Djurdjevic variant
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Northstar cameo on cover of X-Men: To Serve and Protect #1

November 28, 2010

X-Men: To Serve and Protect #1
Jan 2011

Though solicited as being “knee-deep in the Heroic Age” and despite a reference to the Heroic Age in the intro page, this issue does not carry the Heroic Age banner across the cover. It’s the first issue of a four issue anthology series, a format usually very much enjoyed by Alpha Flight Collector for featuring characters not usually seen much in the main titles. Northstar appears on the cover in a generic montage of X-Men not taken from events within the book, just to the right of Rogue in the upper right corner, but not in any of the stories.

His costume is drawn similar to Whilce Portacio’s version of the costume, with a chevron shape around his shoulders rather than the usual starburst shape, and white stripes down the leg. Here is an inset from the cover:

Cover artists Nick Bradshaw and Jim Charalampidis also added in black gloves and some sort of segmented boots. It’s hard to tell if he’s drawn with pointy ears or not, since he’s drawn so small, but that right ear does look pointy enough to give a thumbs up on this image.

Jeffries in X-Men #5

November 27, 2010

X-Men #5
Jan 2010

The vampiric storyline Curse of the Mutants continues in the adjectiveless X-Men series hosting the main storyline. This issue is part five of the arc, but due to various other tie-in books, it’s actually the 14th or so issue on the checklist. It could be read right after the previous issue in this title, too. Mister Jeffries appears as a regular member of the X-Men Science Team, having joined up in Uncanny X-Men #505.

Jeffries only appears in two panels this book, both of them showing him in a control room on Utopia, the island headquarters of the X-Men. Surrounded by a ridiculous number of floating glowing display screens, he has a few lines offering tactical readouts to Cyclops. As the vampires attack, he’s also tracking sonar beneath Utopia, which brings round Namor’s ongoing storyline and reminds the reader of the island nature of the scenario.

Throughout the main battle, Jeffries stays in the control room and is not selected as one of the “tough skin” mutants who cannot be bitten that were sent topside to directly engage the vampire hordes. It’s not clear why Cyclops didn’t ask him to suit up in the Box armor, as he surely could have used Jeffries massive firepower and un-bite-able form up on the deck. We’re used to seeing Jeffries in a much more direct role in battle sequences from countless issues of Alpha Flight than this type of support role which he seems pretty much settled into. This particular issue was really a big chance for him to be involved in the action, and the fact that writer Victor Gischler didn’t have him in mind when collecting metal and glass skinned mutants shows that either his armor-phasing days are simply over or he’s being treasured more for his experience and tech abilities behind the scenes than anything else.

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.

X-Men #5 – Paco Medina variant

Second printing cover image added to Wolverine #2

November 26, 2010

So that would make it the second printing and also the fourth cover of the second issue of the fourth Wolverine series. Got that? Need to read it a second time? A fourth time? Well, it’s been added to the post for the issue, so go look at it!

alphaflight.net Scores Exclusive Interview!

November 24, 2010

Over at the amazing alphaflight.net, Alpha Flight fan Ben Wells has posted an interview with Jim McCann (left) Reilly Brown (right) about today’s big news, the release of Chaos War: Alpha Flight #1. There’s also some great pencil sketchy thingies to see, as well as unpublished character sketches. Read all about it here. Congratulations to Ben on the exclusive!

With friends like this… who needs enemies?

November 14, 2010

Wolverine #3
Jan 2011

The fourth Wolverine series continues its first story arc with the third part of the five part series, “Wolverine goes to Hell”, with Wolverine already in Hell since the first issue. Puck appears on one page in continuation from his cameo appearance in the previous issue. This cameo is reprinted in part on the “Previously…” intro page.

As revealed in issue #2 of this series, Puck has been dead and in Hell since the unfortunate events of New Avengers #16 when he and several other Alpha Flight members were killed by the Collective. The reader was left to believe by the dramatic nature of Puck’s return that he was about to perform an incredibly heroic act to help out his old friend Wolverine, as well as help himself to get out of Hell. Unfortunately, instead of a direct confrontation with the Devil himself, (or a sub-lieutenant, or a minor demon, or any snarling baddie for that matter), or a clever escape plan based on his vast knowledge of mystic arts, or a physically challenging feat of acrobatic skill, we get very little action from Puck.

While Wolverine is nailed to an X-shaped structure (in homage to the cover of Uncanny X-Men #251, no doubt) on the side of a hillside in Hell, Puck shows up to say “Hi” and explains a bit of the latest political news. And then he (try to guess):

  • A) Unties his friend who he has vowed to help escape
  • B) Knocks over the X-shaped structure to free Wolverine
  • C) Brings a sip of water to Logan and promises to return soon
  • D) Offers a few encouraging words and leaves.

Smell ya later, eh?

Yeah, if you guessed D) you win. After seeing that look of determination in the previous issue, you’d think he would at least try to help the guy! The guy is nailed up by his hands and feet and left to suffer like this for a few thousand years and Puck just walks away without trying to yank out the nails – well, the nails in Logan’s feet that he can reach – it’s just not the headstrong bravery the reader was expecting and seems to be an error of pacing on the part of writer Jason Aaron, one that really doesn’t fit with the cliffhanger surprise re-introduction of Puck last issue.

Jeffries brainwashed again!

November 9, 2010

Uncanny X-Men #529
Dec 2010

Like the previous issue of Uncanny, this issue has no tag line, but is clearly part of the “The Five Lights” story arc, being the fourth and final part. You’d think that a story arc called “The Five Lights” consisting of stories at the pace of one Light per part would have five parts, but the fifth part turned out to be the debut issue of a new X-Men series, Generation Hope #1, so the arc ended here. Mister Jeffries appears on three pages as a regular member of the X-Men Science Team, having joined up in issue #505.

In this arc, Matt Fraction makes a good call not to use the full book to tell the stories of the Five Lights, the new mutant signatures detected at the end of Second Coming, which leaves room for some other simultaneous story lines, three of which intersect in this book. Kitty Pryde, who returned from space in issue #522 is now out of the containment canister and in a mobile suit that has been miraculously designed and built some time between last issue and this one by what otherwise was a completely perplexed Science Team. She joins up with Emma Frost, who has recruited Fantomex to assist with removing Sebastian Shaw from the brig, an ongoing plot that has been in the works for a few issues.

Danger, who had been guarding the brig, needed to be distracted long enough for them to steal the prisoner, so Fantomex used his mind-control powers on Mister Jeffries to compel him to indirectly help out with this. He approached Jeffries in the lab under the guise of asking for diagnostic equipment and then things got weird. Weird for a guy whose external brain is a telepathically linked flying saucer that flew out of his mouth, I mean. Jeffries is shown absentmindedly sculpting what appears to be a three-dimensional model of Danger while uttering some very cryptic lines. It’s not clear if he was compelled to do this by Fantomex, if it were all an illusion, or if the guy was actually making a little metal Danger doll when Fantomex walked in. The thing is, it’s so bizarre for him to be doing this and he says such babbling nonsense that it’s just hard to believe that he was sitting there making a metal doll. In any case, it’s a confusing scene until Jeffries is shown talking with italicized speech to indicate he’s under mind control and the reader is reminded, using a caption in the last panel of the page, that Fantomex has hypnosis powers, at which time the reader ought to have some clue that Jeffries is once again being mind controlled.

I'm gonna need a lot of lube. No, I mean A LOT.

He seems to be quite susceptible to mind control, being controlled first by Kara Killgrave in Alpha Flight #41, again when he was abducted in Alpha Flight vol 2 to become Gemini, and again by The Director during just about all of the Weapon X series. Well apparently we hadn’t seen the last of the brainwashing and quite frankly, it’s getting old. Likely, he won’t even have a “not again!” moment once he realizes what’s been done to him. Again.

Of all methods to distract Danger, Matt Fraction decides to have Fantomex hypnotize Jeffries into asking her out on a date, the most bizarre thing he could have done. Recall that in New Mutants #9, Cypher commented, “From Mr. Jeffries’ body language I’d say he has feelings for [Danger]” but at the time, that comment was very weird and inappropriate, especially since that issue took place right after the Necrosha story arc in which Jeffries’ wife Lil was killed. It’s just as weird here, even under mind control, and it’s disappointing that Matt Fraction decided to pick up on this oddball exchange from Zeb Wells. There were about a thousand other reasons that Jeffries could have been compelled to say to her to get her away from the brig for a while such as asking her to help with some machinery on the other side of the island – anything else but a date! Worse, he asked her to share a picnic basket with him, which makes even less sense since she doesn’t eat. No bowling alley on Utopia?

The last few pages of the book are penciled by Harvey Talibao in an abrupt shift of style from Whilce Portacio’s pencils, but since both of them draw Jeffries with way too much hair, it’s not that relevant. Jeffries is shown again in a few panels on his cliffside date, but since it turned out that the escape party flew off with Danger’s full knowledge anyway, the whole picnic basket plot line became completely useless.

.

Note: there is a vampire variant cover by Mike Mayhew

Uncanny X-Men #529 – vampire variant

Saint Elmo gets an OHOTMU entry!

November 4, 2010

Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe A-Z Update #4
Dec 2010

This five-issue series is an update to the massive fourteen-issue A-Z Hardcover series from 2008-2010, filling in gaps and adding entries that didn’t make it in the first time. The issues run alphabetically within themselves but not across the series, so the writers may intersperse entries as they like without disrupting the order of entries. Surprisingly, Saint Elmo has a 1/2 page entry.

Yes, even Alpha Flight Collector was caught off guard by this entry, as Saint Elmo seemed too minor of a character within the Alpha Flight-verse to warrant one. When Manbot and Murmur were included in earlier issues in this series, it seemed as if Alpha Flight was just about rounded out (Ghost Girl excluded still) and no further new entries were expected. It also suggests that his teammates from the adjectiveless Flight program Stitch and Groundhog will be included in issue #5 of the series. It’s as if the writers are making a conscious decision to be comprehensive when it comes to Alpha Flight entries, a decision much appreciated by this reader and fan of the OHOTMU books.

Since Saint Elmo has only appeared in one other OHOTMU-style book in a very tiny illustration in the large team entry for Alpha Flight in the first issue of the Hardcover series, all the text and stats are new. Also new is the main illustration by Gus Vazquez, showing Saint Elmo in his Gamma Flight training costume. The inset, the same image used last time, is taken from Alpha Flight Special #1 and shows him without his mask.

The entry is an excellent description but falls a bit short by not answering the two questions fans might still have: what his real name is and what his backstory/origin might be. Like the first issue of the Hardcover series, no full name is given for Saint Elmo. Note that several other Alpha Flight character’s full names were revealed in these OHOTMU books, so the fact that twice now it hasn’t been revealed suggests that there simply is no full name for the guy; he’s just Saint Elmo.

Regarding his origin: rather than stating his origin, the author instead muses about possible origins. Additionally, the text contains a very odd phrase to describe one of his possible origins. After suggesting that he might be a version of the Catholic St. Erasmus, which Alpha Flight Collector doubts for lack of evidence, an alternative is mentioned:

…it has also been speculated that he hails from one of Earth’s godly pantheons or other superhuman races.

Speculated by who? By what writer? In what comic book? On what Internet site? This uncredited passive voice construction leads readers to believe there has been some sort of extremely unofficial remark made by someone musing innocently about the guy, and really it ought not have been mentioned this way in an official handbook. Readers pay money to buy OHOTMU books with official information, not repeated guesses from internet sites. My personal suspicion, which admittedly is equally unofficial, is that the highly regarded Madison Carter, author of Saint Elmo’s entry in the companion website to the book, is the unnamed speculator, and either he or someone who has a high opinion of his speculation wrote this entry. In any case, if the author wanted to speculate on this perfectly reasonable possible origin, for lack of any other known origin for the character, the text should have read:

It is possible that Saint Elmo hails from one of Earth’s godly pantheons or other superhuman races.

so as to remove the speculator from what should be an authoritative passage.

Jeffries makes more dots in X-Men #4

November 3, 2010

X-Men #4
Dec 2010

The vampiric storyline Curse of the Mutants continues in the adjectiveless X-Men series hosting the main storyline. This issue is labeled “Part Four” but the actual read order of the event is less direct, putting this book into the 11th position on the checklist and arguably around the 11th book if read in a sensible order. Mister Jeffries appears as a regular member of the X-Men Science Team, having joined up in Uncanny X-Men #505.

Mister Jeffries reprises his role as “Guy Operating the Screen while someone’s boobs fall out of their costume Guy” from issue #2 of this series by making more colored dots, this time next to Emma’s boobs. Reminiscent of the way Matt Fraction used him as a narrative device to explain a plot element in Uncanny X-Men #521, writer Victor Gischler plops him down in front of a display device on which he has used his technomorphing powers to reconfigure.

I've reconfigured Cerebra to detect Emma's boobs

Like issue #2, unfortunately, the device is incorrectly referred to as “Cerebro”, not “Cerebra”. He shows dots representing vampire DNA (another sloppy writing error as vampires are creatures of the undead, not genetic variants) overlapping with police reports of vampire incidents.

Cyclops, Emma and Jeffries don’t seem to be so concerned about the overall rate of police reports for vampire incidents, which are “up forty-six percent in the last twenty-four hours.” This raises the question, “How many police reports for vampire incidents is normal for San Francisco in a 24 hour period?” Of the nine thousand vampires noted on the screen, I’ll guess about a third of them are overlapped purple, meaning around 3,000 vampire incidents. This is up 46 percent from a normal night of … calculate it … 2,054 vampire incidents called in on a normal night to S.F.P.D.! Yeah, sounds about right to me.

This also brings into question the total number of vampires detected. Apparently nine thousand is a lot. I had no idea – with all the neck-biting that seems to go on, it seemed perfectly normal to me until fellow Alpha Flight Fan and recently proclaimed resident undead expert cmdrkoenig67 over at the alphaflight.net forum pointed out:

Nine thousand vampires isn't exactly a lot of vampires these days. Okay then, One... Hundred... BILLION VAMPIRES!

Nine thousand, may indeed be a good population number for vampires world-wide, but keep in mind…Not all vampires create new vampires with every feeding. Many vampires take only as much blood as they need (which doesn’t always kill the victim), while others ensure the victim will not come back as one of the undead by killing the victim first or during feeding (by neck-snapping, decapitation, etc…). I can’t imagine the world’s population of vampires would range in the millions either, especially after events such as their recent battle in Captain Britain and the past event of the reading of the Montesi formula by Dr Strange (which destroyed every vampire on the planet). Also, you have to take into account the armies of vampire-hunters that exist in almost every country in the world (including Blade, who’s probably killed thousands of vampires in his lifetime).

I feel the number is necessarily inflated for dramatic purposes (and not done very well)…One thousand vampires or even eight hundred would be sufficiently menacing.

An excellent point and very educational but the machine detected nine thousand vampires, so we’ll have to go with that number for now.

Jeffries appears again on another page, as Angel jokes with him, “Do we ever see anything good on this holographic map?”, as Warren must have forgotten the recent and very good appearance of five new mutant signatures at the end of Second Coming, but it’s a good knock on Jeffries’ whole “These dots are bad. So are these dots. Bad dots everywhere!” schtick. You can see Jeffries again standing around in two more panels as Cyclops, Xarus and Wolverine exchange a tense sequence of offers, negotiations and threats, one of which contains an another bad error: Storm responds to Wolverine’s threat with, “My God”, a phrase she’d surely never utter, as her preferred deity-laced expletive is “Goddess!”

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, as well as a vampire variant by Mike Mayhew taken from the classic Astonishing X-Men #6 cover from 2004 by John Cassaday. A 2nd printing variant has been solicited for 11/24. This text will be edited upon its collection.

X-Men #4 – Paco Medina variant
X-Men #4 – vampire variant

Puck finally goes to Hell!

November 1, 2010

Wolverine #2
Dec 2010

No, not that Wolverine series, and no, not that other one, nor the third series, which became Dark Wolverine during Dark Reign – this is the fourth Wolverine solo series, and boy, do we need more Wolverine, seeing as how he was getting rather underexposed. The story arc kicking off this volume is “Wolverine goes to Hell”, which started in issue #1 with Logan already there. Puck appears on one page at the very end of the first story, in Hell, presumably still dead.

Puck, along with several other Alpha Flight members, was killed during the unfortunate events of New Avengers #16, so the dead Puck we are seeing here is possibly the same one we saw in the Erebus Casino in Incredible Hercules #129, which at the time seemed to be more of a satirical poke at the inability of comic book characters to stay dead than a prelude to resurrection.

Readers may be somewhat surprised that he went “direct the other way” – unless his past is far more checkered than is generally known and the years of heroism in the wizened portion of his life were insufficient to counteract all the thieving and murdering during his youth.

In addition to some small cameo appearances of characters Wolverine has killed over the years, there are a few splashy pages to introduce the likely players in this new series including Sabretooth, who was beheaded brutally in Wolverine v3 #55, the Ghost Riders and Daimon Hellstrom in another panel, and Puck on his own page. Along with Puck is a mysterious shadowed figure, who Judd addresses as “old-timer”, and who indicates there is a plan to get Puck out of Hell.

Renato Guedes does a great job with this image, especially getting the face just right – the only exception being the ears! Well, ear, just the one ear, but since this is a spiritual version and not the actual corpse, it’s possible both ears made it into the afterlife with a normal shape.

Note: there is a variant cover by Art Adams, a vampire variant cover by Mike Mayhew and a second printing variant featuring interior art by Renato Guedes.

Wolverine #2 – Art Adams variant
Wolverine #2 – vampire variant
Wolverine #2 – Second printing variant