Archive for February, 2012

Marrina’s Head: From the Marvel Vault #1

February 29, 2012

Defenders: From the Marvel Vault #1
Sep 2011

In late 2010, Marvel announced a series of books based on previously unpublished and/or partially finished work found during the big office move that same year. Five “From the Marvel Vault” one-shots were published, including Doctor Strange, Gambit/Champions, The Hulk/Human Torch, Thunderbolts and this doozy. The backstory of this comic claims unused Mark Bagley pencils with a Fabian Nicieza script (since lost) were re-purposed by Kurt Busiek, who guessed what was supposed to be happening. The result is a freakishly plausible-yet-puerile story that is in fact, so brilliantly done that I’m not entirely convinced he just “found” these pencils [EDIT: See Comments below for something convincing from Kurt Busiek himself!] . Marrina appears in one panel as a floating head.

After the Defenders are shown in a series of bizarre dream sequences, it is revealed that they are actually trapped in the clutches of some sort of bizarre dream sequence-inducing creature straight out of the Lovecraftian Bestiary. Namor is the first to break free from its direct control in a manner highly reminiscent of a similar scene from Fred van Lente and Greg Pak’s Incredible Hercules #118 where Herc breaks free from Nightmare’s nightmare machine. Even after detaching himself from the creature, Namor still experiences forcible mental imagery, one of which is a set of five floating heads. In addition to his wife Marrina, the other four heads are his cousin Byrrah (on top), his other wife Dorma (who I believe is miscolored as human), beloved cousin Namora and his dad Leonard McKenzie, all dead at the time this was drawn. They are shown in one panel angrily shouting some kind of approbations down to Namor, bitter reminders of what Namor prefers to retain as his “sweetest memories.”

Look familiar? Alpha Flight fans remember the 1990s Namor: The Sub-Mariner series where we saw a pairing of Namor’s former wives Dorma and Marrina in dream sequences quite a few times:

Hallucinations of Dorma and Marrina in Namor: The Sub-Mariner #1 (1990)

Illusions of Dorma and Marrina from Namor: The Sub-Mariner #36 (1993)

Memories of Dorma and Marrina in Namor: The Sub-Mariner #49 (1994)

And Marrina as a floating head in Namor #61:

Spirit of Marrina (head only) from Namor: The Sub-Mariner #61 (1995)

All of which are likely the inspiration for this appearance. Regardless of my slight skepticism about Busiek’s claims, this book is simply a hoot to read and re-read, and I’m glad Marrina made it in from the supposedly lost story that might never have seen the light of day. This turned out to be one of the most interesting and enjoyable comics in my Alpha Flight collection.

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Mister Jeffries is not Hank McCoy

February 27, 2012

X-Men #14
Sep 2011

The penultimate chapter in the five-part “First to Last” arc picks up not long after the previous issue, with the X-Men still under very serious attack on Utopia by the Evolutionaries, powerful interventionist beings who initially claimed to protect mutantkind. Mister Jeffries appears in three panels as a regular member of the X-Men Science Team, having joined up in Uncanny X-Men #505.

Having been knocked out in X-Men #13, Mister Jeffries is soon roused awake by Prodigy in the X-Labs to find Rockslide, Anole and Match fighting Litterbug and Dragoness. As he wakes, he calls out, “Hnn… Lil…” – a semi-conscious reference to his dearly departed wife Diamond Lil who was killed off in X-Force #23. Prodigy asks him for, “The Device,” referring to a Cosmic Ray disruptor he had built in the previous issue based on Cyclops’ memory of a similar one built by Hank McCoy years ago. Jeffries says the machine’s done, but he can’t make it work and then humbly adds, “I’m not Hank McCoy.”

Well, yeah, Mister Jeffries isn’t Hank McCoy and he’s ordinary enough to admit it. One version of Jeffries over in X-Men Legacy is sort of a genius-level character, but that’s actually an ongoing error on Mike Carey’s part. The original Mister Jeffries was intended by John Byrne to be paired up with the technical genius Roger Bochs in order to be able to build his contraptions, not be a Reed Richards-level genius who can get a Cosmic Ray disruptor to work by himself based on Cyclops’ aged memories of a machine he didn’t even build. So even though Chris Yost is still in the Alpha Flight Collector doghouse for killing off Diamond Lil, at least he got this characterization right by not supersmartifying Madison in this situation.

After last issue’s do-nothing anti-climax, this issue is even more do-nothingy anti-climaxy for Jeffries, but still a marked improvement, as the number of panels where he’s conscious has increased by a whopping 50% from two to three. What started out as such an exciting role for Madison became stretched out by necessity. It wouldn’t have made sense to have Jeffries show up all of a sudden with a working machine right away, nor would it have made sense to have him mentioned once in Chapter Two and not again until Chapter Five. So, we have two single page appearances in issues #13 and #14 to get ready for the conclusion.

Note: this issue has two variants. One is an “I am Captain America” variant by Greg Horn, part of a series of variants released in the summer of 2011 to coincide with Captain America: The First Avenger movie released 7/22/11. These covers have the common theme of “inspiring images depict hardworking, everyday Americans whose service would make Steve Rogers proud.” The other is by interior artist Paco Medina taken from a much larger promotional poster for the “First to Last” story arc.

X-Men #14 – I am Captain America variant
X-Men #14 – Medina variant

Necrosha Page added

February 24, 2012

Alpha Flight members didn’t play a big role in the Necrosha crossover, but it sure was a doozy. A new page can be found indexing the crossover by clicking on the logo above or on the sidebar link to the right. Hopefully I can add in a few more of these pages so as to organize the mass of individual issues a bit.

Mister Jeffries knockout trifecta complete!

February 23, 2012

X-Men #13
Aug 2011

This issue is part three of the five-part “First to Last” story arc, which started in X-Men Giant Size #1 and continued in X-Men #12. The last chapter left Alpha Flight Collector on the edge of his seat as Mister Jeffries was called upon telepathically by Cyclops to build… something! Mister Jeffries appears in four panels as a regular member of the X-Men Science Team, having joined up in Uncanny X-Men #505.

Unfortunately, he’s only conscious for the first two panels as Drs. Nemesis and Kavita Rao meet him in the lab to build a machine based on Cyclops’ ret-conned memory of a machine Beast built years ago. Just as Jeffries describes what it is – a machine to disrupt the Cosmic Ray signal that the Evolutionaries use to target specific strands of DNA, he gets clocked in the jaw by Litterbug in the third panel, and is shown unconscious on the floor of the lab in the fourth.

Who? Litterbug?

Yes, it turns out a “Sort-of Brotherhood of Somewhat Evil Mutants” lives on Utopia, apparently seeking refuge along with the rest of the mutant population. In this story arc, they become emboldened and go around knocking about the heroes while trying to find out what’s going on. The five members consist of Toad, Litterbug, Dragonness, Masque and Bliss, who appeared in a single panel cameo in setup to this scene in issue #12. Very sharp-eyed readers with good memories also remember seeing four of these miscreants (less Masque) in the anthology Nation X #1.

After getting all worked up about what Jeffries was supposed to build and getting very excited that he would play a big part in defeating the Evolutionaries, it really was quite anti-climactic to see him knocked out again. Previously, he got his head smashed by Kruun in Uncanny X-Men #536, and before that, knocked himself out pretty bad in Uncanny X-Men Annual #3. For those of you who keep track of these sorts of things, this issue was published 6/15/11 and the previous two knockouts on 4/27/11 and 3/16/11 (spanning a three-month period), so it wasn’t as bad as the time Northstar got killed three times in one month back in 2005.

Speaking of Northstar, who had appeared in chapters 1 and 2 of this arc, Celeste mentions that he had just lost consciousness as well (off-panel), so the entire issue is just a complete unconscious mess for both Alphans!

Note: this issue has a variant cover by interior artist Paco Medina taken from a much larger promotional poster for the “First to Last” story arc.

X-Men #13 – Medina variant