Archive for May, 2012

Madison “Jefferies” in Uncanny X-Men #1

May 30, 2012

Uncanny X-Men #1
Jan 2012

No, not THAT Uncanny X-Men #1; the Uncanny title restarted its numbering scheme after running five hundred and forty-four issues, ending with the X-Men: Schism event and splitting in two. One of the schismees became Wolverine & the X-Men and the other schismee retained its pre-Schism title, but when it came down to assigning an issue number, the comics industry’s recent obsession with #1 issues prevailed. Mister Jeffries appears in a single panel cameo as a regular member of the X-Men Science team, having joined up in Uncanny X-Men #505.

Along with the title splitting in two, the X-Men split up as well, with half the dogpile shipping out to Westchester to restart Xavier’s old school and the other half remaining with Cyclops on Utopia, the island headquarters of the X-Men. Most of the X-Men had chosen a side just prior to this issue in the X-Men: Regenesis #1 one-shot (not an Alpha Flight appearance), which concluded with full-page in-house ads for the two new series listing the members on each team. At some point off-panel, Jeffries had picked Cyclops’ side on Utopia, along with the rest of the X-Men Science Team, and his name was included in the roster in the in-house ad for this series, so we knew he’d be popping up at some point.

After Mr. Sinister stabs some tourists to death and the Extinction Team is introduced, a full-page montage shows a typical week on Utopia, introducing the rest of the teams and a few individuals. Mister Jeffries can be seen with Dr. Nemesis, tinkering with their X-Men Science Team teammate Danger’s detached head. Oddly, Jeffries is shown using some kind of sonic screwdriver implement thingy to do this tinkering, which is entirely unnecessary. We’ve seen him use tools before to perform electromechanical tasks, such as the bizarre soldering iron in New Mutants #5 and the comically oversized wrench in Uncanny X-Men Annual #3, but in this case, it would have looked even more odd for him to be just waving his hands around in that panel, so I’ll give penciler Carlos Pacheco a pass on this one.

Unfortunately, Mister Jeffries isn’t identified by name in that panel, which he ought to have been. A number of characters on that same page go unidentified, and I really think writer Kieron Gillen missed an opportunity here to inform the readers, especially because it’s a #1 issue – a natural starting point for new readers. Why go out of the way to kill a five-decade long five hundred and forty-four issue run, restart the title as a #1 issue as a jumping-in point for new readers and not properly introduce the characters?

Well, at the end of the book, a silly character map tries to accomplish this introduction by naming the various sub-divisions of Cyclops’ side along with a rest-room sign icon version of each X-Man. Once again, Jeffries is shown with a wrench, the completely wrong accessory for a technomorph, but it’s close enough. What’s not close enough is the shameful misspelling of his name. Oh well, it’s still cute.

Note: There is a variant cover by Dale Keown and Jason Keith, a variant cover by Frank Cho, a blank variant and a second printing variant.

Uncanny X-Men #1 – Keown variant
Uncanny X-Men #1 – Cho variant
Uncanny X-Men #1 – Blank variant
Uncanny X-Men #1 – Second Printing variant

Coverage of Northstar’s wedding in the New York Daily News

May 23, 2012

New York Daily News Vol.93 -Number 333
Wednesday May 23, 2012

Marvel’s big announcement yesterday on The View that Northstar and his boyfriend Kyle were to be married in a nigh-unprecedented same-sex interracial wedding was picked up by various international news periodicals, the largest of which in New York City is the venerable New York Daily News, which has been continually published since 1919. It’s actually the fourth-largest newspaper by circulation in New York City, but none of the other large New York City papers picked up on the news, including USA Today, The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, The New York Post, nor Newsday. The New York Daily News gave nearly a full page of coverage, the most extensive of any of the national or international papers covering this event. Guardian (Mac), Sasquatch, Snowbird, Shaman, Aurora, Puck and Marrina appear in preview art to the cover of Astonishing X-Men #51, and of course Northstar and Kyle appear as well, including images from Astonishing X-Men #50, released on the same day as this issue.

click to enlarge

The article, titled “Gay wedding for ‘X-Men'” is nearly identical to the on-line article published the day before, with a few minor wording changes. The amazing wrap-around cover to Astonishing X-Men #51 by Dustin Weaver and colored by Rachelle Rosenberg is the main illustration modified with an overlaid caption that unfortunately obscures part of Snowbird but otherwise reproduced well in newsprint. Other images in the article are a modified version of the soon-to-be famous proposal splash page by Mike Perkins which has the speech bubble thankfully enlarged, and in the lower left corner, a great image of Northstar snipped from the cover art of Astonshing X-Men #50.

It should be noted that both Reuters and AP picked up the story, so in addition to Ethan Sacks’ story above, dozens and dozens of other newspapers (in more than one language!) published an article, some with an accompanying image, some in color! Here is an abridged list of major newspapers from around the world who I have confirm to have joined The New York Daily News in correctly identifying the newsworthiness of Northstar’s wedding (all in English except where noted) by publishing the story in their print version:

Cape Breton Post, Canada
Cebu Daily, Philippines
Daily Telegraph, UK
Edmonton Journal, Canada
El Universal, Mexico (Spanish)
Hindustan Times (Delhi), India
Hindustan Times (Kolkata), India
Hindustan Times (Mumbai), India
Il Giornale, Italy (Italian)
Journal Pioneer, Canada
Kingston Whig-Standard, Canada
Los Angeles Times
Nanaimo Daily News, Canada
National Post, Canada
Northern Territory News, Australia
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
San Jose Mercury News
South China Morning Post, Hong Kong
The Amherst Daily News, Canada
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
The Dominion Post, New Zealand
The News, New Glasgow, Canada
The Press, New Zealand
The Southland Times, New Zealand
The Sun Times, Canada
The Timaru Herald, New Zealand
The Trentonian
Times Colonist, Canada
Toronto Star, Canada
Toronto Sun, Canada
Truro Daily News, Canada
Washington Times Daily
Winnipeg Free Press, Canada
… and more!

Nearly all of these contained at least one image, so globally the number of people who saw this Alpha Flight appearance today was likely in the tens of millions. The circulation for the New York Daily News alone is around 700,000 and is easily eclipsed by the Los Angeles Times (800,000), Daily Telegraph (900,000) and Hindustan Times (1MM+), so I’m fairly certain of this estimation.

Note: Yes, that’s Israeli supermodel Bar Refaeli nude on the cover of the New York Daily News today. Sigh. Something about this blog just can’t keep the sexy away…

Northstar cameo in Vampires: The Marvel Undead #1

May 22, 2012

Vampires: The Marvel Undead #1
Dec 2011

Marvel has had no shortage whatsoever of vampire characters and stories dating back at least forty years, including the late Gene Colan’s Tomb of Dracula series and the Blade series which spun out three very successful movies. The recent Curse of the Mutants Saga (2010-2011) brought vampires right back into the mainstream Marvel universe, so to tie all that together while capitalizing on popular culture’s vampire craze, Marvel published another Official Handbook! Containing reprinted entries from previous handbooks, new entries, new illustrations and some updates for major characters, this book has everything you’ve always wanted to know about Marvel’s vampires. Northstar appears in Jubilee’s entry in an inset to the main illustration.

At the very beginning of the Curse of the Mutants Saga, Jubilee became infected with a vampire pathogen, and has been a vampire ever since. Her entry is a single page character update and has a new illustration by Steve Kurth. Another image of her is inset into the upper right – taken from the cover of Nation X #2 which features Northstar in the background.

This cover art was originally published in the first issue of the Nation X anthology series as a preview, where we first saw the white belt version of Northstar’s costume. Nation X #2 contains an 8pp story by Tim Fish featuring Northstar and his then-boyfriend Kyle. At the time, that issue was framed as a light-hearted and playful look into Northstar’s relationship with Kyle but would later turn out to be a significant building block of an important narrative leading up to their eventual engagement (announced today, in fact!) and marriage in the Astonishing X-Men title.

Unfortunately, all you can see of Northstar in the little inset is his jaw and his shoulder blade, so here is a much better view taken from the original cover art of Nation X #2.

Vindicator in Wolverine, Punisher & Ghost Rider: Official Index to the Marvel Universe #3

May 17, 2012

Wolverine, Punisher & Ghost Rider: Official Index to the Marvel Universe #3
Dec 2011

Note: Despite being clearly printed on the cover, “Official Index to the Marvel Universe: Wolverine, Punisher & Ghost Rider” is not the actual title of this series. The indicia reveals it reversed as above.

The Official Index to the Marvel Universe, or OITTMU, continues in its third incarnation after taking on Spider-Man, Iron Man and the X-Men in the first series and the Avengers, Captain America, and Thor in the second. This third series coves the massive set of comics for Wolverine and Punisher, and the large but not as massive Ghost Rider series. The index contains detailed synopses of individual comics, including all of the relevant data pertaining to the comic as well as a thumbnail of the cover art, 2 issues per page (roughly). Vindicator (Mac) appears in this issue in reprinted art from the cover of Wolverine #95 (Nov 1995).

Originally, the solicits for this issue indicated it would start at issue #75 for the Wolverine section of the book, but the writers only got so far as issue #70 last issue. The contents were estimated a bit off, but since it’s under, not over, it means readers got more detail on a per-issue basis than originally anticipated. The Wolverine section continues from issues #71 through #100, inclusive of a few special issues published during that portion of the run. Alpha Flight members appear in issues 76, 77, 83, 84, 91, 92 and 95, with Mac on the cover of issue #95.

Cover of Wolverine #95
click for big image

The accompanying text for these issues note the appearances of Mac and Heather, with notes and the usual details of chronology, which weren’t that hard to discern at the time because most of these issues took place in the hiatus between the end of Alpha Flight v1 and the beginning of Alpha Flight v2. The comments also confirm the error on Beast’s part to call Mac “Guardian” in issues #91 and #92 (at the time Heather was going by Guardian and Mac was Vindicator as correctly indicated on the cover text above). But don’t get too much of a headache – these index books are perfect for sorting out these types of pesky details!

Also contained in this index are the four issues of Wolverine re-named “Weapon X” for the 1995 Age of Apocalypse crossover. AoA Box appears in issue #2 of that series. He was chopped up by Weapon X (the AoA version of Wolverine) and generally considered to have been killed, but it had never been confirmed until now. The text confirms that even though AoA Jeffries was phased into his armor, Weapon X’s brutal attack was fatal.

Of all the indexed issues mentioned above, the only Alpha Flight image appearing in this book is the cover for Wolverine #95. The actual image shown inside is a tiny thumbnailed image, so here is an inset from the actual cover to that issue featuring Mac as he slams hard into Wolverine, preventing him from engaging in what Mac believes is a rage-fueled street brawl.

Weapon Alpha in The Uncanny X-Men: An Origin Story

May 16, 2012

The Uncanny X-Men: An Origin Story

Note: Because this isn’t a periodical, no month of publication is indicated, only a copyright year. The actual release of this book was October 5th, 2011.

It took a while for Disney and Marvel Comics to mesh properly following the summer 2009 buyout. After the weirdness of the ESPN preview and the Tron movie tribute covers, a serious attempt to work together resulted in the creation of Marvel Press, an imprint of kids books based on Marvel characters, done Disney style. A series of hardcover origin storybooks published in 2011 (and ongoing through 2012) tells the famous stories of the top Marvel characters in a kid-friendly format with beautiful artwork and the Disney touch. In the X-Men book, Weapon Alpha appears in flashback to the events of Uncanny X-Men #109.

The story of the X-Men is told expertly by Rich Thomas, who framed the story around Charles Xavier’s dream of a world where mutants and humans can live together. In this version of the X-Men origin story, he emphasizes the notion of having “dreams come true”, a central theme for all things Disney, and he does so with the usual warmth that makes all-ages books like this appealing. He actually bookends the story with Charles Xavier sleeping in his bed as a young boy, dreaming in the opening pages, and ending with an older Charles Xavier drifting off to sleep, remembering his dreams as a youth. The story is fairly accurate to the 616 version of events, but because some of the modern-day characters seen in the movies and intended to be used by Disney weren’t around at the actual origin in Uncanny X-Men #1 in 1963, the story also extends to modernity with the origin of the All-New, All-Different X-Men from Giant Size X-Men #1/Uncanny X-Men #94 in 1975.

click for big image

Just after the introduction of the All-New, All-Different X-Men, an idyllic scene which may have been inspired by the picnic excursion in Uncanny X-Men #109 is suddenly interrupted – by a full-page illustration of Weapon Alpha battling it out with Wolverine! There hasn’t been a new image of Weapon Alpha published in a long, long time so this is a real treat for Alpha Flight fans.

In close-up on the suit’s cowl, one can see the electro-magnetic shield barely put up in time by Mac, a nice touch by the artists, whoever they are. The credits say “Storybook Art Group”, a faceless, nameless pool of otherwise very talented artists who did a great job with this book, but whose identities are unknown to us – and the writer! The usual relationship between Marvel writer and Marvel artist wasn’t in place and although it certainly wasn’t a problem with this book, it was a problem nevertheless, and subsequent books in the series were drawn by known Marvel artists who the writers could interact with. A positive review of the storybook shows a typical illustration and accompanying text.

The original panel from Uncanny X-Men #109

Unfortunately, two shocking omissions remove part of the international nature of the All-New, All-Different X-Men, and though I don’t normally comment on plot elements unrelated to Alpha Flight, there is an actual connection. Both Thunderbird, a Native American hero, and Sunfire, a Japanese hero, are omitted from the story completely. The reason for this (according to Rich Thomas) is that they were such short-lived members of the X-Men that it wouldn’t make sense to introduce a new character, only to have them never appear again. This continuity concern was so great that it trumped the usual inclusive nature of Disney stories with respect to minority characters. The fact that Weapon Alpha appears indicates that his character doesn’t fall into that category, meaning it’s possible that sequels to the origin storybooks, or other publications from Marvel Press, could include more Alpha Flight characters.

Note: the front of the dust jacket is shown above, but actually wraps around to the back. Here is an image of the full dust jacket.

Note: Alpha Flight Collector’s trusty sidekick thought Charles Xavier’s giant bisected head was creepy looking and immediately discarded the dust jacket, preferring the very cool action scene on the painted cover beneath, the front of which is shown below and can be seen briefly in its entirety in the trailer for the series.

click for big image

You want the long or the short answer?

May 7, 2012

FUNday is back on Alpha Flight Collector (for this week) and if you think that wolves wearing spiked collars gnawing off children’s limbs for sport is fun, then you’re in the right place! Wait, what? Yes, that’s the main story of this week’s issue. Fortunately, it has nothing to do with a cameo appearance by Puck, but is sure is a hoot!

Wolverine #16
Nov 2011

Since Wolverine got back from Hell in issue #5 of his solo series, he hadn’t had such a good time of it all. Previous to this issue, he was tricked into murdering his own children, driving him to spend most of issue #15 repeatedly jumping off a very high cliff to smash his own brains to bits on the rocks below. Then he called his girlfriend Melita Garner to tell her that he’s not coming back and to tell everyone not to come look for him.

Oh, the drama, Logan!

OK, so what would you do if you were Wolverine’s girlfriend and he called you from a payphone and told you he weren’t coming back and not to come look? Would you:

  • A) Call the FBI and CSIS and file a missing mutant report
  • B) Contact Alpha Flight, the X-Men and the Avengers and convince them to go after him
  • C) Ask one of the telepaths on Utopia to use Cerebra to locate Logan’s unique mutant signature and then ask Cyclops to send the Blackbird to rendezvous at those coordinates
  • D) Get out your iPhone and record a youtube compilation video of a couple of dozen superheroes sitting in front of drab grey backdrop answering the question, “Who is Wolverine?”

If you picked D, you win! Interspersed the main story (see above re: wolves wearing spiked collars gnawing off children’s limbs for sport) are two full pages of single-panel headshots of superheroes responding to an off-panel interviewer. One of the 28 heroes interviewed is Puck, who answers, “The second toughest Canadian I know.”

Goran Sudzuka drew him barely poking up from the bottom margin of the panel, which looks even funnier when you see the entire page layout. It should remind readers of the calendars on the back of various Marvel Age issues from the 1980s when we saw the same sort of thing.

The original artwork shows the entire page and gives a good view of just how much empty space there is above Puck’s head – compare it to any of the other panels and you’ll get the joke.

Click to see big version.
Note: these images have been digitally inked and are not the original pencils.

Well, it’s a short FUNday post for this week (yeah, I know, I said this before, couldn’t resist).

Alpha Flight’s last entry (for now) in Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe A-Z TPB #1

May 4, 2012

Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe A-Z TPB #1

Note: no month of publication is indicated, with the exception of manufacturing date range of 8/25/11 to 9/13/11. The issue was released on 9/28/11. Other issues released on that date carry a publication date of Nov 2011.

The first volume of the amazing fourteen volume Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe A-Z Premiere Hardcover series is reprinted in trade paperback with all 240 original pages reproduced and, true to the principle of releasing timely information, sixteen additional pages of updates for selected entries. Some minor corrections and additions are found, but for the most part the original 240 pages are reprinted in their entirety. The first issue of this series has every single Alpha Flight member featured in a 3pg entry for the team, Aurora (who appears on the cover) has a 2pg entry and Marrina appears in the Avengers entry. Additionally, Alpha Flight has an extensive update in the appendix, again featuring every single Alpha Flight member. Aurora has a small update as well and there’s also a tiny Northstar appearance in Angel (Worthington)’s update.

Since this book reprints a great deal of material already printed, only the changes and updates are noted.

The Nemeses: Isabel St. Ives (top), Jane Thorne (center), Amelia Weatherly (bottom)In the Alpha Flight team entry, the major change is that the three Nemeses are distinguished from one another. The first Nemesis from Alpha Flight v1 #8, who was never a member of the team, is identified as Ernest St. Ives’ daughter, Isabel St. Ives. The second Nemesis from Alpha Flight #76, who started out in the Canadian Government-sponsored Gamma Flight team is given the name Jane Thorne (no relation to Alec Thorne / Smart Alec of Gamma Flight). The third Nemesis from Alpha Flight volume 3 we already knew to be Amelia Weatherly. It had been a question for many years whether or not the first two Nemeses were the same, and the third Nemesis only made it more confusing, so this clarification puts a very old controversy to rest. This is technically a contradiction to previous handbooks, but can be resolved if one perceives Nemesis to be an embodiment that can be passed from one successor to another.

There are a few changes in the text:

In the “Members:” section, Nemesis (Jane Thorne) is added to the list of members. Also, the awful typographical error in that section misspelling Langkowski has been corrected.

In the body of the entry, it now notes that Wild Child was a member of First Flight, as seen when Wolverine had to break up the encounter with Stitch as depicted in the flashback in Alpha Flight #127. The chronology of that flashback had never been pinned down, and was somewhat confusing because Wild Child didn’t appear in the Alpha Flight Special with First Flight. The text regarding the early formation of Gamma Flight is changed from saying that Diamond Lil, Madison Jeffries and Wild Child joined Smart Alec in Gamma Flight to indicate Diamond Lil and Jeffries joined Wild Child and Smart Alec (who were both already in Gamma Flight).

A very good correction: the word “ironically” has been removed from the description of Pestilence’s attack in Alpha Flight #37. The previous sentence bizarrely read:

Crozier possessed the newborn demigod, became Pestilence and ironically stripped Elizabeth of the Talisman coronet…

Alanis Morissette does not approve.
It is ironic. Isn’t it?

And there are some very minor changes: the spelling of Quwrlln has been corrected from Qwrlln and the Hudson’s daughter has been properly identified as Claire, who had been named recently. When the hardcover version was originally published in 2008, she had been unnamed. This tpb was published during the 2011-2012 Alpha Flight volume 4 run, where her name had been revealed.

The illustrations in the Alpha Flight team entry are the same as in the hardcover, but the volume 3 team illustration now identifies the v3 Nemesis as “Nemesis (Weatherly)” in the caption.

The Aurora entry is reproduced in its entirety from the original, with a very good correction to properly credit the artwork of the twins from the X-Men Annual #1 (2007) to Mark Brooks, not Clayton Henry. Unfortunately, the notation of Aurora’s membership in the X-Men which was included in the 2010 Women of Marvel: Celebrating Seven Decades Handbook, which was also a reprint of the same hardcover entry, was not included but clearly should have been.

The massive Avengers entry, with respect to Marrina’s inclusion in the montage of headshots and a reprinted George Pérez poster is unchanged from the hardcover version.

Solicited cover art by Tom Grummett for Alpha Flight v4 #6In the update section, Alpha Flight gets nearly a full page of update, which is fairly significant seeing as how there are only 16 pages to update all of the other 240 pages worth of entries! The main entry ended just at the formation of Omega Flight, and the update fills in with an excellent brief recap of events since, up to and including issue #4 of Alpha Flight volume 4. Included is a small reproduction of the cover art by Tom Grummett for issue #6 with the caption “Current Roster”, which interestingly, does not include Vindicator (Heather). That image had recently been released as the solicited cover, and wouldn’t be printed until November 23rd, 2011.

There is also a giant grid of headshots of everyone in Alpha Flight. In the main entry, the v1, v2 and v3 teams each had a large illustration with small headshot insets but in the update, everyone gets a headshot. With the exception of a few members (Auric, Earthmover, Ouija, and Flinch), all of the images are updated and/or better versions of the ones shown in the main entry, but even for the guys who didn’t get an updated image, the size is increased so overall the image is improved from the original. The only criticism is that the headshot for Northstar is taken from the cover art of Chaos War: Alpha Flight #1, where Salva Espin drew Northstar with rounded ears. Interestingly, they are arranged in join order, and there’s a massive caption below indexing the issues when each member joined which Flight – an incredibly dense info dump that shows an insane level of detail.

Following that is a paragraph of text and an illustration for Alpha Prime, the Savage Land superhero team from Alpha Flight Annual #2. There was a minor comment and an illustration for Alpha Prime in the Savage Land entry in the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe A-Z Premiere Hardcover #10, but these expanded remarks are much more substantial and now properly placed with Alpha Flight team information.

Aurora has a small update as well, just a paragraph with no illustration, describing her activities following the events mentioned in the main entry which ended at her restoration to sanity in X-Men Annual #1 (2007). This includes the little appearance in Uncanny X-Men #508 as COO (Chief Operating Officer) of Team Northstar Extreme Snowsports (the update indicates she had been promoted sometime off-panel to joint CEO – Chief Executive Officer), joining up with the X-Men in X-Men: Secret Invasion #2, rejecting Osborn’s offer in Dark X-Men: The Beginning #3, re-joining the team in Chaos War: Alpha Flight #1 and subsequent events in Alpha Flight volume 4.

In Angel (Worthington)’s update, Northstar can be seen very tiny in a small illustration from Uncanny X-Men #533 just after the de facto X-Men team defeated Lobe’s squad of baddies on the rooftop. Here is a much larger image taken from the original issue.

Note: the cover for this issue is identical to the hardcover, with a slightly different spine and a small note on the back cover that updates are included. Tom Grummett’s Aurora on the cover is very tiny and has a minor error in her costume. In a highly magnified image we see that he drew the asymmetrical starburst over her right boob instead of her left hip.

Jesus, can you go ONE post without mentioning Aurora’s boobs?

Unfortunately, Marvel has canceled the remainder of the trade paperback reprints at issue #5. Sadly, we won’t see updates for all of the original fourteen volumes. Also, since no new OHOTMU books are scheduled for any time in the future, this could be the last printed entry for Alpha Flight we see for a very long time. It was already an excellent entry, and with the corrections, changes and updates, it’s simply the perfect ending to a great run.