Archive for December, 2012

A Mighty Thor followeth a tiny Puck

December 12, 2012

backissue53coveBack Issue #53
Dec 2011

Published by TwoMorrows Publishing eight times per year, Back Issue “celebrates comic books of the 1970s, 1980s, and today through a variety of recurring (and rotating) departments.” That unassuming description from the TwoMorrows website hardly comes close to the level of awesome of this magazine. Recently changed at issue #52 to 84 pages of full color in a nice square-bound format, Back Issue is filled with lengthy articles about comic book characters, creators and events, not to mention tons of original art, unpublished pencil sketches and the occasional commission piece. In this issue, we have one of the tiniest Alpha Flight appearances ever. Puck appears on a reprinted cover of Thor #373 (Nov 1986).

The entire issue isn’t about Thor, but he dominates most of the page count. Sharp-eyed readers already recognize the cover artist as Walt Simonson – an original Thor image so awesome that Back Issue moved its title block to the lower left corner so as not to detract from it in any way! An insanely long twenty-page (!!) article by Westfield Comics’ Roger Ash, “Flashback: The Tapestry of Walter Simonson’s Thor”, about Simonson’s legendary run on Thor (which spanned from issue #337 to #382) covers almost every major and minor plot point from each issue, along with dozens of cover thumbnails, interior panels and original sketches. Included is the cover to Thor #373, which was one of twenty-nine Marvel 25th Anniversary covers released in November, 1986 with a border drawn by John Romita, Sr.

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Alpha Flight fans already have at least one of those 29 issues, as Alpha Flight #40 was part of that set, and if you squint down very close and look in the very lower left corner just beneath the UPC box, you’ll see Puck’s eyes just poking out. Unfortunately, due to poor quality control, many covers printed from that massive print run are offset slightly in the vertical and one can barely see Puck at all on many copies, but some are printed and cut more proper to show him better. This highly magnified image shows what one would see if the bottom edge the cover were shown all the way to the bleed, brought back to glory from 1986 by the wonder of Marvel’s digital comics app:

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One can see from the large image above that either the issue used for that reprint had a shifted cover or the image was cropped to remove a ragged bottom edge. One can see from the size of the text to its left that the cover is just a thumbnail to begin with. In actuality the height of the reprinted cover is only two and a half inches (that’s 6.35cm for you metric folks), so Puck’s little corner is barely visible at all. This is just about the tiniest Alpha Flight appearance ever. But, there’s no such thing as an Alpha Flight appearance too tiny to collect, as far as I’m concerned.

Note: The reprinted cover above is the DM (Direct Market) cover with Thor’s hammer Mjölnir occupying the box where you’d normally find the UPC bar code on the Newsstand cover.

Note: My apologies to Dante for the title of the post. I couldn’t resist.

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Madison Jeffries in X-Club #1

December 10, 2012

xclub1coverX-Club #1
Feb 2012

It’s no surprise Simon Spurrier got behind the writer’s desk for this 5 issue mini-series, seeing as how he’s come to “own” the X-Club from the two one-shot spinoffs: X-Men: Blind Science #1 from the Second Coming event and X-Men: Curse of the Mutants – Smoke and Blood #1. Set just at the start of the Regenesis story arc, the X-Men Science team finally get a monthly series all to themselves. Madison Jeffries appears as a regular member of the X-Club, having joined up in Uncanny X-Men #505.

Simon Spurrier properly includes science in the science fiction of this series, having the X-Club launch a space elevator platform. Wait, what? Guffaw! No, this is actually a real scientific effort dating back decades from its popularization and effective legitimization by Arthur C. Clarke in his 1978 novel Fountains of Paradise. Even NASA has a web page about space elevators and there’s an International Space Elevator Consortium who sponsor annual meetings to address the technology. So already, the premise of the series is just perfect – that kind of “hardcore yet wacky” science you’d expect for an X-Club series.

While X-Club members Drs. Nemesis and Kavita Rao stay behind at a goofball press conference at the equatorial base of the elevator, Madison Jeffries and Danger ride the space elevator platform straight up, manufacturing a carbon tether along the way. He’s shown wearing an environment suit, surrounded by hovering workbots similar to the Matilda coffeebot from the Age of X series.

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Unfortunately, Spurrier decided to pick up on a meme that I was hoping would drop forever: Jeffries’ attraction to Danger, which was bizarre and inappropriate when first mentioned in New Mutants #9, seeing as how Diamond Lil, his wife, had been killed just a few hours before. It was also bizarre and unnecessary when Fantomex brainwashed Jeffries into asking Danger out on a picnic lunch date (she doesn’t eat) in Uncanny X-Men #529. If this issue were the first instance of Jeffries’ attraction to Danger, it would be a lot easier to swallow. Enough time would have passed since Lil’s death and Spurrier’s distracted version of Madison Jeffries would fit well with the quirky nature of mechaphiliacs. It’s unfair to blame Spurrier for the other two issues, but still, I prefer the version of Madison engaged to Heather and married to Lil over this version.

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One thing this issue gets right with Madison Jeffries is his technomorph powers. In nearly every scene, artist Paul Davidson has Jeffries holding a gizmo or finagling with some floating bits of metal and gadget parts, drawing perfectly iconic imagery for the character panel after panel. Notice the magnetic anchor clipped to his suit that allows him to move freely about the deck while staying tethered, a clever and useful gadget for a zero gravity environment up on the platform.

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Then, Danger jumps off the platform (no parachute, of course), an Atlantean grows tentacles before exploding into a pile of eyeball brain goop and a seagull shoots laserblasts out of his beak at an adamantium-encased sea turtle. Did I mention Simon Spurrier wrote this issue?