Archive for January, 2013

Jeffries does nothing at all to help, fans thrilled anyway

January 3, 2013

xmenlegacy260coverX-Men Legacy #260
Feb 2012

Mike Carey’s long-term run as writer of X-Men Legacy comes to its conclusion with the second and last part of the “Half a Step” arc. As mentioned previously, this arc was published well after the X-Men split into two parts under the Schism and Regenesis storylines, so the big mysteries about who was going to go where had already been resolved. Mister Jeffries, who we knew would be staying on Utopia with Cyclops, appears in a few panels as regular member of the X-Men Science Team, having joined up in Uncanny X-Men #508.

Picking up from last issue’s events where Rogue discovers that Ariel, a doorway teleporter, had been trapped in a fiery half-state of existence, the Science team is recruited to figure out how to get her back. While sitting around at a conference table, Mister Jeffries makes a suggestion that they use the same dimensional barrier technology used back in the four-part “Devil at the Crossroads” storyline (X-Men Legacy Annual #1 and issues #228, #229 and #230) to catch Emplate.

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When Rogue shoots down the idea and fellow Science Team member Dr. Kavita Rao agrees with her, Jeffries capitulates and jokes:

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That is a reference to the beast he fought with Rogue in X-Men Legacy #244, which is one of the most popular pages on Alpha Flight Collector. I wonder why. Oh yeah, boobs.

It was a nice touch for Mike Carey to insert these references, but also not unexpected in the last issue of such a run for a long-term writer to reminisce this way. Unfortunately, because Rogue decides not to pursue the technological route to rescue Ariel, that’s all we get out of Jeffries. Note that although Northstar was on hand last issue to help out, he’s not needed in the rescue and doesn’t appear.

So ends Mike Carey’s run, and since he was so good to Alpha Flight collectors, a small recap is deserved. He tended to write Jeffries as way smarter than the guy actually should be, but since it’s an error in the character’s favor, it’s easily overlooked. Carey also played a pivotal role with Northstar and Aurora’s storylines, effectively returning them to existence in his opening arc, the Supernova issues #188-#190 and 2007 Annual, and for that we are indebted to him. After a quick Northstar cameo during the Utopia arc in #227, he would end up including Jeffries in the aforementioned “Devil in the Crossroads” arc (4 issues), a cameo in issue #234, the Second Coming issue #236, the aforementioned “Rogue’s boobs” issue #244, the Age of X storyline (5 issues) and this final arc (2 issues) for a total of 20 issues. Not bad at all, and thanks, Mike Carey, for keeping the flame alive for Alpha Flight fans for so many years and so many issues!

The Mystery of the Ambiguous Mac

January 2, 2013

oittmuwpgr5coverWolverine, Punisher & Ghost Rider: Official Index to the Marvel Universe #5
Feb 2012

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 by covering various Wolverine, Punisher, and Ghost Rider series. The first two incarnations covered Iron Man, Spider-Man, X-Men, Avengers, Thor, and Captain America. 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). Alpha Flight appears in this issue in reprinted art from the covers of Wolverine #142 and #143 (Sep and Oct 1999).

Click to see full-size version of the solicited cover

Click to see full-size version of the solicited cover

Originally, the solicits for this issue indicated it would start at issue #142 for the Wolverine section of the book, but the writers only got so far as issue #133 last issue. The solicits are based on estimated page counts, so it’s typical to be off by a few issues. Since the usual arrangement is for the first indexed issue of the section to be shown on the cover in thumbnail, we would have had Alpha Flight on the cover of this issue had the estimate been accurate! Instead, the cover for Wolverine #134 (not an Alpha Flight appearance) made it to the big show. It’s the second time we were robbed of this distinction, as the same situation happened with issue #3 of this index as well.

The section on the Wolverine titles covers issues #134 through #169 with a few special issues published during that portion of the run. Alpha Flight members appear in issues #142-#145 and the Wolverine & Cable special, also known as “Guts & Glory”.

Cover to Wolverine #142 showing ambiguous Mac

Cover to Wolverine #142

The covers for #142 and #143 feature some of the team just after Alpha Flight volume 2 ended, with Puck, Northstar, Heather (as team liaison) and one of the two James MacDonald Hudsons. At the time, there were two Macs running around; one being the original Mac who had returned at the end of volume 2 (who at this time took the codename Guardian) and the other being “Synth Mac”, his younger clone (who at this time took the codename Vindicator). Because of similarities in their costumes and the fact that neither one was costumed in those issues, we can’t tell who is who on the cover of Wolverine #142 nor #143. There is also a small flashback panel in Wolverine #145 with a similar ambiguity: an unnamed Mac is shown wearing a cowl with a red stripe but we can’t tell which Mac it is, especially since the flashback is to events in issues #142 and #143 when neither Mac was wearing a costume. The index positively identifies the Mac in that small flashback panel as Guardian but also notes the error of showing him in costume at all.

Cover to Wolverine #143

Cover to Wolverine #143

Why so confusing? For those of you who keep track of these sorts of things: as of Alpha Flight v2 #20, “Real Mac” was wearing an all-white cowl and “Synth Mac” was wearing a cowl with a red stripe down the middle. The next chronological appearance of either of them is Wolverine #142, but again, neither of them are shown in costume in that issue (except in flashback). “Synth Mac” dies in issue #143 (oh sorry, uh, spoiler alert!) and the next appearance of “Real Mac” after this arc is in Generation X #58, where he is wearing an all-white cowl. The confusion starts when we next see “Real Mac” again in Wolverine #171, where he is wearing a cowl with a red stripe, continuing to wear this through several other appearances.

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The actual images printed in this index are thumbnailed so here are the insets, magnified to clearly show the red stripe on ambiguous Mac’s cowl, as well as Heather in her “Team Liaison to Department H” costume holding an awesome looking gun.

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Unfortunately, the information about the issues in the index doesn’t address the mystery of ambiguous Macs on these covers; perhaps it was too subtle even for the usually insanely detailed writers of the OITTMU series. It’s not too subtle for Alpha Flight Collector to still be worrying about this 13 years later, though. My personal opinion is that “Synth Mac” is on the cover of both of those issues based on the supposition that if he were costumed at the time, he would be wearing a cowl with a red stripe.

The index also helps out with positively identifying Ghost Girl (Lilli Stephens) for the first time in a small flashback panel in Wolverine #142 showing the reorganization of the Beta Flight team after volume 2. This places Wolverine #142 as Ghost Girl’s last chronological appearance, not Alpha Flight v2 #20 as previously thought.

Two known continuity errors in Wolverine #143 are pointed out and sort of explained. The first is when Vindicator (“Synth Mac”), while not wearing his EM suit nor cybernetic helmet, blasts Weapon X (Garrison Kane), which should have been impossible. The index explains this by suggesting, “his synthoid nature may have granted him additional, previously unrevealed powers.”

plausible

The second is in the 2nd story of Wolverine #143 when Walter Langkowski tries to explain where A.I.M. could possibly have obtained Snowbird’s body to reincarnate. At the time Walter was in Snowbird’s body but he suggested they obtained the body from her grave. The index notes, “Sasquatch’s explanation here that Snowbird’s body regenerated while in its grave cannot be accurate. [Wolverine #172 (2002)] implies that the Inuit gods had a hand in resurrecting Snowbird, but the exact mechanics of her return are unexplained.”

plausible

There was a chance for these continuity errors to be resolved with the publication of this index… but if the information doesn’t exist, the writers don’t have much to give us.

Oy vey! Chinese food for Christmas?

January 1, 2013

marvelholidayspecial2011coverMarvel Holiday Special 2011 #1
Feb 2012

It’s pretty much a sure thing at this point that Marvel intends to skip any sort of 2012 Holiday issue, so what better way to wrap up the season than by looking back on last season’s issue? Originally published as a series of free Digital Comics in late November and early December 2011, Marvel Holiday Special 2011 #1 came out in print on December 14, 2011. For those of you who keep track of these sorts of things, that was before both Chanukah (which started the night of the 20th in 2011) and Christmas (which falls on the 25th every year). Sasquatch appears on the last page of the fourth story of four in a single panel cameo.

While the other three stories are your usual Christmas stories, this one, titled, “Chinese Food for Christmas” is a quasi-Chanukah story featuring arguably the most famous Marvel Jewish character, Ben Grimm as The Thing. The reason it’s “quasi-Chanukah” is that the entire basis of the story is the unofficial tradition that Jews eat Chinese food on Christmas, making this a Christmas story, not a Chanukah story. The Thing, along with Kitty Pryde, Moon Knight, Songbird, Wiccan and Sasquatch (all of whom are Jewish) gather for a banquet at a Chinese restaurant and invite some kids along to celebrate.

Wait, Sasquatch is Jewish? What? Yes, Walter Langkowski’s religion was never addressed in any of the Alpha Flight issues, and John Byrne probably never intended for him to be Jewish, but sure enough, Jim Starlin popped this little gem on us, seemingly out of nowhere:

Panel from Infinity Crusad e #1 (Jun 1993)

Panel from Infinity Crusade #1 (Jun 1993)

When various heroes around the world visualize their religious icons, Sasquatch is shown witnessing the Star of David, and just like that, he’s Jewish. Langkowski isn’t a Jewish surname but must have sounded plausibly Jewish to Starlin when he needed an international character to be Jewish. Why he didn’t pick Sabra is beyond me, and Alpha Flight Collector has always been just as confuzzled as anyone else about that Star of David panel, but it doesn’t contradict anything else and Sasquatch wouldn’t have made it into this issue otherwise, so no complaint.

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The only part of the story that is related to Chanukah at all is an image of Wiccan lighting the candles in the lower right corner of the last page, but it’s completely wrong. After you get past the whole concept of someone named “Wiccan” lighting them, note that Jews don’t light Chanukah candles after the holiday is over (earlier in the story, one of the children notes that Chanukah had ended, placing the actual story in 2010 because in 2011 the eight-day holiday ended “late” on the 28th and in 2009, The Thing wouldn’t be wearing his FF costume). Additionally, only new candles are used, not the half-melted ones shown, as they are supposed to be burned down to completion each night. Also, the central candle should be higher than the others, not even in height. Wiccan should be using that central candle to light the others, not his powers. Finally, there should be a gathering around while prayers are uttered, as lighting the candles is a religious event, not a decorative action. I’ll go ahead and guess writer Jamie Rich (who is Jewish) wasn’t so explicit in his script on these details, and that both penciller Paco Diaz and editor Daniel Ketchum (neither of whom are Jewish) did the best they could, but in the days when Marvel Comics was Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Joe Simon, this shanda would never have happened.

Note: the part about Jews eating Chinese food on Christmas is completely accurate.

Note: the Digital Comics version’s cover was based on an interior panel and not used as a section separator in the print version:

marvelholidayspecial2011originalcoverthumb Marvel Holiday Special 2011 #1 – Digital Comic cover for the fourth story