Archive for September, 2013

Northstar cameo in Astonishing X-Men #46

September 17, 2013

astonishingxmen46coverAstonishing X-Men #46
Mar 2012

The Exalted story arc that started up in issue #44 of Greg Pak’s too-short run on the Astonishing title starts out with a re-telling of the shocking backstory of the circumstances under which the X-Treme X-Men team formed. Last issue, we learned that in an alternate universe, a mutant uprising led by Magneto conquers a world but defeated later by a heroic team of X-Men led by that world’s Cyclops and a white-clad hero named Savior, cracking the world as a result. Northstar appears in a single panel cameo as a member of… well, your guess is as good as mine.

The story of the subsequent recruitment of mutants to maintain the integrity of the cracked world is re-told in this issue in a manner that should remind readers of how comics back in the day would actually fill in a new reader to the plot with a few panels or pages of recap, along with editor’s footnotes. Long gone and replaced with a title page, those often long-winded expository recaps were essential to allow new readers to “jump in” to an arc without having to have a new #1 issue thrown into their face every 5 months. While some readers may feel as if repeated material is a waste of precious space, others may enjoy the fullness that recaps and expository flashbacks bring to a comic. In this case, Alpha Flight Collector enjoyed it very much because Northstar makes another appearance.


Shown in another ambiguous battle scene, possibly the same one, it still isn’t clear which side he’s fighting on. In the last issue he was engaged one-on-one with X-23; in this issue, he’s flying in a somewhat battle-ish pose next to Storm but not cleanly engaged in a fight with her. Based on other events in the book, she would be on the Cyclops/Savior team. Who would win? Stormy baby, I love ya, but I’m sorry. Northstar’s speed wins. Last time they squared off it wasn’t even close.


That blur is Northstar clocking Ororo in X-Men #121.

Changes to how he’s drawn since last issue include a new pair of dark sunglasses, sewn cuffs instead of starburst cuffs and a solid black costume from the knees down instead of a white booted costume. He’s been wearing all kinds of costume variants for years now, but likely Mike McKone just draws him differently up close as he does from further away and unfortunately with rounded ears the further one gets. Northstar is supposed to have pointy ears. Keep in mind also that this is a mental projection re-telling of a story already told via mental projection of a flashback on an alternate world, so the source image could have been at fault, not the penciler.

Diamond Lil gets an update in the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe A-Z TPB #3

September 16, 2013

ohotmuaztpb3coverOfficial Handbook of the Marvel Universe A-Z TPB #3

Note: no month of publication is indicated, with the exception of manufacturing date range of 12/22/11 to 1/10/12. The issue was released on 1/25/12. Other issues released on that date carry a publication date of Mar 2012.

The third 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. In the entries, Shaman, Northstar and Puck appear in the Crystar entry, Puck appears in the Deadly Ernest entry, Centennial appears in a 1/2 page entry, Diamond Lil appears in a full page entry and X Mac, X Sasquatch and X Puck appear in the Earth X entry. Additionally, Alpha Flight-related characters Ranaq, Tundra, Kolomaq, Somon, Tanaraq, Tolomaq, Kariooq, Dreamqueen and Zilla Char appear in the massive nine page Demons entry.

The Crystar entry has two changes from the HC version published in 2008. The secondary illustration taken from the closing splash panel of Crystar #11 has been recolored in a high contrast modern style, a big improvement over the old version. Also, in the text of the entry, where Shaman and Puck are mentioned regarding their role in that issue, their full names are now given. It isn’t clear why this change was made, except possibly to distinguish Shaman (Michael Twoyoungmen) from other Shamans and Puck (Eugene Judd) from other Pucks. Poor Northstar, who is also mentioned in the text, did not get his full name given. He’s still just Northstar.

The Deadly Ernest entry has a similar improvement to the secondary illustration, which is an image of him getting his head chopped off: the halftones are removed and filled in solid instead. The text changed significantly regarding the Nemesis who killed Deadly Ernest twice in Alpha Flights #8 and #31, but who is a distinct character from the Nemesis who later teamed up with Alpha Flight late in volume 1 (now identified as Jane Thorne), and also distinct from the volume 3 Nemesis (who we knew to be Amelia Weatherly). This new information was revealed in volume 1 of the tpb series, so the writers were compelled to re-word the Deadly Ernest entry. It cleanly states, “Two other women subsequently assumed Nemesis’ mantle,” and confirms that the Isabel St. Ives version of Nemesis and [her father] Deadly Ernest are both in fact, quite dead.

The Centennial entry is re-printed from the 2008 HC with no changes.

(image from Alpha Flight #98)

(image from Alpha Flight #98)

Diamond Lil’s entry also has its secondary illustration recolored, an image of Lil wearing the black bodysuit costume from Alpha Flight #98. In the updates section, Diamond Lil has a paragraph describing the unfortunate events of X-Force #23 and the preceding events as described in Nation X #3. It was obviously not written by Chris Yost, because it’s both an accurate representation of Alpha Flight history and solemnly respectful of the characters.

The images of X Mac and X Sasquatch from the cover of Universe X #6 and X Puck from the back of the wraparound cover of Universe X #X in the Earth X entry are re-printed from the 2008 HC with no changes.

Also in the update section the massive nine page Demons entry somehow gets even longer with an additional two pages. The new Great Beast Neooqtoq is mentioned for the first time in a handbook, having appeared in Incredible Hercules #119 (Sep 2008), just after the HC issue had been published. Unfortunately, it’s in the section “Additional unpictured demons.” Also unfortunate is the omission of the Great Beasts Herateq and Tiamaq from Marvel Heartbreakers #1 (May 2010), who really ought to have been mentioned along with the other Great Beasts, unless for some technical reason they aren’t classified as demons.

Note: the illustrations of the Great Beasts in the massive nine page Demons entry have new captions indicating the issue and year they first appeared, which now matches the format for many of the other captioned illustrations in that entry. Nice job, writers: you got Tanaraq – X-Men #120 (1979) correct.

Namor breathes a sigh of relief.

September 15, 2013

oittmuwpgr6coverWolverine, Punisher & Ghost Rider: Official Index to the Marvel Universe #6
Mar 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 #172 and #179 (Mar and Sep 2002).

The section on Wolverine titles starts from the 2001 Annual, then picks up the regularly numbered issues at #170-189, continuing with the next series from #1-20. Alpha Flight members appear in issues #171, #172-174, #176, #179 and #180 and the index fully notes their appearances. Out of those issues, Alpha Flight appears on two of those covers.

Wolverine #172 Guardian (Mac), Sasquatch, Shaman, Snowbird, Aurora, Puck

Wolverine #172 Guardian (Mac), Sasquatch, Shaman, Snowbird, Aurora, Puck

The famous Sean Chen cover for Wolverine #172 shows Alpha Flight and Wolverine as they prepare to face off against Mauvais. Though the Guardian character shown is clearly Real Mac and not his synth clone (who died in Wolverine #143), he’s shown wearing a costume with a red stripe down the middle of the cowl, which is what Synth Mac had been wearing in Alpha Flight v2. This image is a bit puzzling, as Real Mac’s previous appearance to this issue was in Generation X #58 where he was wearing an all-white cowl.

Wolverine #179 Shaman

Wolverine #179 Shaman

The cover for Wolverine #179 is also shown, featuring an image of Shaman pulling a magical swarm out of his bag.

The entry for the Wolverine 2001 annual mentions the Plodex bear, and some other interesting information. In that issue, a single image of the original Plodex ship from 40,000 years ago crashing onto Earth and dispersing its eggs is shown. The index claims that Mar, Marrina and Marrina’s mate are present on that ship, as eggs. It’s not controversial that Marrina’s egg was dispersed from the original ship, nor Marrina’s mate (seen in Alpha Flight v1 #14 and #16), but Mar, that’s another story. Mar’s origins were never explained in Alpha Flight volume 3. Speculation has been that he’s Marrina’s kid, or, because he was shown in a panel in Alpha Flight v3 #12 (Apr 2005) with Namor with the caption “Kids. What’re you gonna do?”, possibly Namor’s kid, possibly both.


Well, all the speculation about Mar’s parents ends with this new information. If he were in egg form already when the ship crashed 40,000, that means he’s just another Plodex egg that somehow came into contact with a human and not related to Marrina or Namor directly.

Oh what a tangled web we weave, When first we practise to deceive!

September 14, 2013

backissue54coverBack Issue #54
Feb 2012

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. Alpha Flight appears in this issue in one of those commission pieces, but under dubious circumstances.

In an article “Phoenix Rising” by Jim Ford, the entirety of the Dark Phoenix Saga, a story found at or near the top of nearly every “best X-Men story” list on the Internet, is told in great detail, along with several rare and unusual images of Jean Grey. A few of these are Byrne commissions, and one of them is quite an odd choice: a montage of X-Men characters commissioned back in 2010. Yes, Jean Grey is in the image but is so small and among so many other characters that it’s rather puzzling why this image was chosen in a Dark Phoenix Saga article.

backissue54bclick to enlarge

The actual image as published is a bit small, so here is a higher resolution version. The Alpha Flight characters in the image are Mac (costumed), Heather (not costumed), Northstar (scowling), Aurora, Sasquatch, Shaman and Snowbird (prev 4 all smiling). Aurora is holding a sign, that reads, “Bon Jour Nathan! Je T’amie!” For those of you who were reading Alpha Flight comics instead of paying attention in French class, that means, “Hello Nathan! I love you!”

More information about the original commission piece, and some interesting Alpha Flight tidbits, can be found at the official John Byrne website. The owner of the original commission piece is the extremely talented Nathan Greno, director of the Disney movie Tangled, and John Byrne fan extraordinaire.

An amateur colorist decided to download a scan of the commission, freely available at John Byrne’s website, colored it, and posted it online, which TwoMorrows then lifted, crediting it only as “artist John Byrne’s drawing of the X-Men cast of his legendary tenure.” The original commission piece from 2010 is shown below.

backissue54aclick to enlarge
(note: the link leads to a very high resolution image which is a rather large file)

Nathan later found out about TwoMorrows using this image without his permission. Unlike other instances when commission owners were publicly acknowledged in a subsequent issue after contacting TwoMorrows, no such acknowledgement has ever been published. When Joe Hollon wrote to TwoMorrows regarding an uncredited contribution published in Back Issue #53, TwoMorrows published an apology in issue #58:

Joe, our sincere apologies for that goof. We juggle so many images and image sources that occasionally an error like this occurs. Thanks for understanding-and for your art contribution.

The most likely explanation for the lack of apology to Nathan is that TwoMorrows was never contacted and informed of the error, but it’s still odd for them to have published the colored version of the piece without properly crediting it.

He’s the best at what he does… and what he does is imperceptibly tiny.

September 10, 2013

wolverine300coverWolverine #300
Mar 2012

Similar to the What If? #200 issue that came out of the other end of the re-numbering craze to arbitrarily re-start a comic book series at a very high number (as opposed to the re-numbering craze where you start over at #1 every 4-5 months), Wolverine #300 is arguably around the 300th issue or so of the various Wolverine series, give or take a few issues. This oversize issue contains a seven-part story and a preview of Jeph Loeb’s Sabretooth Returns, along with three pages of character designs and four pages of tiny cover thumbnails of the 300 issues arranged in a tight array, including many, many variants. Alpha Flight Collector is very much impressed with the kind of painstaking indexing work required to create such an array, and is thrilled to find many Alpha Flight characters on those covers!


Due to the volume of material, the actual thumbnails are extremely small and the cover detail is quite hard to discern. So here are much larger images of the issues shown in the array:

Wolverine #35 - Puck

Wolverine #35 – Puck

Wolverine #95 - Vindicator (Mac)

Wolverine #95 – Vindicator (Mac)

Wolverine #110 - Shaman

Wolverine #110 – Shaman

Wolverine #142 - Heather, Northstar, Synth Mac

Wolverine #142 – Heather, Northstar, Synth Mac

Wolverine #143 - Heather, Synth Mac

Wolverine #143 – Heather, Synth Mac

Wolverine #172 - Guardian (Mac), Sasquatch, Shaman, Snowbird, Aurora, Puck

Wolverine #172 – Guardian (Mac), Sasquatch, Shaman, Snowbird, Aurora, Puck

Wolverine #179 - Shaman

Wolverine #179 – Shaman

Wolverine #28 - Northstar

Wolverine #28 – Northstar

Note that we still aren’t sure which Mac is on the cover of Wolverine #142 and #143, but I think it’s Mac’s Synth clone.

Note: there is a cover variant by Geof Darrow, one by Jim Cheung, a blank variant and a second printing sketch variant of Adam Kubert’s original cover.

wolverine300coverdarrowvariant Wolverine #300 – Geof Darrow variant
wolverine300covercheungvariant Wolverine #300 – Jim Cheung variant
wolverine300coverblank Wolverine #300 – blank variant
wolverine300coversecondprintingvariant Wolverine #300 – 2nd printing variant

Mister Jeffries “saves everyone” trifecta now complete!

September 9, 2013

xmen23coverX-Men #23
Mar 2012

The giant blob of X-Men from the early issues of this title pared itself down to a manageable team of six mutants for this story arc: Colossus, Storm, Psylocke, Jubilee, Warpath and Domino; with minor roles for the rest of the X-Men back on Utopia, the island headquarters of Cyclops’ team. Of course, that’s where Mister Jeffries has been, choosing to remain with the X-Club after the events of Schism. In the final issue of the “Machines of War” arc, Mister Jeffries appears in three panels as a regular member of the X-Men Science team, having joined up in Uncanny X-Men #505.

The mythical Balkan country of Puternicstan had bought an army of Sentinels to attack their enemy neighbor Symkaria, a master plan doomed by the appearance of not only the X-Men but also the Avenger War Machine, who eventually team up to fight the giant robots. Figuring that Madison Jeffries, second to none when it comes to defeating Sentinels, could help from afar, Psylocke telepathically contacts him from halfway around the world, beaming an image into his mind of a Sentinel control contraption plucked from the mind of the evil Dr. Kamarofski.


Victor Gischler’s focused and brilliant Jeffries is one of the best. Not surprisingly, Madison is expected to discern the nature of the Sentinel control contraption solely from the beamed schematics and whatever other thoughts Psylocke transmits, and he succeeds. He deduces that they need to send a coded shutdown command to the Sentinels to defeat them, as smashing the contraption would just cause their default mutant-killing programming to take over.

Locutis of Borg approves.

Locutis of Borg approves.

Sounds familiar? In the Star Trek: TNG episode “The Best of Both Worlds, Part II”, Data defeats the Borg collective by planting a sleep command as suggested by Picard’s re-emerging consciousness after being assimilated into Locutis.


Unfortunately, the only guy who can enter the shutdown command, the evil Dr. Kamarofski, gets shot to death. As the Sentinels close in on the rest of the team and nearly kill Storm, Cyclops and War Machine, Psylocke allows her body to be taken over by Mister Jeffries, who then enters the shutdown command into the contraption, saving not only the team but also the entire country of Symkaria from being destroyed.

I can't believe all I touched when I was in control of Psylocke's body was a computer keyboard.

I can’t believe all I touched when I was in control of Psylocke’s body was a computer keyboard.

The Mister Jeffries “saves everyone” trifecta is now complete, including the time he saved everyone on Earth in X-Men #15, saved everyone on Utopia in X-Men: Schism #4 and now has saved everyone in Symkaria. What a nice job by Victor Gischler who used Jeffries in such an awesome way, far from the action of the rest of the story arc, but with brilliant simplicity.

Note: this issue, although released on the same day as X-Club #2 which did not carry the Regenesis banner, does carry the Regenesis banner.

Note: this issue has a Venom variant cover by John Tyler Christopher, part of a series of variant covers that appeared across the Marvel line in January 2012 to promote the Venom: Circle of Four event.

xmen23covervenomvariant X-Men #23 – Venom variant

Madison Jeffries is the luckiest guy ever. For one hour.

September 8, 2013

xclub2coverX-Club #2
Mar 2012

Simon Spurrier’s five issue X-Club miniseries continues with a nicely paced second issue that offers fairly equal page time to each of the X-Men Science Team members, advancing the storyline while also presenting the characters. He successfully manages a good balance among superhero storytelling, techno-babble and humor, which is his trademarked style on the X-Club. Madison Jeffries appears extensively in this issue as a regular member of the X-Club, having joined up in Uncanny X-Men #505.

Picking up from last issue, the X-Club members are in four different locations, with Dr. Kavita Rao on the Stringstar space elevator anchor base, Dr. Nemesis diving underneath the base platform, Danger back at Utopia (the headquarters of Cyclops’ X-Men team), and Mr. Jeffries in orbit on the Stringstar space elevator platform. He uses a scanner to detect isotope levels while in an odd exchange with Dr. Nemesis. It’s odd not only because Dr. Nemesis has an empathic starfish bonded to his head blurting out the most hilarious “inner monologue” lines, and not only because Jeffries is playing the straight man to all this, but because it reveals to the reader that he’s not exactly sure about his feelings toward Danger. Alpha Flight Collector has already expressed disapproval over portraying Jeffries as a mechaphile, but the way Si Spurrier eases him into realizing his emotions makes it more of a touching revelation to himself than a bizarre joke. It’s a realistic exhibition of sexuality that’s on a sophisticated level beyond the shock of fetish humor and has turned this fan around from otherwise negative opinion on the subject.


Paul Davidson continues to draw Jeffries surrounded by little bits of floating machinery and gadgets in purely iconic imagery of the character, similar to what he did in the previous issue.


Simon Spurrier’s Jeffries is described quite clearly as “spaced out” in the intro page, and he wastes no time displaying him as such with a scene exiting the observation room on the space platform. Rather than using the door, he uses his technomorph powers to make his own exit, sealing it up behind him as he departs. Mr. Jeffries claims not to be able to remember “people-rules”, but he’s been at Utopia for quite a while since being recruited. Apparently it’s important to show in both pictures and words how “spaced out” the guy really is.


He is then hurriedly sent back down for an hour-long descent in the space elevator pod, which is essentially a moving holosuite, and if there’s ever a chance for adolescent fantasy humor to play out, it’s here, folks. For those new readers, it’s obligatory for this blog to present the finest comic book art of modestly dressed women drawn in a respectful manner with realistic proportions.

Quark approves.  That will be 2 bars of gold-pressed latinum, please.

Quark approves. That will be 2 bars of gold-pressed latinum, please.

Cyclops then contacts Mister Jeffries, asking him to help out with Danger, who has gone completely insane back at Utopia. He mentions that Emma Frost suggested there might be a connection between the two, which Jeffries awkwardly denies, but apparently Emma knows more about Jeffries’ psyche than he does about himself. Remember that Emma Frost had performed a memory wipe on Jeffries at the conclusion of the Age of X storyline back in X-Men Legacy #248, a procedure that seems quite intimate, so it’s plausible that she really does know what’s going on deep inside his mind, even if he’s not completely at terms with it.

Using the holographic hard-light emitters in the pod in a more X-Clubby fashion, Madison then builds an interface to Danger’s Operating System and is knocked about quite a bit. Images of Mister Jeffries getting knocked about are quite familiar to Alpha Flight fans at this point and there’s no shortage of him writhing in pain, crawling in agony and laid out flat as the interface is finally broken from Danger’s end.

Writhing in pain

Writhing in pain

Crawling in agony.

Crawling in agony

Laid out flat

Laid out flat

Note: Unlike the first issue of this mini-series, the cover of this issue does not carry the Regenesis banner identifying this as part of the loose crossover event that followed the Schism event.

Northstar cameo in Astonishing X-Men #45

September 7, 2013

astonishingxmen45coverAstonishing X-Men #45
Feb 2012

Alpha Flight v4 writer Greg Pak had a short run on the Astonishing X-Men title (issues #44-47) before Marjorie Liu took over and got Northstar all married and whatnot. During that run, he set up what would eventually spin off into the very fun alternate universe-hopping series, the X-Treme X-Men, and ultimately conclude with the X-Termination crossover. In this, the second issue of the “Exalted” arc, readers learn the shocking backstory of the circumstances under which the X-Treme X-Men team formed. An alternate version of Northstar appears in one panel in an ambiguous role.

On an alternate world where 616 Cyclops suddenly found himself in issue #44, a mutant uprising led by Magneto had successfully taken over the world. A team of X-Men led by that alternate world’s version of Cyclops battled Magneto’s mutant team and won, cracking the planet as a result. This background info is beamed directly into 616 Cyclops’ mind by an alternate Charles Xavier known as Savior, providing a quick visual expository to the reader.


In a mentally projected scene from that world-cracking battle, one of the combatants is Northstar, fighting X-23 and shown wearing a version of his classic black and white costume with a white belt and gloves with starburst cuffs. You can decide if that ear is pointy enough; Alpha Flight Collector thinks it’s on the border. Unfortunately, due to the limited amount of explanation, it isn’t clear what side Northstar is fighting for, because neither he nor X-23 is properly identified in any previous panels as belonging to one side or another. It’s as if Greg Pak’s script said “Ok here, just draw a bunch of random X-Men fighting each other in a big tangle of punches and stuff, whatever!”


Look for Northstar in the lower left corner of the scrum. It’s left to the reader to speculate whether Northstar or X-23 would sympathize with Magneto or Cyclops in this alternate world, which is a fairly interesting question to pose. But overall, I’m glad that out of all the mutants that could have been in that scene, an Alpha Flight member was included rather than overlooked, so thanks to Greg Pak and artist Mike McKone for this little cameo!

Note: the cover carries the Regenesis tag, identifying this as part of the loose crossover event that followed the Schism event. The next two issues of Astonishing X-Men in the “Exalted” arc do not carry the Regenesis tag on the cover.