Posts Tagged ‘Madison Jeffries’

A tale of a fateful trip to the South China Sea

January 7, 2015

xmen25coverX-Men #25
Apr 2012

The X-Men team that we saw two issues ago in X-Men #23, consisting of Storm, Domino, Colossus, Psylocke and Warpath continue to search for Jubilee, their missing teammate who got lost in the scrum during the battle with the Sentinels. Just to brag, it should be noted that Madison Jeffries completely saved an entire country in that issue. Now finding themselves in Siberia, the trail runs cold on finding their vampire friend. Oh, Jubilee became a vampire back in X-Men #1, the first issue in this series at the beginning of the Curse of the Mutants arc. Madison Jeffries appears while remaining back at Utopia, the island headquarters of Cyclops’ X-Men, as a regular member of the Science Team, having joined up in Uncanny X-Men #505.

First appearing as a speech bubble, he is shown sitting in the same high-tech operations command center where we saw him last, surrounded by glowing floating screens and gadgets. He explains to Storm, using some wandering technobabble, that he’s just discovered where Jubilee might be.


Unfortunately, the explanation loses both Storm and the reader, because it really doesn’t make any sense. However, Victor Gischler does correct himself nicely in this scene. Back in Gischler’s X-Men #4 at the height of the Curse of the Mutants arc, Jeffries used Cerebra to detect “vampire DNA,” which isn’t how it works. Vampires are creatures of the undead, not genetic variants. In this issue, Gischler got it right when he has Jeffries explain:

“Cerebra tracks mutants by DNA. But vampires aren’t vampires because of DNA. It’s more complicated than that. More nurture than nature, if that makes sense.”

Yes, it makes a lot more sense!

Jeffries then directs the team to the South China Sea, giving the map coordinates to find Jubilee. Of course, he’s right, because he’s awesome, and they find her.

I've reconfigured Cerebra to detect Psylocke's butt

I’ve reconfigured Cerebra to detect Psylocke’s butt

Inexplicably, the top panel shows Madison’s hands over a touchscreen map of… Kosovo? If you squint, you can see some of the town names on the map, indicating a region near the southern border with Macedonia. Kosovo is kind of far from Siberia and even further from the South China Sea, but maybe the computer was just scanning around at the time.

Victor Gischler’s version of Madison Jeffries is more of a super smart code jockey techno-expert than a transmutator of machinery. He feels just as comfortable sitting in a high-tech operations command center programming Cerebra as he is building a contraption in a machine shop. It’s hard to believe that this issue was released at the same time as the five-issue X-Club series (between issues 3 and 4), where Simon Spurrier’s version of Jeffries was a spaced-out, rough-talking bumbler. It also isn’t clear if Jeffries used his powers in this issue. It’s possible that he had an enhanced mental connection with Cerebra as a natural extension of his techno-powers, but he’s just so damn smart in this issue that it’s hard to tell.

One note on the technobabble: Jeffries inadvertently drops a reference to Gilligan’s Island when he says, “There aren’t groupings of Adenine and Thymine and the rest to trace.” Adenine and Thymine are two of the four building blocks of DNA. The other two are Guanine and Cytosine. It seems so odd to refer to them as “and the rest.” It’s highly reminiscent of the way the Professor and Mary Ann were referred to as “and the rest” in the first season theme song of Gilligan’s Island.

The Professor and Mary Ann approve!

The Professor and Mary Ann approve!

Jeffries comes out of the… space elevator personnel pod?

January 2, 2015

xclub3coverX-Club #3
Apr 2012

The five issue X-Club miniseries by Simon Spurrier gets over the hump with this third issue, containing the big reveals – one of which we’ve suspected for a while. The X-Club team is dealing with the aftermaths of the launch of the Stringstar space elevator platform: Dr. Nemesis has an empathic starfish bonded to his head, Dr. Kavita Rao is dealing with a Terrigen leak, and Danger is going completely berserk back at Utopia, the headquarters for Cyclops’ X-Men team. Madison Jeffries appears extensively in this issue as a regular member of the X-Club, having joined up in Uncanny X-Men #505.

Having just returned via the space elevator, Jeffries is lost in thought in Dr. Rao’s lab. In a moment of spaced-out sexual harassment, Jeffries plants one, hoping to discover a clue related to his sexuality. He’s been struggling to understand his emotional and physical attraction to Danger, a robotic life form. This meme started a while back and Spurrier continues to lay it out in each issue of this miniseries, but as introverted exploration. Well, until the unwanted advance on his co-worker. Paul Davidson nails it perfectly, drawing both the most tender and most inappropriate kiss at the same time.


Feeling no spark, Jeffries returns to the elevator pod. Poor Rao is left speechless until she demands to be teleported back to Utopia. Alpha Flight Collector is not so thrilled with the sexual assault on a female character, even though it was done for science.

During the trip back up to the Stringstar platform, the computer running the holographic projector in the pod senses what he wants, and presents to him the same modestly dressed woman with realistic proportions drawn in a respectful manner that we saw in issue #2. Okay, who are we kidding? We all know why you read this blog:


As Jeffries modifies her appearance into a robot version to resemble Danger, the AI within the computer coalesces as a shadowy figure and introduces itself. It then chooses him as an ally to free itself from its masters and flat out declares what we’ve come to know:

You are a mechaphile. You are aroused by electric life.

Well, that’s it then. No more hints or subtleties – he’s out. Oh, and please do not perform an Internet search for “mechaphile.” Trust me.

The AI simulacrum coalesces even further down to a glowing red sphere and invisibilizes Jeffries so they can explore the platform undetected. While eavesdropping on lab workers conducting genetic experiments, xclub3cDr. Nemesis blurts out a greeting over the X-Club headsets, breaking the holographic blur-field invisibility cloak.

Simon Spurrier did his homework when he wrote the technobabble that Jeffries overhears. The lab workers mention, “Haplogroups J1C3 and J2A” and, “abnormalities in the HEXA gene.” When Jeffries hurriedly relates this to Dr. Rao, she identifies those as genetic markers for Ashkenazic Jews, revealing a chilling Nazi plot. Well, it turns out she’s right – those are actual genetic markers and they are associated with Ashkenazic Jews. For those of you who were reading Alpha Flight comics instead of paying attention in Biology class, the abnormality in the HEXA gene is responsible for Tay-Sachs disease, the most prevalent mutation in the Ashkenazi Jewish population.

This is the only issue in the five issue series where Jeffries doesn’t use his mutant powers to transmute materials into machinery. In fact, it’s one of a very short list of non-cameo appearances where he doesn’t build an awesome machine that does some awesome thing like save the entire world, or an awesome-looking gun.

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.

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.


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


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!

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.


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.


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.


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?

Jeffries and Northstar still refuse to speak to each other

November 23, 2012

X-Men Legacy #259
Jan 2012

The schedule of events among the X-titles fouled up a bit with the timing of this issue. Fans who were expecting a Regenesis story (the cover of this issue does have the Regenesis banner logo on the cover) were happily surprised to read yet one more pre-Regenesis story arc from Mike Carey, the long-term writer of X-Men Legacy since issue #188. The Schism event, in which the X-Men divided into two camps: one staying at Utopia with Cyclops and the other returning to Westchester with Wolverine, had ended in October 2011. Regenesis had begun four weeks previously in November 2011 with the release of Uncanny X-Men #1 on 11/2/2011. So by the time this issue was released on 11/30/2011, the hub-bub of who would stay on Utopia and who would leave for Westchester had settled down, already hashed over on countless websites, and even listed by Marvel with in-house ads in various X-books. Both Madison Jeffries and Northstar appear as regular members of the post-Schism, pre-Regenesis X-Men, having joined up in Uncanny X-Men #505 and #508.

Ultimately, Mister Jeffries would stay on Utopia with Cyclops as a member of the X-Men Science Team, and Northstar would leave for New York, later taking a prominent role in the Astonishing X-Men title. In this issue, Jeffries and Northstar assist in a rescue attempt organized by Rogue of… someone… from another dimension. Jeffries can be seen standing around with the X-Men on Utopia while the rescue attempt is discussed and organized, during which the Science Team is tasked by Cyclops to build a barrier to contain the rescued entity.

One interesting scene shows a wide-angle of the containment chamber assembly. Jeffries can be seen off to the left, apparently levitating or otherwise guiding a very large piece of equipment into place. What’s interesting about it is the tremendous size of the thingamabob that he’s levitating. We know he can manipulate fine machinery and small pieces of equipment but it’s rare to see him handling something so large. It calls into question a bit of overlap between his powers and Magneto’s powers. We know Magneto would easily be able to lift such a large metallic object, but can Jeffries do this?

Northstar appears in two panels, one without a face, and one holding a failsafe switch. Dr. Nemesis has quite a high opinion of Northstar’s fast reflexes

His super-speed gives him the quickest reaction time of us, and pico-seconds may count.

There have been many scenes over the years where Northstar has been shown with phenomenal reflexes, and some scenes where he’s easily taken out by a clearly slower opponent. Even the record is muddled on this point because Byrne’s footnote from Alpha Flight #12 indicates he doesn’t have proportionately fast reflexes but the OHOTMU Master Edition #13 entry disagrees, saying he has superhuman reflexes. Mike Carey, like he did with Jeffries’ intelligence level, errs on the side of awesome when it comes to Northstar’s power set and and chooses to show them at their finest.

This book is yet another X-book that has both Jeffries and Northstar yet doesn’t show them interacting in the way we’d expect. They were, after all, teammates in Alpha Flight and presumably knew each other even from Jeffries’ time in Gamma Flight. Although Northstar did show up at Diamond Lil’s funeral (we think), the two haven’t made any reference to serving in Alpha Flight together. With the two mutants on opposite coasts now and the X-editors sequestering Jeffries even from Fred van Lente and Greg Pak, it’s unlikely there will be any future issues of this type where we’ll get the chance to see it happen at all.

Note: this issue has a Marvel 50th Anniversary cover by David Yardin and a Regenesis Gold variant by Nick Bradshaw and Morry Jay Hollowell

X-Men Legacy #259 – 50th Anniversary variant
X-Men Legacy #259 – Regenesis Gold variant

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

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.

Mister Jeffries saves everyone on Utopia in X-Men: Schism #4

April 26, 2012

X-Men: Schism #4
Nov 2011

The fourth chapter in the five-part X-Men: Schism mini-series picks up where we left off in the previous issue, with the X-Men under full attack in San Francisco at the fictional Mutant History Museum. The X-Men who showed up for the press gig had been taken out by the kiddie Hellfire Club in issue #3 as a mysterious bomb released a Sentinel-forming singularity. Though at the time, Cyclops ordered only Dr. Nemesis over to the museum, in this issue, we learn that he brought a friend! Mister Jeffries appears as a regular member of the X-Men Science team, having joined up in Uncanny X-Men #505.

The distance between the museum and Utopia, the island headquarters of the X-Men, is four miles, as revealed in the massive X-Men entry in the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe (OHOTMU) Hardcover #13 and confirmed with a little map as part of the Utopia entry in X-Men: Earth’s Mutant Heroes #1, so how Nemesis and Jeffries got to the museum so quickly is rather difficult to explain. Nevertheless, they arrive to find Wolverine chopping away furiously at the embryonic Sentinel, which seems to be forming faster than he can furiously chop.

Ok here's the plan: I stand here, behind you, just in case there's a lightning zap or something.

Previous encounters between Jeffries and Sentinels haven’t exactly gone so well for the Sentinels. Recall that Jeffries once used his mind to rip apart a Sentinel and used the debris to make a superharpoon to kill another Sentinel in Alpha Flight #43. Remember also that he made a lightning gun out of a model T to blast a Sentinel apart in Uncanny X-Men #512. Basically, there’s just no other super-powered guy you’d want around to take out a Sentinel, seeing as how his technomorph powers could easily destroy one with a single thought.

This situation is different though, because the nascent Sentinel is forming at a rate faster than he can destroy it. Even Wolverine, who appears to be in full berserker mode trashing the Sentinel’s brain directly can’t keep up with it. Later, when Cyclops eye-blasts the Sentinel with full force, it just repairs itself and keeps coming. Alan Davis draws Jeffries with his hands out as if he were using his powers to rip apart the machine, but he actually is trying to communicate technopathically with it, perhaps in an attempt to control it – a smart move since no one seems able to stop it. Jeffries has used this technopathy power before, notably in Alpha Flight #87 when he communicated with the Roxxon computers to discover that James MacDonald Hudson was trapped inside, as well as other instances more recently communicating with smaller devices such as a coffee machine and a digital camera, but honestly, Alpha Flight Collector would just as soon have Jeffries rip the Sentinel apart than try to open a hailing frequency with it.

Then, the Sentinel zaps Nemesis and Jeffries with a “ZZZZKKT” lightning blast, knocking them back but not out. Wow, Jeffries actually lasts an entire issue without losing consciousness!

Although writer Jason Aaron sort of muddled up Jeffries’ power in this issue by making him into more of a technopath (someone who communicates with machines) than a technomorph (someone who can change the form of a machine), he did it in a plausibly explainable way, and ended up putting Jeffries into a heroic role. Madison succeeds in making technopathic contact with the Sentinel and woozily calls out to Cyclops that it’s coming to Utopia, giving the X-Men time to prepare for the attack, and possibly saving everyone’s life on the island, again.

Note: Northstar and Aurora had recently been in the Red Sea, dealing with a malfunctioning Sentinel as seen in X-Men: Schism #2, but when the Cuckoos roll off the list of teams dealing with malfunctioning Sentinels, they aren’t mentioned.

Note: this issue has a variant cover by Frank Cho, which is part of a larger 5-part poster featuring nearly every X-Man and tons of cleavage, and an X-printing variant, which is a sketch variant of that variant, also featuring tons of cleavage.

X-Men: Schism #4 – Frank Cho variant
X-Men: Schism #4 – X Printing variant