Monday, April 8, 2013

Hulkamania! (Issue #66)

March 1970

And, here we are! The last issue of the first run of X-Men, before the series is cancelled and all the artists and writers are sent off to the gulag and their houses burned and their children sold to the richest land holder. Probably.

Do they go out with a bang or a whimper? Did they know this was coming, or did they find out the next morning, when they came to the office, ready to work on issue #67, only to find pink slips and a picture of a hobo clown with a crude arrow labeled "you, now" and then, in smaller writing, "because you're fired and you're like this hobo" because the message, after a second look by the one who left it was deemed too unclear and that's what you get when you fire the writers: Unclear messaging.

Judging from the cover, they wanted this issues to be a "bang" no matter if they knew it or not. Look: The Hulk! Singing Las Vegas! Nothing says "big" like The Hulk! Nothing says "bang" like Vegas (Hey! Not that way! This is a family blog!) And nothing says "big bang" like [a Big Bang Theory joke here] (I don't watch that show.)


Having used his mind-powers (the literal kind, like those that can move objects - not the figurative ones your grade-school teachers always told you you had) to turn back an invading force of angry aliens [see last ish. -Ed] Professor Eccs has collapsed. The question on everyone's lips: Is he going to die AGAIN?! (Even though, technically, he didn't really die the first time....)

Morissette-ian Irony, or the real kind?
It's like rain. On a rainy day...

Since the X-Men have no idea how to cure the old fool, they decide to ask someone who might have a clue: Professor X himself! Wheeling up a mind-probe (that they just so happen to have on-hand), all they get from the unconscious Prof's mind is a mumbled "The Hulk".

Having "failed" (even though he was MOST emphatic about finding The Hulk) at mind-probing him, they ask Jean to use her powers to mind probe him again. Repetition makes things more interesting to read! Repetition makes things more interesting to read! But, delving into his mind-grapes, Jean only picks up images of ... The Hulk. I think it can be assumed, at this point, that the Prof wants you to find The Hulk. (Or that he's a huge Mark Ruffalo fan ... or Edward Norton fan ... or Bill Bixby fan ... or Lou Ferrigno fan. OK, I'm tapped out.)

Meanwhile OR WWF WRESTLING HULKAMANIAC! (that's the last one, I swear), tensions heat up in the love triangle of Iceman, Havok, and Lorna (who still hasn't picked a super hero name! Seriously?!)

His career as an insult comic would be brief and terrible.

Flying to Las Vegas [lit trans: The Vegan] to intercept The Hulk (who they know is there because of a handy broadcast on the TV that mentioned he was in Vegas) the X-Men fight the guest star and - for once in seven years and 66 issues - do NOT lose! In fact they beat The Hulk pretty easily (thanks to a mind-blast from Jean Grey) and he turns back into Dr. Bruce Banner. When asked if he knows anything about Charles Xavier, Dr. Banner is all, "Yeah! We worked on gamma ray stuff, back in the day! He and I were O.G.! And the 'G' stands for 'Gamma!'" To their credit, the X-Men don't pants this dweeb, because they need his help.

But before he can lead the X-Men to the gamma ray device they need, the army shows up to enforce the very strict law of "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas" and tries to arrest everyone. Banner "hulks up" and leaps away (making a "thoom" noise) and while the army men are watching him fade into the distance, the X-Men sneak off back to their airplane. Seriously.

Scouring the desert for the hulk, they easily spot him using a clever plot device called "luck".

This panel is filled with terrible writing.
"Thoomed"? Not a word!

Even worse than writing in a shovel-full of luck and onomatapoeia? While they are re-fighting The Hulk, the entrance to one of Dr. Banner's secret labs is uncovered! What luck! Oh! AND it's the very secret lab which houses the device the X-Men need to save Professor X!

How to write comics: The marvel way!

While the others keep the Bulk occupied, Angel flies into the lab/cavern and finds the device they need. Once he nabs it, off they all go, back to the mansion:

So it WASN'T terrible writing all along! ... OR WAS IT!
This will go down in history as an unsolved mystery to rival Bigfoot, the Loch Ness monster, and the Crystal Skull.
(Though, the mystery about the Crystal Skull is how it was ever greenlit as a sequel to "Raiders", not anything about the crystal skulls themselves.)

Hurrying this along, they activate the device and...

Yes, Beast, dead people are know for OPENING THEIR EYES!
(And he's the SMART one!)

He lives! They did it! And all is right with the world!


Then, hidden among the letters from fans, is this:


To sum up: They're dropping the hammer. This is how kids found out that their beloved book was dying?! Think of the poor kiddies who were crushed! Further: Think of the kids who never read the letters column, unaware that their book was dead, checking newsstands week after week for years, until they grew old and died of sadness. Though, maybe kids of the 70s weren't the delicate, overly-emotional blubbering blobs we are today, where everything we love has to be defended and fought for, upon its cancellation, with an online campaign, hashtag, and Kickstarter. MAYBE, they used to just let things go?!

This is getting way too close to real social commentary, so ...


Well, that wraps this original series up. Overall, this was fun. Sure, there were many, many, many times that I wish I had stayed in school and made something more of myself, but I wonder if that had anything to do with the comics themselves. If you were to ask me if anyone should follow in my footsteps, I'd probably say, "those footprints are where I carried you" then smile, knowingly, and then run away. But, seriously, I'm glad I did this, if only to show all the haters that I CAN finish something that

For your own record, and to show what kind of lag-time I have on reading / blogging, the day I read this issue was May 4th, 2012 ... and the day I wrote this blog post was April 8, 2013!

Further, it took me almost exactly ONE YEAR to read and blog this entire series. To think of what I could have done in that time...


Friday, April 5, 2013

Love Conquers All ... iens. Aliens. (Issue #65)

February 1970
Looks like, this month, the X-Men follow the yellow brick road ... TO THEIR DEATH!

Or, rather, to a large, orange lizard with well-manicured hands. You probably can't see the well-manicuring in the small image, but trust me, they're there.

Also, Angel is saying, "Get him, Cyclops! It's up to you and Iceman, now!" If he has enough strength to say that, then that's not what I'd call "fighting to the last breath". That's fighting to the last breath but one, then using your last breath to tell someone something they will have figured out by you DYING.

Also note the purple pants.

Stan editorializes this opening of this issue thusly:

Can Stan Lee ask a question that even he, himself, dare not answer?!

A pertinent message for the modern world?! Can't wait! I'll bet its about pimples. Or Vietnam! Bonus: This issue is drawn by Neal Adams! (He was away for the last issue.) I've really come to like him, and look forward to meeting him at a Comic Book convention ... even if he does believe in a crack-pot "Expanding Earth" theory which ignores plate tectonics. FACT!

ANY-HOOO! The X-Men, returning from their battle with Shiro "Sunfire" Forgothislastname are confronted, outside of the X-Mansion, by Alex "Havok" Summers and Lorna "Lorna" Dane "Dane" in full battle garb. The pair drop some bombshells:
1) The z'nox (a race of space evils who follow the "Alien Rules Of Etiquette" by putting an apostrophe in their name, so we know they are WEIRD and ALIEN) are planning on invading earth
2) They plan on doing this ... by bringing their movable planet near to the Earth, thus destroying it.
3) Professor X is still alive!
4) Lorna Dane, herself. BOMBSHELL! Not since Jean grey have there been more x-men after a single hottie. Re-ow.

A bombshell I'd like to have seen drop was someone telling Alex how dumb his Havok suit is:

Black unitard, dinner plate, broken egg beater.

But back to Prof X! Jean knew he was still alive all along! He's only revealing himself, now, because these space z'Cavariccis [Fashion slacks ... from space!] are a race of war-mad weirdos who have no sense of humor and who will stop at nothing to wage all out war. Sounds like [loathed politician] from [political party], right?! Watch your back, Bill Maher, I'm getting political!

Luckily, Profy Xaves has a cunnin' plan:

BUT FIRST! In flashback, it's revealed that Xavier knew about these z'noxemas things for months, and he needs time to prepare to fight them. Coincidentally, The Changeling (who you may remember from issues 37-39, when he was the second-in-command of  Factor Three until Factor Three turned out to be an evil alien plot, then he turned and ran? Yea, THAT GUY!) visits Xavier and reveals that he is dying with only months to live. He says he wants to make amends for, you know, for almost selling out humanity to an alien from the Sirius star.

Knowing that he needs time to disappear to continue researching the z'nox, Xavier asks the changeling to assume his identity so that he can die so Xavier can fake his own death! Now THAT'S what I call turning lemons into lemonade. (Even if it is turning someone else's lemons into your lemonade ... then drinking it ON THEIR GRAVE!) Eager to please, The Changeling (looking like Xavier) dies [Issue #42 -Ed.] and the real Prof X slips off to hide somewhere to prepare for this alien invasion. GOT ALL THAT?!

And now that he's back, Xavier is ready to train the X-Men like they've never been trained before.

I sure have missed you. Dick.

BUT, back to that cunnin' plan:
The X-Men will rocket aboard the aliens advance craft. From there, Cyke will act as a weapon, to strike out at the approaching alien planet. Back on earth, Professor X will gather together as many human minds as he can and send their collective "good thoughts" through Lorna and up to Jean. She will then take those good vibes and hand them off to Havok. He will boost them with his powers and dump the energy into Cyclops's head. Iceman will continually cool Cyke's head, so it doesn't overheat and boil his brain. [I must say that the idea of having Iceman there as coolant is a nice touch. And it's a great way to overclock your CPU, too.]

THEN, Scott will shoot all that positivity out at the z'nox home world. That will have some kind of effect against a PLANET. So it's a simple, yet effective, plan (OK, it's an overly complex and possibly not effective at all plan! C'mon! It's like a mutant game of mousetrap! That stupid diver misses the tub and the mice go free.) All the good feelings from Earth are too much for the aliens, who have been bred to be meanie baddies.

Gooood, goood, goood, good vibrations!

This emotional blast overloads the z'noxes brains with happy thoughts, so they break off their attack to go to find somewhere else to bother. The world is safe once more.

The last couple of pages made this story seem longer and grander than it actually was,which was nice. Good to see that they've finally learned how to tell an epic story in one issue, rather than have to play it out. This changes everything because now I'll feel like even the one-shots can contain something great. Too bad this turning point happens in the penultimate issue before this original series is cancelled!

As for Stan's proclamation at the start that it's a "pertinent message for the modern world" ... I guess? I mean ... if you think that positivity can kill aliens!

Also, wasn't a similar solution employed in the finale of the Doctor Who season with The Master? Hippies, the lot of you!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Murder, Shi-ro (Issue #64)

January 1970
It's Sunfire! A capricious new mutant.

Capricious Sunfire.


Long way for a short joke that I'm not even sure works (because I've not looked up "capricious" yet....) you think that that is what Capri Sun is playing on, too? Capriciousness?

Maybe I should look that up, too? Meh!

Sunfire, who looks like this:

"And give the mask point jowls! Nothing says, 'fear me' like pointy jowls!"

is an angry Japanese adolescent who dreams of one day destroying a monument celebrating the world's young people. He's in luck because it just so happens that a delegate from Japan is unveiling their gift of just such a monument to the United Nations! How capricious ... er ... fortuitous! So, Sunfire destroys it. The price he pays for his actions is having to face the X-Men. Thankfully (for him), the X-Men have returned to their "this is the most dangerous mutant we've faced, so we have to be soundly beaten, the first time we encounter them" trope! Ugh.

They have also returned ... to their Manhattan HQ, after the beating.

What the HUH?! Do the X-Men collect maquette superhero statues?
Stars. They are JUST LIKE US!

Meanwhile, somewhere else, Shiro Yoshida recounts the tale of how he is the son of a woman killed in the Hiroshima bombing and how he was raised by his uncle and taught to seek revenge on those who destroyed his homeland. So far, I cannot fault this young man his feelings. We're dealing with a harsh reality, here. One that I don't think a handful of tossed Hostess Cupcakes will be able to fix. [See every Hostess ad in comic books, EVER, for this reference.]

Oh! By the way, Shiro is, of course, Sunfire. DUN DUN... no... nope. Not shocking.

Using their portable Cerebro (porta-rebro? Sounds too "outhouse-y"...), the X-Men track Sunfire to the airport. Wrinkle in the plan! He's riding in a diplomatic car, as his uncle is also a diplomat. International incidents ahoy! The Japanese visitors board a plane and Angel flies after it.

He also gets stuck in the vacuum cleaner.

But Iceman saves the capricious ... I mean enthusiastic Angel from becoming the mother of all bird strikes. [Do people still make "mother of all" references, or am I RETRO?! Pop and lock!] by icing over the engine. The X-Men decide it'll be safer if they all follow the delegation to Washington DC in their jet, so that's what they do. Luckily, no one tries to ice over their engine, so they arrive safely.

Now, the events that transpire, next, happen in rapid succession, so hang on:

Shiro's uncle tells him to kill everyone!
Then Shiro's father is there, slapping him for not letting go of the past and harboring hatred!
Then Shiro chooses hatred and suits up!
Then his father catches him doing so and is going to stop him!
Then Shiro's uncle is there saying that he'll "take care" of his father and that Shiro should go ahead and revenge-kill everyone!
THEN Sunfire goes to destroy the Capitol building! [The real one, in WASHINGTON!]
THEN the X-Men show up ... and lose again!
THEN, just before Sunfire can pop the top off the Capitol's dome, his father appears up there (nothing magical or mutant about it, he just took the stairs)!
Then he says, "If you wanna kill this building, you have to go through me!"
Then the uncle pops up and says, "OK!" and shoots Shiro's father!
THEN, shiro blasts his uncle into dust!

In the span of a few minutes, Shiro has lost everything. A father, an uncle, a life's purpose ... everything! It's tragic. Thanks A-bomb! You're the gift that keeps on giving!

No nukes, OK, people? Thanks!

Capricious: adj. Given to sudden and unaccountable changes of mood or behavior.
Huh. That works!

Monday, April 1, 2013

The Island of Dr. Magneteau (Issue #63)

December 1969
What's behind door number mutant? A curvaceous babe! (Or is it a candlestick? Two faces, looking at each other?! I hate optical illusions / trick questions!*)

So, "The Triumph of Magneto" is that he created woman? Uh, sorry, dude, but god beat you to that, like, 600 years ago. (Or however long it is that new earth creationists think the world was made.)

Joke for my dad / other bikers: The Triumph of Magneto is the 1969 limited edition Trident with a 750cc 3 cylinder engine. Vroom!

*Full disclosure, I don't hate optical illusions, just trick questions. Or do I?! (Trick question!)

Angel, having been brainwashed by The Creator (who is really Magneto), flies off to intercept Ka-Zar and the rest of the X-Men who are on their way to show The Creator (who is, unbeknownst to Angel, performing horrible experiments and killing/enslaving/mutating everyone in The Savage Land (which is the prehistoric land under Antarctica)) the error of his ways. GOT ALL THAT?! [I'm exhausted.]

But, before they can parlay, the rest of The Creator's men and half-man mutants attack. Like, immediately.

Learn how to fight the MARIO way!

So, what was the point in brainwashing Angel to send him out to fight the X-Men if the goons that you control are just going to rush in, anyway, blowing that opportunity? Come to think of it, why didn't The Creator - who is really Magneto, remember - just let Angel die, rather than resuscitate him after he found him near-death after his fall into The Savage Land? He knows he's Angel, one of his sworn enemies, after all! It doesn't add up. I require realism in my mutant superhero comic books!

Well, let's not look back in anger! Let's look forward in anger, instead:
A big fight erupts. Angel is so mad at being deceived that he flies back to The Creator's lair to confront the guy. (Racking up quite a few frequent flyer miles, this issue. Soon, Sam Elliott's gonna sit down next to him and impart a Platinum Card and some home-spun wisdom. How big IS Angel's backpack?!) Angel overhears The Creator talking with one of his mutants, Brain Child, about how he created him (guess that's where "The Creator" got his name - by creating things. Clever!) Also, it is revealed that Magneto/The Creator is going to create a lot more Dr. Moreau-like half-man mutants. Brain Child is like, "ok, whatever," but Angel is disgusted. Confronting him, The Creator reveals that he is Magneto and that he is working on "something".

Just then, the rest of the X-Men bust in. They are just in time to hear that Magneto's "something" is ... Lorelei! A from-scratch mutant chanteuse enchantress. (Enchanteuse?)


Her oo-oo-oo call sends dudes into a trance and she's already gotten Angel in her thrall. Sucker for a pretty face, that one! (Or a pretty voice... or, at least, a mutant-enhanced hypnotic voice... which I guess we're all susceptible to. I take it all back, Angel.)

At this point, I debated putting in some Lorelei (from "Gilmore Girls") jokes in here, but thought that it might strip away the super-manly image these blog posts usually paint of me. Pardon me while I go bench some weights.

Because this is 1969 and written by "the establishment", Lorelei's siren song doesn't work on Marvel Girl, lest they be construed as "deviants" ... but that does not explain why her song doesn't work on Magneto. (Deviant?) So Magneto tries to put Marvel Girl under his spell by pitching a little woo her way. She ain't buyin'.

Now THAT'S what I call "love making"!

Left alone as the only un-whammied un-canny X-Man, Marvel Girl uses her powers to open the immobile Cyclops' visor. His uncontrollable eyebeams destroy Magneto's Mutant Creating Machine (which I'd like to imagine runs on one light bulb and can, in addition to mutants, make Creeple People, too). Freed from the siren song, the X-Men are now able to escape the chain-reaction of explosions caused by the exploding Mutant Creation Machine (By Mattel).

Magneto? Well, he gets buried under the collapsing structure, so it's best to just assume he's taken care of and not pursue him any further.

Outside of Magneto's burning fortress, Ka-Zar laments that all of Magneto's false mutants are losing their powers and reverting back to boring old normal humans.

No, no. That is the pained, crying face of HAPPINESS!

But the X-Men all say, "Lucky them! Who wouldn't want to give up their horrible super powers and live normal lives?!" It's kinda a downer ending, if you consider that it's just been revealed that the X-Men feel like they are all living a tormented, near-unbearable life burdened by wondrous mutant powers and that they'd trade it all in to be normal and, say, write a thrice-weekly blog about a comic book series from the 60s.

Whoa. I am envied by the X-Men?! The grass is always greener, eh guys?!