Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Jahf (Issue #108)

December 1977


While doing my research to construct a killer "Apocalypse Now" joke (yes, I research my jokes) about this cover, I found that that film was released in 1979 - a full two years after this issue hit news stands.

Therefore, it is possible that that very famous and respected movie is nothing more than a rip off this X-Men comic!

Let's see:
BOTH feature a main character (or characters) being transported to a far-away place: "up river" in "A.N."; "The World" in X-men!

BOTH have a beefy "main boss": Colonel Kurtz in "A.N."; Modt (see below) in X-Men!

BOTH feature Oscar-winning sound effects by Walter Murch!

The similarities are uncanny ... wait, "uncanny"? UNCANNY X-MEN?! Whoa! This is getting spoooooky!

After "The Blink" that erased the entire universe (for just a couple seconds, so calm down, it wasn't THAT bad (See Last Issue --Ed.)), everyone else on "The World" (it has no name, it's just where a giant crystal lives) has disappeared, leaving only the Starjammers and the X-Men. However, the guardian of the M'Krann crystal has appeared. His name is Jahf. Which is like "Jeff"! (For the two readers who are not directly related to me, that's my name. That's why this is of note. I'm "of note"!)

Unlike me, Jahf is super strong, and he proves it by punching Wolverine into orbit. This is not a figure of speech! Wolverine LITERALLY has to be rescued, before he dies in the vacuum of space, because he was punched there. Could someone strong enough to punch another person into space have an Achilles' heel that the X-Men can exploit? Yes. The answer is yes: Overhearing Jahf mumble something about "his programming", Banshee realizes that Jahf is a robot (again, unlike me... yes... UNlike... heh bzzzt ping) and so, uses one his patent-pending Banshee-blasts of sound to short circuit the wee bot.

No sooner is Jahf a short-lived memory, than Modt appear! Modt is also robot, super strong, and nothing like me, either - but he's also HUGE. Also unlike Jahf, he (it?) looks like a robot. Which I think should be applauded. Just be yourselves, guys. Stop pretending.

thousand times stronger?! That'd mean this guy could punch a thousand Wolverines into space... at once!

Before Modt can punch everyone into space (I am unsure if that is Modt's plan, but I assume ... I mean, if you CAN punch someone into space, why wouldn't that be your go-to "move"?!) and before Banshee can come up with another "look at me, I'm so clever" plan to defeat this second guardian, Mad Space Emperor D'ken appears. Where was he, this whole time? We barely have time to contemplate this plot-hole before one of the Starjammers flips out on him and screams something like, "I'm going to toss you onto the M'Kraan crystal!" ... and then he does just that!

Tossing an emperor into the M'Krann crystal causes everyone to be instantly transported into the crystal, where they discover... another crystal! This new crystal is a sphere, though, so it's totally different. This one is also giving off a light... a CRYSTAL LIGHT! BOOM! Buzzmarketed.

Anyway, since the X-Men have made so many bad decisions, so far, what's one more? Jean decides to touch this strange, new crystal, because touching the last one had such great results! The good news is that touching it doesn't transport everyone into a THIRD crystal-in-a-crystal-in-a-crystal - cuz that would be silly - but the bad news is that the crystal does shoot out beams that mind-freak everyone and show them their worst nightmares.

Do you suffer from Night(crawler) Terrors?

Since Jean is now an undead elemental monster dressed in a human suit, called Phoenix, she is impervious to everything - including the terror-ray - and breaks free, then tries to free the others. Too bad Scott, wrapped up in nightmares of... I dunno, poorly-folded socks or something, ZOTS her with his eye-ZOTS, punching a hole straight through her. Or, rather, he attempts to ZOT a hole through her, but, again, she is a terrifying monster from outer space wearing Jean's skin, so she can just knit herself back together, like it ain't no thing. She's her own Neosporin.

Shaking off having just been cored, she uses her monster-powers to enter this new sphere crystal-inside-a-crystal, and finds a lattice of energy. And inside the energy lattice is whole 'nother universe. It's all quite exhausting and complicated.

Realizing that this inner-most piece of this crazy stacking crystal-and-universe matryoshka doll is an "n-universe", which, if allowed to escape, would destroy the universe (which is where she keeps all of her stuff), Jean decides to contain it by feeding it more energy. Because giving things more energy is always the way to calm them down. Want your kids to stop running around the house? Give 'em coffee.

Even though she's an unbelievably super-powered element-monster, "Jean" still doesn't have enough power to complete the task, so Storm says "Use mine, it's cool" and Jean is like "It'll probably kill you, so let's get Scott's dad, Corsair, in on this too, maybe it'll kill him, as well!" And everyone's like *thumbs up*.

WAIT! Corsair is Scott's dad?! TWIST!

Major Summers?!? More like MAJOR SPOILERS!

The big climax ends kind of abruptly (consult your doctor) when Jean fixes the lattice-within-the-sphere-within-the-crystal. Poof. Solved. Next thing you know, she and all the X-Men are popping out of a stargate back in Manhattan like, "All in a day's work! So... Chipotle?" Space Princess Lilandra tags along, too, and she's all, "I love you Xavier." Aw, romance.

Some more on Lilandra: Now that her brother, Emperor D'Kan, is insane - being hurled, bodily, into the M'Krann will do that to you, I guess? - she's in charge of her still-un-named space people. (Though I'm pretty sure they're the Sh'iar, but I only know that because I can see the future.) However, she's decided to take a vacation, first, and hang on Earth with Mr. X. A sex vacation. (Would it have been better if I'd said "on sabbatical? A SEXbatical!"? Probably!)

The book ends with a dedication to the memory of Dave Cockrum ... then Dave Cockrum adds, "I'm not dead". It's weird.

Friday, May 1, 2015

D is for Diplomacy (Issue #107)

October 1977

The fine print:
"BEGINNING! The incredible saga of-- The STARJAMMERS!
Will it be the END of the X-Men?!"

I know it's a play on "windjammer" - which is a type of marine vessel, in case Alex Trebek ever asks you - but "star jammers" sounds like a description of a person who loves the idea of celebrity and thinks famous people can do no wrong. Marilyn Manson wrote a song about it: "Star J@##ers, Inc."

OR it's a word describing someone who owns a factory that makes toast-toppings out of celestial bodies. "Here at Star Jammers, our star jam is made from only the youngest stars, from around uninhabited planets!" (A scandal arises when it's revealed that Galactus is a major stock holder.)

Pearljammers? (Can't find a better joke! She dreams in color, she dreams in red....)

I'll say one more thing about the cover: I give it points for putting the ! after the ? -- I don't like when it's the other way around. You're emphasizing a question, not questioning an emphasis! Right!? The perfect solution is, of course, the interrobang, but I won't talk about that, as this is an all-ages blog.

Materializing on another planet, the X-Men come face to face with D'ken (who is space-princess Lilandra's brother) and his army of assorted aliens! "Assorted Army Aliens" is the name of one of those checkout-line impulse toy-bags that kids would beg mom for, as a reward for being "good" when grocery shopping.

Not sure if you noticed, but there is a HUGE crystal in that scene, above. I'm guessing it's going to be important. Comic creators rarely draw a giant crystal, if it's not going to do anything. Rarely.

Cyclops tries the diplomatic approach, first:

CYCLOPS: Hey! We came for Eric the Red and space-princess Lilandra. Hand 'em over!
CYCLOPS: Well, I tried! *ZZZZZOT!* (That's his eyebeam sound. And it is just now, 107 issues in, that I realize that his beams don't have a "trademark" sound. Wolverine's claws are always "snikt" - that's good branding. Always. Be. Branding, Scott!)

Thus ends the limits of Cyclops' diplomacy, and a planet wide war breaks out!

SHZAK?! Keep workshopping, Scott.

The general of this alien army, Gladiator - a kind of punk-rock version of Superman - and his Imperial Guard set about beating the space-snot out of our favorite mutants. That is, until the Starjammers show up and turn the tide! (Are there tides in space? There are solar winds, so maybe there are lunar tides? Ahoy!)

Anyway, the point is: I was right! That giant crystal is central to the story! It's called the "m'krann" (as in the popular expression, "MMMMMMMM, that's some GOOD Krann!" that Krann-eaters, the world around, exclaim, whenever they eat some good Krann), is essential to D'ken's evil plan. See, once every million years, it aligns with some stars called - get this - "DEATH STARS" (no relation to Darth's sweet ride) and it unleashes some kind of power. (I'm gonna go ahead and guess it's some kind of "death power". Just a hunch - unless those stars had the worst marketing department of all time. (I'm talking about marketing a lot.)) D'ken wants this power and it's why he had to stop his space-sister from reaching Earth and enlisting the aid of the X-Men. He didn't, she did, and they are, so it's failure all around.

Another part of this guy's plan is that the princess should be sacrificed to something called a"Soul Drinker":

He has a Crazy Straw Tongue!

Why does D'Ken need the Soul Drinker to drink 'er soul? Unclear. I think this guy is just improvising. Villain Improv is always the worst: "OK, I need the name of an alien and a location! I think I heard 'Soul Drinker' and 'a planet with a giant crystal'. Yes. And...." *SCENE*

... but Nightcrawler bamfs in and saves the un-drunk space princess. Sorry I let that lay for so long, I hope you didn't get anxious. But, apparently, this is the first time ole Crawlie's ever transported someone else, as the exertion almost kills him. But it doesn't. (That happens in 2010! SPOILERS! (Look, at the rate I write these recaps, you'll all have forgotten I said that, by the time I cover those issues... if I ever get to cover those issues! I'll probably pull a Nightcrawler (die) way before then!))

ANYWAY, while all this fighting and soul-drinking (or lack thereof) is going on, the nine "Death Stars" align and - WHOOPS! - the universe blinks out of existence for couple of seconds! It's probably fine, right?

Meanwhile, back in Starlab - a lab in orbit around Earth - an astronaut is talking to Reed Richards about "the blink" and they agree that a couple more of those could destroy the universe! Sure, a pair of dudes in a space lab conclude that something's bad, and we're all in agreement, but have thousands of scientists talk about climate change and we'll deny, deny, deny! (In the Marvel Universe, is Storm to blame for climate change?)

Think about THAT!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Flashback, Jack! (Issue #106)

August 1977

STOP SQUINTING, because I have transcribed the cover text, here:

"The angel is back! And he's come to murder the new X-Men with their own leader's deadly eye blasts!

That's a very specific way to kill the new X-Men. Was this Angel's plan, all along - the ONLY way he wanted to defeat the new X-Men - or was this the result of improvising?

Because, I gotta say, limiting oneself to taking out a group of mutants using one of their member's special powers that you've managed to turn upon them... that sounds pretty tricky and super specific. Like Angel is trying to unlock an achievement in a stupid video game.

If this is what he was going for, I award him 10 gamer points.

According to the end of the last issue, this issue was supposed to be titled "Where no X-Man has gone before" and continue the story. HOWEVER, no X-Man WILL go there - at least not today - because this is, instead, a flashback (brought on by Xavier's separation anxiety over space-lady Lilandra having been dragged back to her home planet) run-on sentence. They don't say exactly when the story takes place, but I get the suspicion that some nerd (some other nerd, that is - we can smell our own) has written a very in-depth Livejournal article about where it fits into X-Men chronology. The Internet is wonderful.

This is how I feel about Girl Scouts, when they come around selling cookies, Chuck.

In THIS issue, despite what the cover says, it's not just Angel that's back, but all of the old X-Men. It's like when the '86 Mets showed up to Citi Field, last year, and challenged the current line-up to a game, to see who was supreme of all time! And, because the '86 Mets were totes coked-up, the new Mets would easily... well, actually... even with the old team being high, it's pretty even odds, isn't it?

NOTE TO FOREIGNERS AND NON SPORTS PEOPLE: The "joke", here, is that the Mets are usually a terrible sports team, except for that year, when they won the World Series (and they really were all on cocaine, at the time).

NOTE TO FOREIGNER: I want to know what love is. Urgent!

FULL DISCLOSURE: The joke is on ME, because the Mets are actually doing really well, this year, so far.

FULLER DISCLOSURE: I follow sports! Some nerd I am, right?!

Anyhoo... is it REALLY the old team come back to wreck-mansion on the newbs, or are they nothing more than figments of Professor Xs fevered mind? I see, now, that by phrasing it that way, I've given away the answer with the asking. Easiest pop-quiz you've ever taken? WRONG! It is not the easiest pop-quiz you've ever taken! That honor goes to the one you took in 3rd grade, where they brought you all down to the principal's office to check for lice!

Anyway, it's true, these evil X-Men are just figments of the professor's imagination, given life by his "dark side" - you know, the side of Xavier that wants to kill everyone and take over the world! What?!

Once he realizes that they're projections from inside his own head, he shuts them down and explains that he's"usually good at keeping that part under control", so nothing more to worry about, ever. Wait... USUALLY?! No one seems phased that this dude is a ticking time bomb.

PS, according to the last page, the next issue is supposed to be the continuation of the main story... but we've been lied to before! Once bitten, shame on me. TWICE bitten, shame on... the lax leash laws in this terrible town?

It should have been fun to watch the two Xes-Men teams fight, but it wasn't. Probably because it was clear from the get-go that the "old team" was super-duper powered, so the outcome was a given. I do wanna see the two real ("real") teams go at it! Gimme some hot mutant-on-mutant action!

Now follow me on Twitter: @Sommerjam

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Exposition From Spaaaaaace! (Issue #105)

June 1977

The burst-copy reads:
"Phoenix ALONE... against the most fearsome foe of all!"

From here on out, it might be fun to pretend that the comic is always referring to the University of Phoenix! Online courses... and super powers!

Hmmm... nope. No, that wasn't fun at all. Never mind.

So, I read, somewhere, that reading on your phone, right before bed, interrupts your sleep cycle and makes you sleepy.

But, anyway, why is Phoenix going this battle "ALONE"? Because her x-pals all decided to take naps. Probably because they interrupted their sleep cycles, reading comics on their iPhones, right before bed.

They certainly were not "Thinking Ahead" (which is the actual motto of the University of Phoenix. Look it up!)

Arriving home from their adventure on Moira's Mutant Island (See Last Ish - Ed), the X-Men are greeted at the airport by Eric The Red (ETR). Was he wearing a chauffeur's cap and holding a sign that says "X-Men"? No. Instead, he's wearing a hat that's not a hat at all, but a crazy on-fire dude named FIRELORD and holding a sign that says "DIE!" (How's THAT for a metaphor?!)

This Firelord guy is such a flaming-Q-Tip-wielding bad-ass that he just levels the X-Men, as if it ain't no thing.

He attacks by announcing "I am Galactus' former herald...!"
Which is like me introducing myself by saying, "I once worked at a dollar store!" (True story.)
What have I done lately?

Why is Firelord attacking? Settle in and let some lengthy, flashback-exposition to illuminate: It's because ETR has tricked him into thinking the X-Men are evil. To pull THAT off, ETR mind-jacked Polaris and Havok and puppet-mastered them into attacking Firelord. Once those two were flattened - we're made to think they were killed, "off-screen" - in comes ETR who says, "Good job killing those evil X-Men, let's go kill some more!" And Firelord is like, "Once I pop, I can't stop!" or "You can't kill just one!" or some other riff on a potato chip slogan and goes off too do the X-Men beat down we've already seen. Time has caught up with itself.

With all of the X-Men out of the way, nothing stands between ETR and Prof Xavier's death! Muhahahahah. Or something.

Now, let's jump to space!
I mean let's follow the story, as it jumps to space. Please don't try to literally jump to space. (Two broken legs and a nosebleed later, trust me, it cannot be done by normal humans.)

What kind of spacebug is that? A Firefly?

In space, no one can hear you scream over too-thick plots! Dig it: The woman (Lilandra) who Xavier has been having painful premonitions about is actually the princess and sister to the ruler of some planet that is not Earth. She wants to see Xavier in the worst way, because she thinks he can help her, and it's her desire for him that is literally driving Xavier mad. Love hurts.

MEANWHILE, her Evil Brother's plan was to send Eric The Red (we still don't know who's under the mask) to Earth to kill the X-Men, before Lilandra can get there and recruit them. And THAT'S how they explain the varied hair-brained schemes to kill the Xes that we've been seeing in the last couple of issues.

Got that? OK.

So, the princess / spacewoman / Lilandra beams down to Earth from her spacebug ship and directly into Jean Grey's living room (where Professor X is visiting for lunch)! Within moments, Firelord busts in like a flaming Kool-Aid Man and starts with the fisticuffs (like a drunk Kool-Aid Man... that is like a Kool-Aid man that's been drinking, not one that's been drunk by a thirsty kid (it's an occupational hazard and a VERY clever play on words, if I do say so myself)). Jean - who, it must be pointed out, so I will, was NOT on the Moira Island Adventure with the rest of the X-Men -  Phoenixes up and beats him back. "Want a quality online education? Phoenix Up!" (Unused University motto.)

Meanwhile, ETR sneaks into Jean's place, ZOTs Jean's roommate (who is Misty Knight, if that name means anything to you guys), grabs Lilandra, and jumps through a space portal (that he covertly built on Jean Grey's apartment's roof, at some point?!).


This portal takes them immediately back to Lilandra's alien home world! Yes, Lilandra spent the better part of the last six issues - about a YEAR in the run of the comic book and the lives of the reader - travelling to Earth, only to go back immediately. Was that trip really necessary?

Even though the portal closes behind them, Phoenix, who is fresh from kicking Firelord's heinder, reopens it using her new powers. Convenient! (Just like the 112 convenient campus locations of the University of Phoenix!)

Did I mention that while all this is happening, Jean's parents were in town for a visit? Yeah. So they're around to hear Xavier say that he's probably sent their daughter off to her death... but that that's OK, because, Xavier continues, everyone else in the universe is probably going to die, too! Stay positive!

Also: I forgot to mention that Chris Claremont wrote himself and artist Dave Cockrum into this comic:

So there's that.