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Uncanny X-Men: Part 7, Issues #54-58 – Havok and Neal Adams

Uncanny X-Men: Part 7, Issues #54-58 – Havok and Neal Adams

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I was super-tempted to pause my blogging about my X-Men reread to complain about my reread of another classic, but I opted for the high road and am glad I did, because this was a fun post to think through. And, for those of you still with me, we’re almost at the end of the original X-Men! So pull up a chair for the 7th installment of my reread of the X-Men.

In this post, I want to look at issues #54-58 (March, 1969 – July, 1969), a run that contains two major Silver Age milestones. The first is the introduction of Alex Summer, the mutant brother of Scott Summers. Alex will eventually join the X-Men as their 7th member. The second is equally exciting – the beginning of Neal Adams’ brief but spectacular run. The team-up of Roy Thomas and Neal Adams marks the beginning of the zenith of the original team, outshining the Kirby-Lee issues and sitting comfortably at the same table as many of the great Claremont-Byrne stories.

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Uncanny X-Men Part 6: Issues #49-53: Reunion and Family and Steranko

Uncanny X-Men Part 6: Issues #49-53: Reunion and Family and Steranko

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Holy mutants, Batman! We’ve reached week 12, episode 6 of the great X-Men reread! This is an exciting run, because we get to experience the first of two  moments of major artistic experimentation in the Silver Age X-Men, as well as the first real addition to the X-Men’s roster since issue #1. This blog post will only cover the 4-issue Daughter of Magneto saga and a stand-alone issue with an FF villain (so October, 1968 to March 1969), but I think we’re getting to periods where it’s worth slowing down to experience the art and writing more slowly.

We left the X-Men at the end of issue #48, having been split up for two issues and still mourning their deceased professor. By the time issue #49 rolled around, we readers were ready to see the gang back together. Their reunion feels like a big deal not just because they’re together again, but because of the cover art and the new story.

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Uncanny X-Men, Part 5: Issues #40-48: Death and Separation

Uncanny X-Men, Part 5: Issues #40-48: Death and Separation

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Welcome to the 5th installment of my reread of the X-Men from 1963 forward. This is a cool one, going from cover date January, 1968 to almost the end of 1968. There are some big stories and even the middling stories in this run have their charm, and the best ones hold up as exemplars of the best of the Silver Age, including an Avengers-X-Men cross-over. If this it the first of these posts that you noticed, my can find my previous ones here:

  • Part I: X-Men #1 (Nov, 1963) to X-Men #20 (May, 1966)
  • Part II: Early X-Men guest appearances (1964-1965), X-Men #21-23 (1966), and X-Men: First Class Volume I (2006)
  • Part III: X-Men: First Class, Volume II (2007)
  • Part IV: X-Men #24-39: The Middle Years of the Original Team

I wish I could say that this run opens with a bang, but after the work that went into ending the Factor Three multi-part story line, Roy Thomas and company come out with a forgettable (or best forgotten) Frankenstein’s monster story in issue #40. Issue #41 follows up slightly better, because although they’re fighting another poorly-drawn hulking brute, it’s about a secret subterranean civilization that have all died due to human action.

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Blogging Marvel’s Master of Kung Fu, Part Ten

Blogging Marvel’s Master of Kung Fu, Part Ten

MOKF 44Master of Kung Fu #44 kicks off an eight-part story arc that builds upon the events of the series’ preceding six issues while also serving as the culmination of the ongoing storyline involving Shang-Chi’s father Fu Manchu and sister Fah lo Suee and their decades-long battle for control of the Si-Fan. Marvel approved a six-part story with some reluctance, but the team of writer Doug Moench and artist Paul Gulacy were making the series one of Marvel’s very best of the 1970s and had the clout to push boundaries further so long as sales and critical recognition continued. Of course, the first thing the two men did was plot a prelude and epilogue which extended the story from six chapters to eight. The results are both more and less than what one might reasonably expect, though they certainly succeed in terms of ambition and scope.

The principal difference in quality is Gulacy’s art. While never disappointing, he simply fails to match the standard of the previous five issues he illustrated. The challenge of maintaining such a high standard month after month was wearing and would result in Gulacy’s decision to leave the series that had brought him such acclaim. Likewise, Moench remained one of Marvel’s most overworked writers and despite the care he took in structuring the story, it was inevitable that moments appeared rushed and even underwritten. It was never a question of Moench’s skills, simply that he also could not maintain the same high level of quality writing when juggling so many titles each month.

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Blogging Marvel’s Master of Kung Fu, Part Six

Blogging Marvel’s Master of Kung Fu, Part Six

Master_of_Kung_Fu_Vol_1_33Master of Kung Fu #33 sees writer Doug Moench continuing to build upon the series’ new direction while also continuing to deploy offbeat humor sparingly to great effect. This first installment of a three-part storyline begins when Shang-Chi thwarts an assassination attempt on Clive Reston by a highly-advanced automaton. The reader and Shang-Chi learn from MI5 that the automaton is one of the toys of Mordillo, a robotics genius and master assassin who, it transpires, was the force behind Carlton Velcro.

Shang-Chi is provided with his own swank London townhouse (courtesy of MI5). While Clive Reston is showing him around his new digs, they encounter Reston’s former lover, seductive MI5 agent Leiko Wu. Her introductory scene, taking a bubble bath and shamelessly dressing (barely) in front of Reston and Shang-Chi establishes her not only as a Bondian seductress, but also signals her as a confident and capable woman who is content to leave a string of broken hearts in her wake. Doug Moench excels at establishing a sense of fatalism in his work. Just as the reader understands that Shang-Chi compromising his principles in working for MI5 will only lead to regret; so too the reader understands that the innocent and somewhat naive Shang-Chi falling for the far more worldly Leiko Wu is also fated to end in pain and suffering. Shang-Chi, in his professional and personal choices, chooses the short-term good and ignores the fact that the long-term can only lead to misery.

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Dr. Strange, Part III: The Middle Bronze Age

Dr. Strange, Part III: The Middle Bronze Age

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After having reread Marvel’s The Defenders from issue #1 to about issue #125, my interest started to flag. The glory of The Defenders was in the rearview mirror and it didn’t feel like the weird series I’d fallen in love with before and was reintroduced to by Brian Keene and Christopher Golden’s podcast Defenders Dialog (blogged about here).

I’m enjoying the Waid and Saiz 2018 run (Doctor Strange in Space), I liked the movie (The Doctor is In), obviously loved the Ditko-Lee run (Dr. Strange Part I) and the Marvel Presents series (Dr. Strange Part II), but I was hankering to continue my progress back through the Bronze Age. Other than the first five issues of Doctor Strange, which I have as a collected edition, I hadn’t read my old Doctor Strange series in probably 20 years. It was time to go back

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A Fresh Look at X-Men Continuity: Ed Piskor’s Grand Design

A Fresh Look at X-Men Continuity: Ed Piskor’s Grand Design

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When I started collecting X-Men comics in 1981, there was one universe. There had never been a Marvel reboot, and DC had only had one — the 1956-1958 transition from the Golden Age to the Silver Age. By the time I left comics in the early 1990s, DC had brought us through the second major reboot in history, the classic and brilliant Crisis on Infinite Earths.

However, Marvel still hadn’t really messed up its continuity, although the reprint title X-Men Classics was retconning a number of elements into the early Claremont-Cockrum-Byrne stories.

By the time I came back to comics almost 15 years later, I was bewildered by the X-Men and didn’t know where to pick up. The Age of Apocalypse had happened in an alternate universe as far as I could tell, and while the Onslaught event had apparently killed everyone, they were somehow back in time for there to be not just a few dozen or a few hundred mutants, but over a million.

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Tripping on the Void: An Interview with Plaid Klaus of Image’s Void Trip

Tripping on the Void: An Interview with Plaid Klaus of Image’s Void Trip

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This May, Image Comics will be collecting the five issues of Void Trip, by Ryan O’Sullivan and Plaid Klaus. I took advantage of the chance to interview Plaid. Here’s the description for Void Trip:

Meet Ana and Gabe — the last two humans left alive in the galaxy. They’re low on fuel, they’re low on food, and they’re low on psychedelic space froot, but they’re still determined to make it to the promised land: hippy-paradise super-planet Euphoria. VOID TRIP is the story of their journey, the friends and enemies they made along the way, and how the universe responded to those who dared to live freely within it. “VOID TRIP aims to answer the question: ‘how can we be free in a universe that will always course-correct to limit us?’” said O’Sullivan. “This isn’t your typical adventure comic, with violence as the solution to every conflict. It’s a road trip story. Its main concern is exploring the human condition. It’s Jack Kerouac and Hunter S. Thompson meets Herman Melville and Cormac McCarthy. Expect laughter, tears, and existential dread in equal measure.”

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Looking at the Density of Comic Book Page Layouts

Looking at the Density of Comic Book Page Layouts

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I may have picked the most boring blog post title in history, but this is something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately.

I was listening to Kieron Gillen’s excellent podcast Decompressed. Decompressed is a look under the hood at the craft of comic book creation and in the 4th one, he interviewed Matt Fraction and David Aja, the creative team behind Marvel’s Hawkeye from 2012. During the episode, Matt Fraction mentioned that Hawkeye was meant to feel different from most of the mainstream comics at the time, especially with respect to how much compression there was.

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Repent Your Crimes: Marvel’s Black Bolt Series

Repent Your Crimes: Marvel’s Black Bolt Series

I’ve been a Saladin Ahmed fan for a while. I probably heard his first fantasy fiction at Beneath Ceaseless Skies with Mister Hadj’s Sunset Ride, or in Podcastle’s Judgement of Swords and Souls (click on the links for free audio versions). I also met him in person in 2013 when I ended up at the same table as him during the Nebula Awards Banquet (where his first novel had been nominated).

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So I perked up when I saw that Marvel had Ahmed writing a new Black Bolt solo series. I picked up the first issue in June, put it in my backpack and promptly…. left it sitting in my TBR pile. For two months. And I didn’t even crack it open until issue #4 was already out.

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