A Thanksgiving Day Review – The Mutant Who Came to Dinner

Actually, the story, published in issue #6 of 1985’s Vision and the Scarlet Witch maxi-series, is called “No Strings Attached.”

These were the days when Marvel Comics were consistently fun. Possibly the last of those days, as the onslaught of the 90s (Get it? Onslaught? Heh.) turned the Marvel Universe into a place of doom and gloom and dark despair. And epaulets. Jackets with epaulets. Yeah. ‘Cause that’s what super-heroes are about.

If you want to find comics that capture the spirit of fun and optimism that you find when you go to see a Marvel Studios movie, your best bet is to go pre-1987. That’s not to say that there aren’t some dark times for our heroes during those runs—the death of Gwen Stacy, the Secret Empire, the Dark Phoenix Saga—all angst-ridden and brooding, yes. But still the ultimate feel was fun and light and triumph.

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I Just Finished – Thor Ragnarok

I saw this opening weekend, and didn’t really think of commenting on my blog. But then it occurred to me that, the last time a Thor movie came out, I pretty much savaged it in this forum. So maybe a follow-up visit, albeit perhaps less expansive than my review of Thor: The Dark World, is deserved.

This was easily my favorite of the three Thor films to date. Although, sadly, it does not serve the supporting cast well—Jane Foster, Sif and Erik Selvig are all missing, and the Warriors Three appear, but only in cameos that their fans probably weren’t glad to see—it’s rooted firmly in the Thor comics mythology and showcases Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston amazingly well, to say nothing of newcomers Cate Blanchett, Jeff Goldblum, Karl Urban and Tessa Thompson, and welcome guest Mark Ruffalo. Idris Elba has a reduced, but important, role. I point out with irony that this is probably also the best Hulk film ever made—with irony because, obviously, it’s not a Hulk film, and the character did not fare well in his own title films. But here, he’s the best he’s been in a movie.

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I Just Finished – Captain America #695

My son Ethan handed me this and said, “You need to read this.” It explains and excuses, he told me, the faults of the recent “event” which unjustifiably stole the name Secret Empire. It brings back Captain America, the real Cap, not the Hydra agent who everyone should have realized was simply a story device. They didn’t realize it. They got all bent out of shape by it, and suggested that Marvel’s creative teams had actually become Nazis. It seems comics fans have become less sophisticated over the years.

It’s kinda funny, 72 years after their defeat, that we Americans are still seeing Nazis under every bed, with as much fear and paranoia as Joe McCarthy ever brought to his quest for Communists. And, to be fair, there were card-carrying members of the Communist Party in the movie industry, and the much-lauded Dalton Trumbo actually was using his position to propagandize his views. But later generations judged McCarthy’s actions to be extreme. So, when there are no members of the Nazi party in any position of power in our country now, just people who are to the political right of whoever is slinging the term “Nazi” at them, I wonder how future generations will view our current behavior. Continue reading

I Just Finished – Iceman (2017) #6

This story is part one of “Champions Reunited,” a story I’ve been looking forward to. I’ve been a fan of the Champions since very early in their original run, which began back in 1975. The team was an odd mix of leftover Marvel characters, none of them (then) heavy hitters. Under the capable guidance of Tony Isabella and Don Heck, and later Chris Claremont, George Tuska, Bob Hall, John Byrne and most prominently Bill Mantlo, this team of second stringers did something that hadn’t really happened before: they tried to intentionally build a super-team. They incorporated, bought a headquarters, had lawyers and accountants and PR agents, all with the goal of giving Los Angeles, a much-neglected venue at Marvel in the 1970s, a super-heroic presence.

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I Just Finished – 12 Issues of X-Men Blue and X-Men Gold

I like both of these series. It’s been a long road for the X-Men. Created in 1963, they were canceled six years later and consigned to reprints and occasional guest appearances. One of their number, Hank McCoy, The Beast, achieved solo status for a little while, during which he mutated from an intellectual with the strength and agility of an ape to a furry blue (or gray) creature worthy of the name. But his series didn’t last, and he wound up in the Avengers. In 1974, Marvel restarted the series with a (mostly) new cast, and this time they struck gold. The All-New All-Different X-Men revolutionized the field of superhero comics, and one of their members, the Wolverine, became a Marvel icon on par with the Hulk and Spider-Man.

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I Just Finished – Royals #6

I’m a bit behind on this series. I think #9 just came out. It’s not on the top of my “need to read this right now” stack, and I do have a lot of unread comics. Still, I do try to get to all of them.

I must confess that the cosmic side of the Marvel Universe is something I haven’t kept up with, and it’s gotten a bit complex and confusing for me. But, despite the fact that I’m not a royalist and hate the idea of inherited governing power, I’ve always liked the Inhumans. So I’m following this series to see what they’re up to. Black Bolt is missing and imprisoned, Medusa is terminally ill, Maximus is hanging around like a second-rate Loki. But I do enjoy Al Ewing’s writing, so this book is holding my interest. And I must admit, Ewing is making me like the character Gorgon for the first time ever. I’ve always considered him just an ass, sort of Ares to the Inhuman pantheon—a warlike, temperamental child. But writer Al Ewing has given him three dimensions and even made him a little sympathetic.

I miss Triton and Karnak, but it’s nice to see Crystal front and center. She so rarely was, in the Inhuman stories I grew up with. I had heard she had married Ronan the Accuser. I can’t see that ever happening, and I’ve been emotionally distanced from her scenes with him in this series so far, as their relationship crumbles. I just don’t feel it. Granted he’s cuddlier than Quicksilver, but this is a woman who’s loved the Human Torch. Ronan is way outside any type she’s established. Of course, she did once have a fling with a Realtor from Jersey, so…

Anyway, if you’re engaged by the Inhumans’ TV series and want to read current comics about them, this is a pretty good one. I would also recommend finding a trade collection of the original Fantastic Four issues that introduced them.


I Just Finished – Uncanny Avengers (2015) #28

This series continues to delight. Johnny Storm is now a billionaire, heir to Reed Richards’s patent earnings. Of course, it’s pretty clear Reed’s on his way back, but still, it’s an amusing turn. Quicksilver is being written as something other than angry, for a change. If I’m honest, Rogue as team leader still feels forced to me. Is there a female X-Man (irony unintentional) who isn’t leading her own team? I get it, it’s long overdue that we had equality on that score, but it still feels a bit forced. On the other hand, anything that puts Jean Grey, Rogue, Kitty Pryde and Polaris into the limelight is okay with me.

But my favorite part of the issue was simply the first panel in which we see the Beast’s blue, furry, smiling face as he snatches an escaped balloon and returns it to a young Avengers fan. He’s been blue and furry right on through, but ol’ Hank hasn’t smiled a lot in recent history, and that’s a bad thing.

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I Just Finished – Jean Grey #7

Jean Grey, founding member of the X-Men way long ago, has been kidnapped out of time as a teenager and brought forward to an era where her adult self is long dead, and remembered primarily for becoming the all-powerful, all-corrupt entity known as the Phoenix. Now the leader of her teenage cohorts, Jean is on a quest to learn how she can avoid following in her older counterpart’s footsteps.

In the latest issues of her solo series, Jean has been meeting up with a different denizen of the Marvel Universe each month–all the other Phoenix hosts, Namor, Thor, Psylocke, Doctor Strange–all with the goal of learning how not to become the Phoenix. She’s also being stalked by the ghost of her older self.

This issue, she meets up with the Scarlet Witch. There’s a bond between these two 1960s-born heroines, one which author Jeff Parker clearly recognized when he wrote a humorous series of adventures for the two, as teens, in the back pages of X-Men First Class several years ago. Both are mutants. Both were the only women on their teams, Wanda first in The Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, and later in The Avengers.

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I Just Finished – Marvel Legacy

“My shrubbery is not to be trifled with, Daniel Rand.”

Funniest line in the book. Unfortunately, it’s about 25 pages in, and not a lot happens before it that grabbed me. Actually, the whole sequence in which that line falls, which has Dr. Strange and Iron Fist visiting Strange’s Sanctum Sanctorum, after Norman Osborne has just tried to break into it, is funny, and the most entertaining part of the book.

Marvel Legacy has been heralded (by Marvel) as the return of many classic characters and teams. The artwork, and Axel Alonso’s notes at the end of this issue, suggest that the whole point of the effort is to bring back the glory of Bronze Age Marvel. And I’m all about that idea. I started reading comics in 1974, and the best time for comic books, in any given reader’s opinion, is usually the year or three around the time he started reading.

But the storylines that Mr. Alonso promises are coming—like Loki becoming Sorceror Supreme, or Klaw conquering Wakanda, just make me shrug. And the story which introduces this new effort does the same. If this is what Marvel Legacy is going to look like, then I’m going to go in with low expectations.

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I Just Finished – Uncanny Avengers (2015) #27

A satisfying conclusion to the Graviton story, although the resolution of Rogue’s brief brush with madness at the climax is a little abrupt. The story celebrates teamwork, which is what the Avengers are all about. And the words “Fantastic Four” are actually uttered! Johnny Storm is a welcome member of this team, but it would be nice to have him back where he belongs. The subplot where an attorney is trying to catch up with him, and surprises him at the end of a boxer-clad battle, is appropriately funny and mixes the mundane with the fantastic in the way the best Marvel tales always have. I’m reminded of the first appearance of Henry Peter Gyrich (although that was more sinister) or the earlier Avengers tale in which Janet Van Dyne (the original Wasp, and still a member of this team) inherited her father’s millions.