I was never much of a Vertigo comics reader. The line began between the time I had written my first story for DC Comics (the bonus book in Warlord #131) and the time I wrote my next one, for Star Trek, six years later. (He admits, shamefacedly.) The only things it had to offer that really caught my eye were Sandman Mystery Theater (I am still a devoted Matt Wagner fan as a result of that one) and Doom Patrol (I have yet to find a version of the Doom Patrol that equals the original Drake / Premiani run, but this version just made me wonder if I was losing the capacity to read the English language.)
But the cover of Peter Milligan and Tess Fowler’s new effort from IDW’s Black Crown line made me nostalgic for something I was never really into. “That looks like a 90’s Vertigo cover!” I thought. And I guess I pleasantly remembered those halcyon days when I thought I was about to make it in the comics industry.
This is the first short novel of four that comprise the tales of Lazarus Long as he records his memoirs to placate his descendants while he undergoes rejuvenation—a process begun against his will by Ira Wetheral, the current Chairman Pro Tem of the Howard Families. “Chairman Pro Tem” because the rightful chairman of the Families—not a biological family, strictly, but an association of people bred for long life and named for Ira Howard, the philanthropist who funded, back in the 19th Century Gregorian, a project to lengthen the lifespan of humans simply by subsidizing the marriage and production of offspring of people with a genetic predisposition to long life. The Chairman of these families, by tradition, is the eldest member. When Howard’s experiment was not a century old, and Howard himself was already dead, it produced a mutant named Woodrow Wilson Smith. By 2012, Smith, under the pseudonym Lazarus Long, was the oldest man alive, Senior of the Families. It was a position he would hold for the next 23 centuries, and still counting as of Robert Heinlein’s last published work.
My wife Renee unearthed this issue, bought during my collecting days back in the late 1970s, in a chest of drawers in my mother’s dining room last week. I didn’t even realize it was missing from my collection, but I was happy to see it again. It’s in pretty good shape. Its cover is still glossy and its pages are not horribly yellowed. It was clearly a subscription copy, because, in the late 1960s when it was published, comic books were folded in half, lengthwise, before being mailed to subscribers. The comic book after market and CCG grading were unheard of.
Despite the crease down its middle, it’s a pretty nice copy. I decided to sit down and read it, since it’s probably been 25 years. Indeed, I found tucked into it a K-Mart receipt from 1993, so I’m guessing that’s the last time I saw it.
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.
“Our revels now are ended…”
That quote, from The Tempest, Act 4, Scene 1, is familiar to most, if not all, fans of Dark Shadows. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, when there were no VCRs or DVRs and you could only watch a show once, and that when the TV station decided to play it, many fans of the Gothic soap opera listened ad nauseum to the show’s soundtrack LP. It featured music from the show, with narrations over a lot of it by Jonathan Frid and David Selby, the two most prominent stars. The last track on the album is Jonathan Frid reading Prospero’s soliloquy from The Tempest about actors and dreams. It’s a moody piece, and a fitting capstone to, well, pretty much anything.
Lara Parker ends her novel with the last sentence: “We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep.”
From October, 1965, another three-story issue, this one featuring:
“The Insect Queen of Smallville” – Superboy’s girlfriend, Lana Lang, becomes a super-hero! Now, it’s important to understand that, if you’re Kal-El / Clark Kent and it’s not yet 1970, “girlfriend” is another word for “arch-nemesis.” Like Lois Lane in his adult life, Lana exists at this point only to try and prove that mild-mannered Clark Kent is actually the last son of Krypton. Also like Lois, she’s really bad at the job, and similarly obsessed with it.
This time out, Lana happens upon a spaceman in the woods, as teenage girls in small towns in the Midwest were wont to do back in the day. Said spaceman (now we would say “extraterrestrial,” but this was literally a little, green man.) She frees him from beneath a fallen tree. In gratitude, he gives her a ring which allows her to assume the powers of any insect.
I’ve waited many years to read this one. I began reading Heinlein (with The Star Beast) in 1981. I’ve read most of his work, and, indeed, broke down this year and treated myself to the Virginia Edition, leather-bound copies of all of Heinlein’s work, including non-fiction articles and screenplays.
But this, his first novel published in book form, and the first of his juvenile novels, was a book that I’d always heard was badly dated and not as entertaining as his others. Now that I’ve finally read it, I disagree. Rocketship Galileo is as captivating, speculative and amusing as any Heinlein adventure (although Starship Troopers was rarely, if ever amusing. That one came from a dark place within the Grandmaster.)
It’s called “dated” less because of the naiveté of the idea that the first expedition to the moon would be the result of a contest for inventors–and particularly teenaged inventors–and more because the villains are–wait for it–Nazis.
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 enjoyed this. It was far more comfortable, over all, than the first Kingsman film. Not that I remember that much of the first one. You don’t watch James Bond films to memorize their plot points, you watch them to go on a stylish thrill ride. And Kingsman is nothing if not a tribute to the James Bond films of Sean Connery and Roger Moore.
These films are hyper-violent. In the first one, there’s a seven-minute shootout in a church that goes beyond comic excess and is just uncomfortable. I had to look away. Although this one features a couple of encounters with a meat grinder, they’re over quickly and didn’t bring me the discomfort that the church scene did.
Halle Berry and Jeff Bridges are nice additions to the cast. Bruce Greenwood was a properly good ol’ boy villain as the President of the United States.
I have two complaints: First, some characters from last time out—one in particular—are ignobly written out of the franchise. They deserved better. Second, the film has three villains, and the biggest, nastiest comeuppance is saved for the least villainous, least interesting of them. He was a guy who did wrong, but he’s also given one of those “lost everything” reasons for turning bad. So he didn’t deserve what he got, while two other villains deserved exactly what he got, and they got a bit less.
Still, don’t think, just enjoy. That’s the secret.
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.