Friday, January 31, 2014

One Of Us Isn't Thinking Clearly

Take one swashbuckling hero, addled by overexposure to radium:

Mix in a certain red-white-and-blue Avenger fighting in an exhibition event:

And you've got all the makings of a grudge match (without, you know, an actual grudge):

It's Captain America vs. Daredevil--and this crowd's gonna go wild!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

When Leather Rode The Wind!

I don't think there's ever been a makeover that bowled over Marveldom Assembled quite like this one:

We found out pretty quickly how Kitty Pryde felt about it:

But what about you? Did you:
a) Sob your eyes out like Kitty?
b) Condense your verbal response to an expletive better known by three letters?
c) Give it the thumbs up?
d) Give it an altogether different finger extension?
e) Think it was about time for a change in Ororo's appearance?
f) Call Chris Claremont names that wouldn't even occur to Charlie Sheen?
g) Wonder why Ororo was suddenly pronouncing "hello" as "hullo"?

The Monster's Analyst

Of all the Hulk's dramatic splash pages, not many of us would have pictured something as incredible as this:

The Hulk--undergoing psychoanalysis??

Aren't we missing something here?
(Like, for instance, restraints?)

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Mountain That Walks Like A Man!

When the cover to Marvel Two-In-One #13 appeared on the rack, you'd almost think you were looking at a reprint of one of Marvel's old monster comics from the early 1960s:

Those monster names just rolled off the tongue then. "Vandoom!" "Rommbu!" "Droom!" "Monstrollo!" "Goom!" And here we have a colossus that has a name like a comic book sound effect: Braggadoom! But as terrifying as he comes across, there's a little more to Braggadoom than meets the eye. We sure hope there is. Because if he's just rampaging for the sake of rampaging, we're all in trouble.

Braggadoom's story begins with a far more meek individual--Arnold Krank, a researcher whose oversight combined with his clumsiness (just what you'd want in a lab scientist) led to a fateful accident:

Yet it wasn't until a hastily called press conference that the real horror would begin:

And reach someone Krank did--Ben Grimm, the only member of the Fantastic Four in residence when Krank went to ask for their help. And the fierce conflict between the Thing and Krank's accidental creation would lead to the inadvertent naming of the creature:

Seeing that the Thing would need help, Krank then went to Luke Cage and convinced him to join in the attempt to subdue Braggadoom. Unfortunately, Braggadoom would soon enough have both of them in hand:

During the battle with Braggadoom, it becomes clear that it's an uneasy alliance between Cage and Grimm--mostly due to the Thing's underlying impression that Cage charging for his services makes him something less than a professional, as well as less of a bona fide hero:

At least for the short term, though, they agree to focus on the crisis at hand. A crisis which has literally become bigger:

The Thing manages to topple Braggadoom and gain some breathing room--but as he prepares for a final attack, Krank tells Cage that he believes it would prove fatal. And when Cage attempts to intervene, Grimm again loses his patience with him, while at last giving voice to the reason for his annoyance with Cage:

Fortunately, Krank confirms to Grimm his fears regarding a physical attack on Braggadoom. Yet, at that moment, a startling development occurs:

And so the crisis has passed, though the Thing notes that two men are still dead. As for Krank, he seeks to atone for the tragedy of Braggadoom's creation and rampage by taking on a new role with the creature, in an ending that would fit like a glove in one of those old monster comics:

I don't recall Braggadoom making any more appearances in comics, so perhaps his story ended here. As for Grimm and Cage, they went on to butt heads again when Cage temporarily took Grimm's place in the FF, another situation where Cage showed considerably more maturity in their disagreement than the hot-tempered Grimm.

Marvel Two-In-One #13

Script: Roger Slifer and Len Wein
Pencils: Ron Wilson
Inks: Vince Colletta
Letterer: Joe Rosen

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The World's Greatest Double-Takes

Even though, at times, you felt like asking "Will the real Rich Buckler please stand up?" when looking at some of his work for Marvel, I really admired his art on Avengers, Thor, and Fantastic Four. Just look at these beautiful double-page spreads from his FF run:

As you may have noticed in Buckler's work on both the FF and Thor, many of his panels reflected a strong influence of artist Jack Kirby, though I'm probably being diplomatic by terming it as "influence." By that I mean that often you would see Buckler adapt much of Kirby's prior work to supplement his own--a puzzling choice, since this artist has proven he's more than capable of turning in his own sterling art. In short, the man's work needs no propping up--and this experiment (if we're calling it that) of blending prior work with his own would have been interesting for an issue, maybe two, with the plug being pulled at that point.

We've taken a look at some examples from Thor--so let's take a brief look at panels from Fantastic Four, where this practice was taken almost to extremes.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Piling On Peter Parker

Just five issues to go until Spider-Man's 200th issue, and look at all the things he's already got on his plate:

Not to mention all the nerve-wracking adjectives. "Final!" "Shocking!" "Frightful!" "Tragic!" Jeez, is there room enough in one 31-page issue to cover all of this ground?

Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Right Sub-Miniature Device for the Right Job

All About Iron Man!

When Iron Man's red/gold armor was first revealed, we got a brief run-down on its make-up and improvements over his all-golden armor. But, seven months later, we'd find out a little more about how Tony Stark slips in and out of his armor, thanks to his attaché case which housed all of its components (with the exception of his chest device).  But it's his armor itself that holds a good deal more.  For instance, I didn't realize that his belt carried most of those nifty devices which he seems to pull out of a hat whenever he's in a jam and needs a specialized tool:

Also, Stark was always talking about how lightweight his armor is, despite it being "the strongest armor known to man." Lightweight, that is, until your life depends on reaching an electrical socket:

Of course, such life-and-death scenes wouldn't be necessary if Stark just provided his armor with a built-in generator. What's that, you say? Iron Man's armor has a built-in generator?

Well, maybe in the early days, bub. You can't have your hero in dire straits with something like a built-in generator coming online and saving the day with the flick of a switch.

And look, Iron Man even took a leaf from Captain America's book:

And lightweight chain-mail, too! No wonder those air jets in his boots could lift the guy into flight.

I bet you've also been wondering about those old hip pods he used to wear. Would you believe storage space for radio equipment?

Gosh, I always thought they were power-pods:

I guess they took the place of that built-in generator. I think they're cooler-looking, too.

And you can probably guess that those knobs on his pecs control his "variable power spotlight." Of course, in Iron Man's case, "variable" means pretty much any kind of beam the writer wants to give Shellhead in order to get him out of a jam:

So, to recap:

Wow--first-aid equipment, as well. Jeez, this guy's got everything.  And knowing Stark in those days, he's probably got a bottle opener stashed in their somewhere, too.

Friday, January 24, 2014

The More Things Change...

Three months have passed (in Marvel time) since the end of Part Four of "Chaos," the story which concluded the events of the "Avengers Disassembled" storyline that ran in the main Avengers title as well as seven others. "Chaos" ended with several loose ends left unresolved--and that brings us to the wrap-up story in Avengers Finale, an epilogue issue which would gather the team one last time to formally disband them and send them on their way, with hopefully many memories of their rich history that they can take pride in.

Just why the Avengers must disband is only one of those questions left hanging in the air after the team confronted the Scarlet Witch in a battle which capped what was arguably their worst crisis. Now, they gather once more in a reunion of sorts called by Tony Stark, who has grim news to deliver in the ruins of what was once Avengers Mansion:

It looks to be something of a bittersweet reunion.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Mother's Day

With Dr. Strange's arrival at the end of Part Three of "Chaos," the story at the center of "Avengers Disassembled," we're more than ready for a few answers. Why have the Avengers been under almost constant attack? Who or what is responsible? How were three Avengers used against their comrades? Three Avengers dead, three more injured, two critically--how many more? Who has the power to pull this off?

Dr. Strange doesn't come right out and say it--but he does point the Avengers toward the answer, and one Avenger in particular seems to have his worst fear realized:

To understand the answer that Dr. Strange is about to announce off-panel, we need to put this "chaos" into context by looking back to its catalyst. And what sets everything into motion is not so much the one behind the power itself, but rather a mere slip of the tongue during a casual conversation between the Wasp and the Scarlet Witch:

With the seed inadvertently planted into Wanda's mind, she acts to discover the truth. Her mental state already on shaky ground, she seeks out the one person who might have knowledge of a past kept hidden from her:

I think we can assume that Wanda wasn't sympathetic toward Agatha Harkness, whatever her reasons for suppressing Wanda's memories of her children, and that this meeting didn't end well for the senior citizen. Agatha left quite a trap door open for any number of people who knew about Wanda's children to stumble through. In effect, everyone with knowledge of the children would had to have been accounted for and sworn to secrecy, and agreed to never broach the subject to Wanda again. Yet, unless she had originally decided to keep the birth of her children a secret, and arranged a media blackout, and took a dozen other precautions to keep the knowledge of their birth under wraps, how was that possible?

The Avengers, though--having known Wanda as both a comrade and a friend--are full of doubts as to her being the cause of these incidents, and cannot bring themselves to believe that Wanda would be capable of this level of enmity against them. But Dr. Strange helps to put in perspective Wanda's fragile psyche, particularly after learning from the Avengers how her children, nonexistent to begin with, were lost to her.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Hawkeye, The Marksman--Marked For Death!

In Part Two of "Chaos," the main story in the "Avengers Disassembled" series shared with seven other Marvel titles in late 2004, Hawkeye made the observation that the recent deadly attacks on the Avengers amounted to an "extraordinarily bad day" that was only going to get worse.

Now that the Code White emergency call has gone out, and just about every known Avenger has shown up at the nearly-destroyed Avengers Mansion to lend their support, it doesn't take long before Hawkeye's fears prove justified. In the middle of Nick Fury reading all of the Avengers the riot act for contaminating a crime scene, word comes down that the United Nations has severed formal ties with the team:

The U.N. piling onto the Avengers with a virtual stab-in-the-back while they're in the middle of their worst crisis understandably angers some on the team--but anger soon turns to astonishment when a massive Kree invasion attack force arrives and opens fire. A group of attacking ships which, according to the SHIELD helicarrier, isn't even registering on any instruments:

And as the saying goes--all hell breaks loose. Again.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

An Extraordinarily Bad Day

Part One of "Chaos," which fired the opening salvos of the "Avengers Disassembled" story, had our assemblers reeling from multiple attacks on their home ground--and from their own members, including the Vision, Jack of Hearts, and now the She-Hulk, who has back-handed the Wasp into a coma and (from the looks of things) crushed Captain America beneath a truck.

She-Hulk now turns her rage against the only two team members left standing to oppose her--Hawkeye and Captain Britain, who are joined by another Avenger arriving on the scene of carnage.

Iron Man, as we saw last time, has come under an attack of his own while at the United Nations--being forced by an unknown power to endure a drunken state even without having downed one drop of liquor, and finding himself subsequently threatening one of the delegates. As a result, he's being held accountable at a dressing-down by the White House:

Iron Man then responds to the Code White situation at Avengers Mansion. And, in a nice touch by writer Brian Bendis which gives an unquestionable nod to Iron Man's seasoned experience as an original Avenger as well as one of Marvel's charter heroes, he floors She-Hulk without a word upon arrival, using a thundering right that ends the fight then and there.

Afterward, Iron Man digs out Cap, finding that his shield has saved his life. Captain Britain, however, has been critically wounded, as has the Wasp, who has been located by the Falcon still in her wasp-sized state. But before Falc can air-lift her to the hospital, the giant-sized--no, the colossally-sized Yellowjacket appears and grabs them both in order to hasten their trip.

What is this--the Ultimates? I suppose we can assume one of two things: either Bendis intends not only to disregard Hank Pym's well-known difficulties with attaining giant-size stature but also to set a new, near-limitless standard for how big this guy can grow, or artist Peter Finch was told to instead draw a mini-Celestial. Either way, how convenient for the plot that this now-massive Avenger arrives too late to, say, swat away a destructive Quinjet before impact or scoop up a bunch of attacking Ultrons, eh? More on that thought in a minute.

At any rate, casualties are assessed, and notes are finally being compared. But we'll find Part Two of this story to be more of an interim issue than anything which advances the story for either us or the remaining Avengers.