Posted in Comics n Stuff

5 Comics: 5 One off stories

I’m a big fan of the long form in comics. I like the stories that often don’t fully pay off for years. It’s one of the things that comics do best, the slow burn to the big reveal. Ed Brubaker’s Captain American run Cap vol 5 1-50 was one four year story, broken down into chapters. One day, I may do a top story-lines post, but one of the other things that comics do well is the one-off. That one issue that does its own thing, or is part of an ongoing story, but works just as well on its own. In this edition of 5 comics, I want to look at 5 comics that tell a great or offbeat story that can be enjoyed on its own.

 

They are in alphabetical order, not in order of preference, not that it really matters.

 

Iron Man #182

IM 182

Written by: Dennis O’Neil

Drawn by: Luke McDonnell

On sale date: February 1984

 

This is one of those great turning point issues, with Tony finally hitting rock bottom. Drunk and on the street, he spends the night trying to keep the new-born baby of another drunk alive. He succeeds and in powerful issue decides that if this new-born baby is worth saving, anyone is worth saving, including himself.

It’s the beginning of his long road to redemption, becoming Iron Man again and restoring his company. It’s the end of the story of a destroyed man who’s had everything taken away from him and the start of the story of man battling his inner demons becoming a hero again.

 

Preacher #60

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Written by: Garth Ennis

Drawn by: Steve Dillon

On sale date: February 2000

Not technically a one shot, this was part of the Alamo, Garth Ennis’ finale to his magnificent Preacher series. The cover of the issue was one of Glen Fabry’s full face covers that Alamo had on each part. The reason I have it on this list, is that the majority of it is one scene. After spending 50 something issues seeking to make God answer for the neglect of his creation. Jesse Custer, the eponymous preacher, seeks to bring this all to a head and to do that, he needs help from Saint of Killers, the Angel of Murder. A great mix of religious conspiracy, western mythology and fantastic story-telling, Preacher is one of the great Vertigo series and this issue gives you a look at this series at its best.

 

Transmetropolitan #8

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Written by: Warren Ellis

Drawn by: Darick Robertson

On sale date: February 1998

 

One of the ‘issue’ issues that peppered Warren Ellis’ Transmetropolitan. This issue was a look at the revivals, those people cryogenically frozen at the point of death and revived when technology permitted. In the future of Transmetropolitan, that technology is here. The people frozen are reanimated and healed and thrust into a future that doesn’t really want them and they are horrified by. This issue takes the form of an article written by Warren Ellis’ protagonist Spider Jerusalem, who tells us the story of Mary, a photojournalist from our time, who wakes in this strange new future. This is one of the better stories from what was a fantastic series, like Preacher it had a beginning, middle and end and was a fantastic ride.

 

Uncanny X-Men #309

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Written by: Scott Lobdell

Drawn by: John Romita Jnr

On sale date: December 1993

This is an issue taking place in Charles Xavier’s mind at a time when writers were trying to make him a sympathetic character. Those days have since gone. Charles is dreaming a conversation with Magneto and the two discuss Charles Xavier’s failed relationships. It focuses on Moira McTaggart, Gabrielle Haller, Lilanda Neramani and the previously unknown Amelia Voight, who at the time was an acolyte of Magneto. He tracks the relationship with Amelia from its beginning, just after he was paralysed, to its end, when he tried to force her to see his point of view, using his telepathy. As you can imagine, that went so very badly and she never spoke to him again. This can be seen as a desperate act, soon regretted as a moment of madness that he can never really come back from. Or proof that Charles Xavier is a d**k. It paints a nice picture of a flawed and troubled man doing his best and seeing several people happier than he is and wondering, why can’t I do that. After large events, there were a lot of this aftermath issues and this one is one of my personal favourites.

 

 

X-Factor #87

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Written by: Peter David

Drawn by: Joe Quesada

On sale date: December 1992

 

I can’t talk about this comic objectively, because of my deep fondness for it. This is when I started my love for Peter David written comics and especially his X-Factor run. After the events of X-Cutioner’s Song, the government sponsored X-Factor are subjected to psychiatric assessment and counselling. This takes the form of several vignettes where each member of the team talks with a psychiatrist, whose point of view we look through, finally revealed to be Dr Leonard “Big guy with green hair” Samson.

From Havok’s anxiety, Strong Guy’s constant pain, to Polaris’ body-shape issues. It’s all handled so well with understanding and humour. I don’t know if it is realism of any sort, seeing these super-people with psychological issues, but it is relatable. These are people with problems, discussing them and for some of them, the counselling continues.

But anyone who has ever read this comic, knows what the best part is. This issue explains Quicksilver. It’s called PMS Pietro Maximoff Syndrome (Quicksilver’s real name) the urge to be high-handed and arrogant.

“Have you ever been stuck behind someone who can’t use a cash machine? Or gotten a guy at burger king who can’t understand whopper, no pickles? Or been behind someone in the post office who wants to know every single way to ship an object to Albuquerque?”
“Yes.”

“And how do you feel during those times?”

“Annoyed, angry frustrated I suppose.”

“Exactly, because your life is being interrupted by the incapablility of others. Now imagine if everywhere you went, the entire world, is populated entirely of people who can’t work a cash machine. I surmise you to would suffer from P.M.S”

I have not got the wording exactly right on that, did it all from memory, that’s how much I love that issue.

 

These can all be found on comixology or marvel unlimited as single issues or, apart from Iron Man 182, in the following trades.

Preacher #60 – Preacher: Alamo TPB

Transmetropolitan #8 – Transmetropolitan: Lust for Life TPB

Uncanny X-Men #309 – Grandson of Origins TPB

X-Factor #87 – X-Factor Visionaries Vol 4  TPB

 

These are all worth giving a try. Read one of them, read all of them, let me know what you think. Till next time True Believers.

 

Posted in Comics n Stuff

In Defense of …. Cable

In Defense of: Cable

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The excesses of 90’s comics are many and vast, from the over saturation of popular characters, to the bad girl phenomenon, to artist over writer bias and the speculator boom, there is a lot of 90’s stuff that is risable.

One of the many trends viewed poorly in hindsight is the costume/character design tropes that began to show up. Poor anatomy with huge legs and shoulders and tiny heads and feet, the propensity towards big guns and the proliferation of shoulder pads and straps/pouches. There are few characters who so epitomise this era than Cable.

The 90’s and in particular the 90’s X-Men were how I got into serious collecting, and saw the rise and fall of the negative elements of the 90s and also the rise and fall of Cable. I’ve often asked myself the question, is Cable a bad idea at the wrong time, or simply a victim of the time in comics in which he came to prominence?

Let’s start at the beginning.

Uncanny_X-Men_Vol_1_201                  xfactor068

The first appearance of Cable was as Nathan Christopher Summers in Uncany X-Men #201 in 1986. The son of Scott Summers (Cyclops) & Madelyn Pryor-Summers (de-powered clone of Jean Grey). Yes, that’s right folks, Cyclops married the clone of his dead high school girlfriend. This was only ever going to end well. Well there was a series of dramas but what eventually happened is that during a battle with Apocalypse,

Nathan was infected with a transmode virus which began to transform his flesh into organic metal. To save him, Cyclops entrusted him to Askani, a time traveller who had come to save Nathan. Cyclops handed over his son, who was sent over a dozen centuries in the future.

 

After Cyclops married Jean Grey (yes she came back it’s comics, just go along with it) their ‘essences’ were sent into that same future, which was under the boot-heel of Apocalypse. They found Nathan under the care of the clan Askani and under the names Redd and Slym raised him to his teenage years before returning to their bodies after only a few hours of time. I wish this was the weirdest X-Men got, I really do.

Cable lived his adult life in the far future, in battle with Apocalypse’s minions and Stryfe. Stryfe was a sort of terrorist, bringing chaos to the future, he was always masked, which comes in handy later. There was a civil war between Cable’s people the Clan Chosen and Apocalypse and this followers. During this war Cable, known as Nathan Dayspring Askani’son, met and married Aliya Jenskot and had a son Tyler. This family and their Clan fought hard and long and yet lost. Aliya was killed and Tyler taken and Cable, realising the futility of battle with an entrenched Apocalypse whilst simultaneously battle the chaos bringer Stryfe, decided the best chance to save the world he lived in, was to make sure it never happened to begin with. His answer was to travel back in time and prevent the ascension of Apocalypse.

He arrives in the past of the Marvel Universe predating Fantastic Four #1 and forms a group of Mercenaries called the Wild-pack, later being called the Six-Pack, using this time to map the world he’s now in and learn as much about it as possible. He also brings his base, a station called Graymalkin and it’s A.I. who he calls Professor who has been with him much of his adult life. All seems to go well until he finds out that Stryfe has followed him to this time and their war continues, crippling two of his team and destroying the trust in him of the other three. He looks for new soldiers and that’s how he finds himself in New Mutants #87.

NewMutants87            XF1

That, by any stretch is a mental backstory. Part Terminator, part Firefly, part Star Wars and wrapped up in 90’s X-Men craziness.

Cable as he appears in NM #87 was a creation of Rob Liefeld and Louise Simonson. His arrival shook up the status quo and introduced a new villain for the X-books, the MLF (Mutant Liberation Front)

Admittedly there’s not much to start off with, he’s a bad ass sort of action hero character with little to no characterisation to him. He’s well-travelled and mysterious, but beyond that, there’s little to know and even less to care about. His appearance, with the short silver hair, glowing eyes and ridiculous shoulders, let alone the bionic arm and star shaped scar over his not glowing eye. He looked like the quintessential 90’s character and that’s followed him around like a bad smell since then.

Here’s my defense: I know what you’re thinking, about f***ing time.

Stryfe

Introduced at the same time, Stryfe was seen as just another 90’s X-Villain, until he removed his silly mask to reveal….Cable. Or at least his double.

197797-109571-stryfe            stryfe_face_a

Change

Cable started out very much as an agenda driven 90’s anti-hero. From New Mutants 87 to X-Force 15, he did only what he wanted to do and nothing else. There was no room to compromise or fit other people into his life. In the aftermath of the under-rated X-Cutioners Song Cable came back different, instead of leading X-Force in support of his own agenda, he followed theirs.

 

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Solo Stories

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Although created to be part of the New Mutants and then X-Force, Cable’s retcon-able backstory and popularity justified a mini-series and then an ongoing in 1992. The mini-series Blood and Metal was a bit of a 90’s gem, bridging the gap between X-Force 15 and the start of X-Cutioner’s Song. Drawn by John Romita Jnr, it jumped between the past and present to tell a complete story about Cable, his history and how his time with X-Force had changed him.

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After X-Cutioner’s Song was his ongoing, it is a bit uneven, with rotating creative teams, but just in the first year, a lot happens. The series starts in the future, there’s an issue where Cable/Weapon-X are stuck under the ocean, there’s a resolution of the Cable/Stryfe story, where Cable learns his true origin as well as a sort of team up with Magneto’s Acolytes. Jeph Loeb and Ian Churchill also have a nice run.

cb26cvr                               cable1

 

Variety

As well as his stint in X-Force, he has also been one of the X-Men, a mercenary, a soldier, husband, father, fugitive and freedom fighter. Cable’s ties to the X-books aren’t always an advantage, but there are so many stories that can be told.

Design

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It can be considered a bit of a silly designs, so very nineties in its silliness, but I still maintain that it works. The white hair, yet muscular build prevents any pin pointing of age. The sort of mechanical arm gives a very sci-fi look as does the glowing eye. The guns and scars give a military/solider feel. So much is written about the ridiculousness of the guns and I’ll be honest, with such good reason, but the overall design can be done very well.

Potential

He’s existed in several times, lived several lives and had all kinds of different things happen to him, there is potential for a lot of different types of stories to be told. He can fit in war stories, straight up sci-fi, spy thrillers and more besides, set in a variety of locations and times.

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Closing

There are several bad stories he was in, over half of his series is unreadable, but no character with over 25 years of stories behind him is immune to that. I would like to see what someone with a new take on the character would do with him. Let’s be honest, Rocket Raccoon was just in a huge summer blockbuster with Drax the Destroyer. Anything can happen.

 

 

Posted in Comics n Stuff

Championing the Over-looked : Peter Cannon Thunderbolt

Champion of the Overlooked.

Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt 1-12

Hey everyone.

I’ve decided to start looking at the little known, but quality comics that I’ve encountered through the years in an effort to highlight comics that aren’t getting their own film but are still worth a read.

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petercannon3             petercannon4

Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt #1 was released in July 1992 and started off a 12 issue series featuring one of the Charlton characters bought by DC in the mid 1980’s, including The Question, Blue Beetle, Peacemaker, Captain Atom and Nightshade. Question and Blue Beetle got their own series and Captain Atom often featured Nightshade, even Peacemaker showed up here and there, but Thunderbolt was almost never seen.

The Charlton characters as a whole are probably best known as the inspiration behind the cast of Watchmen: Peacemaker – Comedian, Blue Beetle – Nite Owl, Question – Rorshach, Nightshade-Silk Spectre, Captain Atom – Dr Manhatten and Thunderbolt became Ozymandias.

Like the Quality characters and the Fawcett characters before them and the Archie/Red Circle characters after them, they were folded into DC’s continuity. Next to characters like Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman, Thunderbolt was easily overlooked. Eventually the rights returned to Pete Morisi (PAM) the original creator of Thunderbolt, but before that happened we got this little  gem.

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petercannon7            petercannon8

 

Released in 1992, it ran for 12 issues and tells the complete story, more or less, of Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt, from his birth in Tibet to his fall and to his triumphant rise. It was written and drawn by Michael Collins, who has a clean, crisp art style which suited the early 90’s which had yet to completely succumb to the excesses of style over substance and art driven gimmicks. Jose Marzan Jnr provides quality finishes on a very DC house style book, but not in a bad way. The comic is set in London, but has scenes in Eastern Europe, Tibet, China and the odd one in New York which makes it different from most DC characters, with them usually being based in one city. The comic’s use of regional accents and colloquialisms adds a touch of authenticity to the UK based scenes, although what that sounded like to Americans and others when it was read is a mystery.

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petercannon11       petercannon12

 

 

The characters involved, Peter Cannon: The Thunderbolt, Tabu Singh: Friend and advisor to the Thunderbolt acts as Peter’s best friend and conscience, Cairo DeFrey: Love interest and femme fatale, DI Flint: London Meta Crimes Police, Anne-Marie Brogan: Imagine a young Lois Lane from Birmingham, Andreas Havoc: Embittered former friend of Peter and Johnny Wheeler: London gangster. All weaved together in several stories interlocking into one whole tale. There are more characters brought in and out as needed and all serve this multi-layered story about Cannon picking himself up and facing up to his destiny.

It’s a fun little series and well worth a look at. Well that’s just my opinion.