Friday, August 17, 2018

Power Girl (vol.2) #7 (2010)

Power Girl (vol.2) #7 (February, 2010)
"Lust in Space"
Writers - Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmiotti
Artist - Amanda Conner
Colorist - Paul Mounts
Letterer - John J. Hill
Associate Editor - Rachel Gluckstern
Editors - Bryan Cunningham & Mike Carlin
Cover Price: $2.99

Woof... what a time I had tracking this one down.

Visited all of the shops within a 50 mile radius (and called shops upwards of two-hours away... and nobody had it!  Heck, most of them didn't even realize there was a Power Girl series pre-Flashpoint!  I tell ya, you get some odd looks as a stocky bearded man when you ask if they have "any more Power Girl".  The things I do for this blog...

Anyhoo, I managed to come across this one in a disorganized last ditch 50-cent bin dive... I guess luck was on our side!  Or maybe, just maybe, it was a Vartox Week Miracle!  This copy does have a bit of a scuffed up cover, which is probably why it's been left to rot in a 50-cent bin, but that's okay.  Not like I'm planning on flipping any of the Tomes of Vartox... to do so would make me rather a heathen.

I was unable to find the two follow up issues to this one though.  No shops in the Central Arizona area has 'em... so, unless I just happen across 'em at a Used Books Store or a Record Store, we're going to bounce around Vartoxville a bit from here on out.


We open on... Valeron!  Vartox the Hyper-Man (the Hyper-Man?) is battling Kashkavon Yeti Pirates.  One of whom refers to him as a "Tynolan".  Being the Vartox-savvy readers we are now... that just doesn't make sense.  Vartox only found his home on Tynola after the destruction of Valeron.  Feels like we're getting a bit fast and loose with the main man's origin.  Anyhoo, he's victorious... only, as a parting shot the Yeti's detonate a Contraceptive Bomb in the Heart of Valeron's capital... Crystal City.  Now, the Valerians will not be able to reproduce!

So, it will be left to Vartox... the Manliest Man who ever Manned (and the lone non-sterile Valerian) to keep Valeron pumping out babies.  For which, he'll need a suitable mate.

Valeron Chancellor... Groovicus Mellow... offers Vartox a few pennies for his thoughts, and it's clear from the get-go, he's chosen Power Girl for to makin' da babies.  He compares her "physical endowments" to be on par with his own.  Which... I mean, I don't have any measuring tape... so, we'll just take his word for it.

Speaking of Power Girl... on Earth, she and Dr. Mid-Nite are tracking down the villainous Blue Snowman.  Blue Snowman's caption refers to their being an old Wonder Woman villain... and, they ain't lying!  First Appearance: Sensation Comics #59 (November, 1946).  Only appeared a handful of times... and, far as I can tell, this issue was the first time since the late 1940's that they'd appear.

Pee-Gee and Mid-Nite make short work of the baddie... and take a moment to admire their pipe (because, snowmen need pipes, ya see).  They deduce that there is likely millions of dollars worth of tech in the thing... and what the Snowman was trying to steal wasn't worth half'a that.

This chat is interrupted by the arrival of... Oh. My. God.  Vartox has a spacecraft shaped like his head.  He makes his intentions clear... he's here for Kara Zor-L.

Also, we get a caption telling us that Vartox's real name is Vernon O'Valeron... which, ya know... it ain't.  That was a phony civilian ID that he and Superman came up with back in the long ago, so Var could pose as a Galaxy Building Security Guard.  Vartox is Vartox.

Neither Kara nor Pieter are all that impressed.  And so, get this... Vartox fires off his "musk" in their direction.  It apparently smells like "burnt armpit hair and elephant urine"... and it's enough to kayo poor ol' Mid-Nite.  Vartox shrugs it off... ya see, his seduction musk ain't for dudes.  Kara isn't affected... which doesn't seem to trouble Var as much as you'd think.

Then... Blue Snowman wakes up, removes her helmet... and charges at Vartox, intoxicated by the musk!

Unable to win Kara over with his words, Vartox decides to impress her with his fighting prowess.  He summons forth an IX Negaspike via a transport leash... which kinda looks like Zack Morris's cellphone.

Blue Snowman hops into battle to protect her beloved Vartox... and is... uh, eaten.  Like, right away.

Vartox is then smashed by the Negaspike, sending him through a bunch of walls, Looney Tunes style.  He hits so hard that the transport leash breaks!

Power Girl attempts to take care of business... however, the beast is far too strong.  Vartox shakes it off and leaps back into the fray... but is equally ineffective.  Kara decides to buy them a moment of time by Fastball-Specialing the Negaspike into a nearby mountain range.

As they pursue the beast, Vartox reveals that this is a futile venture... the Negaspike is un-defeatable.  Ya see, he was just going to fight it a little while before using his transport leash to send it back home... making it look like he'd bested it in battle.  Now that the transport leash is busted... looks like they're kinda outta luck.

Power Girl ain't pleased... heck, she ain't even flattered.  At this point, however, she does tell Vartox to quit referring to himself in the third person.  Oh by the way, Vartox has been referring to himself in the third person for this entire issue up to this point.

We wrap up with Power Girl using her super-breath to freeze the Nagaspike... then she shatters it with a punch.  Vartox is all... "you might not have wanted to do that..." because, ya see... all of the Negaspike bits... have already grown into full-blown beasts of their own!


Okay... this might just be my favorite thing right now.  I had so much fun reading this that I don't know where to start.

I suppose I could get my continuity-crankiness out of the way first, right?  I mean... if I didn't address this stuff, what kind of continuity-crank would I be?  Probably a happier one...

This is kind of a mishmash of everything we knew about Vartox... the Valeron/Tynola bit... and also, his "civilian identity"... when it was established that Vartox never had one on Valeron, he was simply Vartox.  I suppose as a "funny, ha-ha", Vernon O'Valeron works as good as any... it's just a funny name.

Now, this is what I always assumed Vartox to be... a sorta gigolo, an egotist... I mean, he just looks the part.  So, when we went all the way back through his roots over the past several weeks of Vartox Week (hrmm), I was rather taken aback by just how wrong my first impression was.

I will say, initially... I was a bit turned off by the depiction in this very issue for reducing the character to... I dunno, acting like he dressed?  I'm not sure I'm explaining that all that well... hopefully you get my jist.  He's always looked like a goofball gigolo... and now he's acting the part.  Ya dig?

That having been said... maybe it's a case of my own confirmation bias (is that the right term?) trumping my normally slavish adherence to continuity, but... man, I loved this.  Everything from Vartox's head-shaped ship... to him firing his phermones... to his trying to impress Kara by fighting an unwinnable fight.  This Vartox certainly "brought" the charm... in spades!

And of course... that art.  Damn.  I can't for the life of me figure out why we haven't covered more Amanda Conner books here on the blog... I think this might only be the second one!  We're going to have to do something about that... this is pure candy.  Amazing work... really couldn't imagine this issue having the same charm under anyone else's pencils.

Overall... this gets a tremendously high recommendation... continuity coughs and all.  If you're trying to track it down, I hope your hunt is a lot easier than mine!  This issue has been collected in the Power Girl: Power Trip trade paperback, and is available digitally.  Run, don't walk!


"Lenticular" Cover:


Interesting Ads:


Thursday, August 16, 2018

Superman (vol.2) #150 (1999)

Superman (vol.2) #150 (November, 1999)
"Earth's Final Hour"
Writer - Dan Jurgens
Penciller - Steve Epting
Inker - Joe Rubinstein
Letterer - John Costanza
Colorist - Glenn Whitmore
Associate Editor - Maureen McTigue
Editor - Joey Cavalieri
Cover Price: $2.95

This issue has a fitting title, "Earth's Final Hour"... because, this might just be the final day of Vartox Week.  The next few issues featuring the Manliest Man Who Ever Done Manned came out at the tail-end of my unemploymentstravaganza... a time where comics couldn't even touch my Top 10 list of priorities.

And, wouldn'tcha know it... they're proving to be some tough books to track down in the now!  So, unless we have another Vartox Week Miracle in us... this might just be it (for now).  I think it's something like... if we all believe in Vartox, it can happen!  We might have to all clap or something too.  Might not be a hard-and-fast rule, but it's worth a shot!

I will be pounding the pavement today.


We open with Superman looking into the present crisis Earth is facing.  Ya see, there are hundreds... nay thousands of large needles raining down on the planet, and embedding into the ground.  Superman is helpless to stop them... there's really just too many.  He is connected via comm-link to Professor Emil Hamilton... who also doesn't have any answers or suggestions.  However, he does reveal that this appears to be a world-wide phenomenon.

Superman attempts to yank one of the drilling needles out of the ground... and receives a terrible shock which sends him flying.

Then... the drill-needles begin to fall... in Metropolis!  The people proceed to freak out... which is likely the only acceptable reaction to something like this.  Jimmy Olsen tries to settle a few tea kettles, until Hamilton informs him that this might, in fact, be the end.

Superman begins heading back toward Metropolis, when he is struck in the sky by a flying tanker truck?!

Courtesy of... well, Vartox of course!

And he didn't come alone.  Vestion and Paz are also there... and they take turns whuppin' on Superman.  Paz uses his powers to open a portal... which expels Kryptonite gas.  Superman goes green and hits the ground.

It's here that we learn just who employed these three champions... Brainiac!  He draws the Kryptonite out of him... becasue he wants him to see his world destroyed.

Superman zaps Paz's wrist-mounted augmentation device with his heat-vision... to which, Brainiac laughs.  He then uses that same heat-vision to heat up a natural gas pipeline... which Brainiac finds far less humorous.

Superman uses the distraction to "Clark down" and hide among the rubble.  Brainiac and the gang don't even bother to check the area for him, instead they head back to Brainiac's (sadly not-skull-shaped) orbiting ship.

Meanwhile in Metropolis, the Ross's drop in on Lois.  These folks are like bad pennies... they just keep showing up!  Pete drops Lana and Baby Clarkie off, and asks Lois to join him for a walk down to the corner store to buy some diapers.  This is obviously just an excuse to chat up Lois without Lana around.  He apologizes if "Baby Clarkie" makes her feel weird... and he himself even wonders if Lana might still have a thing for the adult Clark.

Speaking of whom... Superman returns to he and Lois' apartment, and is surprised to find a different L.L. sitting on his couch!  At this point, Vartox delivers a message... Superman must give himself up, or Metropolis will be destroyed.  Well, can't say he isn't original with his threats.

Looking skyward, we can see Brainiac's (non-skull-shaped) orbiting ship... it's impressive from a size perspective... but, would've been worlds cooler had it been shaped like a skull.  Whattayagonnado?

Superman flies off to a rooftop and does the whole "You want some?  Come get some!" bit... and learns that Vartox and Company indeed "want some".  It's a quick and bittersweet victory for the baddies... and Vartox promises to make Superman's death as painless as possible.  Brainiac, however, makes no such promise... and blasts Superman to a pile of ashes.  Now, for a dude named "Brainiac" shouldn't he be thinking "Wow, that was a bit too easy..." right about now?

With their job complete, Brainiac's Champions ask to be sent home to their now-spared planets.  Well, not so fast kemosabes... Brainiac makes them watch as he destroys Paz's homeworld of Po'ahn.

Just then, the embedded needle-drills begin to glow... it looks as though Earth will be the next planet to crumble.  Well, no... ya see, Superman ain't dead after all.

Superman and the Champions proceed to beat the hell out of Brainiac... beating him all the way back through his orbiting ship.  They do so with such swiftness that he does not have the time to detonate Valeron, Gravacus-7... or even a planet we give half a damn about, Earth!  Paz leaps in, and uses his powers to teleport Brainiac into the ship's fuel pods... which doesn't look terribly comfortable.

With Brainiac out of the way, Superman reveals his sleight of body trick.  When Brainiac fired at him, Vartox used his hyper-shield to protect Superman... at the very same time, Paz teleported Superman away to safety.  This was their plan the entire time... though, nobody filled Vestion in.

As Superman and Emil Hamilton work in tandem to jam Brainiac's signal (and neutralizing the drill-needle-spear things), the big man himself creeps out of the fuel pods... and uses a blast to send the Champions flying.

He's not interested in hanging around though... Brainiac takes this opportunity to beat a hasty retreat.  Superman goes to follow... but is stopped by the Champions.  This is their fight now... and this is the last we'll see Vartox until after yet another Crisis.

We wrap up the issue, and the Dan Jurgens run on Superman with a message about how precious life is... and, with a wink to the reader, how Superman will never stop fighting for truth and justice.


Well... that was Vartox's stay in the post-Crisis DC Universe.  As mentioned during the synopsis... his next appearance wouldn't be until the "nebulous interim" known as the post-Infinite Crisis DCU... to be more specific, Power Girl (vol.2) #7 (February, 2010)... which I've got my eye on!

This also ends Dan Jurgens' time as the long-tenured architect of the Superman line.  His was a great run... I will likely always view Dan as the Superman creator of my generation.  But, times they were a'changing... and it might've been the right time to inject some new blood and new voices into the Super-books.

As for this issue on its own... it's really rather convenient, isn't it?  Superman "dies", and returns revealing it was all according to a plan that... not even all of the Champions were privy to, much less the reader!  It's a shame, because the needle-drill gimmick is a good one!  This is actually a threat that Superman cannot stop... it's just not possible for him to be quick enough.  Early on in the issue, he said "for every one I destroy... another hundred fall."  Those are some high-stakes.

That, of course, begs some questions... why weren't there more people panicking?  Where was the Justice League?  Or hell, where were just the other Metropolis-based superheroes?  Or those who wear "S"s on their chests?  Hard to really judge the stakes when only Superman seems concerned.

Overall... if you're buying this strictly for Vartox... you're likely to be disappointed.  Like I said yesterday, Vartox was clearly just a warm-body that long-time readers would recognize.  It's doubtful that there were any future plans for the character... especially with this being Jurgens' swan song before the Berganza-era settles in.

Some great art... and a really good (if not a tad too convenient) story.  Worth a look if you find it in the cheap-o's.


Letters Page:


Interesting Ads:


Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Superman (vol.2) #148 (1999)

Superman (vol.2) #148 (September, 1999)
Writer - Dan Jurgens
Pencils - Steve Epting
Inks - Joe Rubinstein
Letters - John Costanza
Colors - Glenn Whitmore
Separations - Digital Chameleon
Associate Editor - Maureen McTigue
Editor - Joey Cavalieri
Cover Price: $1.99

Welcome to the post-Crisis DC Universe, Vartox!  What took you so long to get here?!

Yes, my friends, it took Vartox until just before the turn of the century to make his post-Crisis debut.  What's more... he's stuck sharing the spotlight with a pair of geeks we've never seen before... and after this story, will never see again.  Good thing Vartox Week doesn't discriminate!

Oh well... can we at least hope that some of the Vartoxian charm survived intact?  Well............


We open with Superman arriving on Mars to do NASA a solid in changing out a battery on a rover... which he does with ease!  But then... he is overcome by a strange sensation, and vanishes!

He arrives on a seemingly barren planet... in a far off solar system.  He deduces pretty quick that the NASA rover's battery dying was likely due to some powerful entity setting Superman up to put him in the right position for snatchin'.  It's at this point he finds himself attacked by... could it be?  Is it?  Yep, it's Vartox!

Looks like Var is also a victim of forcible teleportation... but, it's not just him... also, a woman called Vestion and an odd critter called Paz.  From what I can tell, Vestion and Paz are brand-new characters.  The gimmick here is, they are champions of their respective worlds, and have been summoned to this planet the same way Superman was.  Superman pleads with them that they work together to get to the bottom of the situation.

We shift scenes to the Kent farm in Smallville where Lois is visiting with her in-laws.  Lois is a bit out of sorts, due to Clark's recent job change and his overwhelming Superman-schedule.  Their chat is interrupted by the arrival of Pete and Lana Ross... who have with them, their new baby... Clark!  Well, that's just a bit too much for Lois to take.  She excuses herself to the bathroom to process the idea that her husband's old girlfriend named her baby after him.

Back in space... Superman, Vartox and the rest are addressed by their captors... the very sands of the planet they're standing on.  They claim that there are invaders imminent... and they require the aid of these champions to fight them off so they can evolve and prosper.  To illustrate their kindness... the sand critters tell the champions that regardless if they choose to help them or not, they will be sent back home.

The champions decide to pitch in an stop the invaders.  Vartox declares that they be sent to the invaders straight away... despite Superman's suggestion that they might wanna formulate a plan first.  Before they know it, they're in the thick of it... with Vartox bee-lining toward a great big deadly tower.  Realizing the danger, Superman scoops up his allies and "nopes" the hell out of there.

He drags his teammates to a clearing so they can catch their breath... and ya know, plan an effective way to take down the interlopers.  Paz and Vestion run interference, while Vartox nails the deadly tower... and Superman hoists the baddies' Destroyer Warship into space.

The invaders immediately submit... and beg to be allowed to leave the planet unharmed.  Superman, being Superman... is cool with it.  And so, the aerial armada leaves... promising never to return.

As promised, Superman is returned home.  Vartox and the rest... are not.  Turns out this was all a ruse... Vartox, Vestion, and Paz are indeed champions of their respective planets... however, they are being held hostage by their shadowy employer.  They are to deliver Superman... and the Earth, or else... their planets of Valeron, Gravacus-7, and Po'ahn will be destroyed.


Well.  That was Vartox's post-Crisis debut... pretty, uh, underwhelming... right?

It's pretty clear he was just a "warm body" here... just a slot-filler, who some tenured readers might recognize.  Gone is all of his tortured characterization (and silliness)... all we're left with is a hot-headed brawler.  His new costume sucks too, by the way.

Would I have been happier with no Vartox at all?  Well, probably not... if you know me, I'm a big "lore" guy... and, even though this Vartox ignores everything that happened to him during the Bronze Age (I mean, Valeron is still a thing post-Crisis)... I'm still happy for any callback.

Vartox aside, it was a pretty decent little story.  It was nice seeing that Superman's fellow "Champions" weren't inherently evil... instead, they were "just following orders" lest their mysterious benefactor destroy their respective homeworlds.

The brief visit to Smallville was also pretty neat.  It's interesting seeing Lois' reaction to the Ross' new baby... who just so happens to have been named after her husband.  That's bound to be awkward... and it was handled pretty perfectly here.  Lois being one to never let 'em "see ya sweat", it stands to reason that she'd be all smiles until she could break away to reflect.  Really interested in watching this develop.

Overall... if you're buying this for Vartox... you might be disappointed.  If you're a member of the Vartox faithful, well... then you're gonna need this one in your library regardless.  This issue is actually available digitally... which, not counting his very brief appearance in "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?" might just mark Vartox's earliest appearance in the digital shop!


Interesting Ads:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...