Saturday, March 31, 2018

Action Comics #569 (1985)

Action Comics #569 (July, 1985)
"The Force of Revenge"
"Casting Call"
Story & Layouts - Dennis Yee
Script - Paul Kupperberg
Writer (back-up) - Michael J. Wolff
Pencillers - Irv Novick & Howard Bender
Inkers - Rodin Rodriguez & Pablo Marcos
Letterers - Duncan Andrews & Gaspar
Colorist - Gene D'Angelo
Editor - Julius Schwartz
Cover Price: $0.75

Toss an arrow in the bins... where it lands, I guess we'll read that one.  Sorry, my rhyme game is way off this morning.  Been awhile since I used that gimmick.

Today we're going to look at a completely random issue of Action Comics... we don't do nearly enough of those.  Normally when I choose the books we're going to discuss there's at least a little bit of a reason why... today, however, we're just flyin' by the seat of our pants.


Our first story opens with Clark Kent returning to his office at the Galaxy Building after some Supermanning.  He arrives just as there is a knock at the door, from... Lois Lane.  She enters, and... wow, does her hair look like a helmet... maybe a hood.  Anyhoo, she asks that Clark take a look at a chapter she just roughed up for her book.  He's more than happy to comply.  Before Lois leaves him to it, she asks about his relationship with Lana... but doesn't get all that much information in response.  We can see that Lois regrets that she might've "missed the boat" on our Mr. Kent.

We then shift scenes to Del Mar High School where Tina "Dogface" Gerber is walking toward her locker.  As she enters the hallway, we see a pair of goofs (one with a really bad mohawk) messing with it.  Turns out they just stuffed a mean Valentine into it.  Tina throws it to the ground, and runs home... where she proceeds to throw herself down on her bed.  She falls asleep thinking to herself how much she hates everyone... and herself.

From those thoughts manifest... Rhavenj (say it out loud)... a creature who feeds on a lust for, well, revenge.

It turns out that tonight is the annual Del Mar High "Boogie Night", or maybe it's the Prom... or maybe the Prom's theme is "Boogie Night", which feels at least a decade passed its "sell by" date in 1985.  Lois Lane is there in order to research "today's proms"... and finds herself with a front-row seat to Rhavenj's rampage!

She manages to slip away, and makes a phone call to Clark Kent to see if he might be able to get a hold of Superman.  That's all he needs to hear... even though he'd be leaving Lana and their romantic din-din behind.

Superman arrives at Del Mar High, and a fight is on!  We can see that Tina Gerber is still dreaming, and can feel all of the pain and anger she's inflicting.  Superman slams Rhavenj with some heat vision... to which, the baddie then hits Lois Lane with some "heat vision" of his own... which fills her with hatred toward Superman!  Wrapping her fingers around his throat, she lets out all of her frustration of having her heart broken time and again by the Man of Steel.

Superman is finally able to talk her down... and it's pretty strange.  He doesn't tell her he "loves" her to get her to cool her jets... he instead explained how he "loved" her, like past tense.  She eventually calms down.

This love... or former love... or whatever, is enough to turn Rhavenj into a pile of ash and a waft of brimstone stench.  I didn't see a "BAMF!" sound-effect, so we can probably assume he's gone for good.

We hop back to Tina Gerber's bedroom, where she groggily wakes up... recalling the "dream" she just had.  Suddenly, the phone rings!  It's one of those bullies from earlier.  It would seem his recent brush with Rhavenj has made him change his tune.  He apologizes to Tina and asks if they could put the past behind them, and be friends!

We wrap up with Superman dropping Lois off at her apartment.  They kinda linger in the embrace for a few seconds too long before stepping apart.  Superman suggests maybe they give their romance a try one more time... to which, Lois tells him that neither of them will be able to change enough to make that actually work.  The same problems will continue to arise.  And so, Superman bids her g'nite.

That story might be over, but we're not done yet!  Let's get to the back-up... where we find a line-up of people in Superman costumes (uh, just like the cover).  We learn that this is a "casting call" for a Superman movie to be produced by the M'Vorn aliens... who kinda look like mutant octopuses.  They're a peaceful bunch who wish to make the movie in tribute of the Man of Steel to thank him for saving their planet.

Since their entire race looks like... well, mutant octopuses, they needed to come to Earth in order to find the perfect bi-pedal actor.

Superman, the real one, arrives and checks in with Tufta'Dl, the M'Vorn First Minister for Pleasurably Stimulating Optical Results (oy), and tries to get the skinny on what's going on.  Ya see, the crowd in the street is a very mixed one, and frankly... not very many of them look like the Real Steel Deal.  Then... we get the punchline (for the first time... second if you count the cover) the M'Vorn can't tell humans apart... if you've seen one, you've seen 'em all.

We head back outside and take a look at one very desperate actor... who proceeds to strap a makeshift jetpack to his back in order to get the aliens' attention.  This doesn't go all that well... and results in the apartment the aliens are occupying being filled with smoke.

From the smoke the aliens hear the sound of coughing... which they confuse with poetry.  They find the culprit, Michael Betker, and decide he'd make the perfect Superman for their film.

We get the "all humans look alike" schtick again... because, admit it, it was so funny the first couple of times, and Superman decides to let this poor goof leave with the aliens... not knowing if he'll ever return home again.


Well, this is kinda the very definition of "mixed bag", ain't it?

Let's get the back-up out of the way first... because... well, let's just get that out of the way.  The entire thing is just the gag from the cover.  It's like they had this "wacky" idea that an alien might not be able to tell humans apart... then decided to stretch that concept into an eight-page story.

I mean, it's not the worst thing... but it joke was sure stretched thin by the end of it.  The art was fun, I'll give it that.  It was pretty neat seeing a Julius Schwartz cameo... and izzat John F. Kennedy making that funny face at us on the cover?  I guess he was back from his adventures in space.

Onto the "main" feature... it was equally silly, in that odd "revenge fantasy" kinda way.  I mean, I guess when you're bullied you might fantasize about taking all of the power away from your tormentors... and in the DC Universe, I suppose that might cause you to manifest a punny-named revenge demon.  No harm, no foul... but, if you ask me, that's not what sticks with ya after reading this.

The best bit, at least to me, is the weird love tria... er, rhombus, between Lois, Clark, Lana and Superman.  It's especially interesting seeing Superman really conflicted about who he might want to be with.  I mean, in his civvies, he's Lana's guy... but he runs off to help Lois without much coercion.  Also, that bit at the end... he suggests they (Lois and Superman) give their romance one more try.  That's some pretty complicated stuff... what then happens to the Lana/Clark relationship?  Do we go full-blown "Superman Red/Superman Blue" here?  It's all very interesting.

I'm not sure if we're supposed to feel sympathy for Lana here... clearly being the, fourth wheel (fourth wheel doesn't sound terribly inconvenient, does it?).  I can say... I really don't.  Maybe that makes me a bad dude... but, Lana just irritates the heck out of me... especially in this pre-Crisis, calling everybody "luv/love" persona.  Yuck.

Overall, I'd say this isn't required reading by any stretch... if you're an Action completionist (like the idiot whose words you're reading) then it's a no-brainer... otherwise, ehh.


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Friday, March 30, 2018

Gen¹³/Fantastic Four (2001)

Gen¹³/Fantastic Four (2001)
"Qeelocke's Really Big New York Adventure!"
Storyteller - Kevin Maguire
Inker - Karl Story
Letters - Richard Starkings & Comicraft
Colors - MyPlan Animation
Design - Larry Berry
Editors - Scott Dunbier & Jeff Mariotte
Associate Editor - Aaron Watanabe
Cover Price: $5.95

Heyyy, looks like we Fantastic Four fans finally have a reason to celebrate, don't it?

Lots of "internet high fives" going around on the social medias... and I'm not much of a "soapbox guy" but I only hope that half of the folks taking part actually plan to put their money where their mouths are and, ya know... buy the book!

Fantastic Four is one of those special books that I have a complete run of since the day I was born.  I can't say that it's ever been my "favorite", but it was more often than not a good time, and I was always glad to have it around.

I'm hopeful that incoming writer Dan Slott has the right kind of love for the property... and that this volume won't go by the recent Fantastic Four fo(u)rmula of... 1) Start Run, 2) Break team up, 3) Characters spend a year learning that they need each other, 4) Team reunites, 5) Book cancelled... rinse, and repeat.

Anyhoo... I'm happy they're finally coming back... and if you are to, do your old pal Chris a favor... BUY the book!  Don't steal it online, don't wait for "choice panels" to hit Tumblr, don't just wait to hear a podcast cover it... actually support it.  This way, six months from now we won't all be balling our fists and cursing Marvel for cancelling the book... again!  Then again, this is Marvel... where we're always 6-8 months away from a reboot.

Off soapbox... and onto today's discussion!


We open with the Gen¹³ kids hanging out in Time Square.  They're have dinner reservations at a very exclusive restaurant, and are heading back to their hotel to get a change of clothes.  This is post-Giuliani New York, so comments about the cleanliness of Time Square made.  Meanwhile, at the Baxter Building, Thing is... ya know, hoisting something heavy over his head while H.E.R.B.I.E. spot-welds it.  Johnny pops in to comment about how it always seems like these stories open with Ben holding something heavy over his head.  Ya know, he's got a point!

The Gen¹³ gang arrives at their hotel to change their duds, and it's here that we meet Qeelocke... Gen¹³'s own... er, green monkey-rat thing... looks like Beast Boy if he stopped in mid-morph.  Anyhoo, the ladies show up at the boys' room in their... very odd evening wear.  Not sure who told Roxy that "Catholic School Girl" is the look one should go for when eating at a five-star restaurant.  They say g'bye to Qeelocke and head off to nosh.

We shift focus to the nearby Atlantic Ocean, where... another green-beast lurks.  It's close proximity to Qeelocke causes the little bugger to start freaking out!  It's incessant "skree-ing" draws the attention of a nearby cleaning woman, who, thinking it's just a couple having some "rough love", heads off to inform the manager.  Maybe he'd like to listen in?  I dunno...

We soon learn that Qeelocke isn't the only one who knows of this beast's pending arrival.  Back to the Baxter Building where Reed is watching his own radar.  Sue pops in to ask what he wants for dinner... to which, his answer... I guess, is: adventure.  She begrudgingly heads off to fill a thermos with cream of potato soup.  And, no... that's not a euphemism.

Back at the hotel, the manager shows up to rap on Gen¹³'s door.  When there's no answer, he uses his master key and lets himself in.  What he finds is a trashed room... and a crazy green monkey thing!  Qeelocke pounces past the hotel staff and makes his escape.

Time passes, and Gen¹³ return from their dinner.  Upon arrival, the hotel is still abuzz with the news of the strange green monkey thing trashing a room and escaping into the night.  The Gen¹³ kids are, duh, pretty freaked out.  They decide to split up and spend the next couple hours searching the streets for their pal.

Elsewhere, the Human Torch has met up with his old pal Spider-Man.  They are, as they are wont to do, ribbing back and forth... when they spot that strange green monkey thing running through the streets below.  Strangely, it looks as though Qeelocke has grown a great deal.  He's no longer around a foot and a half tall... he looks to be about the size of a full-grown human.

Johnny fills the alley with flame... which doesn't seem like the smartest idea.  Luckily there were no gas mains or anything... so the worst thing the fire did was freak out poor Qeelocke.  During this, Spidey and Torch banter about whether or not it's better to be a loner or a member of a team.  Johnny decides to let Pete sleep in the bed he made, and leaves Qeelocke with him.

On the way back to the Baxter Building, Johnny runs into... Roxy!  Mistaking him for fellow Gen¹³er Burnout, she calls out to him.  He... instantly starts hitting on her.  It doesn't go all that well.

Johnny arrives back at the Baxter Building and let's Ben know that they've got a special guest on his way.  Moments later, Spider-Man arrives and is "buzzed" in.  He has Qeelocke slung over his shoulder, and... hmm, looks like the little bugger had another growth spurt!  Ben relieves Spidey of his burden and they toss the green monkey thing into a cell, so Reed can take a look at him later.

Speaking of Reed, we rejoin him as he scans the underwaters around New York.  He can't seem to find the critter, but can tell that it's headed straight for Manhattan.

Back at the fabulous Gen¹³ Hotel, the gang reconnoiters.  As Fairchild and Rainmaker confab, they see that the Human Torch is now on the case.  They overhear Johnny tell the hotel manager that they have the green monkey thing locked up at the Baxter Building.

The rest of Gen¹³ shows up, and they put their heads together about how they might infiltrate the Baxter Building and rescue their little buddy.  Roxy decides it might be best to rely on her feminine wiles... and Johnny's libido.

Meanwhile back at the Baxter Building, Qeelocke has had... probably several... growth spurts... and it continues to SKREEE as though it were in heat.  Hmm.  Anyhoo, Johnny comes flying home to let Ben know what he learned at the hotel... when suddenly, the perimeter alarm begins to sound!

The Terrific Two rush to the windows to find... Roxy.  Johnny wastes no time getting outside to chat her up.

Outside, they chat about the green monkey thing a bit... which, doesn't seem to turn Johnny on all that much.  Upon learning about the growth spurts, Roxy breaks away and rushes inside...

...spilling poor Ben Grimm's soda, on her way to Qeelocke's containment cell.  The "little" bugger is now totally crammed in the cell, without any room to move.

Johnny flies up and tries to pull Roxy away from the cell... and by now, the rest of Gen¹³ has made their way inside... sooooo, it's time to fight.  I mean, it was bound to happen, right?

Thing runs toward Burnout... however, Caitlin pushes her teammate out of harm's way... and wallops ol' Benjy with a right.  Kind of a cheap shot, considering Ben told her that he'd never hit a woman... but all's fair in superhero crossovers.

Then, Grunge lunges toward the Thing while yelling... you guessed it... "It's Clobberin' Time!"  Ben is not amused.  Grunge's power set allows him to absorb some of the Thing's power... leading Ben to assume that his condition might be "contagious".  It's a pretty cute throwaway line.

In an adjacent room, we have the battle of the fire-guys... Burnout and Human Torch.  Fairchild and Grunge enter just as they go super-nova... and when the flames subside, shockingly... Burnout is the last man standing!  Not a good look for Johnny...

With Ben and Johnny temporarily out of commission, the Gen¹³ers head over to what they assume to be the control panel for the containment cell.  Turns out, no... it's not that at all... it's actually the control panel for entry into the Negative Zone!  Whoops.

The Gen¹³ kids are just about to be sucked in when, luckily, Reed and Sue return... and Sue snags the gang in a force field bubble.

That's not the end though... there's still the matter of that other green beast.  And so, we shift scenes to some nearby docks where... it rises!  It, like Qeelocke, has grown to immense size.

By now, Qeelocke has busted out of containment... and has taken to the streets of New York.

Reed is still interested in getting to the bottom of who these kids are... but Fairchild insists they discuss that later, which is probably the smart play.  They rush over to a bank of monitors and see the other green thing stomping through the streets, Rampage style.  Reed posits that it might be the mortal enemy of Qeelocke.

Outside, Roxy, Sarah and Burnout try and hold Qeelock back while Ben and Grunge do the same with that... other green beast.  All doesn't go according to plan... and before we know it, the greenies are nose to nose!

Only, they're not fighting... but, er... fornicating.  Whatta revoltin' development!

Once Qeelocke is... uh, done... he shrinks back to "normal" size.  To celebrate the event Grunge gets an authentic Benjamin J. Grimm autograph.

Reed... spoilsport that he is... still wants some answers.  Caitlin gives a bit of clapback, insisting that if Qeelocke wasn't locked in containment... he and the other green thing might've just "done it" in the Ocean or something.  Reed's feeling especially submissive today, so he's all "she's got a point".  Johnny and Burnout shake hands... then Roxy lets Johnny down, gently.

We wrap up... and everything is hunky dory.  The Gen¹³ kids just hope that Lynch doesn't find out about any of this... unfortunately, by now it's hit all of the major news outlets!


More fun than we oughta be allowed to have!

Had an absolute blast with this... it took all of the cliche "supergroup team-up" stuff and, with a humorous bent turned it on its ear.  Sure, there's some fighting... I mean, it is a comic book... but the entire thing came off as light-hearted.  Thing was less "Clobberin' Time!" and more "Why I oughta!"... and I definitely appreciated that!

Any time I grab an inter-company crossover, I sort of expect the worst... maybe it's a self-defense thing... like I expect it to be bad, so I'm not too terribly disappointed when I'm done.  I think I can safely say that this story would satisfy even with higher-than-normal expectations.  It was just a good time!  No world/universe ending threat... no prolonged hero vs. hero fights to the death... none of that!  This was just a humorous look at a chance meeting between Gen¹³ and the Fantastic Four... and, it's definitely something I'd read successive issues of!

The green monkey love... was a neat subversion, though not entirely unexpected.  If you've ever had an pet whose gone into heat... the symptoms are pretty identifiable.  That doesn't make the story any less enjoyable... it just heightened the build for the ultimate "punch line".  At least it did for me!  The reaction shots... were pretty amazing too!  After all, this is Kevin Maguire... and if you're looking for emotive faces, you ain't gonna find anyone better.

Continuing with the art... the whole shebang was awesome to look at.  Seeing Maguire work on some Marvel characters was an absolute treat... I really don't have any complaints.  Just a wonderful, high-quality work.

Overall... I'd definitely recommend checking this one out if you come across it.  Even though I just spoiled the whole thing, I'd still say it's worth having in your library... and really, just having the art in your hands is something special.



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