Tuesday, July 31, 2007

I practically drooled when I found this old issue.
You know how you have some comics that are beaten up because you loved them and read them until they fell apart? Yeah, this isn't one of those.
Sweet Rao, I saw this cover, and thought it was going to be fricking hilarious. I'm afraid, not so much. In fact, the Space Archie story is the second story in the issue, and I couldn't tell you way.

I'm not the hugest Archie fan: I can remember reading occasional issues as a kid, and that's about it. And since I'm old, back then Archie wasn't the only younger-reader comic on the spinner rack: for me, Archie comics were in the same vein as Richie Rich, Donald Duck, Sad Sack, or Dennis the Menace; so I probably didn't get as many Archies as a lot of you. Which means, I'm don't know if this sort of story was common for the more-dramatic themed Life with Archie or not.

I also don't have the same unconditional love for Archie comics that I do for, say, old Star Wars comics, or Warlord, or even Man-Wolf.
Alarms are going off? Maybe it's because Archie's your friggin' captain.
Much like a 70's variety show, the regular Archie characters are cast in different roles in this story. Their starship low on 'regurge fluid,' Archie and Jughead set out for a local settlement, and find it done up in a western motif.
It all seems so familiar...like a Star Trek episode....
Unless time travel's your whole thing, like Dr. Who or something, there has got to be a moratorium on this 'alien culture based on old Earth era,' routine. Star Trek reruns have been on lately, and I know it turns up at least three times off the top of my head. Anyway, everything's all westerny but with ray guns and androids and crap.

After witnessing a double-disintegration in a shootout, Archie and Jughead get to the stables and check out the hover-horses. Then, they hear the clamor of "Maverick McClintock bringing in his herd!" Not cattle: "Like the song says---long little doggies!"
Between this panel and the Indians, seems they were bound and determined to get their money's worth out of the colorist this month.
Aside from the terrible, terrible pun; I remember racking my eight-year-old skull trying to figure out why the ever-living hell you would build those. Archie and Jughead wisely decide to bail out, and run straight into the "savages."
Offensive to native Americans and sci-fi fans alike!
Jughead sends the Indians the wrong way, saving the day and the townspeople and so on. A grateful mayor offers Jughead the sheriff's job, which he seriously considers. For a second.
How do I keep finding these comics that end like 80's sitcoms?
And there's a little nightmare fuel for you today. Pretty sure Mad beat them to that one. That joke couldn't have possibly been new in 1979, and it's not aged well.

Oh, and the first story in this issue is even more unbelievable: in "Stranded in the Storm!" Betty and Veronica are trapped at the Lodges' mountain cabin during, you guessed it, a surprise snowstorm. While Arch and Jughead, against all common sense, set out on cross-country skis from the Lodge mansion to rescue the girls; a pair of looters invade the cabin and force the girls to...
Geez, even at age 8 I suspected something worse could happen.  Thanks for protecting my fragile child brain, Comics Code.
...cook for them. The horror, the horror.

Anyway, the boys outwit one of the looters, but are saved by...Veronica?
I could definitely see Veronica absentmindedly abusing her domestic staff, sure, but this? Veronica clubs down a potential assailant: believable. Veronica cooks something that smells good to Jughead: impossible. You might as well have Dillon win a fight or Reggie help an orphan or Moose drown puppies: it's just out of character. I could buy Betty administering justice and making a helluva dinner afterwards, but sadly she doesn't get much to do in this one. Yes, I like Betty better. Shut up.

All panels and cover from Life with Archie #204. Sadly, no credits were given, but there was a statement of ownership. "Total paid circulation: Actual no. of copies of single issue published nearest to filing date, 128,004." That's sold, with 160,719 returned, since this was pre-Direct Market and they printed over a quarter of a million copies per issue. If I'm reading that and June's sale numbers from the Beat, this would have been a top ten book, just behind the fifth issue of Dark Tower: the Gunslinger Born.

Holy hell, I have to go lie down now... Read more!

Monday, July 30, 2007

Not quite that, but with at least that much swearing.
I've had this old comic for years, so I guess I'm just the right age now for crippling back pain.
I helped my in-laws move...and I'm afraid that was about it for this weekend. Moving a couple little folding tables early on, I felt my lower back crimp or whatever the hell it does. It'll be OK in a couple of days, so hopefully by my birthday I won't be hunched over like a calcium-deficient 90-year-old, and I can go see the Simpsons.

I've had a couple of Tomine's minicomics for years--this one's from 1991--but don't recall how I got them. I think he had an ad in Spin or something, but I could be wrong. Optic Nerve is one of the few indie comics I still read, even though it's only about an issue a year or so. He has other irons in the fire besides comics, but Tomine's art is a lot more polished now. That said, I didn't care for the last three issues, since the main character was a bastard with problems; but you have to give Tomine credit for trying a longer storyline.

From Optic Nerve (minicomic) #2, by Adrian Tomine. Read more!

Friday, July 27, 2007

Oh, the hell with it.
You may recognize the style, I give you that.
You know how that first day of work back from vacation can be tough? I wasn't even gone that long, but a lot of changes went down while I was out. I had to do three training sessions yesterday...or was it two training and a performance review? Ah, it's all run together.

So, I was going to take the rest of the week, and the weekend, off. I will keep working on a longer piece for the comic we've got a couple of panels from here. If you can guess the issue, I will eat my hat, after I take it off in salute.

As it turns out, I have to help my in-laws move this weekend, and might not even get to the Simpsons Movie tomorrow. And then the new Legendary Comic Book Heroes came in at the local Wal-Mart. Crappy photo, or crappy figure? Well, a little from column A, little more from column B.They're the new figures based on characters from different comic companies like Image and Dark Horse and 2000 AD, from Marvel Toys, which used to be Toy Biz, which used to make Marvel Legends. (Yes, Marvel Toys is making non-Marvel characters. Still, the ones I've seen so far have been really good.) My wife got me Madman, which came with a piece of the build-a-figure Pitt, and Timmy.

God, I hate you Timmy.

Originally, I thought the Timmy was going to be packaged with Judge Dredd. I'll probably get Dredd later, but I ended up being pretty impressed with the Madman figure, even though I haven't picked up a Madman comic since the Superman/Madman Hullabaloo years back. Mike Allred's been hit and miss for me on the writing side of things lately: I remember quite enjoying Red Rocket 7 until the last issue, and I haven't even flipped through the new Madman book yet.
Do not shed a tear for Timmy: he deserves this. He knows why.
Back to Timmy: I've never read Dale Keown's Pitt, and has an issue of that, or anything else from Keown, come out in recent memory? I'm honestly curious, and the Pitt figure might turn out to be pretty good. Still not sold on the idea of having to buy Superpatriot, Savage Dragon, and Ripclaw to build it, though. I like pack-in figures more than the build-a-figures, so I wanted Timmy to be a decent figure, and had expected him to be similarly articulated to the Franklin figure from the Fantastic Four box set. Instead, Timmy's a solid, inarticulated, lump. With terrible hair, and that's coming from someone who has had some aggressively terrible hair in his past. (My mom had old photos to show the Wife and Kids, and they were suitably mortifying.)

Still, Marvel Toys is off to a good start, and I'm very much looking forward to the Conan figure. And while I'm harshing on Timmy, I did have another reason for wanting that toy, which hopefully I'll get done soon. Have a good weekend! Read more!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

I'm probably more excited for the Simpsons movie than most people.Why is Homer eating in the baby's closet?  Oh, like you don't.
Every year when the family and I go up to Glacier, we try to go to the drive-in theatre in Columbia Falls, MT. Usually I luck out and it turns out to be showing movies I want to see; but this year it was Evan Almighty and Knocked Up. Fie. Evan Almighty, like Bruce Almighty before it, was preachy and annoying and actually made me even more godless than I already was. Also, didn't God previously promise somewhere to never flood the earth again?

Knocked Up was funny, but like the Forty-Year Old Virgin, nowhere near as pants-wettingly hilarious as everyone seems to make it out to be. That's probably more due to my taste than anything, and that as someone who's been in a similar spot earlier in my life, an accidental pregnancy is nowhere near that funny or endearing.

There was an amusing moment at the drive-in: they had some mechanical difficulties, and it took an extra hour to get the movie started. If I had been waiting for a movie I had wanted to see, I probably would've rioted. As it was, I could just sit there, bemused, and watch the rioting...OK, the honking. I'm hard-pressed to think of a way to start a riot in Montana.

My hopes for the Simpsons' Movie? Almost unrealisticly high, and I'm going this weekend.

From Simpson Comics #103, "Anchormom" Story by Ian Boothby, pencils by Phil Ortiz, inks by Mike DeCarlo. I don't buy the Simpsons comic every month, yet I almost always enjoy it when I do. What's up with that? Read more!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Back to work!
From Silver Surfer #31, "Nothing!" Written by Steve Englehart, pencils by Ron Lim, inks by Tom Christopher and Keith Williams. This was Englehart's last issue on the book, and while a lot of the points he set up would be erased in short order (leaving Clumsy Foulup as head of the Kree empire, for example) it was a nice finish. And I love Ron Lim's Surfer art; I'll make no apologies for that.

Back from Montana, back to work. Well, work work, and then this thing.

I had a great vacation with my wife and kids up at my parents' place up in the mountains, and got to see my aunt, uncles, sister, nephews, and grandma. (Sadly, my grandma isn't doing too well, but was happy to see us, and that's something.) We spent a ton of time on the lake, but also went to some of the little touristy things like go-carts and so on. All of this is a long preamble to why the rest of this week is probably going to be spotty. Maybe. I also picked up a couple of comics out of the batch I had left at home, and I'm kinda dying to use 'em. We'll see.

Moreover, I haven't read any new comics or any news this week, so I have to catch up a little. Be back soon. Soon-ish. Read more!

Friday, July 20, 2007

Skrullduggery Week Extra: Just one more, then just walk away.

It remains to be seen whether I get this in on time or not, according to my imaginary schedule, but here goes.
He's changing shape to the angry face!
He's come up in passing a couple of times now, but I haven't devoted any time to the Super-Skrull yet. You could probably get a week out of him alone, really. For upwards of twenty years, he was a pretty standard alien invader or super-villain, although I'd compare him to Ivan Drago in Rocky IV: the Super-Skrull is the bad guy, because we built his whole culture up to be the bad guys that want to destroy our way of life, eat our children, and so forth. And like Drago, Super-Skrull is a good soldier, following orders and fighting to win; if a bit thick. The super heroes were the American good guys, Super-Skrull was the alien bad guy, and in most of his appearances that I can remember, he would die in an explosion or something. Like most Fantastic Four opponents.

Seriously, how often do the Fantastic Four take anyone into custody? For that matter, custody that they turn over to the cops? If you fight the Fantastic Four, chances are the fight will end with you:

A. (Seemingly) Perishing in a huge, possibly Negative Zone related, explosion.

B. With your master plan collapsing, you escape, shaking your fist and swearing to return. This would be under your own power, unlike...

C. "Escaping" by virtue of plummeting to near certain death, exile in the Negative Zone, buried at the center of the earth, blown into space, trapped in hell, kicked back to Atlantis, etc.

D. Detained without due process in the Negative Zone, a stasis tube, or one of Reed's "experiments."

E. Being hypnotised into thinking you're a cow. It worked on those Skrulls, why not try it on Doctor Doom?

Back to the Super-Skrull: Steve Englehart used him a lot during his run on Silver Surfer, and may have been the first to give him a name, K'lrt. He started as a jerk, but over several issues built himself up into a more noble hero, at least, a hero for the Skrulls.
Johnny Storm's disembodied head drops the exposition, but I just like Tigra.
When the rest of the Skrulls lost their shapechanging powers, K'lrt was trapped in the Van Allen radiation belts on earth. (Following defeats by Tigra, of all people, which set up a Spider-Man/Ms. Marvel beating.) So, he still had his powers when he was restored, and through him the Skrulls became shapeshifters again. No good deed goes unpunished, however: he was then defeated in a duel with the space pirate Cap'n Reptyl, and believed dead. Again.
The Super-Skrull survived, because he's got the regenerative powers...of the Human Torch...and, I'm just going to trail off here now...
So, and that's just so far this post, Super-Skrull's been killed, trapped, or incapacitated by a Native American soul-catcher stick, the Van Allen radiation belts (twice! Sasquatch of Alpha Flight put him back in after a brief escape.) and killed by a space pirate and dropped into a planet's orbit from space by the Silver Surfer, who was trying to honor K'lrt with a cool, Star Trek II style burial from space. Didn't take.

Somewhere, probably in promotional blurbs for Annihilation: Super-Skrull, I swear I saw K'lrt referred to as "the Skrull Clint Eastwood." Which then would make his opposite number on the Kree, Ronan the Accuser, Lee Van Cleef...yeah, I can see that: hardcore, kind of smug, thinks he's soooo much smarter than everyone else in the room right until that bites him in the ass. To keep the analogy going, I guess that would make the Fantastic Four, um, the Magnificent Seven. Hell, I'm not rightly sure the entire Magnificent Seven could take either Blondie or Tuco, so that kind of falls apart there.

Aside from possibly a few Heroclix, I don't have any Skrull toys, and now I'm sad. There is a pretty sweet Super-Skrull action figure that I've never even seen firsthand, but it's reviewed here. But, since there are flaming and invisible variants, or you can make the regular one look like a standard issue Skrull to build an army; and since other Fantastic Four toys were already clogging the racks and killed the distribution of his wave, poor K'lrt was a tough one to find. Maybe if I keep blogging about it and looking sad...nothing will happen.

And on that upbeat note, I'm on vacation! Probably be back next week or so. In the meantime, don't take anything.

Panels today from: Marvel Team-Up #62, reprinted in Marvel Tales #195, "Not All Thy Powers Can Save Thee!" Written by Chris Claremont, art by John Byrne, inks by Dave Hunt. This issue takes place immediately after Spider-Man's two issue team-up with the Wasp and Yellowjacket, so he's having a tough night that's been spread out over at least four issues.

Maybe you should have a doctor look at him before the Viking funeral there, chief: Silver Surfer #28, "Neanderthals!" Written by Steve Englehart, pencils by Ron Lim, inks by Tom Christopher. Read more!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Skrullduggery Week: The End?

On relatively rare occasions, the Skrulls get a chance to shine as the lesser of two evils. Marvel's recent Annihilation event is a good example, as the Skrulls don't seem so bad compared to Annihilus and his armies of alien buggy things from the Negative Zone. The Skrulls don't make a very good showing there, though: 90% of their empire was wiped out during that one, which kind of makes me wonder how they could have a big invasion going on earth. Yeah, they could have had it going for a while, and I know 10% of several billion is still enough to invade earth, but it seems like the Skrulls should have bigger fish to fry than Elektra.

All right, let it go...let's look at a more successful Skrull moment: Rom #50, "The Extraterrestrials!" Written by Bill Mantlo, art by Sal Buscema, inks by Akins and Garvey. Although the Skrulls are the extraterrestials in question, and are clearly seen on the third page, their name is dramatically revealed on page 13, which is weird since it's not dramatic if you already know who they are, but wouldn't mean anything if you'd never seen them before. Hmm.

Of course, the first page says their ship arrived undetected, but on the second a couple carloads of locals have driven up to see what's landed in the hills, since they "saw the star descend from the skies." Hardly undetected, then. And the wording in this caption:
Wait--the enemy can assume any form too? Damnit, why don't we have briefings before we leave the ship?
--plays off the expectations that the Dire Wraiths would be the aliens in a Rom story, but makes it look like the locals were expecting some other aliens to probably kill them. "Skrulls? Aww...that's pretty awe-inspiring, I guess. I wanted to see the Stone Men of Saturn!"

Not wanting to be bothered, the Skrulls erase the locals' memories--without gang-probing, so I guess they're in a hurry. They tune up their little scanners, and set out to "ferret out...the Enemy!" Dramatic music, cue commercial. Fittingly enough for this issue, I like it when a comic is written in the same structure as an old Outer Limits episode.

(By the way, the opposite page has an ad for War Room for Coleco Vision. God, I played the hell out of that game. Think Missile Command meets the Sims, only simple. Apparently the Soviet Union had an infinite supply of nukes, because there's no way to win the game that I know of.)

The next story page is a splash of the Torpedo, a D-list part time superhero previously seen in books like Daredevil, proudly proclaiming "Today's the day the Torpedo Dies!!" Nothing like foreshadowing, eh? Brock Jones, the Torpedo, had been covering the superhero duties for Clairton, West Virginia, which is tougher than it sounds: the shape-changing alien Dire Wraiths had almost made the area a beachhead for their invasion of earth, until they were stopped by Rom the Spaceknight. With Rom gone, Brock felt he had no choice but to step up and cover for him, even though he thought of himself as a family man, retired from "the torpedo suit that's never brought (me) anything but trouble."
No...those are just Blue Blockers, Brock.
But with Rom's return, Brock was thrilled to hang it up again. He flies over to the Clark household (the parents of Rom's girlfriend, Brandy, now the Spaceknight Starshine) to give them the news, but is instead met by Mr. Clark and a group of townspeople. Steve Jackson, a supporting cast member since early in the series, tells Brock the Dire Wraiths may have returned. Brock says no way, since Rom gave his visor "Wraith Detector Vision."

Two of the townspeople ask, what if the Wraiths used their sorcery so he would still see Wraiths as human even then? Which is exactly what they did, slowly murdering and replacing most of the town under his nose; then the Wraiths kill the Torpedo, in a still chilling scene.
The Skrulls might suck, but they never sucked a guy's brains out through a proboscis.
And where's Rom for all this? He and Starshine had been banished to the Phantom Zone...I mean, a shadow-dimension. Yeah. The Dire Wraiths stuck them there last month, and Starshine is a bit busy having a pity-party over her dead parents to help Rom not get eaten. The Torpedo dead, Rom on the verge of being torn apart, Starshine rusting her metal face with her tears; who will save Clairton now?

How about a batch of really thrilled-looking Skrulls? Judging by their expressions, this is a mission just a step above waste management or pretending to be Adam Sandler. Disguising themselves as humans, they start searching door-to-door, which would work a lot better if they weren't searching in the middle of the night, their scanners weren't red glowing metal balls, and they didn't say things like "No, Supremor! The detector reveals her to be a human!" Oh, yeah, they blend."Then carry on consuming starch-filled consumer goods, Earthling! Have an uneventful and Wraith-free solar interval!" The Brock-Wraith kills one Skrull with a spell, before being gunned down and revealed as a Wraith. Mission accomplished there, the Skrulls then burn down the house, leaving Brock's family fleeing terrified and confused. If they had the time, the Skrulls probably would've salted the earth, too.

Meanwhile, while having the life sucked out of him by shadowy monsters, Rom gives Brandy a pep-talk, which she takes the wrong way. Burying her humanity in rage, Brandy upgrades herself to a new, improved Starshine--2.0, now without ponytail! The spontaneous transformation seems very anime-style looking at it now, but probably wasn't as common back then. Starshine unleashes her power--either the "Living Light of Galador," or her human super-pissed-off-ness, and destroys the monsters, and gets them back to earth.

They find Clairton a fiery warzone, as the running battle between Skrulls and Wraiths continues, and Rom and Starshine discover the Skrulls at the Clark house. Even though they have no love for humans, the Skrulls like Rom, since he once cleared one of their colony worlds of Wraiths. Starshine sees her folks and Steve, her ex-fiance, come down the stairs, but once they open fire it's kind of obvious. Forcing herself to see the truth, Starshine burns down the Wraiths with her eyebeams. And zaps Rom one, for getting in her way and blocking her shot. And her house. Here they're trying to establish Brandy is losing her good nature to a thirst for blood and revenge; but she just seems crazy.

After the Wraiths have been either banished or killed, Rom and the surviving townspeople get a few answers from the Skrulls. The leader refers to the Dire Wraiths as a "Deviant Branch of Skrullkind," that were eventually driven out. Some have taken that to mean Deviant as in the Deviant/Eternal sense, although it could just as easily have meant, they were icky. To this day, the Skrulls are still trying to eradicate the Wraiths, but as the leader points out, something bad had happened to the Skrull Empire (their throneworld was destroyed by Galactus, as noted before!) so they had to go. Yeah, the Skrull captain just completed a successful mission against their hereditary enemies; only to get home to find their empire has split into five factions, and each one is expecting him to go on another mission tomorrow...you see, back then, Marvel had a thing called, "continuity," where something that happened in one comic, could be seen to have an effect in a completely different book, with some internal consistency.

Rom is left to restart his war, lamenting his one ally is losing the qualities that he loved about her. I did notice I didn't even scan Rom for this post, but frankly he's pushed into the background this issue: Rom shows up to stop the problems, and this issue was about ramping the problems up. He's in the background on the cover even.

Rrr. This might be the end of Skrullduggery Week, I'm afraid: I may be packing for my vacation later; but I might be able to get one more in before I go. Or it'll keep: next one goes pretty deep back, but still gets play today. Have fun until I get back either way! Read more!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Skrullduggery Week: The one in which I second-guess Grant Morrison. Or Mark Millar.

I had a spare copy of Skrull Kill Krew #1, and was flipping through it with a thought in mind. If you haven't read it, it's an entertaining but flawed series: the Krew members gained shape-changing powers and the ability to see Skrulls, and brain cancer that will eventually kill them, by eating hamburgers that had been made out of the Skrulls that had been hypnotised and left as cows back in Fantastic Four #2. Yet another sentence underlining why comics are awesome.

Ignoring that I'm not sure those particular Skrulls were still there to be turned into hamburger (they made an appearance in the Kree/Skrull war, and were being milked in an FF annual) the series is flawed because the Krew members are often a little unsympathetic as characters. You should feel bad for someone with terminal brain cancer, but I just didn't feel it for the Krew. Still a good comic, although I feel it's stronger in a technical sense, and needed more heart.

This is what the Krew sees, when they see Skrulls:
Skrulls have infiltrated the fashion industry! It's all over now, people!
But that isn't literally what they see. When the Skrulls change shape, they physically take the form they're assuming; unlike an illusory change like Mastermind or an image inducer. So, when the Krew looks at a Skrull that's turned into Mr. Fantastic, they should see Reed's face, not Skrull-Reed. Their vision is either psychic, or psychosomatic, if I'm using the term right: whatever gave them their powers made them sensitive to the Skrulls around them, and their eyes fill in that information as best they can. They see the truth, but it's literally a lie.

Or it's artistic license. Well, either or.

An opinion: is it my imagination, or does Grant Morrison offer these great concepts to mainstream comics as gifts, only to have them praised and fawned over and then shelved, like a lavish present you're trying to be gracious about but secretly hate? Skrull Kill Krew, Marvel Boy, probably 80% of New X-Men, Bulleteer over at DC; all well done, strong ideas, popular, and unused. Skrull Kill Krew has lain fallow for years, Marvel Boy was misused in a Young Avengers/Runaways Civil War thing, writers are tripping over themselves to retcon the X-Men, and poor Bulleteer's been reduced to a character to fill superhero crowd scenes. On more than one occasion, flying, even though she can't. I came late to that one, but I liked Bulleteer...

So, since the Krew can see Skrulls, I got to wondering if Skrulls can recognize shape-shifted Skrulls. Anecdotal evidence suggests, 'no.'
'Ooh. Sorry, S'tve.'
What's the friendly fire rate for the Skrulls? Double-digits, I figure, easy. I suppose when everything's prepped in advance they have codewords and signals and where not to stand all planned out, but on the fly they're surprised just as easy as anyone else.

The above is from Fantastic Four Annual #19, ("Summons from the Stars!" Story and art by John Byrne, inks by Joe Sinnott) which crossed over with the Avengers annual of the same year...which I don't think I've read. Anyway, at least two plans from the fractured Skrull empire run afoul of earth's heroes, and each other.

A particularly insane Skrull named Zabyk has completed his hyperwave bomb, which certainly sounds impressive. Captain Marvel is in position to destroy it, but Mr. Fantastic countermands Captain America's order, letting Zabyk activate it. (There's a page of the bomb sending out waves, and concerned-looking headshots of the Avengers and FF, including a glum-looking Cap.)

Reed and Captain Marvel point out they couldn't have stoped the bomb without imploding the universe or some damn thing, but the hyperwave only affects the Skrulls, locking them in whatever shape they had at the time. "Forever," says Prince Dezan; but it was more like a few years, and although he was left in charge, I don't think he was ever seen again. And I don't know why Zabyk thought taking away his entire species' one advantage would be a good idea, especially since he built himself a suit of armor that was supposed to protect him so he'd still be able to change shape. Ironically, the suit didn't work, and since Zabyk had to change shape to get into it, he was stuck merged with it. Fortunately, he was probably lynched soon enough, so no worries there.

Since Reed had seen the machine and it's description, it's no stretch (as it were...) to guess he probably could build a hyperwave bomb if he wanted too. Although he apparently allowed it to happen more out of a safety concern than just to dick over the Skrulls, it's hard to say if Reed would use such a final response, since it did lead to millions of Skrull casualties. We'll take a look at some of the effect this had on the Skrull people later, but one more note:
'Even the Super-Skrull? But I look forward to his attack every year!'
The Super-Skrull was at the time, 'dead,' reduced to a microwave transmission and bouncing around earth's atmosphere or something. Luckily for him...

Skrull fashion show panels from Skrull Kill Krew #1, "Skrull Meat" Written by Grant Morrison and Mark Millar, pencils by Steve Yeowell, inks by Chris Ivy.

Good grief, I still have at least one that I've been looking for and haven't found. Read more!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Skrullduggery Week, Day Seven or so...

For having forty-plus years worth of history in the comics, there aren't a whole lot of Skrulls that are known by name. How would Skrull names even work, on a planet where anyone can look like anything, yet most Skrulls still look a lot alike? I guess such a society would have to be militaristically strict and put a lot of emphasis on discipline and obeying orders, otherwise it would be complete anarchy. Imagine your workplace if everyone there could change shape: Workers that look like customers, customers that look like supervisors, supervisors that look like appliances. If you don't imagine a quagmire happening in short order you work alone.

The other reason we don't get to know most Skrulls by name is that they're supposed to be alien. In Skrull Kill Krew, the leader Ryder points out Skrulls are so unimaginative and dull that they named their planet Skrullos, so there you go. (We've mentioned that book a couple times, and it's coming up at least in passing shortly.)

But, enough preamble, let's take a quick look at a Skrull introduced by name, although he's a very non-Skrullish Skrull. God, my spellchecker hates me. Talos the Tamed first appeared briefly in Incredible Hulk #418 at Rick Jones' wedding. (The Impossible Man, feeling snubbed at not being invited, sent invites to super villains, alien races, and old enemies. Well, still better than having an ex show up.)
Why does Talos have that eyepiece?  Pretty much so we can pick him out of a Skrull lineup.
In the next issue, after everyone else has left, Talos is still sulking around Vegas, and throws himself off a roof. Thinking it was a suicide, the Hulk goes to help sort it out (he had previously worked in Vegas as the Gray Hulk Mr. Fixit) and finds Talos was just testing Earth's gravity. He then sucker-punches the Hulk, asking to be killed. Literally asking.

Talos is described as a mutant, although strictly speaking I'm not sure that's right. He's a throwback to before Skrulls developed shapechanging abilities, so he's kind of a Skrull Captain Caveman: stronger, fiercer, actually pretty effective but thought of as a joke. As he fights the Hulk, Talos explains that if he hadn't been of the royal family, he probably would've been killed before adulthood. (Why not just at birth then? That seems odd.) Still, he fought his way up, and earned the nickname 'the Untamed.'

All well and good, until he was ambushed and captured by the Skrulls' long term enemies, the Kree. Instead of committing suicide like a good Skrull should, though; Talos can't stand the thought of taking his own life.
Do Skrulls have orthodondists, or did they do it themselves?
So, Talos is trying to get killed in noble battle, and since the Hulk was "Renowned as one who fought the Super Skrull to a stand-still!" he seems like a likely candidate to help him with that. But the Hulk is just starting to get back together with his wife Betty, and wants to be the hero she knows he can be, and so can't tear Talos' head off and shove it up him like he wants. Finally, Hulk resorts to tears:
'Think of dead puppy for real tears...and ACTION!'
Talos knows damn well Hulk is faking, but is too embarrassed for him to continue the fight. He beams up to his ship, expecting his men to be disappointed he's still alive. Instead, they acknowledge Talos fought the good fight, and Talos has to admit it to himself as well.

Probably the best writer the Hulk will ever have, Peter David also wrote the ever-popular metric assload of Star Trek novels and comics. I'm tempted to wonder if this was maybe a plot originally designed for a Klingon protagonist, since the Skrulls aren't always portrayed as being terribly concerned about honor. Maybe an A-lister like the Super-Skrull, but not the rank-and-file, and a society of shapechangers is probably...I hate to say it, but...shifty.

Art for Incredible Hulk #419, "The Last Waltz" by Roger Cruz and Cam Smith. Read more!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Skrullduggery Week Continues: What if they gave an invasion and no one came? Well, almost no one.

And we're back to Skrullduggery Week, possibly from now until I go on vacation, if I keep finding Skrullish appearances.

Books like Skrull Kill Krew have taken the approach that Marvel seems headed for again: that the Skrull invasion is ongoing and insidious, and involves a helluva a lot of Skrulls. Disguised as important or influential figures, or as harmless and innocuous bystanders, they are working their way into human society and turning mankind's defenses back on themselves.

That's the theory, anyway. In that case, what's the point of replacing Elektra? Ooh, now we control the ninjas! That's way better than superheroes or presidents! What's Elektra done lately? Piss off Frank Miller and get cancelled a couple of times. Maybe sleep with Frank Castle. Kind of a short list there, eh?

I don't know that the Skrulls would take the tack of flooding earth with hidden invaders. The more guys you sent to infiltrate, the more likely it is someone's going to get wise. And finding one Skrull is going to put you on the lookout for more, so committing more than one to the same group or location might not be productive.

Predating it's use in terrorism, I think the Skrulls have been operating in cells for years, probably since their first appearance. Most are probably at most three or four members, and have no contact with the other groups. That way, no defeated group can rat out another, but the cells also aren't in each other's crossfire either.
Sensational Hydra knows what the people want:  Batroc.
Case in point: one of the more successful Skrull invasions was in, of all books, Captain America. After Cap's return from the (presumed) dead (in Heroes Reborn/Return/Retread), the Star-Spangled Avenger is more popular than ever worldwide. After beating down Batroc in a public showdown at Rockefeller Center, Cap becomes an unwilling sensation, but is worried over the hero-worship, especially since Batroc had said he was paid to lose.

The new leader of a faction of Hydra, the so-called Sensational Hydra, a smirking blond hipster psychopath; keeps building up Cap in the media, even as Cap and the Avengers take out Hydra bases worldwide. (By the way, using Thor on Hydra seems like overkill. I'm not saying stop, though.) At one base, a Hydra soldier claims the Sensational is a rouge, then as he is taken into custody by S.H.I.E.L.D., is murdered by the Sensational Hydra, who had been disguised as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent.
Why?  Snitches get stitches, that's why.
The Sensational Hydra then takes hostages on the observation deck of the Empire State Building, daring Captain America into a final showdown. Followed by a chatty reporter, Cap doesn't have a lot of trouble with the Hydra rank-and-file, and quickly makes his way to the observation deck. There, the reporter reveals himself as the Sensational, then as a Skrull. As were the 'hostages,' who immediately gun down the human Hydra agents, then capture Cap with 'Skrull handcuffs,' a smart-goo substance that changes shape as needed to prevent escape.

The Sensational Skrull (he never called himself that, but he should have) then takes Cap's place, and stops a staged assassination attempt on the president. Using the 'Capmania' media frenzy he helped create, he makes an ominous annoucement on national television:
'One in twenty' is probably a good number to cause paranoia and distrust; I would've pressed my luck and said every third person.
Confused, the Sensational's Skrull henchmen reveal themselves, and are promptly beaten and gunned down before they can mention being sold out. With the 'proof' in front of them, the American people, somewhat understandably, lose their collective heads. God, I hate Fox News.

It's a really, really good plan. The only fault is that Sensational presses too far. As the nation riots, Cap goes into action...as Steve Rogers, helping out where he can, mobilizing Tony Stark and Reed Richards on a plan. Sensational can't figure out why Cap won't show his face, since he really wants to rub his face in it.

As the Avengers start to wonder why Cap isn't in costume or trying to calm the nation, Sensational appears again as Cap, proclaiming the President and key members of Congress have been replaced by Skrulls as well. But, Sensational has overplayed his hand, and Cap hits him with a ray (from Reed and Tony) that reverts him back to his chinny self. Comeuppance ensues, including a snarky Reed telling the press there's no Skrulls out there.
Why am I curious what that ray does to people?  Bowel disruptor maybe?
Cap ends the issue with a speech about the American people and his role to them, but I'm kind of wondering what they did with/to Sensational Skrull. Deportation? Hypnotized and turned into a cow? (Say what you will, that's less dumb than hypnotising the White Martians and putting them back into society, as in JLA a few years back.) Guantanamo Bay? What?
Lab coats=science!
Oh, and yeah, a ray that makes Skrulls turn back to their original shapes. Built by Reed Richards and friggin' Tony Stark, who should've had that installed in his armor. Look, if you want to have this kind of thing, but still want the Skrulls to be viable bad guys in the future, I must reiterate: the writers have to leave a a valid reason why this won't work again:

REED: I must say, Tony, I'm almost nervous. This is the single most complicated, expensive piece of machinery I've ever attempted to build.

TONY: I know. I'm just glad the government's footing the bill for this one! My armor didn't cost this much.

REED: The Negative Zone Portal didn't cost this much.

TONY: And this thing uses more energy than South America. And for one-shot!

REED: Yes, if only this were a permanent solution to the Skrull threat.

TONY: Yes, if only. Speaking of permanent solutions, Reed, I was thinking we need to do something about Bruce...

REED: That is funny. Stephen and I were talking about that very thing just the other day...


Panels from Captain America #4-7, written by Mark Waid, art by Ron Garney, Dale Eaglesham, Andy Kubert, Bob Wiacek, John Beatty, Scott Koblish, and Jesse Delperdang. Read more!

Saturday, July 14, 2007

This may have taken more time to set up than it would've taken to go see the Transformers movie.

I had the old Frankie Goes to Hollywood song, "Two Tribes" stuck in my head most of the time I was setting this up, and I haven't heard it in years.
I didn't intentionally set Leobreaker next to Voltron, but I may have subconsciously segregated the Beast Wars guys.
I never had Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots as a kid, or Transformers. I'm a hair too old to have got them the first time around. For some reason, my little sister, one of the girliest girls in the history of girls, had the Dinobot Swoop. Friggin' original issue Swoop.
God, you spend all that money on seats, and get stuck next to the shark guy.
The Oldest got the Robots at a yard sale for under a buck; they're the reissues from a few years back, not a vintage set. Their punches aren't as strong as I somehow imagine an older set's would be. But, we had this idea from the moment we bought them, it just took a couple months to get around to it.

A lot of these guys are garage sale rescues: the Generation 2 Megatron, the Matchbox Voltron (which I never noticed before, still had most of the little pilot figures), Skybyte the crazyass flying shark, Optimus Primal (in black and brown, although I think the brown one might be someone else), the Autobot Constructicons...
Cap-bot demands blood!
The MegaMorph Captain America and Iron Man are mine, as seen here before. Most of the newer ones, including giant Starscream and the Optimus Prime we used for this, are the Oldest's. There are two from the Youngest, however: one of the preschool style Gobots (he says his name's Aerobot if you push his steering wheel, so there you go) and a Ravage from the recent Robot Heroes. Hell, I don't even have a Ravage. Lucky...

We stood them all up and took the pictures, then cleaned up, in about two-and-a-half hours or so. My wife was gonna want the table back, there was no way around that one.

The Transformers figures generally either have big, blocky, sturdy feet; or spindly, wobbly, narrow, or loose ones. For the most part, they all stood and stayed standing a lot more reliably than most toys I can think of. There were a couple exceptions, though, and some of them ended up back in the toybox. From the most recent cartoon, I believe her name was Override: she was one I wanted to put up, but her loose hips made standing her a losing proposition. No jokes about the one female Transformer we had being loose, please; it's not like she's Smurfette...

It didn't occur to me until I was upstairs and loading the pictures: we really should have gotten a head-count while we had them all up...

And for any hardcore Transformer fans out there: I know for a fact I don't know every one of these characters' names. And there's at least four in there that aren't Transformers at all. There are a few others that we didn't use for whatever reason: Masterpiece Optimus Prime would've overshadowed everyone else there, and I didn't want more than one of him anyway, so that left out the three or so versions. Hell, I forgot my Star Wars X-Wing Transformer, that I got for Christmas. We didn't use the Ghost Rider Megamorph, the Oldest couldn't find or transform the Alternators Scion Skids, and I misplaced my World's Smallest Megatron. Maybe next time: I have a ton of Heroclix that have been battling Unicron and Galactus for quite a while, and they're all due for a lot of dusting... Read more!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Skrullduggery Week, Day Five: A fun Skrull fact.
Ben spends the top half of this page bitching out the Kree, so don't think he's completely singled out the Skrulls.
Ben Grimm, the ever-lovin' blue-eyed Thing, hates him some Skrulls.
Yeah, I can see how this would engender ill will...
Seriously, don't get him started on them.
OK, I can see how that would add to the hostility, yeah...
Unless you've got all day to listen to Ben carry on about it.
What sucks more: getting asskicked by Iron Skrull, or getting asskicked by Iron Skrull during 20 minutes of narration about Deathblow?
Enough preamble, it's Friday Night Fights time again, so let's get into it!
I would pay serious money to see Ben beat on a Nazi Skrull.  Hell.  Yeah.
Hey, Ben's Jewish and he says that? The Skrulls must sssssssuck.
If you've got a Skrull in your book, expect a Thing guest-spot.  It'll come.
Skrullduggery Week isn't over yet, although I think I may give it the weekend off. Possibly more tonight, and hit Bahlactus for more Friday Night Fights!

From The Thing: Freakshow #3, "Strange Things" Written by Geoff Johns, pencils by Scott Kolins, inks by Andy Lanning and Doug Hazlewood. My copy's pretty beat, but love that cover.

From Fantastic Four #91, "The Thing--Enslaved!" Written by Stan Lee, art by Jack Kirby, inks by Joe Sinnott. Abducted by a Skrull Slaver, Ben is sold to a 1920's gangster-style planet to fight in gladiatorial games. Was Star Trek on when you did this one, guys?

From Fantastic Four #208, "The Power of the Sphinx!" Written and edited by Marv Wolfman, art by Sal Buscema and "D. Hands."

From Iron Man volume 2 #13, "World War III, part 3: No Time to Mourn" Written by James Robinson, pencils by Larry Stroman, inks by JD & Homage Studios. (The Deathblow narration was to build up the surprise: he had appeared in shadow in part 1, and had at the time been dead in the regular continuity.)

From Fantastic Four #250, "X-Factor" Storyteller John Byrne. Bought this one when I was eleven, and I love it no matter how grumpy John gets.

From Captain America volume 3 #7, "Power and Glory, chapter three: Hoaxed" Written by Mark Waid, art by Andy Kubert and Jesse Delperdang, and Dale Eaglesham and Scott Koblish, elsewhere in the book. Read more!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Skrullduggery Week, Day Four: When Professor X says, "Let's never speak of this again," he damn well means it.

Before we start, a quick tip of the hat to Fortress of Soliloquy, which had used the term "Skrullduggery" first, to the best of my knowledge. Found it on Ask Cerebra, when I was checking to see if these showed up yet. Good stuff over there, so check it out!

Just a short one today, but maybe someone remembers the answer. Wikipedia didn't, but it might be considered too minor of an incident in the life of Professor Xavier.

Anyone remember the mutant Skrulls that appeared in the X-Men books? (Not the Warskrulls, who are 'extreme' and enjoy Mountain Dew and danger sports and cliches.) Also not on Wikipedia, they were analogous to what could very well happen to the X-Men: enslaved by the military, thought of as freaks and aberrations even amongst the Skrulls, and used as living weapons. Most of them were like whipped little puppy Skrulls and had harmless sounding names like 'Fiz.'
Back in line, maggot!
At the end of the Apocalypse: the Twelve storyline, Cyclops was missing and presumed dead, and in grief Professor X leaves earth with the newly freed Skrull mutants. Presumably, Xavier would teach them to live free and use their powers responsibly and so forth. Like X-Skrulls or something?

Whatever came of that?

I know the Professor was gone from the X-titles for at least a couple of years, but I don't recall his return. Sometimes, editorial or the writers, whoever sets the course of these books, seems to decide that Professor X is too powerful or too stabilizing of an influence or they just need him out of the house for a while. Usually, that means launching him into space: he was gone from Uncanny X-Men #200 through like #270 or so, with Lilandra and the Starjammers. Oddly, for that one as well I remember Xavier being back, but not the how or why of it.

So, as far as I know, Xavier just showed up again at the mansion one day, reeking of gin, no explanation where he'd been, possibly with Skrull blood on his hands and clothes. Or maybe the Skrulls kicked him out, tired of having to look like Jean and wear the miniskirt all the time. That stretch of issues has been swept under the rug, which is kind of a shame since there's some good Alan Davis art in there.

From a miscut, quarter-box copy of X-Men #97, "The End of the World as We Know It, part two" Plot and pencils by Alan Davis, inks by Mark Farmer, script by Terry Kavanagh. Read more!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Skrullduggery Week, Day Three: Warning: Skrull Detector may cause cancer, mutations, bad mutations, seizures, intestinal cramping...
This is a pretty good scene, yet it's from the same crew that gave Sue a peek-a-boo '4' a few issues later.

One of the very fair complaints about all this Skrull business is, how come Mr. Fantastic/Dr. Strange/Wolverine weren't able to tell? (Through science, magic, and Skrull-stink, respectively.) Well, in Mr. Fantastic and Dr. Strange's case, I suppose they wouldn't necessarily scan everyone, every time they see them, to determine if a Skrull (or other shapechanger) has replaced someone. Wait, that makes sense to me, but I don't live in a universe with Skrulls, Dire Wraiths, Mystique, Nightmare, Dormammu, the Chameleon, the Infinity War dopplegangers, Life Model Decoys, the Super-Adaptoid, Mysterio, Machinesmith, the Brute, the Jackal, Proteus, Morph, the Impossible Man, image inducers, the Space Phantom, that Hobgoblin that was in the Imperial Guard; ye gods, I'm surprised more characters aren't replaced by duplicates or imposters, then the imposters are replaced...

(Then there's the future time-travel versions, alternate reality versions, zombie alternate reality versions...identical cousins...I know I'm forgetting some.)

A gun-shaped scanner probably wasn't a great idea, but interestingly enough, that was the initial design for the Iphone too.  So, scanning everyone, all the time, to make sure they're not an alien/robot/psychotic naked mutant in disguise; is probably not an unreasonable precaution. Maybe we'll see the return of scanners like Rom's: making them gun-shaped is completely optional, however. But even so, that's not going to work.

Strictly speaking, this isn't really in continuity, but as we saw the other day, the Recorder is able to spot a Skrull on sight. And he can do it without red lights or invasive probes, simply by noting changes in temperature. (And by the way, I really wish my Hercules action figure had come with a Recorder pack-in and Bob Layton issue, instead of an Annihilus wing and nothing.)

But, when the Warskrulls turned up in Uncanny X-Men (way back when there was only 1 X-Men title a month!) Wolverine would be able to smell them out, which I think he did at one point; or Professor Xavier would be able to read a Skrull's mind. Heck, if Rogue touched one she'd get Skrull powers, so there's three team members right there that aren't fooled by Skrulls. The Skrulls (and the writers) had to amp up their shape-changing abilities, so they would cover scent, mental scanning, blah blah blah; bringing the Skrulls game up to the level of magic.

Oh, and the difference between Skrulls and WarSkrulls? Um, Chris Claremont. No, really, that's pretty much it.
This would probably be pants-crappingly terrifying, if the Thing wasn't greeted like this every time he was gone for more than fifteen minutes.
There's probably also some logical, in-story reason for anti-Skrull scans to not work. I'd just say something like every scan is the equivalent of like 70 chest x-rays.

Rom picture from Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe Deluxe Edition #11. Sue shows us the way in Fantastic Four #367, "By Reed...Betrayed!" Gah, I think that title's been used more than once. Written by Tom DeFalco, pencils by Paul Ryan, inks by Ivy and Kryssing. Read more!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Skrullduggery Week, Day Two: Iron Man had better not be a Skrull. Seriously.

Previously, I mentioned how Skrulls could very likely become the fall guys for any mischaracterization or plot holes at Marvel, as in "Iron Man's been a Skrull since, oh, twenty minutes into Civil War." Let me state for the record that would be utter asshattery. Not because it's a cheat and a copout, but because it's been done before.
Say what you will about the Skrulls and their dirty tricks, that's pretty hardcore for being stabbed in the fricking brain.
Above from Iron Man (volume 2) #13, "World War III: Part 3, No Time to Mourn!" Written by James Robinson, pencils by Larry Stroman, inks by JD & Homage Studios. Click to embiggen, the guy talking to Ben in the last panel is Deathblow. Yeah, I don't know either, but he's cool in these issues, and that's good enough.

Anyway, this was a little coda to the Heroes Reborn series, and a neat altered reality story; which of course means everyone's fair game. The Marvel and Wildstorm universes have merged together, so there's altered lineups for a lot of the superhero teams: Hawkeye took a hit in the draft picks and gets sent to Wetworks, for instance; and Maul and Burnout are Ben and Johnny's replacements (both are missing at the start of the story) on the Fantastic Four. It also opens up a huge opportunity for Dr. Doom: Doom conspires to keep the two universes smooshed together, and rallies the somewhat incompetent Skrull and Daemonite invaders into a conquering, occupying force.

I'm sure a lot of readers could probably point out at least two other stories also titled World War III, but when did it change from a vague threat to a legitimate title? It used to be a breathless exclamation, like "If we don't stop that madman, it could be World War III!" Cue next issue banner, although that always had about as much weight as your dad threatening to turn this car around. Nowadays, Black Adam rips a few people in half and it's WWIII. Pfft.

Robinson is best known (and probably rightly so) for Starman, but this shows he knows his Marvel Universe as well. There are a ton of nods to old-school continuity, that don't interfere with the story for new readers: it adds an extra layer if you know Captain America had previously gone by the name Nomad once before, or that the Scarlet Witch likes 'em big and robotic; but if you don't know it's not a big deal.

In one of my favorite touches, when Mr. Fantastic takes an expedition into the Negative Zone, Triton of the Inhumans is their point man: having an intuitive nature for tidal flows, he can navigate it faster than most, as established way back in Fantastic Four #62.
'Wait, Black Bolt couldn't make it, so he sent Triton? Yeah, I'm just gonna start the funeral arrangements for Reed now...'
Although I remember being vaguely aware of some of the WildC.A.T.'s, this issue was my first exposure to Stormwatch, which thankfully by then was the Warren Ellis Stormwatch. Robinson may even give the better deal to the Wildstorm characters, since he sets up little glimpses to a larger world. Who is Jack Hawksmoor, and what good is he if he "freaks out if he isn't in the city"? And why? Sparks is 80 years old, what's up with that? And Majestic, a character I've barely read before or since, gets a good moment, where he basically shrugs off having most of his face shredded.
Much like malt liquor, you get a taste for world domination after four or five times.
Mr. Fantastic and Dr. Doom spend most of the last issue fighting hand-to-hand, until Spartan (who had served as Captain America for part of the war) sacrifices himself to destroy the machine keeping the two universes together. Even though Reed says Doom has lost, Doom says it doesn't count, yet has "given me the taste to rule again." Huh? In my head, the cadence of Doom's ending speech sounds like a parting threat from a Speed Racer villain: "I will face you again...soon...and...I will...beat you!" Still, a strong moment.
On the next page, Cap's shield hits that Skrull so hard, only his shadow was left of him. Cap doesn't play.
But, since this is Skrullduggery Week, what of our chinny friends? Since it's an altered universe story, and even though Doom dismisses them as ineffective lackeys, the Skrulls make a great showing, wiping out several heroes, including Iron Man above, and probably fatally wounding Cap if the universe hadn't just ended. Quite possibly the most successful the Skrulls have ever been, including What If? stories.

Triton panels from Fantastic Four #62, "...And One Shall Save Him!" Written by Stan Lee, art by Jack Kirby, inks by Joe Sinnott. Cap and Doom panels from Captain America vol. 2, #13, "World War III, Part 4: War Without End..." Written by James Robinson, art by Ron Lim, inks by Danny Bulanadi. Read more!