Monday, April 30, 2007

Meet Me at the Sphinx Part 4: Rise of Apocalypse?!?

Welcome to the the fourth of a three-part series examining one of Marvel’s strangest crossovers, a story that took 24 years to complete and spans Fantastic Four #19, Doctor Strange #53, and West Coast Avengers #22.

And apparently, we have a new entry.


Tim O'Neil of the Hurting sent me an e-mail about Rise of Apocalypse, a 1996 X-Men mini series :

I don't know if you're aware but there was actually a fourth component to the Rama Tut meta-crossover, published in the mid 90s. During the "Rise of Apocalypse" mini series it is established that the immortal X-Men villain Apocalypse was a slave of the Pharaohs during the reign of Rama Tut - and that (if memory serves me well) there was a slave revolt led by Apocalypse at the exact same time the FF were fighting Rama Tut.

Don't know if you ever saw that book - it's one of the better series Marvel spat out in the 90s. Not exactly a banner era for the company.

Yeah, this one was definitely off my radar, as I ignored the ocean of X-Men books back then. I never had any interest in Apocalypse, and I had no idea that Rise of Apocalypse had anything to do with the cross-time crossover, but apparently, Apocalypse was a slave owned by Rama-Tut, and rose to power after the events of Fantastic Four #19. There's a pretty thorough synopsis here, not far down the page.

I checked for Rise of Apocalypse at my local comic shop, but no luck. Thus a comic series that I couldn't have been less interested in last week becomes my holy grail. It seems I have some searching ahead of me, but if I can find this story, you'll be invited to "Meet Me at the Sphinx" for one last chapter.


Friday, April 27, 2007

Doomed!

"You don't want to get mixed up with a guy like me. I'm a loner. A rebel." - Pee Wee Herman



Again With the Comics got it's first "Cease and Desist" letter from FOX today, so No Doom for you! Sorry I lost the comments, but this gig don't pay, ya know?




Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Superman: All Choked Up!

Feelin’ blue? A little down? Are you “emo”? Superman feels your pain. He was emo before emo was even a thing to be. Yes, even the mighty Man of Steel has to choke back a manly tear once in awhile. Like R.E.M. says, everybody hurts sometimes…

Poor Superman! The burdens of his life are sometimes (CHOKE) just too much to bear. Who wouldn’t be on the verge of tears if they were turned into a lion? Or prematurely aged? It could be…(CHOKE) permanent this time!

I too, may find my chest hitching with barely restrained sobs if I (CHOKE) killed my girlfriend…this time for sure…or was betrayed by my (CHOKE) former best pal.



Superman wasn’t the only one roiling with painful emotions… even Krypto (CHOKE) had to fight back the pain sometimes. All of Superman's friends, and sometimes his enemies, got in on the (CHOKE) crying game.







Finally, who wouldn't weep at the death of Superman? Cry your hearts out, folks!





So long, pal! I'll (CHOKE) never forget you...!

Monday, April 23, 2007

My MODOK Romance

Sleestak asks: Who does Mary love? Like millions of other women worldwide, Mary is mad for MODOK:

Friday, April 20, 2007

You're the One For Me, Fatty.

BOUNCING BOY: PIMP DADDY of the 30th CENTURY


Let's hear it for Bouncing Boy, who got his powers the best way possible: while fucking off at work. In fact, I humbly submit that Bouncing Boy has the best origin in all comics. Why? As you’re about to see, few heroes owe their powers to such a heady combination of laziness and stupidity. This is from “The Secret Origin of Bouncing Boy” reprinted in Showcase Presents: Legion of Super-Heroes Volume 1, a mere 3 pages out of 549 fat-packed with silver-age lunacy.



Back before the internet, people had to actually leave work to spend the day slacking. I’m sure the writer couldn’t have anticipated March Madness, Soduku, blogs, message boards, and MySpace, so he had to dream up the Robot Gladiator Tournament as a temptation for slack-ass errand boy Chuck Taine. See, like many American workers, Chuck interprets “at once” to mean “whenever you get around to it” and hey, all that walking wears a fat boy out.

SAVAGE-EXCITING-YET HARMLESS…I think I’ve found my new motto. Notice that in the 30th century, they’ve abandoned those old fashioned electric signs and moved forward to a sleek, futuristic, “hand-lettered sign painted on a bed sheet and stapled to the side of the building” approach. We then get the obligatory detailed explanation of the tournaments, and it comes off like a Yakov Smirnoff routine: “In future, people go to arena to watch workers in cubicle!” What a thrill, indeed! It’s stuff like this that makes me think maybe the Legion’s future is post-Idiocracy.




You’ve seen the laziness, now here’s the stupidity. Mister "famed scientist", if you send an obvious idiot out with an uncapped bottle of God-knows-what, of course he’s gonna drink it! Instead of yet another visit with mister stomach pump, Chuck becomes Bouncing Boy, the human balloon. Chuck definitely picked the right day to wear his Thanksgiving pants. “He’s lucky he’s wearing clothes made of stretchable fiber!” Buddy, we’re all lucky he’s wearing clothes made of stretchable fiber. Not satisfied with utterly failing his job, Chuck fucks up the tournament as well, earning the hatred and scorn of all present.




As an unrelated aside, you’ve gotta love all the (CHOKE)-ing and (CHUCKLE)-ing going on in all these Weisinger era stories. Bouncing Boy (CHOKE)s about 18 times in this story alone. Chuck gets checked out at the hospital and finds he can now expand at will. So can I, but no one's calling me a hero. Since he’s completely forgotten about the scientist, the formula, his job, and the Science Council at this point, he tries to sign up with the Legion of Super-Heroes, who of course, reject him. The rest of the story goes on to show him screwing up a few more times before the law of averages kicks in, he actually does something right, and gains the team’s acceptance.

Bouncing Boy went on to a relatively distinguished career in the Legion and a beautiful wife who can split into three equally hot babes. Who says laziness and stupidity don’t pay off?




Thursday, April 19, 2007

Review: World War III

If you were on the fence about buying DC's World War III series, I'd advise you to hop off on the side of not getting the four issues. This series didn't add anything at all to 52, but instead dots some "i"s and crosses some "t"s for One Year Later. What a waste of time. Let me spoil it for you:

They fight
and fight
and fight and fight and fight
fight fight fight
fight fight fight
The Black Adam vs. Everyone show!

I just saved you ten-plus bucks. So yeah, Black Adam goes crazy-ape bonkers and battles the whole world, leading to a big showdown in China, where he fights all the Superheroes until he vanishes in a flash of lightning. You have to read 52 #50 to learn what happened to him, and-surprise, surprise!-the two endings don't quite match up. Most of WW III is sheer mayhem and fighting, while the interstitial scenes are devoted to pushing all the "One Year Later" players into the places they need to be for OYL. Plus, Martian Manhunter is sad. This is all stuff that would have been better dealt with in the monthly books (if at all), and is pretty much unrelated to the main action, other than in a "All hell's breaking loose, time for me to change my costume/attitude!" sense.

Worse, after all that, most of 52 #50 is squandered in retelling the same story. Fight, fight fight, until a last minute save that promises to be as permanent as a Jean Grey death. With only two issues to go, that's...not so good. I still don't think we've seen the last of Ralph Dibny, but they're fast running out of time to address his fate. There's also unfinished business with Montoya, Batwoman, Booster, Intergang, and probably a half-dozen other things I've forgotten. While 52 has generally been much better than I expected it to be, I hope they can wrap it all up in the two issues that remain, or the whole thing could collapse under it's own weight.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Absolutely ZABU-lous


When fear-stink hu-man ask Zabu write guest column, Zabu not know what to say. "Zabu not write, Zabu am saber-tooth tiger, stupid hu-man!" come to mind. But him not digesting well, Zabu no sleep, so Zabu take over blog, tell ALL of greatness of Zabu, mightiest of Sabercats!!!

RRRROOOOOAAAAARRRRR!!!

(Ahem) Excuse Zabu. Zabu lose composure. not used to audience.

Zabu longtime Marvel mainstay, own golden hair hu-man name Ka-Zar. Zabu come from far away Savage Land. Many times, super heros come. Many times Zabu is Good Cat, NOT eat superheros.

Many Times, Zabu fight beside golden hair hu-man! GO ZABU!!!!!


Later, golden hair hu-man name Ka-Zar bring home mate, red hair female name Shanna. Zabu not mind. Zabu not mind one bit.



As you see, Zabu am greatest Marvel hero of all! Now read Zabu factoids - wise up about mighty king of sabertooths!


Now, all know of greatness of Zabu! Spread word! Zabu tired. You go now, or Zabu kill!!




Saturday, April 14, 2007

New Avengers #29: Not Enough Night Nurse

I've been following both New and Mighty Avengers since the Civil War split the team into new, warring factions. It didn't take long for the two teams to have a showdown, and this issue showed what a power player Doctor Strange really is. NA #29 wasn't perfect, but it had several great moments (Jeryn Hogarth!) that made up for any flaws (Doctor Strange's cloak doesn't "go astral" with the rest of him) in the story. I'm kind of digging the renegade Avengers story more than I thought I would, although we're getting a bit too deep into ninja-ville for my liking.

There is one MAJOR problem so far: Where the heck is Night Nurse?


Doctor Strange: The Oath was a recent mini-series that also featured Night Nurse, assisting Doc throughout as the two developed a romantic attraction. The series, which presumably took place before Civil War, ended with Strange inviting her to continue her practice at the Sanctum Sanctorum, the the two kissed to seal the deal. Now, post Civil War, Doc is offering his seemingly-abandoned home to the New Avengers as a hideout...but no with no Night Nurse in sight. I hope Bendis was just unaware of developments in the Oath, and will write her into future stories. She could still run her clinic from the sanctum, but maybe the entry is now in a back alley seven or eight blocks away with a magic portal or whatever leading to the Sanctum. I'm sure the NA could use some extra medical help too. There could even be some good grist for drama if Night Nurse wanted to treat a pro-reg hero over Doc and the NA's protests. Brian Bendis was the guy who revived Night Nurse a few years back in Daredevil, so I can't imagine why he wouldn't want to use her. Come on, Bendis, more Night Nurse, please!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Another Avengers Death? (SPOILERS)

Marvel sent this out yesterday with no further comment:



So now it looks like Hank Pym, a.k.a. Ant-Man, Giant Man, Goliath, Doctor Pym, and currently, Yellowjacket may be the next Avenger to die in Avengers: the Initiative #2. We’ll have to see how the story plays out, of course, but it sure looks like he’s decided to go out Blaze-of-Glory style. Hank Pym has been damaged goods as a character ever since a storyline in which he battered his then-wife, the Wasp. It happened over twenty years ago in one story, but the plot point was revived by a similar, but much more extreme, story in the Ultimates, and writers just can't seem to let it go. Pym has even been portrayed as suicidal before, specifically in West Coast Avengers #21, where he came this close to blowing his brains out before Firebird came in and talked him out of it. He’s been on various meds and dealing with depression since the Civil War began, so this may be where he checks out for good. Or as “for good” as anyone bows out in comics. There have also been hints of an Initiative Black Ops group with a big secret, so he may be faking his death to lead that...or something.

Avengers: the Initiative
is turning out to be one grim little book, with MVP getting Tillmanned in issue #1, and now this. Dan Slott promised that this book would be darker than anything else he's worked on, and it seems he wasn't lying. There’s always the possibility that this apparent death may turn out to be something else entirely in the overall story, but we’ll have to wait til Avengers: the Initiative #2 arrives to see.

Meet Me at the Sphinx Part 3: West Coast Avengers #22

Welcome to the last of a three-part series examining one of Marvel’s strangest crossovers, a story that took 24 years to complete and spans Fantastic Four #19, Doctor Strange #53, and West Coast Avengers #22.

In part one, we covered Fantastic Four #19


West Coast Avengers #22, Written by Steve Englehart with art by Al Milgrom, was but one chapter of a sprawling epic time-travel tale. The WCA was split up and scattered throughout time, and Hawkeye, Iron Man, Wonder Man, Tigra were in ancient Egypt, trying to find a way back to the present. At the time, Moon Knight was a member of the WCA as well, and Hawkeye used the connection to obtain a map of the Sphinx from a priest of Khonshu. Hawkeye knew all about Rama-Tut’s time travel device from avengers records, and the Archer hoped to hitch a ride to the future in it. That’s not to say there weren’t surprises in store for the team, as they come across an unconscious Doctor Strange being carried away:

(Click images to enlarge)



The Avengers leap into action, attempting to rescue the sorcerer, but reinforcements arrive, and as the Avengers battle, a second group of automatons show up to take Strange to the sarcophagus as seen in Doctor Strange #53:


The green robots never appeared in Doctor Strange #53 or Fantastic Four #19, but Englehart had to dish up some action scenes without the Avengers being seen by the Fantastic Four or Doctor Strange. There was a panel in Doctor Strange #53 that shows two shadowy figures approaching Doc just after he fell to the automated defenses. Neither of the shadows has an antenna, as the four gold robots do, so I can only guess that Englehart extrapolated from that a second group of robots that the WCA could battle for a couple of pages.

(Panel from Doctor Strange #53)



The West Coast Avengers finish off the robots and catch up with Doctor Strange just after his astral form has escaped his imprisoned body and drifted away. Wonder Man tries to free the imprisoned mage, but to no avail, and team leader Hawkeye decides to move on:



The Avengers enter a monitor room where they see the FF and the Pharaoh on screen. Hawkeye decides to try to help them and travel back to the future in their time machine – the same time machine the Avengers were using before it was damaged! Unfortunately, more robots arrive to slow them further:




After checking in on other subplots, we return to Hawkeye and crew, still finding their way to the Pharaoh’s court:


Eventually, they make it to the court, but by then the Fantastic Four have already broken free, Rama-Tut has fled, and the room is abandoned:



All of the delays have cost the Avengers dearly, as they are just crucial seconds behind the Fantastic Four and Rama-Tut:




It's déjà vu all over again, as the FF flee the rumbling, self-destructing Sphinx, with the WCA arriving mere seconds too late:




Finally, as scenes we’ve already seen in Fantastic Four #19 and Doctor Strange #53 play out, the West Coast Avengers are scant moments too late to catch the FF as the time platform lowers:

Of course, the West Coast Avengers eventually make it home, but not after a few more issues and a lot more difficulty. It’s fun to compare these three stories and see how well Stern and Englehart built on to Stan Lee’s original story. Roger Stern had it easier, since he was writing a character who could act without being seen or heard, while Englehart had to come up with delays and distractions to keep the WCA perpetually one step behind, so as to remain unseen.

This concludes Again With the Comics’ look at the Sphinx of Rama-Tut, and all the time-travel nuttiness within. I hope you enjoyed it! What’s nice about a stunt like this is that it can’t be planned or marketed, it’s just pure creativity in action. Just another example of how fun comics can be!








Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Meet Me at the Sphinx Part 2: Doctor Strange #53

Welcome to part two of a three-part series examining one of Marvel’s strangest crossovers, a story that took 24 years to complete and spans Fantastic Four #19, Doctor Strange #53, and West Coast Avengers #22. In part one, we covered Fantastic Four #19, published in 1963. The story was a simple silver-age tale of the FF’s adventure in ancient Egypt, and their confrontation with Pharaoh Rama-Tut, a time traveler from the distant future.

In 1982, Doctor Strange was being written by Roger Stern and drawn by Marshall Rogers and Terry Austin. In their final storyline together, Doctor Strange was traveling through time chasing a shard of Morgana Blessing's soul. Doctor Strange #53 brought him to ancient Egypt and a certain familiar Sphinx. The Doctor was about become entwined in the events of Fantastic Four #19, though the FF would never know he was there.


(Click images to enlarge)



Doctor Strange arrives in Egypt, landing atop the Sphinx, and the Eye of Aggamotto alerts him that the woman he seeks is inside. Strange enters through a trap door on the Sphinx, finding halls of machinery and technology far beyond even present-day capabilities. He starts to head towards the center of the Sphinx, but is suddenly beset by automated security traps, and is knocked unconscious by a force beam. After some subplot, we see Doctor Strange being carried away by four golden robots:



The Pharaoh is busy with the Fantastic Four, so the robots deposit Strange in a futuristic sarcophagus for further study. Doctor Strange’s astral form escapes and flies free, headed to Rama-Tut’s throne room:


Once in the throne room, events play out much as they did in FF #19, with the added presence of an invisible, intangible Doctor Strange. Doc brings himself up to speed, but is helpless to physically interfere:


Rama-Tut delivers his monologue, much as he did in FF#19, and Doc debates getting involved. The issue is decided for him when he recognizes Morgana Blessing’s incarnation in one of the Pharaoh’s handmaidens:



Strange reveals himself to the girl, enlisting her to free him from the sarcophagus, then leaves to create a diversion. He tracks down the Thing, who has been assigned work as a galley slave. The same scene appeared in FF #19, where we were told that “inscrutable forces” transformed Ben back to human form. As it turns out, Doctor Strange was the force that reverted him and helped him find his way back to the Sphinx:




Back at the throne room, events play out much as they did in FF#19:



As the FF escape, Doctor Strange’s physical form is freed by the slave girl, and the two promptly run into Rama-Tut, who traps them rather than bother with a fight. Doc has gotten what he came for though, and is content to leave the Sphinx, doing so just before the Fantastic Four arrive:



Outside the Sphinx, Doctor Strange retrieves Morgana's soul-shard from the girl, then watches as first the Pharaoh, then the FF escape the Sphinx. He then returns to his own time, leaving the handmaiden behind.

Writer Roger Stern did a great job weaving the events of Fantastic Four #19 into his overall saga. Doctor Strange’s ability to travel in his astral form was used to great effect in this story, allowing him to affect events without being seen by any of the other characters. Marshall Rogers wove the old and new stories together seamlessly, and re-reading this really drove home what a loss his recent death was. This wasn’t the end of the story, however, as five years would pass before Steve Englehart would send the West Coast Avengers on a year-long time travel saga – one that would lead some of them straight to Rama-Tut’s Sphinx, the Fantastic Four, and Doctor Strange!


Meet me at the Sphinx for part 3: West Coast Avengers #22!