Nov 18, 2017

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 997: Amazing Spider-Man Annual #22, 1988

Kind of a "meh" comic today, but really, the whole of the crossover so far has felt that way. It's a little weird, because it's definitely top name creators, at least as far as Marvel in the 80s goes, but the stories are just okay, not awesome.

The team-up of Spider-Man and Daredevil is nicely handled, especially considering that Daredevil was well into his dark years at this point. It's nice to see that he's still capable of levity - when a character is darkened like he was, sometimes writers forget that there's another side to human experience that isn't quite so bleak. But, then again, we're only 2 years from the 90s in this issue, and we all know how bleak the beginning of that decade was.

I'm off to see about getting the last two issues of the crossover from a local shop, the last one I can think of nearby that carries back issues this old. But if I can't find them...then I can't find them. At some point I'll have to stop trying to complete series that I read, otherwise this'll be come the 80 Years of Comics Project - and I'm not sure I have that long left in me!

To be continued.

Nov 17, 2017

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 996: Fantastic Four Annual #21, 1988

This is a very strange era for the Fantastic Four. Unlike the Avengers and their rotating membership, the FF have always been the core four, the original Marvel heroes. There have, of course, been slight shifts in membership over the years, but, for the majority of their existence, the Four have been Reed, Sue, Ben, and Johnny. However, around the same time that the Avengers are falling apart in their own title, Reed and Sue decide to quit the hero biz, and leave Johnny and Ben to recruit a couple of new members. Ms. Marvel, the Sharon Ventura iteration, and Crystal the Inhuman join the team, and the team embarks on some remarkably cosmic adventures. Having read over this issue, I'm kind of looking forward to reading them. I collected this version of the team as it was coming out, though, as with all comics at the time, once I discovered sex, drugs, and rock'n'roll, the superheroes left my consciousness for a little while.

I like to think it was serendipitous, as it meant I completely missed the nonsense of the Image years, only returning to superhero comics with Grant Morrison's JLA.

An interesting story today, though, as with the previous installments, the High Evolutionary is doing something with seemingly no impetus. Honestly, the only thing I need to make these stories make any sense is for him to be giving some kind of reason for what he's doing in each issue. For some reason, he needs the terrigen mists of the Inhumans, and he fails to get them, and we don't ever find out why he wanted them. In some ways, this is kind of a cool mechanic, as it means that we're as lost as the heroes themselves - the Evolutionary isn't a Bond villain who monologues to the heroes. He's doing something he considers important, and those that oppose him are beneath his notice.

We'll just have to see how long that remains true.

To be continued.

Nov 16, 2017

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 995: The New Mutants Annual #4, 1988

I was almost not going to read this issue, as I wanted to leave it until I eventually (and perhaps sooner rather than later) get to reading all of The New Mutants. This was absolutely one of my favourite comics in the 80s, and aside from some of the crappy Liefeld stuff at the end, I have the whole series. But here I am.

As I noted in yesterday's post, I'm still not seeing much of a through line to these stories. That's okay in this case, as I'm familiar with the characters and situations, which convinces me even more that this crossover should be seen as a series of discreet stories, rather than one long, interconnected one.

Contrary to the cover up there, the High Evolutionary doesn't even show up in this issue, but his cronies are tasked with removing Magma's powers because she might one day cause some catastrophe that will endanger evolved humanity. Again, I'd ask wouldn't this simply be something that the evolved humanity would be able to deal with with the god-like powers about to be bestowed upon them? The Evolutionary likens himself to a god at the beginning of the crossover, and hopes to "elevate" humanity to his level - so surely they'd be able to take care of themselves in the face of a single young woman like Magma.

What's quite good about this issue is that it really does shift the paradigm for one member of the team, and then the backup feature explores the ramifications of that change. Very often a crossover will have little to no impact on the stories being told in the regular series, so it's always refreshing to see a fundamental narrative shift like this come from what really could have been a throwaway story.

To be continued.

Nov 15, 2017

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 994: Silver Surfer Annual #1, 1988

I have a soft spot for the Eternals. Of all of Jack Kirby's solo creations, they're the ones that I find the most interesting. I think I'd have found them more interesting if they'd stayed separate from the rest of the Marvel U, as they appeared to be in their initial forays, but in their current(ish) incarnations, they provide a nice link to the cosmic shenanigans of the Celestials, which I've always found to be a thoroughly intriguing aspect of Marvel history.

That aside, they act in a very un-Eternals manner in today's comic, at least from my perspective on the group. Without really any questioning of the High Evolutionary's plan or motivations, they agree to assist him in wanting to map the Silver Surfer's genetic data because...well, I'm not actually sure why. The Evolutionary says he wants to better understand humanoid genetics, but surely there's an easier candidate than the Silver Surfer. Especially considering that, as the story begins, he's not even on Earth.

I noted a couple of days ago that this is Marvel's first attempt at a cross-annual crossover, and it shows the signs of being the first of its kind. There's little continuity between the stories aside from each one being loosely connected to the High Evolutionary. So far the stories have been about mapping non-human humanoid genetics, sterilizing the Mole People, and taking out a drug kingpin. I'm not really certain how these things work into assisting in the evolution of humankind. Surely evolved humans would simply decide that using cocaine is a bad idea. And do the Moloids really present some kind of threat - if they're a dead end evolutionarily-speaking, why not leave them to their fates?

What I think is needed for this crossover is what many of the subsequent crossovers, from any of the major publishers, have had: a introductory issue. The Age of Apocalypse crossover had X-Men: Alpha, a preface to the main stories told through the crossover that set up for the reader the main concerns of the story. We don't get that here. We're simply dropped in partway through and left to figure out how each of the stories work with one another.

Though, another thought occurs: maybe they're not meant to. Maybe we're not meant to be reading this crossover the same way we read them now. Perhaps the conception was that each annual was simply going to be a story involving whatever team or character featured in the series, and they were only loosely meant to tell a whole story. This way we can enjoy the stories for their own merits, rather than having to rely on other comics to feel like we've had a satisfactory experience. I'll start trying to read them from this perspective, and see what happens.

To be continued.

Nov 14, 2017

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 993: The Punisher Annual #3, 1988

As I said yesterday, I'm not a huge fan of the Punisher in general. I've seen the character handled well, but more often than not he's simply a psychopath who sees the world in black and white - not a particularly realistic worldview, but sadly one that many people in the real world share.

This comic is just weird. It's a full-on action movie for a little while, and then it becomes a science fiction movie, and the switch is really jarring. Perhaps this has always been my problem with the Punisher - he doesn't really fit into the Marvel U properly, and I don't think he ever has. Likely this is because he's a "hero" in his own title, but shares almost nothing in common with any other character published by the company. Even Wolverine, who is known for his "berserker" side, doesn't kill indiscriminately like Frank Castle does. And before anyone takes issue with that word indiscriminate, what I mean is that he punishes criminals without really thinking about the consequences of that punishment. The young girl Frank rescues in today's comic, who turns out to be the daughter of the drug dealer he's out to kill, is a perfect example. She see's her father as a good man. There's no doubt, though, that the father does some horrible things in order to be seen as a good man. But now that he's dead, a good man killed by a maniac in a skull shirt, what's to become of the daughter? The Punisher doesn't ask these questions, and is thus not a great addition to the Marvel U, IMHO.

That said, I haven't read a lot of Punisher comics, so perhaps they do deal with this at some point. But, honestly, isn't it about time we stopped celebrating people who run around with guns? I'm amazed that we're going to be getting a Netflix series, regardless of how amazing John Bernthal is in the role.

To be continued.

The Earth-H Files - Captain America and "The Red Skull"

From Omega the Unknown v.1 #3, July 1976.

Nov 13, 2017

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 992: X-Factor Annual #3, 1988

"The Evolutionary War" was the first cross-Annual crossover, a notion that became par for the course in the early 90s. We don't see Annuals much anymore, which is kind of a pity and kind of good. Annuals were always nice for the longer format stories, but those stories weren't always of the highest caliber.

Being that it's the first Annual crossover, it begins in medias res, with the High Evolutionary's forces well underway in their quest to exterminate evolutionary dead ends. You get the sense that a lot of this extermination/sterilization has taken place under the radar of the dominant human species, which adds a fairly chilling aspect to this story. The High Evolutionary, much as he keeps telling himself he's doing good, is really quite fascistic. He's an evolutionary fascist? Which makes his conversation in today's comic with the uber-Darwinian Apocalypse so interesting. I feel like, had this conversation been written about 20 years later, it would have been really quite poignant. Here, it skims the surface, and really offers a nice look at two opposing villainous impetuses that seem to be attempting similar goals.

X-Factor themselves are kind of incidental. And I really would like to know what happens to the mutant Moloid (Va-Lor) after this issue. We probably never see him again.

Dear gods, I have to read The Punisher tomorrow. I'm not a fan.

To be continued.