SHIPPING NOTE – It has taken years to get to this point, but Diamond packed and shipped our order early this week. Books will be here and ready as per normal Wednesday Morning.
Further Holiday Hour Changes
These are the changes to hours due to the happy holidays:
Tuesday, December 24th – Open at 10:00am
Wednesday, December 25th – Closed all day to honor the X-Men
Tuesday, December 31st – Open at 8:00am
Wednesday, January 1st – Closed all day to honor… The all new X-Men
Reasons for the changes: Diamond and publishers have decided that on sale dates for the weeks of the 25th and 1st will be the Tuesdays rather than the Wednesdays. For all the good that is, there is a down side too. The shipment in on Tuesday the 24th will be very small. Approximately, seven books – give or take. The next week, the 31st’s shipment, should be pretty decent sized. Yes, if you were wondering, I have complained about “skip” weeks. I hate them.
Drink and Draw
Our next D&D will be December 12th at Good Sons on Beaver at 8:00. Our last was very well attended and though only Dave and Crater would entertain any talk of Baseball’s MVP votes, I think it was a good time had by all.
Remember, that you do not have to be an artist or have an undying love of comics to attend. All are welcome.
Animal Lifeline Needs Drive
It is easy to help. The drive is for simple needs that are cheap and easily picked up at your grocery store. Then just bring it along when you stop in next time and drop it off. I’ll deliver at the end of December.
Here is what the shelter has for a general list:
Liquid Laundry Soap
Clorox Anywhere Spray Cleaner
Tall Kitchen Garbage Bags
Lawn and Leaf Garbage Bags
Copy Machine Paper
Cat toys of all kinds – laser pointers
Scoopable Cat Litter
Good Mews or Yesterdays News Cat Litter
Fancy Feast canned cat and kitten food – for the finicky eaters
Milk Bones brand dog biscuits-small
All kinds of Toys for puppies to extra large dogs
Peanut Butter – creamy
Small and Medium Flat Buckle Collars and Leashes
Last year we surprisingly topped my wildest expectations. It will take a lot to do so again, however, every little bit helps.
I have one customer already in the spirit as he is donating art to encourage your participation. Kyle Benning, the same Kyle who writes up the Retro Reviews, has done up a bunch of art cards and is donating them to those who bring in donations. It is that simple, bring in something – or somethings – and get some of Kyle’s art. You can pick what you want of what we have. Thanks Kyle.
You can bring in donations whenever you would like.
In advance, let me thank you. I am a very big animal lover that would do and tries to do whatever I can for animals. I’m really not that keen on people, but animals make me go a great big softy. This is my way to try and help just a little bit more.
Would you like 20% off your comics?
We will be starting a new program this month that allows you the ability to get 20% off your comics if you pre-pay and pre-order them.
How this will work is very simple. You will look through the Previews Catalog and submit an order out of it with title, issue number and price. I will send you an invoice with everything listed. After confirmation, we will run your card and you get 20% off.
There are some small restrictions. You will need to get it in by a set date each month, usually the third Sunday of the month. This sets your hold in place. No more dropping books every other week. Your order is set.
However, if you hear of a great new book, that wasn’t on your pre-paid list, I can still get it for you. We will put it on the list to charge the next month. You will get 10% on it, but then you can add it to the next month’s order and start getting 20% then.
I will have more details the next two weeks.
I want you to think about the advantages this can do for you before throwing it out completely. The number one thing we are told when people come in is “man, comics are too expensive” and “argh, my wife is going to kill me for how much I spent.” This helps in both ways. 20% is nothing to scoff at and it will better help you budget. As Jerry McGwire would say, “help me, help you.”
So, why would we do this? There are some changes coming and we are preparing for them. The industry is also becoming increasingly more difficult to work with and work in. Among others and for example, Marvel continues to try and screw retailers by upping their print schedule (not to mention their prices.) They now regularly circumvent the final order cutoff system by just publishing their books every three weeks. Now instead of ordering with the most current data, we are ordering using a month and half’s data.
Throw in DC drawing the line at $3.99 or $4.99 or $7.99, not $2.99, and every company publishing more books than the industry can handle, well… we see the writing on the wall. …for a good time call, NO, not that writing.
I will have more on this next week. In the meantime, if you would like to get a digital copy of the December Previews, please let me know and I’ll get it out to you.
Daredevil will not be gone for long
As one of our best selling superhero titles – no, I’m not kidding – many were upset to hear that the current volume of Daredevil was coming to an end soon. Marvel had been tight lipped about what was going to happen and what, if anything would be available for readers in print and not digital format.
But fear not (get it?) true believers, Daredevil is returning in March with a new volume and some big changes.
He is headed to California. Not really sure why, but it has something to do with what happens at the end of this current story arc.
Yes, the book will have a new #1 issue and it will be priced at the $3.99 tag (it is happening to all comics.) The good part, Waid and Samnee look to be staying on the book after the re-start. That is the best news.
I have the ability to get cheaper Iowa Wild tickets for the December 29th game against the Milwaukee Admirals. Game time is 4:05 and cost is $18 per ticket. If you are interested, I need money by December 12th.
The Wild put on a much better event then the old Stars or Chops did (much more professional organization running it.) The crowd still isn’t what the Bucs are, but crowds have been pretty good for the new team as they are in the top ten in the AHL.
Let me know and get me money if you want to go.
Kyle’s Retro Review: The X-Cutioner’s Song
So how do you follow up reading some classic Silver Age Marvel stories that are chalked full of some incredibly well written stories with gorgeous art done in the classic Marvel House Style? How about with some clichéd, over the top, ridiculous looking art and a dark story from the beginning of the worst era in Marvel Comics history?
That’s right folks, this week I ventured into Marvel comics from the 1990’s where shoulder pads, pouches, huge guns and speed lines ran rampant and rule supreme. This is an era kicked off by Liefeld, Lee and McFarlane, where all of the mutants I guess continued to mutate from their classic 80’s look, while developing speed lines and wrinkles all over their faces (they need to consult John Kerry on some Botox injections) as well as growing and developed several extra teeth. Don’t believe me? Google a Rob Liefeld X-Force drawing and you will undoubtedly find “art” depicting a mutant apparently screaming in agony and showcasing 60-80 teeth in their mouth. Maybe that’s why they’re screaming or why they are called Mutuatns? Or the agony of sporting a costume and weapons that weigh a couple hundred pounds… really, we could play this game all afternoon, the possibilities are endless.
Anyways….. I was in an X-MEN mood and had been recently re-watching the classic 90’s X-MEN cartoon (which was awesome at the time, and in my opinion it still holds up today.) It helps that Claremont was a major consultant for the show and its stories relied heavily on the Claremont & Cockrum and Claremont & Byrne eras of the comics. I wanted to revisit those days of my youth and read the X-MEN comics that were on the shelves while the cartoon was at its peak of success.
The early 90’s were truly an era of mutant madness, as cartoons and comics depicting mutated heroes, and in turn their mutant menaces, were incredibly popular. X-MEN, Spider-Man (that’s right I don’t care what Marvel says, if you’re bit by a radioactive spider, and absorb/develop spider traits on the genetic level, you are a MUTANT), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Wild West Cowboys of Moo Mesa, and Street Sharks all raked in the dough courtesy of capturing the imaginations of all of us kids born in the mid to late 80’s. I remember that Hardee’s even had an X-MEN promotion, where you could get X-MEN cups, toys, and mini comics. Pizza Hut also ran a promotion with a 4-issue “Special Collector’s Set” of X-MEN comics.
But I digress, back to X-Cutioner’s Song… this was a 12 issue story arc that hit shelves towards the end of 1992, and ran through the four X-Books at the time, Uncanny X-MEN, X-Factor, X-Force, and X-MEN. Each book had 3 parts of the total story broken down as such:
Uncanny X-MEN (writer: Scott Lobdell, artist: Brandon Peterson) #294(part 1), #295(part 5), #296(part 9)
X-FACTOR (writer: Peter David, artist: Jae Lee) #84 (part 2), #85 (part 6), #86 (part 10)
X-MEN (Writer Fabian Nicieza, artist: Andy Kubert) #14 (part 3), #15 (part 7), #16 (part 8)
X-FORCE (Writer: Fabian Nicieza, artist: Greg Capullo) #16 (part 4), #17 (part 8), #18 (part 9)
There were also 2 epilogue issues to wrap things up in Uncanny X-MEN #297 and X-Force #19, as well as a Stryfe’s Strike File one-shot later to touch on some points from X-Cutioner’s song as well as introduce future plot points.
I was pleasantly surprised to find that Rob Liefeld was in no way, shape or form involved in any of the art or plotting chores of these stories. The story was already off to a better start than I anticipated! To give this era a little context, X-MEN editor Bob Harras (yes the same Bob Harras who is currently ruining DC Comics) had just forced out long time X Franchise writers Louise Simonson and Chris Claremont, all in favor of giving sole control of the characters to artists like Jim Lee, Whilce Portacio, and Rob Liefeld, so that they could draw as many speed lines and pouches as they wanted without being inhibited by the context of something called a story.
Of course this didn’t last long when those three creators, among others, decided to hit the road and draw “revolutionary art” at their own company, where they could miss deadlines as often as they wanted without answering to an editor. A practice both Liefeld and Lee still employ today. So Harras had to scramble to find new creative teams, something he should be an expert at by now. Good to see that the more things change, the more they stay the same; at least he’s consistent.
The story centers around the mutant villain Stryfe, who was first introduced in the last days of the New Mutants title and had been the antagonist in X-FORCE since the series began. Little was known about this mysterious and ridiculously clad villain from the future, other than he hates Cable, Cable hates him, and Stryfe must apparently have a super strong neck to support his odd metal helmet that appears to weigh upwards of 50 plus pounds.
Stryfe was the leader of the MLF (Mutant Liberation Front) a group of ridiculous looking characters designed by Liefeld that would be funny if they were created as a joke, like how Rodriguez does the Machete movies, but no, these were supposed to be totally super awesome bad @$$ villains done in a serious tone. That pretty much sums up the plague of comics created by Rob Liefeld (and his many impersonators) that infected Marvel and Image during the 90’s; joke characters taken with the upmost sincerity and seriousness, armed with huge guns and the “latest” in 90’s fashion. (Seriously look hard at the costume designs of Jim Lee’s reboot of DC and we see how much things haven’t changed in comics.)
The story starts off, with an assassination attempt on Charles Xavier’s life during a concert in a park. The assailant is apparently Cable, which we later learn is actually Stryfe (!!) dressed as Cable and without his ridiculous helmet. The shot doesn’t kill Xavier, instead it injects him with the Techno Organic Virus, but a more highly advanced strain of the virus than the X-MEN and Dr. Hank McCoy (Beast) have ever encountered.
Meanwhile, Apocalypse’s Horseman have attacked and captured Jean Grey and Cyclops. So the X-MEN, with the aid of X-Factor, go hunting for Apocalypse, while another group attempts to track down Cable and the members of X-FORCE (who have split from Cable at this point.) Upon tracking down the Horsemen, they find that they are not under Apocalypse’s command, but instead being manipulated by Mr. Sinister (my all-time favorite X-Villain) via Stryfe. Apocalypse’s Dark Riders then awake Apocalypse prematurely, before he is fully rejuvenated and at full power levels, to deal with the treachery of his chosen acolytes.
Sinister, on the other hand, delivers the captured Jean Grey and Scott Summers to Stryfe’s MLF forces in exchange for a canister containing the Summers/Grey genetic matrix. Bishop confronts Sinister, who has broken into the X Mansion to check on Xavier’s worsening condition and Sinister reveals to Bishop that it is Stryfe behind the capture of Cyclops and Jean.
Stryfe confronts Apocalypse, saying that he wishes to settle a very personal vendetta. Stryfe defeats Apocalypse, and with their master defeated, the Dark Riders enlist their services to the “Most Fit” mutant, Stryfe. By this time the X-MEN and X-FACTOR have confronted and battled X-FORCE lead by Cannonball (Sam Guthrie.)
X-FORCE surrenders and is taken into custody by X-FACTOR and the X-MEN, which are now combined into one cohesive team for the remainder of the story, being referred to as “X-Squadron.” Cannonball is allowed to join the X-Squadron, while his teammates remained imprisoned. The Squadron then trys to track down Jean & Scott as well as find Stryfe’s location, hoping they’ll be able to kill two birds with one stone.
Bishop and Wolverine journey to Canada to break into Department K to pull the files they have on Cable and Stryfe. There they run into Cable, who has the same plan, they fight a bit, buy into Cable’s “it wasn’t me that shot Xavier tale” a little too easy and then team-up and head to Cable’s ship Graymalkin which is orbiting earth. Once there Cable gives the lowdown of his history with Stryfe and they believe him.
Xavier’s condition worsens, as the TO virus continues to spread and ravish his body, with Moira MacTaggert and Beast at a loss for a cure, they allow Apocalypse, who has come to the X-MEN, willing to aid them in defeating Stryfe, to cure Xavier. He accelerates the metabolism and growth of the virus until it can no longer sustain itself and defeats it.
This occurs while Jean and Scott are being cryptically interrogated by Stryfe, claiming they did some unforeseen evil to him in the past and that they must pay. All the while he is dropping confusing hints that indicate he is their child that they sent to the future, which occurred in a previous X-Factor issue during the 80’s.
The X-MEN can’t find Stryfe or Jean & Scott anywhere on earth and it is during an escape attempt that Jean is able to send a telepathic SOS to Logan, who deduces they are on the moon, in one of Apocalypse’s old strongholds. So the X-Men depart headed towards the moon, willing to take a chance at Logan’s ridiculous gut feeling on the location of their missing teammates.
And that brings us to the grand finale, as the X-Squadron battles it out against the combined forces of the MLF and Dark Riders while Cable, Bishop and Wolverine try to find Jean and Scott. The Dark Riders fight Apocalypse, and in his weakened state, beat him to death. Archangel finds him, and leaves him to die a slow painful death. Meanwhile, Cable finds Stryfe outside of the complex on the surface of the moon, holding Jean & Scott inside a TK bubble. He confronts Stryfe, who rants and raves like a child about how he was abandoned and it’s all Jean and Cyclops fault. He hates Cable, who is an impure clone of Stryfe. They of course duke it out, before Cable is able to detonate a self-destruct mechanism in his armor seemingly killing both of them.
Meanwhile, back on Earth, Sinister has his assistant open the canister he received from Stryfe that was supposed to contain the Summers genetic code, instead it was a seemingly empty canister, with the lab assistant coughing. This was set to be the Legacy Virus, which would be a major plotline in future X-Book story arcs. This little one-page exchange was probably the best lasting legacy (excuse my pun) of the X-Cutioner’s Song story arc.
The ending showdown between Cable and Stryfe is left inconclusive, who was the clone of whom? What was each of their origins? The story was supposed to unveil the origin of Cable and Stryfe, but instead due to last minute editorial changes by Harras (gee imagine that!) it was left open ended and ambiguous. There was also a Cable two issue mini-series (Cable: Blood & Metal), written Nicieza with art by John Romita, Jr. released around the same time as this story which sheds a little more light on Cable’s origin and his past with Stryfe, but that series was never referenced in this story arc.
Later down the pike, there would be more of the origin of both characters fleshed out and clarified. Most of this would occur in the Adventures of Cyclops and Phoenix mini-series which put the debate to rest. I think the long time readers of the X books wouldn’t have been confused, as the reason that Jean & Scott sent their baby Nathan into the future, was because he had been infected with the Techno Organic virus since there was not a cure in their time. Stryfe did not suffer from the TO Virus, that is why he was so much more powerful than Cable and Jean(a concept that would later be used for Nate Grey in the AoA verse, who was a more powerful alternate version of Cable, due to not being infected with the TO Virus).
So it would later be confirmed that Cable was the true Summers’ child, with Stryfe being a clone who was free of the TO virus, stolen by Apocalypse (thus his hatred towards Apocalypse in the story) with the intent of being raised as his next host body. Upon learning Stryfe was a clone, and thus unfit for Apocalypse, he was cast aside and raised by Apocalypse’s 2nd in command. This story has some obvious flaws, with the muddling of who was really who and only adding confusion to readers. All of that confusion was eventually resolved, but it would be over a year. Had the Cyclops & Phoenix mini-series started immediately following X-Cutioner’s Song, I think the arc would have been more well-received at the time. The lasting implications of this crossover were further dimensioned when the deaths of Apocalypse and Stryfe (which were both supposed to be permanent) were retracted and both reappeared.
The art and story was better than what I expected. Capullo, who was relatively new to the scene, especially on the X-books, taking over art duties on X-Force the issue before this crossover started, was the best artist of the bunch. His stuff was dynamic, the anatomy was great, and while you can poke fun at the costumes the characters wore during this era, they weren’t designed by him and he drew them well. His art was flying on all cylinders and complimented Fabian Nicieza’s story and dialogue.
Speaking of Nicieza, he’s a guy I think that is unfairly lumped into this era. It’s been a while since I read anything penned by him, but I was pleasantly surprised how great his scripts were, he wrote some pretty profound stuff and had some great dialogue coming out of the mouths of guys who could’ve easily been treated as one-dimensional B-List mutants that at times plague the X books of this era. The second best artist in this crossover would be Andy Kubert. His anatomy was great for the most part, his style matched the era, but looked pretty solid; he was pretty good at aping Jim Lee’s style which had become the standard on X-MEN. My only issue was his panel selection. It never failed that every issue Kubert drew in this arc that there would be a few panels where you stopped and had to scratch your head and wonder what exactly he was drawing. It usually was a perfectly drawn, in proportion piece of art, but from a very weird vantage point. You’d get these panels that don’t match the story; like a vantage point from the back of someone’s arm with a computer behind it or something. It didn’t add to the story and pulled you out as you tried to figure out what exactly it was you were looking at. In his defense, he came aboard the art duties on the X-MEN title just as the crossover was beginning and it was fairly early in his career. His art got noticeably better as the series progressed with these odd panels occurring less and less.
The worst drawn book was probably the best written, which is unfortunate. Peter David brought an amazing take to the pages of X-Factor, he was funny, he poked fun at some of the ridiculous characters in X-Force when he got the chance to write them (something he still does today in the pages of X-FACTOR) and just nailed all of the personalities of the characters. It’s too bad that his great writing had to be held back by the absolutely awful artwork of Jae Lee. Jae Lee is a worse artist than Rob Liefeld. Let that sink in. One of the greatest cardinal sins Marvel ever did around this time period was removing John Byrne from art duties on the Namor book he was also writing, and having him write with Jae Lee’s artwork. Talk about jarring, you go from one of the greatest artists of all time to one of the all-time worst. Anyways… back to Jae Lee’s awful art and how it portrays to this story, imagine a terrible hybrid of art done by terribly imitating Simon Bisley, Mike Mignola (both of whose art I really enjoy), while mixing it with an even worse looking copy of Liefeld’s “style” (if you can even call it that). Those are 3 styles that don’t mix well, especially not by a 3rd rate impersonator. Lee’s artwork was so off-putting, there were probably upwards of 10 panels an issue, maybe 20, where I had no idea what he was even drawing. About 25% of the pages he drew had at least one panel where it’s a shot of just the back of somebody’s leg, with a bunch of speed lines on it, surrounded by darkness. I’m serious! He just kept drawing half calf shots with the rest of the panel being black. Then we had the obligatory terrible looking Wolverine profile shots surrounded by black every two pages or so and the huge white panel with terribly proportioned black silhouetted figures in a group shot at least three times an issue. It is painful to look at his art in the X-Factor issues. Do yourself a favor and just read David’s word balloons and captions. Your eyes and stomach will be thankful.
The last title in this crossover, Uncanny X-MEN, was written by Scott Lobdell with art by Brandon Peterson. I don’t know much about Brandon Peterson, or if he’s an active artist still today, but his style at this time seemed to be a pretty derivative cross between Liefeld and Jim Lee, which started out very Liefeldy on the cover to part 1 of the story, and as the story progressed got better as his “style” was more of an aped Jim Lee. It isn’t bad art, even during his more Liefeld inspired drawings, the characters are at least in better proportion than Liefeld ever drew them, but it wasn’t great art. He had the occasionally “what am I looking at” panel that also plagued Kubert. His art wasn’t as dynamic as Kubert’s was, but it also wasn’t near as awful as Jae Lee, so it was a much welcomed change to that garbage. I was pleasantly surprised with Lobdell’s writing. It was consistent and there weren’t any glaring issues or awful dialogue moments. It wasn’t as spot on or humorous as David’s and Nicieza’s take on the characters, but it wasn’t bad. It was infinitely better than any of the garbage he’s putting out at DC at the moment in one of the like 8 titles they have him writing.
Speaking of Lobdell’s awful writing at DC, that brings me to another brief point. I was pleasantly surprised how seamless the transition was from book to book. It’s amazing what happens when a story involving multiple creators is dealt with properly and well planned, instead of thrown together at the last moment in an attempt to garner a temporary sales spike with a gimmick. Each issue took off right where the previous issue left off, only requiring a brief paragraph to summarize what happened in the last issue to get the characters/teams where they are currently. This was a pleasant change to say, the Lobdell written story that happened in the first 6 issues of both New 52 Superboy and Teen Titans. That story arc lasted a total of 12 issues, and told a story that honestly even in today’s drug out written for the trade atmosphere could’ve been told in 4 issues. Each issue of that terrible story required half of the issue devoted to the recap of the whole 2 minor occurrences that happened in the previous issue.
So to finish this rant off, I was pleasantly surprised by this crossover, despite the weak ending, I still really enjoyed it. The story doesn’t promise to be some mind stimulating story that makes you think (like Uncle Sam I reviewed a few weeks back) but instead delivers on an action packed over the top fun story with spandex and mutants running rampant. You get to see a lot of mutant on mutant fighting, and like all books of the time, even though the story is Cable-centric, you never actually see Cable use any mutant powers, he just shoots really big guns.
When I was little I wasn’t exactly sure what his mutant powers were, and this story doesn’t do anything to clarify. When all of the other mutants are fighting and using their powers, Cable just shoots guns that weigh 300 pounds, so I guess he’s super strong.
It’s still a fun story, with better art than I expected. It really took me back to those days as a kid, of waking up Saturday mornings to watch the X-MEN cartoon on FOX, while I looked over my latest issue of X-MEN or X-FORCE and pointed out the characters I knew. It’s definitely a product of the 90’s and suffers from a number of those clichés and problems that would plague Marvel during this time period, but it actually was a better story with some of the better art coming out of Marvel at the time. Go ahead and give this book a look, I think you’ll find it a fun read and if nothing else get a good laugh making fun of the cheesier aspects.