Three guys talking about comic books, sports, movies, TV shows and the numerous other pastimes that make us Gentlemen of Leisure.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Force in Focus: Star Wars #29

"Dark Encounter"
November 1979

In a Nutshell
Darth Vader battles Valance the Hunter

Writer/Editor: Archie Goodwin
Artists: Carmine Infantino & Bob Wiacek
Colorist: Glynis Wein
Letterer: John Costanza
Consulting Editor: Jim Shooter

Aboard his Star Destroyer, Darth Vader tortures a Rebel spy, learning the name of Rebel deserter, Tyler Lucian, who knows the identity of the pilot who destroyed the Death Star. On Centares, Valance the Hunter, seeking the same man, roughs up a cantina owner and his patrons in order to learn the whereabouts of Lucian. After running afoul of some Stormtroopers, Valance finds Lucian hiding out in the tower of an old resort, long abandoned after the Empire poisoned the water, but he arrives just moments before Vader. Meanwhile, on Yavin Four, Artoo is restored to full operation, while Luke learns that Leia has left on a mission alone. Back on Centares, Valance and Vader fight, with Valance unwilling to let Vader get the identity of the Death Star destroyer from Lucian.

Friday, February 12, 2016

X-amining X-Factor #68

July 1991

In a Nutshell
Cyclops is forced to send his son into the future to save his life.

Plot: Jim Lee & Whilce Portacio
Script: Chris Claremont
Penciler: Whilce Portacio
Inker: Art Thibert
Letterer: Michael Heisler
Colorist: Dana Moreshead
Editor: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Face to face with the massive Apocalypse, X-Factor is attacked by the Riders of the Storm and brainwashed Inhumans Medusa and Crystal. Overpowered, they are captured, and Apocalypse gloats that he will use their power to increase his own. However, just then Black Bolt and the free Inhumans counterattack, just as Cyclops and Black Bolt had planned. However, Nathan has been infected with a virus by Apocalypse, and is dying. He instinctively pulls Jean into his mind to face an avatar of Apocalypse, and Jean proceeds to bring Cyclops in as well, who manages to defeat the avatar. Returning to the physical world, Cyclops blasts Apocalypse, destroying him, but Nathan is still dying, and Beast says there's no way to cure him in time. However, Askani declares that she can save him, by taking him with her back to the future, and Cyclops reluctantly says goodbye to his son in order to save his life. In the aftermath, the Watcher once more comments on humanity, applauding Cyclops for choosing hope over despair.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

X-amining Excalibur #39

"Heart of the Matter - Book Three of the Promethium Exchange"
July 1991

In a Nutshell
Darkoth's helps defeat Dr. Doom and become Limbo's ruler.

Writer: Lobdell
Artist: Badger
Letterer: Eliopoulos
Colorist: Vancata
Editor: Kavanaugh
Editor-in-Chief: DeFalco

In Limbo, Phoenix is able to telekinetically hold back Doom's sword stroke, preventing him from destroying the heart of Limbo. Just then, the horde of demonic superheroes attack Excalibur and the Avengers, leaving Darkoth to fight Doom. Their struggle distracts Phoenix, enabling Doom to plunge the Soulsword into the heart of Limbo, reducing the demons to indistinct forms and opening a portal to Earth. His work done, Doom leaves the place. But in his absence, Darkoth claims the sword just as S'ym suddenly appears, wanting it for himself. But Darkoth swallows up S'ym and declares his intent to kill himself, destroying Limbo in the process and thus fouling Doom's plan. A horrified Meggan overhears this, and willing merges with Darkoth, using her empathic abilities to overcome his sorrow. At peace with himself, Limbo becomes calm and orderly, a reflection of its new master. Opening a portal, he declares he will remain as the guardian of the now-empty Limbo, and the heroes return to Earth.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

X-amining Uncanny X-Men #278

"The Battle of Muir Isle"
July 1991

In a Nutshell
The X-Men launch their attack on Muir Island.

Writer: Chris Claremont
Guest Penciler: Paul Smith
Inker: Hilary Barta
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Colorist: Joe Rosas
Editor: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

As the Shadow King gloats to Lian Shen about the level of hate & discord in the world empowering him, Professor X breaks into a WHO base and steals back the Blackbird from Excalibur. Meanwhile, on Muir Island, new arrivals Rogue and Guido fight in the arena, Moira's version of the Danger Room, and Rogue is stunned by how bloodthirsty both herself and the other residents have become. Not far away, Xavier meets with the X-Men, and they plan their next move. On Muir Island, Rogue is fully overwhelmed by the Shadow King, just as the X-Men launch their assault on the island. However, all but Forge are quickly attacked by one of the island's residents. Meanwhile, Professor X arrives on the grounds of the X-Mansion, hoping to use Cerebro to locate the presumed-dead X-Factor and locate the Shadow King. Just then, an out-of-control car careens down the drive, with the driver leaping free just before it crashes. As Xavier tends to the driver, Stevie Hunter, the Shadow King appears, projecting an image of the defeated X-Men just as the enthralled Colossus emerges from the fiery wreckage of the car.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

The Milch Studies - NYPD Blue Season One, The Highs and Lows

Season Highlights:
There’s no way this is going to be a comprehensive list.  Listing every memorable moment of Season One would turn into me writing a recap of every single episode.  I’ll likely leave something out that would’ve made someone else’s list, so please forgive me.

John Kelly and Andy Sipowicz already have fully developed lives when we first meet them.  The pilot episode could’ve easily been a Season Six episode of a hypothetical Kelly/Sipowicz cop drama that began when Kelly was promoted to detective.  The show assumes you’re smart enough to pick up on the various aspects of their lives without spelling out every tiny detail.  It’s one of the elements that makes the series feel so real in the first season.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Force in Focus: The 10 Best Moments from Marvel's Star Wars Comics

No new '77 series review this week, on account of being generally busy and sick, but I did write a piece for Pop Optiq about the first year of Marvel's new Star Wars comics.

January 2016 marked the one year anniversary of Marvel’s new Star Wars line, launched in the wake of Disney’s acquisition of LucasFilm and the transfer of the comic book license to Disney’s in-house comic book company. In that year, Marvel has churned out comics on a level that is somehow both restrained and filled with gusto, in that, they released a ton of Star Wars comics in that first year, but at the same time, it would have surprised nobody if they’d released a whole lot more. The quality level of those comics, in three ongoing series (Star Wars, Darth Vader and Kanan: The Last Padawan) and five limited series (Princess Leia, Lando, Shattered Empire, Chewbacca, and one issue of Obi-Wan  & Anakin) has remained remarkably consistent, maintaining a level of above average quality alongside some top notch issues and a (surprisingly) few out-and-out stinkers. Looking back over that first year, here are the ten best moments from across the line, the moments that made reading Star Wars comics this last year worthwhile.

#10 – Star Wars #3 – “The Walker has fallen.”

Not surprisingly, the very first story of Marvel’s new, canonical Star Wars comics featured Darth Vader as the central villain, bringing him face-to-face with Luke in a rare (for licensed Star Wars fiction) pre-Empire Strikes Back encounter. But the first real jaw-dropping, fist-pumping moment of the series comes in issue #3, as Darth Vader single-handedly brings down an Imperial AT-AT walker commandeered by Han Solo and Princess Leia. It’s a great bit of spectacle beautifully rendered by John Cassaday, and it not only establishes Darth Vader as a force to be reckoned with, but shows that the Star Wars comics are as capable of delivering high octane action as the movies.

Read the rest of the post here.

Friday, February 5, 2016

X-amining Wolverine #40

June 1991

In a Nutshell 
Elsie-Dee and Albert are reunited in New York. 

Script: Larry Hama
Pencils: Marc Silvestri
Inks: Dan Green
Lettering: Pat Brosseau
Coloring: Glynis Oliver
Editor: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

At the X-Mansion, Forge examines Elsie-Dee, determining her to be made mostly of explosives, and that her destruct sequence has only been halted, not eliminated, making her a continuing danger. In Venice, federal agents arrive to obtain Albert, but discover he has healed and upgraded himself, making his escape from the police station easy. Able to sense Elsie-Dee across the country, Albert breaks into a military base and commandeers a stealth aircraft to fly to New York. In the city, Wolverine and Elsie-Dee hustle pool, but as Albert draws closer, Elsie-Dee picks up his signal, and requests Wolverine take her to higher ground so she can get a solid lock on it. The pair race to the top of the World Trade Center, where Elsie-Dee is able to establish communication with Albert, just as he reaches the city, flying the jet into Wolverine. The two fight, until Elsie-Dee breaks it up, telling Albert they're free of Pierce's programming thanks to Wolverine. Just then, the stealth aircraft is attacked by US fighter jets who had been pursuing it, and the plane crashes into the river, along with Albert, Elsie-Dee and Wolverine.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

X-amining Excalibur #38

"Out on a Limbo - Book Two of The Promethium Exchange"
June 1991

In a Nutshell 
The West Coast Avengers join the fight against Dr. Doom in Limbo. 

Writer: Lobdell
Artist: Badger 
Letterer: Spike
Colorist: Vancata
Editor: Kavanaugh
Editor-in-Chief: DeFalco

In Limbo, Excalibur is attacked by the demonic simulacrums of various superheroes, while back on Earth, the Avengers West Coast are greeted by Alistair Stuart outside Excalibur's lighthouse. The Lady of the Lake explains that Doom intends to destroy Limbo in order to gain its promethium, at which point England will be sucked into Limbo through five portals scattered throughout the country. She then teleports the Avengers into Limbo. Excalibur and the Avengers split into five teams, intending to destroy the portals then rendezvous at Doom's castle. They manage to close the portals, but are unable to stop Doom, observed by the demon Darkoth, from plunging the Soulsword into the heart of Limbo, transforming all of its native inhabitants into promethium.   

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

X-amining Sensational She-Hulk #26

April 1991

In a Nutshell 
Excalibur and She-Hulk team-up to battle a trash monster. 

Story: Simon Furman
Pencils: Bryan Hitch
Inks: Jim Sanders
Letters: Jim Novak
Colors: Glynis Oliver
Edits: Bobbie Chase
Edits-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

En route to London to defend Meggan in court, She-Hulk's plane is attacked by a possessed Captain Britain. The rest of Excalibur arrives, helping to land the plane safely and chase off Captain Britain. Afterwards, they explain to She-Hulk how Captain Britain is being possessed by an evil spirit, which had earlier possessed Meggan (leading to the charges She-Hulk is there to help her fight) before jumping to Captain Britain. She-Hulk comes up with an idea to defeat the creature and prevent him from possessing anyone else in the process. The rest of Excalibur tracks down and attacks Captain Britain, before She-Hulk appears wearing little but trash, drawing the creature out of Captain Britain's body. Just then, Rachel telekinetically hurls trash at the creature, which it absorbs. She sends more and more garbage at it until its overloaded, and explodes, raining trash on the city. With enough evidence of possession to clear Meggan's name, all that's left is to clean up the possessed trash, which is turned into recycled paper. 

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

The Milch Studies - NYPD Blue Season One, The Story

Cable television (and Netflix) has trained audiences to expect season-long story arcs with only the occasional interruption for smaller stories; a practice most network TV dramas still resist. Watching the first season of NYPD Blue, it’s not difficult to see the DNA of today’s “acclaimed” television. Not only in the flawed heroes, but in the episode-by-episode escalation of the season’s main storyline. One of the tricks David Simon employed on The Wire was to open each season with a seemingly benign incident that eventually escalates until it’s a major drama involving the community, police force, media, etc. Looking back on NYPD Blue’s first season, I see David Milch and Steven Bocho pulling the same trick. (My favorite example from The Wire is the seemingly petty controversy over who pays for a church window.) Virtually every “important” event from Season One stems from Andy Sipowicz’s grudge with overweight goomba Alfonse Giardella.