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

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

X-amining X-Men: Heroes for Hope Starring the X-Men #1

"Heroes for Hope"
1985

In a Nutshell 
The X-Men battle a psychic scavenger named Hungry in Africa

Story: Claremont, Nocenti, Wrightson, Starlin & Shooter
Editors: Ann Nocenti & Chris Claremont
Assistant Editors: Pat Blevins & Terry Kavanagh


Plot
One by one, each of the X-Men suffer a series of psychic hallucinations that turn their fears, hopes and desires against, leaving them feeling worn out and exhausted. Rachel is able to pinpoint the source of the attacks, and the shaken team travels to famine-stricken Africa. They stop their search for the entity attacking them in order to aid relief workers ministering to a village of starving and sick people. A few nights later, Rogue absorbs each of her teammates' powers and locates the temple which contains their foe: a psychic scavenger named Hungry. Rogue and Hungry battle, but when Rogue tries to absorb the creature, it takes over her body. As Rogue, Hungry attacks Storm, but gradually, the rest of the X-Men awaken, reclaiming their powers and weakening Hungry to the point where Rachel is able to drive it from Rogue's body, and the creature flees. In the wake of their confrontation, the X-Men accept that Hungry will always exist so long as humans suffer, but also that they, and all of humanity, must battle the despair it spreads with hope.   

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

X-aminations in August

In August, we welcome a third title to our survey of the X-Men franchise, as we finally reach the launch of the X-Men spinoff X-Factor in an otherwise straightforward month. No annuals, no specials; just four straight weeks of Uncanny X-Men, New Mutants and X-Factor fun.

(Incidentally, I'll discuss the final two issues of Secret Wars II in contemporaneous X-Men or New Mutants posts, as I don't think the events of those issues have enough bearing on the X-Men narrative to warrant their own post).

August 7th: Uncanny X-Men #202
August 8th:  New Mutants #37
August 9th: X-Factor #1

August 14th: Uncanny X-Men #203
August 15th: New Mutants #38
August  16th: X-Factor #2

August 21st: Uncanny X-Men #204
August 22nd: New Mutants #39
August 23rd: X-Factor #3

August 28th : Uncanny X-Men #205
August 29th: New Mutants #40
August 30th: X-Factor #4

Monday, July 29, 2013

Retro Review: Homer Goes to College

Original Airdate
October 14th, 1993

Or the One Where
Homer, uh, goes to college. 

The Setup 
After failing a nuclear inspection at the power plant, Mr. Burns learns Homer never went to college, and to placate the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, sends him to Springfield University to take a class in Nuclear Physics. 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

X-amining Power Pack #20

"Turning Point"
March 1986

In a Nutshell
The New Mutants help Power Pack stop a demonic invasion. 

Writer: Louise Simonson
Artist: Bob McLeod
Letterer: Joe Rosen
Colorist: Glynis Oliver
Editor: Carl Potts
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

Plot
In New York City, a group of demons, released from Limbo after the Beyonder removed Illyana's powers, gather ingredients to cast a spell to bring Manhattan to Limbo. Power Pack, visiting their dying mother in the hospital, encounter the demons as they attempt to kidnap a group of babies. Fighting them off and rescuing the infants, Power Pack discovers Kitty Pryde's library card amongst the items the demons dropped. At the X-Mansion, Dani gets a call from Power Pack, checking that Kitty is okay. Believing the demons to be the New Mutants' responsibility, Dani, Sam and Rahne head into the city to help. Before they arrive, the demons return and capture Katie, the youngest Katie, to use in their ritual.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

X-amining Alpha Flight #33-34

"A Friend in Need"/"Honor"
April-May 1986

In a Nutshell 
Wolverine and Heather Hudson reminisce about their past and fight Lady Deathstrike

Writer: Bill Mantlo
Penciler: Sal Buscema
Inker: Gerry Talaoc
Letterers: Jim Novak
Colorist: Bob Sharen, Janice Chiang (issue #34)
Editor: Carl Potts
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

Plot
Issue #33: Heather Hudson, having adopted her deceased husband's battle suit to lead Alpha Flight, flies from Canada to New York, hoping to convince Wolverine to help train her to be a more effective fighter. When she locates the mansion, the X-Men initially perceive her presence as a threat, and Magneto attacks her before Wolverine informs everyone that she is a friend. Together, she and Wolverine go off into the woods around the mansion, where they discuss their past together and Heather asks Wolverine for help, which he agrees to give. Just then, they're confronted by a group of ninjas led by a woman named Lady Deathstrike, who declares that Wolverine's power was stolen from her, and she intends to take it back.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

To Better Know A Hero: Wolverine

In honor of the release of The Wolverine, the second solo film featuring Hugh Jackman as the X-Men's Wolverine, in theaters this week, I've reformatted and slightly updated my original "To Better Know a Hero" post on comics' favorite mysterious mutant with razor keen claws. Also, be sure to check out my X-amination of his original miniseries and subsequent adventure in Japan from Uncanny X-Men #172 and 173, two stories which reportedly were significant influences on the new film. 

Real Name
James Howlett

First Appearance

Incredible Hulk #180, October 1974 (cameo), Incredible Hulk #181 (full).

Monday, July 22, 2013

Retro Review: Cape Feare

Original Airdate
October 7th, 1993

Or the One Where
Sideshow Bob is released from prison and tries to kill Bart (the first time), prompting the family to relocate to a houseboat.

The Setup
Bart receives a series of threatening letters, which are revealed to be from an up-for-parole Sideshow Bob.

Notable Notes
Kelsey Grammar reprises his role as Sideshow Bob, making his third appearance on the show (after season 1's "Krusty Gets Busted" and season two's "Black Widower"), and the first in which his appearance didn't involve a mystery that needed to be solved.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

X-amining New Mutants #36

"Subway to Salvation"
Feb 1986

In a Nutshell
The Beyonder purges Illyana of her dark side, leading to a demonic invasion. 

Writer: Chris Claremont
Artists: Mary Wilshire & Bill Sienkiewicz 
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Colorist: Michael Higgins
Editor: Ann Nocenti
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

Plot
In the Danger Room, Magneto tests the limits of Sunspot's strength. Despite protestations from Tom and Sharon, he pushes Sunspot to the upper limits of his abilities. Angry, Sunspot storms off, declaring that he learned to handle his strength long ago and that he has no desire to be one of the X-Men. In New York, Kitty studies Norse mythology at the library while she waits to meet Illyana. Aboard a subway bound the city, Illyana encounters the Beyonder. Hoping to bring her joy, he removes the dark aspect of her being and sends her off to spread his message. At the library, Kitty suddenly manifests Illyana's armor and Soulsword, and shortly thereafter, uses them to fight off a group of demons. Back at the school, the New Mutants are enjoying the pool when an eerily serene Illyana appears.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

X-amining Uncanny X-Men #201

"Duel"
January 1986

In a Nutshell 
Storm and Cyclops duel for leadership of the X-Men. 

Writer: Chris Claremont
Guest Penciler: Rick Leonardi
Guest Inker: Whilce Portacio 
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Colorist: Glynis Oliver
Editor: Ann Nocenti
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

Plot
The X-Men return to the mansion from France and marvel over Cyclops and Madelyne's new baby. Outside the room, Storm and Madelyne discuss the growing distance between Madelyne and Cyclops, while Cyclops worries whether the X-Men can trust Magneto. Meanwhile, aboard the Starjammer, a recovered Xavier is told that with the ship damaged and hunted by the Shi'ar, it will be a long time, if ever, before the Starjammers can return him home. Back on Earth, the X-Men play a game of baseball while Scott and Maddy argue about their future. Scott insists that, with Xavier gone, Magneto at the school and Storm powerless, the X-Men need him now more than ever, while Maddy says he has a responsibility to his own family. Just then, Storm interrupts, and proposes a duel between her and Cyclops, one-on-one in the Danger Room, with the winner declared the leader of the team.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Retro Review: Homer's Barbershop Quartet

Original Airdate
September 30th, 1993

Or the One Where
Homer reminisces about his time in a world famous barbershop quartet alongside Barney, Apu and Principal Skinner.  

The Setup
While at the Springfield swap meet, Bart discovers an old record with Homer on the cover. 

Notable Notes
This episode parodies the rise and fall of the Beatles, and George Harrison guest stars as himself, the second Beatle to do so (after Ringo Starr in season two). David Crosby also guest stars, as himself, his second appearance on the show (following last season's "Marge in Chains").

Thursday, July 11, 2013

X-amining New Mutants #35

"The Times, They are A'changin'!"
January 1986

In a Nutshell
The New Mutants react to the presence of their new headmaster, Magneto. 

Writer: Chris Claremont
Artists: Mary Wilshire & Bill Sienkiewicz  
Letterers: Tom & Lois
Colorist: Petra Scotese
Editor: Ann Nocenti
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

Plot
The New Mutants return to the X-Mansion to discover that Professor Xavier will not be returning to the school, and that he's asked Magneto to take his place. The kids are generally distrustful of him, some, such as Bobby, moreso than others, but Magneto simply asks for time to prove himself, then sends them to the Danger Room so he can see them in action for himself. As the students dress for their training session, they discuss their feelings about Magneto. During the session, Magneto proves that there is much he can teach them, but they remain wary of trusting him. That evening, the team has dinner at Harry's Hideaway and go over the days' events. When Sharon Friedlander arrives to drive them home, Dani, troubled by her new role as a Valkyrie, decides to walk home. En route, she's attacked by a group of college guys who had seen her leave Harry's alone. She's saved by Brightwind, who sensed her distress through their rapport, and the pair fly back to the mansion.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

X-amining Uncanny X-Men #200

"The Trial of Magneto!"
December 1985

In a Nutshell
Magneto goes on trial.

Writer: Chris Claremont
Artists: John Romita Jr. & Dan Green
Letterers: Tom Orzechowski
Colorist: Glynis Oliver
Editor: Ann Nocenti
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

Plot
In Paris, Magneto stands trial at the Palais de Justice, defended by Gabrielle Haller and Professor Xavier. Watching a news report that recounts Magneto's past and the conditions of the trial, the two hunters who shot Storm in Africa decide the time is perfect to repay their oldest debt. That evening, the X-Men and New Mutants suddenly materialize in Paris, sent to Xavier's side by Loki. A few days later, terrorist attacks are carried out all over the world, declaring that Magneto must be set free and framing the X-Men. Professor X meets with Cyclops, telling him the X-Men must clear their name, and though he tries to conceal the extent, Cyclops is more worried about Xavier's declining health. As Magneto's trial begins, the X-Men investigate the attacks, and though they stop an attack on a children's hospital in Paris, they nevertheless are blamed. At the X-Mansion, Madelyne is visited by Corsair and Lilandra, who has sensed Xavier's pain through their rapport and hopes to save his life using the Starjammers' medical equipment. After directing them to Paris, Madelyne goes into labor. In Paris, Rachel is able to telepathically locate the terrorists, and the X-Men are able to intervene in their latest attack.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

X-amining X-Men Annual #9

"There's No Place Like Home
1985

In a Nutshell 
The combined X-Men and New Mutants take on Loki. 

Writer: Chris Claremont
Penciler: Arthur Adams  
Inkers: Alan Gordon & Mike Mignola & Art Adams 
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Colorist: Petra Scotese
Editor: Ann Nocenti
Chief: Jim Shooter

Plot
Late at night, the X-Men are awoken by Kitty screaming. Reading her mind, Rachel realizes she is receiving a psychic message from Illyana, depicting Storm and the New Mutants in Asgard, in danger. Using Arkon's thunderbolts, the X-Men promptly depart for Asgard. In Asgard, Amara struggles to hang onto her humanity as she and Sam help Eitri forge a new hammer for Storm. They plan to rescue Storm when delivering the weapon to Loki. The X-Men arrive in Asgard and immediately help save the Wolf Prince from a group of trolls. Meanwhile, the New Mutants are working out of the Enchantress' fortress as Warlock scouts the city. He is attacked by Loki and sent crashing to the ground, prompting Dani, Doug and Roberto to rush to his aid. Back in the forest, the Wolf Prince corroborates Kitty's vision, and Cyclops divides the team, sending Wolverine, Shadowcat and Phoenix to scout the city while the rest remain with the prince until he's fit to travel.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

X-amining New Mutants Special Edition #1


"Home is Where the Heart Is"
1985

In a Nutshell
Loki brings Storm and the New Mutants to Asgard. 

Author: Chris Claremont
Illustrator: Art Adams
Embellisher: Terry Austin 
Letterers: Buhalis & Orzechowski
Colorist: Christie Scheele
Editor: Ann Nocenti
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

Plot
Loki, plotting both revenge against the X-Men and to seize power within Asgard, decides to transform Storm into a new god of thunder. He tasks the Enchantress with abducting Storm and her companions, assuming they will be the X-Men. However, Storm's current companions are the New Mutants, who are enjoying a vacation on the island of Kirinos when the Enchantress teleports them to Asgard. As Loki begins to transform Storm, the Enchantress attempts to kill the New Mutants, believing them to be the X-Men.  Illyana tries to telelport her friends to safety, but the Enchantress' magical wards cause Illyana to remain behind while the rest of the New Mutants are scattered across time and space. Each finds themselves in a different part of Asgard: Karma stranded in a vast desert, Doug in a mead hall, Rahne in a forest, where she helps a werewolf like herself escape a pack of giants, Warlock in Hel, Roberto in a tavern, where he becomes a local hero, Amara amongst a group of Dark Elves who transform her into a fairy, Sam in a cavern beset by trolls, in which he saves a Dwarf princess, and Dani on a grass plain, where she frees a captive winged horse and fights off a group of hunters, after which she is asked to join a group of warrior women riding similar steeds. 

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

On Vacation

Starting Thursday, I'll be on vacation through the following week. The regularly-scheduled X-aminations posts will go up automatically (and maybe some Simpsons Retro Reviews if I find the time to finish them), but even though I'm not actually going anywhere (I'm taking what the kids these days call a "staycation"), I will be doing my best to stay as far away from the computer as possible. As a result, while I'll probably still read any comments as soon as always, I'll take longer than usual to respond to them.