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

Friday, August 30, 2013

X-amining X-Factor #4

"Trials and Errors"
May 1986

In a Nutshell 
Frenzy makes her first appearance. 

Writer: Bob Layton
Layout Artist: Keith Pollard
Finisher: Joe Rubinstein
Letters: Joe Rosen
Colorist: Petra Scotese
Editor: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

Plot
X-Factor, in their costumed guises, confront Tower at LaGuardia Airport, having noticed him watching the X-Factor building. He ultimately escapes and meets up with Frenzy, who admonishes him for failing to liberate the boy from X-Factor and tells him their master has sent her to finish the job. Back at X-Factor headquarters, Rusty is training with Jean, but gets distracted when Scott and Artie enter the room. After being admonished by Jean, and angry about being forced to live with the odd-looking Artie, he rushes off. Later, X-Factor investigates a potential mutant at a boarding school, but it turns out the boy in question was just faking being a mutant. However, the abject terror he expresses at the idea of being taken away by X-Factor leaves Jean wondering if their mutant hunter ruse is doing more harm than good.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

X-amining New Mutants #40

"Avengers Assemble!"
June 1986

In a Nutshell
Magneto fights the Avengers. 

Writer: Chris Claremont
Penciler: Jackson Guice
Inker: Kyle Baker 
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Colorist: Michelle Wrightson
Editor: Ann Nocenti
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

Plot
The Snow Valley sheriff contacts the Avengers, alerting them that Magneto intends to kidnap some students from Emma Frost's Massachusetts Academy. They agree to help the sheriff and stop Magneto. Meanwhile, at the Massachusetts Academy, Cannonball, Magma and Jetstream train together, but Cannonball is distracted and performs poorly. Jetstream confesses to the White Queen that all of the New Mutants are suffering from nightmares and not sleeping well, leaving her to worry that her psychic surgery may not have been entirely successful. As dawn breaks, Magneto and Warlock are heading for the Academy when they're attacked by the Avengers, whose initial volley severely injuries and weakens Warlock. A fight between Magneto and the Avengers breaks out, with the Avengers firmly believing Magneto to still be villainous while Magneto does his best to protect Warlock and not cause serious harm to the Avengers.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

X-amining Uncanny X-Men #205

"Wounded Wolf"
May 1986

In a Nutshell
Katie Power helps a badly injured Wolverine fight Lady Deathstrike. 

Story/Script: Chris Claremont
Story/Art/Color: Barry Windsor-Smith
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Editor: Ann Nocenti
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

Plot
In her Body Shop, the sorceress Spiral completes her latest transformation: that of Lady Deathstrike. Along with the former Hellfire Club soldiers Cole, Macon and Reese, Deathstrike, now equipped with cybernetic enhancements and claws of her own, departs to hunt down Wolverine. Later, Katie Power is in New York City singing Christmas carols with her class. In the midst of a worsening snow storm, Cole suddenly emerges, firing wildly and separating Katie from her teacher. Moments later, she stumbles into a badly-injured, near-bestial Wolverine. Though frightened, Katie quickly realizes Wolverine needs help, and does her best to get him away from his foes. The time she buys him enables Wolverine to heal enough to regain his senses. He thanks her for her help, then asks her to do maybe the hardest and bravest thing she's ever done: trust him.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

X-aminations in September

Three issues a week hasn't killed me yet, and we'll keep at it this month as we draw ever closer to "Mutant Massacre", after an early break to look at the Firestar limited series and X-Factor's first annual.

Also, for those of you who haven't heard, frequent commenter Matt has launched his own blog, Not a Hoax, Not a Dream, containing assorted comics reviews and other pop culture musings. Be sure to check it out!

September 4th: Firestar #1-4
September 6th: X-Factor Annual #1

September 11th: Uncanny X-Men #206
September 12th: New Mutants #41
September 13th: X-Factor #5

September 18th: Uncanny X-Men #207
September 19th: New Mutants #42
September 20th: X-Factor #6

September 25th : Uncanny X-Men #208
September 26th: New Mutants #43
September 27th: X-Factor #7

Monday, August 26, 2013

Retro Review: Bart's Inner Child

Original Airdate
November 11, 1993

Or the One Where
A self-help guru convinces the town to follow Bart's example to "do what they feel like".

The Setup
In the wake of Homer's acquisition of a free trampoline, Marge is heading for a nervous breakdown when she realizes what a nag she is, until her sisters introduce her to Brad Goodman's self-help seminar.

Notable Notes
Albert Brooks makes his third (out of five, as of this writing) guest appearance on the show, as self-help guru Brad Goodman (reportedly modeled after real-life self help guru John Bradshaw).

Friday, August 23, 2013

X-amining X-Factor #3

"Regression Obsession"
April 1986

In a Nutshell 
Beast regains his human look. 

Writer: Bob Layton
Pencil Art: Jackson Guice
Ink Art: Josef Rubinstein
Letterer: Joe Rosen
Colorist: Petra Scotese
Editor: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

Plot
Carl Maddicks is able to pull Beast out of cardiac arrest, then begins preparing him for phase two. First, he has his son Arthur use his power to check in on Tower, and learns that X-Factor has overpowered him. He instructs his son to lock out Tower's mind, and just as X-Factor is about to cut a deal with Tower to learn Beast's location, Arthur takes control and Tower's mind goes blank. As Maddicks works on Beast, the captive mutant screams in pain, breaking Arthur's concentration and allowing Tower to tell X-Factor about Maddicks and point them toward Ryan Bio-Chemical, the facility where Beast is being held. That night, X-Factor storms Ryan Bio-Chemical, splitting into pairs. Angel and Cyclops are met on the roof by high tech security guards, while Iceman and Marvel Girl trigger alarms on the ground floor.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

X-amining New Mutants #39

"Pawns of the White Queen"
May 1986

In a Nutshell
The New Mutants join the Hellions. 

Writer: Chris Claremont
Guest Penciler: Keith Pollard
Guest Inker: Dell Barras
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Colorist: Glynis Oliver
Editor: Ann Nocenti
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

Plot
At the Massachusetts Academy, the White Queen welcomes the New Mutants to the Hellions, then sends them to the locker rooms to get ready for their first training session. Empath accosts the girls in their locker room, but finds them immune to his power before Illyana scares him off, while Thunderbird and Jetstream welcome Sam and Doug to the school. A week later, back at the X-Mansion, Dani uses her power on herself and sees an image of her friends training in the Danger Room. At the Massachusetts Academy, the White Queen finishes her final psychic surgery, restoring the New Mutants to some semblance of normalcy. At the X-Mansion, Dani bids goodbye to a despondent Magneto as she leaves to return home. That night, Rahne violently wakes up from a nightmare, drawing the attention of her teammates, and it becomes clear that most of the other New Mutants are still suffering nightmares as well.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

X-amining Uncanny X-Men #204

"What Happened to Nightcrawler?"
April 1986

In a Nutshell 
Nightcrawler rescues a woman from Arcade. 

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

Plot
At Amanda Sefton's New York apartment, Nightcrawler broods about his encounter the Beyonder and the fact that he was left behind when the other X-Men were taken to San Fransisco. He admits to Amanda that he was glad to be left behind, so as not to face the Beyonder again, and yearns for the X-Men's old life of simple adventure. Though Amanda tries to help him snap out of his funk, he angrily rebukes her, driving her away. Alone, he spies one of Arcade's garbage trucks capturing a new victim, and follows the truck to Murderworld. Sneaking inside, he stops to adjust the security sensors, rendering him invisible until Arcade physically sees him. Arcade's victim, a woman named Judith, awakens in Murderworld and does her best to survive its traps, but is eventually rescued from a robotic shark by Nightcrawler.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Retro Review: Marge on the Lam

Original Airdate
November 4, 1993

Or the One Where
Marge spends a wild night out with her neighbor, Ruth Powers.

The Setup
After Homer gets his arms stuck in vending machines and can't go to the ballet with Marge, she invites Ruth, beginning their friendship.

Notable Notes
Ruth Powers, who first appeared in the fourth season episode "New Kid on the Block", returns, once again voiced by Pamela Reed (who you might remember from Kindergarten Cop and Parks and Recreation, where she plays Leslie Knope's mother). Though she develops a strong friendship with Marge in the course of this episode, she hasn't made a significant appearance since this episode, occasionally showing up in crowd scenes and the like.

Friday, August 16, 2013

X-amining X-Factor #2

"Bless the Beasts and Children"
March 1986

In a Nutshell 
Beast is captured by his old foe, Carl Maddicks.

Writer: Bob Layton
Pencils/Plot Assist: Jackson Guice
Finisher: Joe Rubinstein
Letters: Joe Rosen
Colorist: Petra Scotese
Editor: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

Plot
Jean wakes from a nightmare, once again dreaming of her encounter with Phoenix, and broods on how alone and out of place she feels. Elsewhere in the X-Factor complex, Warren urges Scott to call his wife, but when Scott snaps at him, he leaves to go over some business with Cameron Hodge. In New York City, Hank and Bobby put a hold on their apartment hunting to meet an old friend of Hank's, Vera, and are shocked by her new look. Back at the X-Factor complex, Scott and Jean lead Rusty in his first training session, but he runs off after making a mistake. In New York, Hank and Bobby are attacked by Tower, who's been hired to capture Hank. Tower manages to knock him out, then delivers Hank to his employer. Meanwhile, Scott decides to call Maddy, but discovers the number has been disconnected. Just then he is summoned by Warren to join the rest of the team to respond to Hank's kidnapping.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

X-amining New Mutants #38

"Aftermath"
April 1986

In a Nutshell
Magneto struggles to help the New Mutants in the wake of their encounter with the Beyonder.

Writer: Chris Claremont
Guest Artist: Rick Leonardi
Inker: Bill Sienkiewicz 
Letterer: Ken Bruzenak
Colorist: Glynis Oliver
Editor: Ann Nocenti
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

Plot
Magneto dreams of the New Mutants battling first Sentinels and then the Hellions, forced to watch and unable to help them. The dream ends with the New Mutants returning to graves on the mansion grounds. The next morning, Magneto discusses the dream with Sharon Friedlander: it occurs each night, and is shared amongst the New Mutants and himself. Just then, the students come down for breakfast, polite but sullen and depressed. That evening, Magneto broods over his inability to help his charges when he's visited by the White Queen, who offers to admit the New Mutants to her school and help them with her telepathy. Magneto flatly rejects her offer. The next morning, Magneto's frustration at his students' apathy towards their lessons frustrates him further.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

X-amining Uncanny X-Men #203

"Crossroads"
March 1986

In a Nutshell 
Phoenix tries to destroy the universe in order to destroy the Beyonder. 

Writer: Chris Claremont
Penciler: John Romita Jr.
Guest Inker: Al Williamson
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Colorist: Glynis Oliver
Editor: Ann Nocenti
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

Plot
In San Fransisco, Rogue recalls the last time she was in the city, when she battled Ms. Marvel and effectively killed her, permanently stealing her powers and memories. Returning to the home of Jessica Drew, where the X-Men are staying, Rogue spies Kitty outside. She is wearing Illyana's armor and wielding her Soulsword, and though Kitty remembers her, Rogue remembers nothing about Illyana or the New Mutants. Kitty rails against the Beyonder for having killed the New Mutants, and wonders what chance the X-Men have against him, when Rachel appears. Still flush with the additional power granted her by the Beyonder, she tells Kitty and Rogue her plan to destroy the universe, and the Beyonder with it, in the hope that whatever comes next will be free of his taint. She asks her teammates for their life essences in order to sustain her power, and both pass theirs on willing. Rachel proceeds to take the life essence from the rest of the sleeping X-Men, but a wakened Storm argues with her intention and refuses to give up her life essence, so Rachel takes it by force.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

One Sentence Reviews

Well, when you have writer's block why not write some one sentence reviews?

 World War Z (Movie, 2013) - Not only was it not as good as the book (or anything like it) it just wasn't good period.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Retro Review: Treehouse of Horror IV

Original Airdate
October 28th, 1993

Or the One Where
"The Devil and Homer Simpson" (Homer sells his soul for a donut), "Terror at 5 1/2 Feet" (Bart is menaced by a gremlin on the school bus) and "Bart Simpson's Dracula" (Bart is turned into a vampire by Mr. Burns).

The Setup
In a parody of Night Gallery, Bart introduces a series of paintings which inspire horrific stories.

Notables Notes
This is the last episode of the show Conan O'Brien worked on for the show (he primarily worked on the framing sequence). It is also the last Treehouse episode to feature a framing sequence uniting the three segments (a framing sequence was written for the next Treehouse episode, but was cut to give the actual segments more time; the tradition was never revived after that).

Friday, August 9, 2013

X-amining X-Factor #1

"Third Genesis"
February 1986

In a Nutshell 
The original X-Men reunite to form a new team to help mutants: X-Factor. 

Writer: Bob Layton
Penciler: Jackson Guice
Inkers: Bob Layton, Jackson Guice & Josef Rubinstein

Colorists: Petra Scotese, 'Max' Scheele & Glynis Oliver
Editors: Mike Carlin & Michael Higgins
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

Plot
In Alaska, a retired Cyclops watches news of the Mutant Registration Act with concern, but Madelyne insists his family is his only concern now. In New Mexico, Beast and Iceman leave Angel's home, bound for new jobs. After they leave, Angel receives a call from Reed Richards, and rushes off to New York. In San Diego, a young naval sailor named Rusty and his chief leave their ship for shore leave. The chief introduces Rusty to a woman named Emma, and when she kisses Rusty, he suddenly bursts into flames, burning her. In New York, Reed takes Angel to Avengers Mansion, telling him Jean Grey is alive. In San Diego, Rusty is arrested by the navy, while Angel contemplates calling Cyclops about Jean. The next morning he does, and when Cyclops rushes off, Madelyne tells him that if he leaves now, not to bother coming back.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

X-amining New Mutants #37

"If I Should Die"
March 1986

In a Nutshell
The Beyonder kills the New Mutants. 

Writer: Chris Claremont
Artists: Mary Wilshire & Bill Sienkiewicz 
Letterers: Orzechowski & Buhalis
Colorist: Glynis Oliver
Editor: Ann Nocenti
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

Plot
The New Mutants are watching an old Western as Dani talks with her mother on the phone. Suddenly, she sees an image of Death over each of her friends. Refusing to believe the omens, she runs from the mansion to the stables, and flies into the air aboard Brightwind. Concerned, Sam chases after her and convinces her to rejoin her friends, but she can't bring herself to tell him about her visions. In Manhattan, Roberto comes across a crane accident, and is able to lift it long enough for a trapped woman to get free. But when the crane slips from his grasp, only the timely arrival of She-Hulk prevents further disaster, much to Roberto's chagrin. Still unsure of where he belongs, he decides to visit his mother in Brazil. Back at the mansion, Sam and Dani land just as the Beyonder appears on the school grounds.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

X-amining Uncanny X-Men #202

"X-Men...I've Gone to Kill -- The BEYONDER!"
February 1986

In a Nutshell 
The X-Men fight Sentinels in San Fransisco. 

Writer: Chris Claremont
Penciler: John Romita Jr.
Guest Inker: Al Williamson
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Colorist: Glynis Oliver
Editor: Ann Nocenti
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

Plot
Entering Rachel's room, Rogue triggers a holographic recording from Rachel explaining that she's realized the Beyonder is a threat to everything that exists, and has left to kill him once and for all. Rogue awakens the rest of the X-Men, and Magneto is able to use Cerebro to track Rachel to San Fransisco. Rachel confronts the Beyonder on Alcatraz, but despite all her power, she is unable to faze him. The Beyonder takes her on a journey through her past, taking them into the future she hails from, showing her that her fear and rage come from her failure to save her friends in the future. He then gives her a measure of his power and offers her a choice: she may use it to destroy him, or to save her friends, whom he has transported to San Fransisco and beset by Sentinels from Rachel's future.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Opera, TV and Comics. Yes, Opera.

First of all, I'm once again here to ask you for money.

Not for myself of course (but feel free to mail either me or Dr. Bitz checks or loose change if you're so inclined), but for another cool Kickstarter project, this one to help out Jason Powell, the internet's foremost Chris Claremont scholar and author of the most insightful X-Men reviews you'll ever read (not that you shouldn't also read mine). Back in 2012, he wrote and staged an original superhero opera, and is now hoping to raise funds to put it onto CD. Check out his Kickstarter page here.

As a fan of both superheroes and musical theater, this seems like a win-win, so I'll be helping out. The world needs more superhero operas.

Secondly, a new TV website was recently brought to my attention, What to Watch, a site which is basically an engine to help you pick new TV shows to watch based on your current tastes. The database of the site is chock full of current and popular programs, and I hear tell that the creators of the site hope to eventually expand the selection to include more classic shows and one-season wonders.

It's a neat little site, and even if your TV viewing schedule is full (like mine), it's still fun to see what kind of shows get matched up with your favorites. Check it out.

Finally, Dobson, a frequent commenter on this blog, has launched a new blog, The Pouch Files, with the aim of examining the highs and lows of comics in the 90s on an issue by issue basis, celebrating and mocking comics' decade of excess, with an emphasis on the books from that era which don't get much love elsewhere on the 'net. I've already both laughed and sighed fondly with nostalgia during several of his posts, and am looking forward to more.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Retro Review: Rosebud

Original Airdate
October 21st, 1993

Or the One Where
Mr. Burns tries to acquire his childhood teddy bear, Bobo, from Maggie. 

The Setup
After Homer is violently thrown out of Mr. Burns' birthday party, Bart brings home a bag of ice containing Bobo, the very thing a depressed Burns is seeking, and gives the bear to Maggie.

Notable Notes
This episode loosely parodies the 1941 film Citizen Kane (in its depiction of a powerful and successful man secretly yearning for the lost innocence of childhood), with several bits lifted directly from the movie (including Smithers walking in on Burns as he drops a snow-globe). 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

X-amining Avengers #263 & Fantastic Four #286

"What Lurks Below?" / "Like a Phoenix!"
Jan 1986

In a Nutshell
Jean Grey returns from the dead. 

Avengers #263 
Writer: Roger Stern
Breakdowns: John Buscema
Finishes: Tom Palmer, 
Letterer: Jim Novak
Colorist: Christie Scheele
Editor: Mark Gruenwald
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

Fantastic Four #286
Writer/Penciller: You Know Who
Guest Inker: Terry Austin
Colorist: Glynis Oliver
Letterer: John Workman
Editor: Michael Carlin
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter
With Special Thanks to R. Stern and K. Busek

Plot
Avengers #263: Investigating a crash at JFK airport, the Avengers discover a large cocoon-like object at the bottom of Jamaica Bay. Though the cocoon initially rebuffs their efforts to approach it via some kind of psychic force, they are eventually able to retrieve it from the bay and bring it back to Avengers Mansion. Left alone, the surface of the cocoon becomes transparent for a moment, revealing a redheaded woman inside. Fantastic Four #286: Returning from space, the Fantastic Four are told about the cocoon retrieved by the Avengers. Reed Richards proceeds to conduct some tests on it, and when Invisible Woman uses her power to make the interior of the cocoon visible, they discover the woman inside. Reed attempts to open the pod, and when he bombards it with bio-radiant stimulation, it opens, revealing Jean Grey.