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

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

X-aminations in January...and Beyond!

Since I caught up to what I had mapped out previously, I recently had to go through and update my schedule for what's ahead, and I now have a rough outline in place that goes through November 2014.

So I thought I'd share that outline, at least through next summer, which puts "Fall of the Mutants" in March, the addition of Wolverine and Excalibur to the (bi-)weekly rotation in June and has "Inferno" coverage wrapping up by the end of August, and which also sees the first of three summers in which Uncanny X-Men ships two books a months for three months.

Of course, I reserve the right to update this as we move along, depending on whether or not I stumble across any other ancillary issues or tie-ins that should be included, or if someone argues passionately for the inclusion of something I've intentionally left off (I'm also still planning on covering X-Factor's appearance in Hulk #336-337 somehow - maybe in a "X-amining X-Men Elsewhere" standalone post), and I'll continue to put up a monthly "look ahead" post on the last Tuesday of the month. But, as is, this should provide a fairly accurate preview of the year ahead in X-aminations.

And if I stay on top of the schedule, maybe I'll post something like this every six months or so.

January 2: Fallen Angels #1-8

January 8: Uncanny X-Men #219
January 9: New Mutants #54
January 10: X-Factor #18

January 15: X-Men vs. the Fantastic Four #1-4
January 17: X-Factor Annual #2

January 22: X-Men vs. the Avengers #1-4
January 24: X-Men Annual #11

January 29: Uncanny X-Men #220
January 30: New Mutants #55
January 31: X-Factor #19 

Thursday, December 26, 2013

X-amining New Mutants Annual #3

"Anything YOU Can Do..!"
1987

In a Nutshell
Warlock duels the Impossible Man in a shape changing contest. 

Presentor: Stan Lee
Writer: Chris Claremont
Penciler: Alan Davis
Inker: Paul Neary
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Colorist: Glynis Oliver
Editor: Ann Nocenti
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter
Creators: Chris Claremont & Bob McLeod

Plot
Following a Danger Room session in which the New Mutants take on simulacrums of the Avengers rendered as teenagers, they receive an unexpected and unwanted visit from the Impossible Man. Hoping to find the X-Men, he instead challenges the New Mutants to a contest. While most of the New Mutants turn him down, Warlock agrees to the challenge. The two aliens begin a duel to determine who is the better shapeshifter, taking a variety of forms before disappearing. Hoping to keep them out of trouble, the New Mutants teleport to Limbo, where they use Illyana's magic to locate Warlock and the Impossible Man.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

However you choose to celebrate the holiday (or don't), I hope the day finds you happy and well.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Last Week in Pop Culture #13: All Christmas Edition

Quick note: since this is an "all Christmas" Last Week in Pop Culture post, looking at the various Christmas episodes I watched recently, and because nobody wants to read about Christmas stuff after Christmas, I'm posting it a little earlier than the usual Saturday. 

The Simpsons: White Christmas Blues


This was a messy episode. The plot was, what, Marge turns the house into a bed & breakfast for the holidays, then has to deal with the inconveniences that brings? Meanwhile, in the wisp of a B-plot (that isn't even introduced until about halfway into the episode) Lisa learns not to be sanctimonious in her gift giving.

Nothing here was bad - it's always good when Marge gets a chance to be just as whacky and irrational as the rest of the family (and her insistence that Christmas carols only have one verse was easily the comedic highlight of the episode), and there's nothing wrong with Lisa having the piss taken out of her every once in awhile - but it was all so scattered and formless I spent more time trying to figure out what the story was than I did enjoying it.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Saturday Night Live: Jimmy Fallon & Justin Timberlake


It's always tough to be critical of the Christmas episode. Unless it completely bombs, there's usually an effervescent energy to it that manages to smooth out the rough edges, especially if they manage to get a seasoned/favorite/recurring host to do the show (and they usually do). So while this episode definitely finished weaker than it started, there were quite a few highly entertaining bits. Both Fallon and Timberlake (who essentially co-hosted, at least in the first half) performed well, had a ton of energy, and seemed genuinely happy to be hosting. Maybe it's that energy, or just the holiday season, but I really enjoyed this one.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Last Week in Pop Culture #12

Short one this week, as I'm holding the Christmas episode of stuff I've watched for next week's "all Christmas" post. 

Top Chef: Like Mama Made


The timing of this episode worked out well: down to nine chefs, we can finally start to get know them a little better, and this challenge allowed us to do just that.

Anthony Mackie made for a surprisingly entertaining judge. He was funny, but seemed to know his stuff. I wouldn't mind seeing him back.

Even though Travis stepped up in the last episode, his elimination was another "head nod" elimination (in that it made sense as he seemed like the weakest remaining chef). Not many surprise eliminations this season: everyone seems to be leaving more or less at the seeming right time.

Friday, December 20, 2013

X-amining X-Factor #17

"Die, Mutants, Die!"
June 1987

In a Nutshell 
The first appearance of Rictor and the Right. 

Writer: Louise Simonson
Penciler: Walt Simonson
Inker: Bob Wiacek
Letterer: Joe Rosen
Colorist: Petra Scotese
Editor: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

Plot
Thor returns Iceman, his powers now amplified by Loki, to X-Factor headquarters on the day of Angel's funeral. Learning of Warren's suicide, Bobby is enraged at the thought of Warren killing himself because humans cut off his wings. When X-Factor arrives at the funeral, they find pro- and anti-mutant demonstrations being waged, and only the timely arrival of Leech and Caliban prevent Bobby from blowing X-Factor's cover when he's confronted by reporter Trish Tilby and has difficulty controlling his power. When X-Factor enters the church, they discover an anti-mutant screed spray painted across the altar. Meanwhile, Apocalypse prepares his fourth horseman. As X-Factor arrives back at their headquarters, Cameron Hodge receives a call from the governor of California, saying that the X-Terminators are threatening to destroy San Fransisco via a mutant named Rictor. Though Hodge turns the governor away, X-Factor insists on helping, and Bobby suggest they go as the X-Terminators, rather than X-Factor, to show that not all mutants are evil.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

X-amining New Mutants #53

"Seduced and Abandoned"
July1987

In a Nutshell
The New Mutants attend a party at the Hellfire Club. 

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

Plot
At the X-Mansion, Doug wakes up from a nightmare in which he became infected by the transmode virus and attacked the New Mutants. The next evening, in Manhattan, a man named Van Ostamgen receives a priceless statute he believes will gain him admittance to the Hellfire Club. At the same time, the New Mutants and Magneto arrive in Central Park, courtesy of Illyana, and heads towards the Hellfire Club, which is holding a gala. Though they are all somewhat apprehensive of making nice with the Hellfire Club and the Hellions, despite Magneto's new alliance, Doug is especially agitated. As they enter the gala, Amara bristles at the presence of Selene, while Doug angrily refuses to dance with Tarot. When Rahne reunites with Catseye, the pair transform into their animal forms and run off. Alerted to the transformation by the activation of her psychic link with Rahne, Dani and John Proudstar attempt to track down their errant teammates.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

X-amining Uncanny X-Men #218

"Charge of the Light Brigade"
June 1987

In a Nutshell 
The X-Men fight Juggernaut. 

Writer: Chris Claremont
Artists: Mark Sylvestri & Dan Green
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Colorist: Glynis Oliver
Editor: Ann Nocenti
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

Plot
In New Mexico, Alex Summers and Lorna Dane are run off the road by a speeding VW bus. Meanwhile, in Scotland, Dazzler regains consciousness only to realize that Juggernaut, believing her dead, has buried her alive in a makeshift cairn. After Psylocke makes telepathic contact with her, she manages to absorb enough energy from the ambient sound around her to send up a flare, directing the X-Men to her location. Just then, the X-Men hear reports on the radio of the Juggernaut tearing up Edinburgh. Rogue flies the team to the city, and they confront the villain. Attacking him one-on-one, they're unable to stop him, but they regroup and attack as a team. Rogue kisses him, absorbing a portion of his power and enabling her to rip off his skullcap. Dazzler is then able to laser off his skullcap, leaving him vulnerable to Psylocke's mental attack as Rogue and Longshot manage to stop a passenger train in danger of derailing as a result of the damage done by the fight.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

How I Met Your Mother 9x13: Bass Player Wanted


Well, at least the show went into its winter break on a strong note, finally bringing Marshall into the fold at the Farhampton Inn and revealing Ted's upcoming secret Chicago move to Barney while featuring a big helping of the Mother and perhaps the season's best use of a guest star. Best of all, it avoided most of the pitfalls of the season's worst episodes: no schlockly pre-wedding hijinks and the characters acted like real people: for the most part, the Lily/Robin and Ted/Barney interactions were grounded and realistic, with the broadest bit being Ted stealing the scotch, but that happened mostly off camera and, as broad whacky hijinks go this season, was relatively mild. This wasn't the funniest episode or an all-time HIMYM classic or anything, but it at least avoided sending what has thus far been a wildly uneven season into the holiday break on a down note.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Saturday Night Live: John Goodman & Kings of Leon


Another cromulent if unexciting episode. Few of the sketches were awful, with most having at least one or two funny bits, but there were very few top-to-bottom successes. John Goodman, a seasoned pro at this,  certainly gave it his all and acquitted himself well, playing everything from straight men to more whacky characters, but overall the sketches seemed to have a hard time coming together.

Other Thoughts
Thirteen hosting gigs for John Goodman is pretty impressive, but his consecutive streak from 1989 to 2001 impresses me even more. I mean, Roseanne likely earned him most of those spots well into the nineties, and Monsters, Inc. likely landed him his last hosting gig, but there's at least a few years there where he wasn't doing much of note and was getting asked back just on the strength of his talent (he's third on the all-time hosting list between Alec Baldwin (16) and Steve Martin(15)). 

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Last Week in Pop Culture #11

The Simpsons: Yellow Subterfuge


This was a disappointing episode, mainly because the plot had an opportunity to do something unique, yet ultimately settled for more of the same. There was definite potential in the idea of Bart doing his best to be genuinely good, even in the face of Skinner trying to get him to slip up, and then in the idea of Bart dealing with the disappointment of not making it onto the sub despite his best efforts. But the former was undermined by having Bart break one of Skinner's rules (no matter how lame the rule was) instead of being purposely tripped up or illegitimately passed over by Skinner, while instead of having Bart deal with his disappointment, the episode instead wrapped up with the kind of routine, over-the-top shenanigans we've seen countless times before. A pity.

The B-plot, meanwhile, was almost laughably superfluous to the A-plot and was, for the most part, built around the kind of hit-or-miss cultural humor that Family Guy has made its bread-and-butter, but I did laugh pretty hard despite myself at the Romanian Krusty being elected President-for-Life and at everything involving Irish Krusty. 

Friday, December 13, 2013

X-amining X-Factor #16

"Playing With Fire"
May 1987

In a Nutshell
Rusty seeks out the woman he accidentally burned to make amends.

Writer: Louise Simonson
Penciler: David Mazzucchelli
Inker: Josef Rubinstein
Letterer: Joe Rosen
Colorist: Petra Scotese
Editor: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

Plot
In the wake of Angel's death, Rusty and Skids continue to try and hone their powers. When Rusty accidentally breaks Skids' necklace, she, unable to pick up the scattered pearls, becomes frustrated with her inability to lower her force field and runs off. Rusty chases her into the Morlock tunnels, where they run into Masque. Unable to disfigure Skids, he turns on Rusty, but the pair escape, returning to X-Factor headquarters. Later, Rusty sees a newspaper article about Emma La Porte, the women he accidentally burned when his power first manifested, entering a hospital in New York. When he learns from Cameron Hodge that X-Factor, who has been paying Emma's medical bills, may have to cut off their support in the wake of Angel's death, Rusty becomes determined to help her some other way. He then returns to the tunnels and seeks out Masque, making a deal with him.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

X-amining New Mutants #52

"Grounded Forever"
June 1987

In a Nutshell
Magneto responds to the New Mutants recent actions.

Presenter: Stan Lee
Writer: Chris Claremont
Penciler: Rick Leonardi
Inker: Dan Green
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Colorist: Petra Scotese
Editor: Ann Nocenti
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter
Creators: Chris Claremont & Bob McLeod

Plot
In the Danger Room, the New Mutants face off against simulacrums of the Marauders, and are easily defeated, with the entire team killed or wounded in barely five minutes. When Roberto complains that they lost because the session was a high-level scenario designed for the X-Men, Magneto counters that his intention was to show them just how much danger they were in when they left the school against orders during the Morlock Massacre, and proceeds to restrict the New Mutants to the school grounds until they can prove themselves capable of acting maturely. Meanwhile, in Limbo, Illyana, who disappeared in the midst of the Danger Room exercise, continues her fight against S'ym for control of Limbo, eventually returning to Earth, frustrated by her constant struggle to contain her dark side and feeling alone with Kitty and Peter on Muir Isle.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

X-amining Uncanny X-Men #217

"Folly's Gambit"
May 1987

In a Nutshell 
Dazzler fights the Juggernaut.

Writer: Chris Claremont
Penciler: Jackson Guice
Inker: Steve Leialoha
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Colorist: Oliver & Scotese
Editor: Ann Nocenti
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

Plot
On Muir Isle, the X-Men train, pitting Rogue, Dazzler and Longshot against Psylocke, unknowingly observed by one of Dr. Doom's scanbots disguised as a trawler fisherman. Over breakfast, Banshee evaluates their performance, while Moira and Callisto attend to the recovering Morlocks. Later, as the X-Men work out, Callisto taunts Dazzler for being weak, causing her to storm off in a huff. Needing a break and frustrated with the life of an X-Man, Dazzler takes a boat to the nearby town of Ullapool. Drawn by music to a local pub, she spends the evening dancing and enjoying herself, making friends with Conal, one of the locals. As they leave the pub, however, they're nearly rundown in the street by a car, and Dazzler recognizes the driver from the X-Men's files: Juggernaut.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Saturday Night Live: Paul Rudd & One Direction

 
Apparently, "mediocre" is this season's new baseline status, as this was another episode with neither a really strong standout sketch nor any overtly terrible sketches (and, frankly, "medicore" isn't a bad baseline for a show that has a propensity to set that baseline at "lackluster"). Paul Rudd brought his usual goofy charm to a handful of roles (his standout sketch was likely the pre-taped One Direction bit, and he did an effective job of keeping the premise of that sketch from being too creepy), and though there were guests a-plenty in this episode, they were mostly relegated to two sketches (one of which was the cold open), so Rudd didn't get squeezed out too much.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Last Week in Pop Culture #10

The Simpsons: The Kid is All Right


A surprisingly-measured look at friendship amongst political differences, this episode wasn't the funniest episode ever (most of the laughs came from the always-reliable over-the-top-ness of the Springfield Republicans and Lisa and Homer's joint dream of not-dead Democrat ghosts) but still managed to tell a good story.

Friday, December 6, 2013

X-amining X-Factor #15

"Whose Death Is It, Anyway?"
April 1987

In a Nutshell 
Angel dies. 

Writer: Louise Simonson
Penciller: Walt Simonson
Inker: Bob Wiacek
Letterer: Joe Rosen
Colorist: Petra Scotese
Editor: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

Plot
Following his surgery, Warren wakes up to discover in horror that his wings are gone. Meanwhile, in Alaska, Scott identifies the body of a red-haired woman as Maddie, and vows to find whomever killed his wife and son. At X-Factor headquarters, Masque picks a fight with Boom-Boom, but an overworked Hank lashes out at Boom-Boom, giving her laundry duty as punishment. At the hospital, a surly Warren orders Jean out of his room, telling her she should have let him die. Jean calls Scott and asks him to come back to New York to help Warren, but he says he needs to stay longer to bury Maddie. At the X-Factor complex, the remaining Morlocks discuss returning to the tunnels, but Hank insists they'll be safer with X-Factor. Masque angrily attacks Hank, prompting a fight between Masque and Caliban, from which Caliban emerges victorious. Though the Morlocks are grateful for X-Factor's help, they point out they couldn't save Angel from being mutilated by humans.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

X-amining New Mutants #51

"Teachers' Choice"
May 1987

In a Nutshell
The New Mutants return home while Professor X opts to remain in space. 

Writer: Chris Claremont
Artist: Kevin Nowlan
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Colorist: Glynis Oliver
Editor: Ann Nocenti
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter
Creators: Chris Claremont & Bob McLeod

Plot
As the Starjammers repair their ship, Professor Xavier telepathically learns more about recent events from the New Mutants. Horrified by what he sees, he realizes he must return to Earth with his students. Back on Earth, Magneto and Storm help create a breakwater to protect a town from a hurricane, discussing the Hellfire Club's offer of an alliance, with Storm arguing the benefits of such an arrangement. Aboard the Starjammer, Illyana locks herself in her room, refusing to come out. Over Dani's objections, Xavier helps Karma possess Illyana, forcing her to explain her actions: she wishes to stay on the Starjammer, and not return to Limbo, where she'll be forced to reclaim her dark side once again. Just then, Xavier telepathically detects a cloaked fleet of Shi'ar starships, poised to attack the Starjammer.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

X-amining Uncanny X-Men #216

"Crucible"
April 1987

In a Nutshell
Storm fights Crimson Commander, Stonewall and Super Sabre.

Writer: Chris Claremont
Artists: Jackson Guice & Dan Green
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Colorist: Glynis Oliver
Editor: Ann Nocenti
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

Plot
In the Adirondack Forest, a near-savage Wolverine is struck by a car, damaging the vehicle and stranding its occupants. Elsewhere, Storm and Priscilla set a trap for Super Sabre, one that will likely kill him, but when the super speedster approaches, Storm fails to spring the trap, refusing to kill, much to Priscilla's frustration. On Muir Isle, Moira MacTaggert is awakened by the arrival of the rest of the X-Men, returning to the island with the last of the massacre survivors. Back in New York, Crimson Commando and Stonewall discover the trap Storm refused to spring. Realizing she passed up an opportunity to kill Super Sabre, Stonewall begins to doubt whether Storm is really the criminal they think she is, though Crimson Commando remains certain. On a nearby ridge, Super Sabre is ambushed by Storm. Though she manages to overpower him, Priscilla triggers an avalanche, seemingly burying them both.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Walking Dead 4x08: Too Far Gone

Whether it’s a season finale or (in this case) a mid-season finale The Walking Dead always tries to go out with a bang. (This mid-season finale literally had a bang thanks to the tank the Governor brought along.) It was the ultimate showdown between the Governor and Rick. It was quite the spectacle but it left me feeling conflicted. I wasn't sure if this was all happening too late or too soon.

The first half of this episode was about building tension. Rick and the Governor have a face-to-face at the fence of the prison. Rick thinks everyone can peacefully coexist. Heck, for a few brief moments I thought the show might go in the tentative coexistence of the two camps direction. But then Rick had to make a big speech rallying for a bloodless resolution and forgiveness. The longer and more impassioned Rick spoke the more nails were being pounded into poor old Hershel's coffin. The Governor, always averse to peaceful compromises and not killing, will have none of this "peace" talk. A gruesome decapitation later and the episode's second half of mayhem begins.

How I Met Your Mother 9x12: Rehearsal Dinner


So I get that we're supposed to view Barney's surprise rehearsal dinner as a grand romantic gesture (or at least that the writers think it is one), and heaven knows I'm well aware that Marshall and Lily's "we keep no secrets from each other" business is a bunch of claptrap - at the very least, Christmas kind of sucks if you don't keep secrets from your spouse, and I threw my wife a surprise party for her 30th birthday, the details of which I kept secret from her for a long time. But you know what I didn't do in the time leading up to the reveal of her party? Lead her to believe I was actually ruining an event that was very important to her, just to make the eventual surprise that much more surprising.

Granted, doing so is very much consistent with Barney's character, and is the kind of thing you'd expect from a guy who proposed to Robin in the most overly-elaborate, manipulative way possible. The problem is that the show keeps trying to sell, both in this episode and via "The Robin", this trait of Barney's as something that is admirable and deeply romantic, and frankly, it's not (it is, in fact, borderline creepy and highly troubling). Keeping secrets from a loved one to surprise them is fine; putting them through hell first just to sell the inevitable surprise is just a dick move. And like most of the Robin/Barney-centric episodes this season, it once again makes you wonder why these two are even getting married.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Saturday Night Live: Josh Hutcherson & Haim


For whatever reason, Josh Hutcherson wasn't given much to do in this episode, and ended up largely relegated to the straight man roles that hosts whom the writers don't think can handle much usually get (and most of the non-straight man work he got, like Lil' Peanut, was built around the fact that he's kinda short), which is a shame, because he seemed like he may have been capable of handling more (maybe the writers just didn't want to roll the dice on a first time host who's pretty much just done one notable thing in his career?).

The end result was another solid, if unexciting, episode, a bit of a letdown after the previous two strong ones but another episode with few completely bad sketches - even the sketches I didn't enjoy as much weren't fundamentally flawed or poorly executed, and at this point in a transitional season, "not many awful" sketches is almost as promising as "lots of really good sketches".