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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

X-amining "Inferno" Tie-Ins Part 1

Amazing Spider-Man #311, Avengers #298-299, Daredevil #262, Fantastic Four #322, Power Pack #42-43, Spectacular Spider-Man #146
Dec. 1988 - Jan. 1989

Amazing Spider-Man #311 by David Michelinie & Todd MacFarlane
Avengers #298-299 by Walt Simonson & John Buscema (layouts) and Tom Palmer (finishes)
Daredevil #262 by Ann Nocenti & John Romita, Jr. 
Fantastic Four #322 by Steve Englehart & Keith Pollard
Power Pack #42 by Jon Bogdanove, #43 by Bogdanove & Sal Velluto
Spectacular Spider-Man #146 by Gerry Conway & Sal Buscema
(for full credits on each issue, please visit the GCD)

Plot
Amazing Spider-Man #311: Spider-Man battles Mysterio, believing the odd happenings caused by Limbo's invasion of Earth to be nothing more than illusions created by his foe. Avengers #298: Avengers butler Jarvis is attacked by demons and possessed objects in New York, and he alerts the Captain to the state of the city. Avengers #299: The Captain teams up with the New Mutants against the demonic invasion of Limbo. Hoping to find help in determining the cause of the invasion, he seeks out Reed Richards, who has retired from the Fantastic Four. The Captain arrives at the Richards' Connecticut home just after Nanny and the Orphan Maker capture Franklin Richards. Together, the Captain, Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Woman battle the villains, but are overcome when a brainwashed Franklin, wearing a suit of armor, attacks them. Just then, they are joined by the Eternal Gilgamesh, come to Earth to battle the demon hoard, and vow to free the Richards' son.

 

Daredevil #262: Dying after a battle with Typhoid Mary, Daredevil struggles to return to life and is attacked by a demonically-possessed vacuum cleaner. Fantastic Four #322: Investigating the strange occurrences in the city, the Fantastic Four are attacked by Graviton. Human Torch manages to defeat him, but the team is still uncertain why the city is acting so strangely. Power Pack #42: Power Pack's old foe Douglas Carmody is transformed into the demonic Bogeyman by N'astirh, then captures Power Pack's parents, forcing the kids to reveal their identities in order to rescue them. Power Pack #43: Power Pack defeats the Bogeyman. Spectacular Spider-Man #146: Harry Osborn, haunted by recurring nightmares, asks Peter Parker to visit him at his chemical plant. There, the plant becomes possessed and attacks everyone. Peter, as Spider-Man, helps limit the damage, but that evening Harry has another dream, and when he wakes up, he's taunted by a vision of the Green Goblin in his bathroom mirror. 

Firsts and Other Notables
The New Mutants guest star in Avengers #299 (appearing between pages of New Mutants #72), the only X-characters to appear in this batch of tie-ins.


Nanny and the Orphan Maker also appear in that issue, and serve as the chief antagonists of the story as they attempt to add Franklin Richards to their group, having been drawn to his enormous power. Orphan Maker is unable to kill Franklin's parents, Mr. Fantastic and Invisible Woman (who, at this time, were still retired from the Fantastic Four), leading to them teaming up with Captain America (still in his "The Captain" identity) to rescue their son. The Avengers at this time were still disbanded, having broken up in the wake of Dr Druid's Nebula-influenced manipulation of the team. This adventure will eventually lead to the Captain reforming the team in issue #300.


That team will include amongst its members Gilgamesh, aka The Forgotten One, one of the Eternals (a long-living evolutionary offshoot of humanity created by the Celestials who inspired the stories of the Greek gods. Or, in the case of Gilgamesh, the Sumerian hero), who ventures to Earth in Avengers #299 to battle the demons unleashed on the city. Needless to say, he never really becomes one of the stalwart Avengers, his biggest claim to fame being the time he served as event fodder for the mid-90s crossover "The Crossing", during which he was seemingly killed.   


With Mr. Fantastic and Invisible Woman appearing in Avengers, the Fantastic Four are still operating with a fairly unique roster, as seen in the "Fall of the Mutants" tie-in issue, featuring Thing, a Thing-like Ms. Marvel, Human Torch, and Crystal (though the latter doesn't appear in issue #322).

The Amazing Spider-Man "Inferno" issues occur during Todd MacFarlane's run on the title, just before he left that book to launch the adjectiveless Spider-Man series, the first issue of which was, for a time (until the adjectiveless X-Men came around) the highest selling single issue of a comic book of all time. At this time in the Spider-Man books, Peter is married to Mary Jane, and MJ's teenage cousin, Kristy, is living with them. I believe Kristy ends up involved in an eating disorder storyline, but my knowledge of the Spidey books at this time, particularly outside Amazing, is spotty, at best.

Spectacular Spider-Man #146 shows the Hobgoblin watching Harry Osborn from afar, and ends with Harry taunted by an image of the Green Goblin; Harry at this point possess no memory of his time as the Green Goblin. All this Goblin stuff is setup for future "Inferno" tie-in issues of the various Spider-Man books. 


Daredevil is still in the midst of the Ann Nocenti/John Romita Jr. run. As issue #262 opens, Daredevil is believed dead after a battle with Typhoid Mary, the signature villain of the Nocenti/JRjr run.

Louise Simonson left Power Pack with issue #40, and series artist Jon Bogdanove writes and draws these two issues. Power Pack reveals their powers and heroic identities to their parents in issue #42, in order to save them from the demonically-transformed Bogeyman.


The Chronology Corner
Power Pack #42 follows on from issue #40, which guest-starred the New Mutants (appearing between New Mutants #66 and Annual #4) and ended with Illyana sending Carmody to Limbo, which is where he is as issue #42 opens. 

As Power Pack #42 begins, N'astirh is still in Limbo, setting it before (or at least, early on in) X-Terminators #1. 

Spectacular Spider-Man #146 takes place after Amazing Spider-Man #311. 

A Work in Progress
A page in Power Pack #42 paints a pretty vivid picture of the state of New York during "Inferno", and most of that issue, with the Power kids sick with the flu, the heat wave raging, and plumbing acting up on account of "Inferno" (at one point, the bathroom faucets start spewing sewage), creates a surprisingly vivid and harrowing account of what it might have been like for the average citizen during the events of "Inferno".


We once again see the portal between Earth and Limbo opening in Power Pack #42, giving Jon Bogdanove the opportunity to draw that same scene twice (here, and in X-Terminators #4).


In Power Pack #43, we see demons continue to capture children, yet at that point, the Limbo portal (which required the babies in the first place), has already been opened.

Human Torch creates flame duplicates of himself to trick Gravitron (not unlike the way Iceman created an ice dummy to trick Death into thinking he'd killed Iceman in X-Factor #25). This was, I believe, an older use of his power that, for obvious reasons, wasn't used much outside of the Silver Age.


The Captain notes that it's becoming increasingly difficult to keep all the various superheroes straight.


Nanny has a hard time keeping Franklin Richards asleep.


Realizing that Orphan Maker failed to kill Franklin's parents, she punishes him. We also learn she has a "forge" aboard her ship where she crafts her weaponry/suits of armor.


Somewhat humorously, Gilgamesh refers to Nanny as "Egg with a voice", something to which Nanny takes offense. 

I Love the 80s
Peter Parker makes a cameo appearance in Avengers #298, and suggests Jarvis check out Who Framed Roger Rabbit?.


In Daredevil #262, Butch and Darla speculate that the heat wave gripping the city is being caused by the hole in the ozone layer. 


Spider-Man is married to Mary Jane in these issues. Except we all know that he's actually not, and they're just co-habitating, because who the devil would want to read about a married Spider-Man?

Claremontisms
In Avengers #299, Illyana "asks no quarter and gives none". 

Teebore's Take
Compared to the tie-in issues associated with previous X-crossover storylines "Mutant Massacre" and "Fall of the Mutants", the "Inferno" tie-ins, for the most part, are setup a little differently. For one, there's a lot more of them, with more and more titles getting in on the action; Power Pack, Daredevil and Fantastic Four have danced this dance before, but now they're joined by The Avengers and three different Spider-Man titles, amongst others. But in addition to volume, the approach to the tie-in stories has changed as well. Where before the tie-in issues usually told a story set on the margins of the main narrative, something that wasn't necessary to get the full story but which deepened the readers' understanding of it if they did read the tie-ins, with "Inferno", the tie-ins take a different approach, tying in to the setting more than the plot. They drop the non-X-characters into a city overrun by demons and possessed objects, but otherwise, most of these issues are unconcerned with the broader strokes of "Inferno" (of this batch of tie-ins, only Avengers #299 crosses over directly with any of the X-books).

It's arguably the best approach to this kind of crossover: readers of the X-books don't need to read these issues to get the full story, but if they do, they'll get a sense that the story of "Inferno" is larger and more far-reaching than the main narrative, while readers of the tie-in titles can either ignore the X-books entirely, or become intrigued enough to seek them out and learn more about why mailboxes are eating people. This way, everybody wins: buyers of everything get a larger, more nuanced story, while those who just stick to what they usually read still get a complete story without forking over tons of cash or feeling like they're missing something important.  

Next Issue
Tomorrow, we take a break from "Inferno" with Excalibur #4, followed by Wolverine #3 on Friday. Next week, it's back to heat and demons in Uncanny X-Men #241.

10 comments:

  1. Thus begins the fall of Harry Osborn, as his inner mental/emotional demons from his abusive childhood- caused by his bad nutcase of a father whom he worshipped- begin to surface. That visit to his son's crib in ASM#311 is bittersweet. Definitely a contrast to Scott's present parental priorities (until this saga ends).

    At present the Human Torch and Medusa are the only FF members who were never Avengers.

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  2. who the devil would want to read about a married Spider-Man?

    Yeah, he's the quinessential teen hero, I don't believe anyone would buy Spidey's marriage.

    That would just mean responsibilities and other shit the Spidey readers would find boring.

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  3. "...my knowledge of the Spidey books at this time, particularly outside Amazing, is spotty, at best."

    Funny, I'm the opposite. I think I was one of the few kids who thought Todd McFarlane's artwork was incredibly ugly. I would not touch any of his AMAZING issues with a ten-foot pole. I still don't like his work, but I appreciate Michelinie's writing so I intend to check the run out someday.

    But on the other hand, I loved Gerry Conway's SPECTACULAR and WEB. Those were my Spider-Man comics of the era, and I still think it's a great run.

    As far as married Spider-Man -- well, I have mixed feelings. I grew up on married Spider-Man. I started reading regularly sometime after the wedding. So it's the Spider-Man of my childhood, and I have no real problem with that era. But at the same time, I feel that marrying the character off robbed him of a couple of his bigger sub-plot hooks -- dating and being a loner. Love triangles and girl problems were suddenly out of the picture, and he now had Mary Jane to cover for him whenever he needed to change into Spider-Man.

    My preferred "sweet spot" for Peter Parker is as a college/grad student. I don't like him as a high schooler and while I don't object to him as a twentysomething, I think he works best in the college setting.

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  4. The Captain notes that it's becoming increasingly difficult to keep all the various superheroes straight.

    I snorted a bit, having read the same day a minor rant by a compatriot comics fan about there now being a female Thor in the comics and a black Johnny Storm in the upcoming movie.

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  5. Matt: But at the same time, I feel that marrying the character off robbed him of a couple of his bigger sub-plot hooks -- dating and being a loner. Love triangles and girl problems were suddenly out of the picture

    So like the real life. ;) Once there is all the drama, and then comes the settling up. Thematically in Peter Parker's journey that is right up his alley, if we go by Chris Sim's assessment about him being originally and foremostly a teen hero, a high school boy assuming the name of Spider-MAN. There has to be the growing up sometime, and he did go through a bunch of ladies already and there was the whole Black Cat thing with his realization that he needs to be Peter Parker and not Spider-Man to his significant other. The time was totally ripe for it and in MJ he really did hit the jackpot.

    Of course there would likely be kids coming up some time and that's a hard fit for the regular universe Spidey. They did try swapping him to Ben Reilly, but the problem is that Peter Parker and no one else is the
    spectacular Spider-Man. Perhaps there just would not have been any good solution to the problem of him growing up, but magicing him back being a retro 60's Spidey sure wasn't one.

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  6. I never read any of these comics.

    Despite loving "Inferno" and actually having started collecting comics right when everything had an "Inferno" crossover going on, somehow I missed all the non-X "Inferno" stuff except for ASM 312.

    Dunno how I managed that.

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  7. I hadn't read any of these before except for the Avengers pair. To be honest, I'd forgotten they were Inferno crossovers because I'm pretty sure I haven't reread them since they came out — I got 'em purely because I knew they set up #300. Although I wasn't buying any Marvel regularly outside Excalibur, when I saw the promotional stuff for Avengers #300, Captain America #350, and Thor #400, being a sucker for big anniversary issues, I figured "Why not?".

    The Jarvis story in Avengers #298 is probably the gem of the bunch, although I thought the Power Pack issues were pretty solid.

    // Daredevil struggles to return to life and is attacked by a demonically-possessed vacuum cleaner. //

    Is that what that was? The whole time, because of how it was drawn and colored, I thought we'd find out that Warlock had broken off from the fight to try to revive him.

    Nocenti's scripting on Daredevil #262 struck me as extremely Claremontian.

    // A page in Power Pack #42 ... creates a surprisingly vivid and harrowing account of what it might have been like for the average citizen //

    Yeah. That was intense, very good street-level stuff.

    // giving Jon Bogdanove the opportunity to draw that same scene //

    Again with the bottom panel borders being overrun, too. I hadn't remembered that Bogdanove wrote some Power Pack, but he really did a nice job setting the scene of how the whole city was affected.

    // we see demons continue to capture children //

    Eh. Most of the demons seem dumber than pocket lint, so whatever.

    // I believe Kristy ends up involved in an eating disorder storyline //

    That would explain why such a point was made of her eating so much and not gaining any weight. Overall I've liked David Micheline's writing fine when I read it, but certainly not enough to subject myself to McFarlane's art. When I got to The Amazing Spider-Man #311 and that McFarlane cover, I truly almost groaned out loud.

    Gerry Conway's work in The Spectacular Spider-Man #146 surprised me in terms of it not feeling dated — by which I mean not dated to earlier in his career, because all of these issues are obviously products of the time in which they were published.

    // who the devil //

    I see what you did there.

    Dani's power is portrayed wrong in Avengers #299: "Maybe if I can create the embodiment of the demons' greatest fear! But what?" She doesn't have to envision anything; often, she's outright surprised at what manifests. Also, Sam's dialogue doesn't sound right.

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  8. @Matt: // As far as married Spider-Man -- well, I have mixed feelings. //

    As do I, for pretty much the reasons you mentioned. That said, I like forward progress in my serial fiction — which includes superhero comics, even though that almost inevitably leads to reboots that clear the table; for some reason, even as a little kid I was obsessed with the older characters and new generation of DC's Earth-Two continuity. So I guess it's small wonder that despite it being uneven the last "real" status quo for me in the Spider-Man saga was the possible future of Spider-Girl.

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  9. @angmc43: At present the Human Torch and Medusa are the only FF members who were never Avengers.

    For some reason, I really like the idea that Human Torch is the only one of the traditional four to never be an Avenger. Just the fact that at least one of them has never done it. Not sure why.

    @Teemu:
    That would just mean responsibilities and other shit the Spidey readers would find boring.


    Indeed. I mean, we all know "with great power comes great opportunity to play the field with a wide variety of women".

    @Matt: Funny, I'm the opposite. I think I was one of the few kids who thought Todd McFarlane's artwork was incredibly ugly.

    To be fair, my knowledge of Amazing at this time isn't real great either (I've read maybe a handful of the MacFarlane issues outside the big Venom appearances and whatnot), it's just slightly better than my knowledge of the other two titles (of which I've read even less).

    As far as married Spider-Man -- well, I have mixed feelings.

    As one of my ancient, ranty posts on the matter that I'm sure I've linked to before can attest, my solution to the question has always been "why not both?" Marvel publishes a crap ton of Spider-Man stories across various forms of media and set at different times in the characters' life. Why do they ALL have to feature an unmarried, swinging Spidey? Why not have at least one depict a slowly growing, maturing Spider-Man who faces new responsibilities and challenges, even if only in a "alt reality" book like Spider-Girl?

    Also, my bigger issues with the end of the Spider-Man marriage was the means of bringing it about. REtcon away the marriage? Fine, I guess, if you have to. But to do so via a deal with the devil just seemed like the least Spider-Man way to do it, a complete mangling of the character to get to an outcome I wasn't all that jazzed about anyway.

    @Blam: Nocenti's scripting on Daredevil #262 struck me as extremely Claremontian.

    Yeah, her work on these tie-in issues strikes me as being very much an imitation of Claremont's style (and not always for the better). Having not read much of her run outside the tie-in issues, I have no idea if it's always like that, or something she turns on when tying stories into his events.

    When I got to The Amazing Spider-Man #311 and that McFarlane cover, I truly almost groaned out loud.

    Well then, I'm glad I didn't use that as the cover image for this post, as I briefly considered. :)

    Dani's power is portrayed wrong in Avengers #299: "Maybe if I can create the embodiment of the demons' greatest fear! But what?" She doesn't have to envision anything; often, she's outright surprised at what manifests.

    Good catch. I completely breezed past that, but you're absolutely right.

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