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

Friday, December 30, 2016

Force in Focus: Carrie Fisher


Originally, I was going to return to reviews of Marvel's Star Wars this week, but then Carrie Fisher died on Tuesday.

To say 2016 has been a rough year in terms of celebrity deaths is nothing new; there's memes aplenty saying as much, and it's become a familiar refrain whenever yet another death hits the news. There's some truth to that notion (it does seem like an awful lot of big name celebrities with a knack for establishing personal connections with their audiences died this year), but at the same time, celebrities die every year, and once "2016 is the worst!" entered the zeitgeist, every subsequent death suffered from confirmation bias in a way that didn't necessarily happen in earlier years (and, of course, there's no guarantee 2017, and 2018, etc. won't be as bad or worse; modern pop culture is getting older, and the human parts of it older with it, and that means more and more deaths of people whose work we love). But Carrie Fisher's death hit me harder than most, simply because she's been, as Princess Leia, a part of my life for as long as I can remember.

As a heterosexual male, the easy comment to make is that my first celebrity crush has died, and there's some truth to that; I couldn't tell you exactly when my sexual awakening occurred, but Princess Leia was definitely one of the first characters to which my young mind said "I find her attractive", even if I didn't fully understand entirely what that meant, yet. But that's also doing the character (and Fisher) a great disservice, because Leia was so much more than a sex symbol.

I'd say Princess Leia is the character who taught me that women can stand side-by-side with men and kick just as much ass, but because of Leia, that wasn't ever really something I needed to be taught; it was just a fact of reality from the get-go, like water being wet and air being breathed. Leia is the first of the central trio of characters we meet in A New Hope, and her earliest moments involve her getting Artoo off her ship with the MacGuffin plans, blasting some Stormtroopers, and dishing out sass to an intense & ominous Darth Vader.

She proceeds to stand up to Imperial torture, and when Luke & Han show up to rescue her, she does most of the rescuing, grabbing Luke's blaster from him, firing off a few shots, and finding a way out of the detention cell. Star Wars is famously built on the structure of stories of old, but from the very beginning, Leia is upending and re-contextualizing those stories. She's the archetypal damsel in distress, the princess the hero needs to rescue from the castle of the evil monster to prove his worth, but in this story, when the hero arrives, the princess quickly takes charge, grabs his weapon, and rescues herself.

That's an incredibly strong statement for the film to make, and at a time when the modern action genre was about to be born from the steroid-enhanced musculature of male actors like Schwarzenegger and Stallone, there was Carrie Fisher, leading the Rebellion and firing guns right alongside every other character in the Star Wars films (all of whom were, for the most part, men). Only Sigourney Weaver's Ellen Ripley can stand up to Leia in terms of offering a female counterpart to the male action stars of 80s, and while Ripley is an incredibly strong character in '79's Alien, she doesn't really become an action hero until Aliens, a few years after Fisher's first bow as Leia.

As Leia, Carrie Fisher taught at least two generations of men and women that women can stand shoulder to shoulder with men in science fiction and action-adventure stories, that princesses can rescue themselves, that femininity and toughness are not mutually exclusive. On top of that, she was a tremendously talented writer and mental health advocate, working tirelessly to shine a light on a disease that works so hard to stay in the dark. But for me, her most lasting impact will always be that of Princess Leia, a character that means so much to so many.

Gone, like so many, too soon, she is one with the Force now, a princess and icon forever. Rest in peace, Carrie Fisher, and thank you.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

X-amining Wolverine #61

"Nightmare Quest!"
Late September 1992

In a Nutshell
Wolverine is approached by Wraith as he assembles their old Weapon X teammates.

Script: Larry Hama
Art: Mark Texeira
Lettering: Pat Brosseau
Coloring: Steve Buccellato
Editor: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Plot
Wolverine wakes up from a nightmare involving Sabretooth & Silver Fox to find the commercial flight he's on has been redirected to the SHIELD helicarrier. Once aboard, Nick Fury informs him that someone with significant pull needs to speak with him, and a helicopter brings Wolverine & Jubilee down to the ground, where John Wraith is waiting. Wraith tosses a Shiva head at Wolverine, which triggers a memory involving Wolverine, Wraith, Sabretooth & Mastodon in Cuba. Wraith then takes Wolverine & Jubilee to his home, where an elderly Mastodon is dying, the age-suppression factor given to him and all the other members of the Weapon X project failing. Worried it could affect any of them, Wraith says he's assembling the old team to try and figure out how to stop it, and Wolverine is shocked and enraged to learn both that Silver Fox is still alive, and that Wraith has Sabretooth chained up in his basement.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

X-amining Ghost Rider #29

"Biting the Hand That Feeds You!"
September 1992

In a Nutshell
Wolverine & Ghost Rider battle the Image-esque Next Wave.

Writer: Howard Mackie
Penciler: Andy Kubert
Inker: Joe Kubert
Letterer: Janice Chiang
Colorist: Gregory Wright
Editor: Bobbie Chase
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Plot
Blaze & Ghost Rider defeat a group of muggers, watched by Wolverine & Beast, who have followed Ghost Rider from New Orleans, concerned that Ghost Rider may not be fully recovered from his Brood possession. Meanwhile, the head of Penner Security Associates meets with Agent X, the leader of a group of super-powered agents looking for greater control over their missions and larger cuts of the profits, a demand that is resolutely denied. Agent X then meets with his associates, Turk & Snare, and the trio attack Penner,When an innocent bystander is caught in the crossfire, it catches the attention of Ghost Rider & Blaze, along with Wolverine & Beast in turn, and they attack the three mercenaries, who dub themselves Next Wave. Eventually, the heroes prevail, and Wolverine is convinced that while Ghost Rider is experiencing some profound changes, he's still working for the same purpose as ever.

Monday, December 26, 2016

The Milch Studies: NYPD Blue, Season Eight - The Wrap-Up



I can remember actually being relieved when I discovered David Milch wasn’t going to be running Blue for its eighth season.  At the time, the archly constructed, idiosyncratic dialogue was getting on my nerves, and I figured giving the characters more realistic speech patterns would be a welcome relief.  (I didn’t know at this point that the dialogue was at least partially inspired by retired detective Bill Clark.)

Now, re-watching the episodes, I find myself missing Milch’s scripts.  I appreciate the poetry in those uniquely crafted sentences a lot more today, and recognize the amount of work Milch was putting into those words.  A character couldn’t just say, “Are you nuts?”, he had to respond “You think I been occupied by some strange spirit?”  (Sipowicz’s answer when Diane asked him once if he’d like a carton of yogurt.)  This year, the characters do speak as real people, but many of their lines are simply bland.  Milch dialogue, as cumbersome as it might’ve been at times, brought an identity to the show and a demand of the audience to pay attention to each riddle of a sentence.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Force in Focus: The Star Wars Holiday Special


As you may or may not know, earlier this fall Saved by the Bell Reviewed, the weekly podcast that Dr. Bitz and I co-hosted along with two Oregonian cartoonists, finished its run reviewing every episode of the series (along with some extra stuff).

Shortly after that wrapped, we launched a new podcast, A Very Special Episode, which takes the Saved by the Bell Reviewed format of crass TV analysis and applies it to a wider swath of pop culture, examining "very special" episodes from across TV (rather than looking at just one show), as well other media. Earlier this week, in light of the holidays and the release of Rogue One, we dedicated our latest episode to the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special, a 70s-style variety show featuring Chewbacca's family and phoned-in appearances from the principal Star Wars cast, alongside everything from a blackface cooking demonstration, a performance from Diahann Carroll specifically intended by the creators to be as much like softcore porn as network censors would allow, and large swathes of time in which the only dialogue being spoken is a series of unintelligible Wookiee growls and howls (without subtitles).

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Unstacking the Deck: Marvel Masterpieces Series I

Skybox 1992

Vital Statistics
100 cards (including checklist), 5 "spectra" chase cards, 5 "Lost Marvel" bonus cards.

Cardfronts are full bleed, with a small gold border and the character's name in gold. Cardbacks are lanscaped, listing the character's real name and first appearance followed by biographical data. To the left of the bio is a picture of the comic on whose cover the character first appeared (which can be different than the comic the character first appeared in, if they didn't appear on the cover of that issue).

Categorically Speaking
No categories or subsets for the cards in this set, just 99 cards featuring heroes and villains in vaguely alphabetical order.

Firsts and Other Notables
This is the first set of Marvel Masterpieces, a subset of Marvel trading cards that is still technically being released today (the most recent set was released in 2016, but the series took several years off - notably between 1996 and 2007 - and I've never even seen any of the cards from the later sets). It represents Marvel's "prestige" card set (in sports card terms, this is Upper Deck to the regular Marvel trading cards' Topps or Donruss), in that each of the cards features full bleed art, glossy images, thicker card stock, and comes packaged with fewer cards per pack than the other sets, at a higher price point per pack.

Monday, December 19, 2016

The Milch Studies: NYPD Blue, Season Eight - The Cast & Guest Stars


Before the launch of the seventh season of NYPD Blue, David Milch announced he’d be stepping back from the show.  Few believed him, and with good reason.  Even though Mark Tinker was added as an executive producer to help with the burden, Milch stuck around for the entire year as showrunner and has a writing credit on most of the episodes.  Milch was intrinsically linked to the show, and the idea of him casually walking away seemed unlikely.

Milch made the same announcement before the start of Season Eight.  And he meant it this time.  (This makes the Season Seven finale more poignant, especially in regards to Sipowicz and the crisis of faith displayed in the episode.)  With the nebulous credit of “Executive Consultant,” Milch still had an official title on the show, but the majority of his time was spent developing his new CBS series Big Apple.  What exactly Milch contributed to this year remains unclear.  The dialogue clearly isn’t his -- as Steven Bochco declared when he returned to daily duties on the show this season, “That's Milch-speak… We don't know how to do Milch-speak, so we have to do some other kind of speak. There's no question the tone of the show is altered because of that.”

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Force in Focus: Rogue One


Unlike The Force Awakens, which I saw three times in the first 24 hours of its release, I've only had a chance to see Rogue One once as of this writing. So my thoughts on it are less formed; details haven't cemented themselves in my head, I haven't had a chance to watch it in more detail without being as focused on plot & character beats while wondering what was coming next, etc. So with that caveat in place, here's some thoughts on stuff I liked and didn't like about the movie, at least after my first viewing.

Spoilers, obviously. If you haven't seen the movie yet, probably skip this.

Friday, December 16, 2016

X-amining Wolverine #60

"Counting Coup"
Early September 1992

In a Nutshell
Shiva attacks Sabretooth as Wolverine grieves for Mariko

Writer: Larry Hama
Pencils: Dave Hoover
Inks: Keith Williams
Letters: Pat Brosseau
Colors: Kevin Tinsley
Editor: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Plot
Watched by Gambit, Jubilee & Yukio, Wolverine continues his vigil at Mariko's grave, fighting his grief and urge to lose control. In New York, Sabretooth is attacked by Shiva at a wrestling match. On a nearby subway, muggers confront John Wraith, who are in turn harassed by a group of Skinheads, but Wraith scares off both groups. In Japan, Matsu'o tests out his new hand, ignoring the pleadings of his ninjas to leave the country before Wolverine extracts vengeance. Sunfire arrives at Mariko's grave, passing along his government's request that Wolverine peacefully leave the country. In New York, Sabretooth manages to destroy one Shiva robot, but is attacked by a second. He is saved by Wraith, who destroys that robot and teleports away with Sabretooth. In Japan, en route to the airport, Wolverine catches Matsuo's scent. He tracks him down, defeating his ninjas and destroying his new hand. He then slices Matsuo's face, telling him that rather than kill him, he is simply going to return each year to mutilate him further, taking a slow revenge on him.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

X-amining Excalibur #54

"Curiouser & Curiouser"
September 1992

In a Nutshell
Captain Britain battles the Crazy Gang

Writer/Penciler: Alan Davis
Inker: Mark Farmer
Letterer: Michael Heisler
Colorist: Glynis Oliver
Editor: Terry Kavanaugh
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Plot
As Kitty removes Kurt's cast and the pair mourn Rachel's absence, Captain Britain, along with Meggan, Cerise & Kylun, arrive at a small village, called there by Dai Thomas to help investigate the sudden disappearance of all its inhabitants. Suddenly, Meggan catches a psychic impression of the villagers and runs off, diving down a rabbit hole, pursued by her teammates. Emerging on the other side, Captain Britain finds everyone trapped in some variation of the Alice in Wonderland story, including the missing villagers. Spotting members of the Crazy Gang, he attacks, believing them to be behind the kidnappings. But with Meggan's help, they explain that their intentions are not nefarious, and that the combination of missing Technet member Joyboy's power with the Crazy Gang's Red Queen's power has created a world where everyone is happy & content, including the villagers, who were invited there by the Crazy Gang. Captain Britain reluctantly agrees to leave everything as is, so long as the Crazy Gang doesn't stray from the village. Meanwhile, at Braddock Manor, Kitty & Alistair are investigating Widget when he suddenly activates and disappears in a burst of light.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

X-amining X-Men (vol. 2) #12

"Broken Mirrors"
September 1992

In a Nutshell
The mysterious past of Xavier's father comes to light.

Writer: Fabian Nicieza
Artist: Art Thibert
Art Assist: Dan Panosian & Trevor Scott
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Colorist: Rosas/Javins
Editor: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Plot
At the Ryking Hospital, longtime patient Carter Ryking attacks the staff with his mutant energy powers, having been agitated by news reports of his father's death. At the X-Mansion, Psylocke leaves to visit her brother while Jubilee trains in the Danger Room, only to have her session interrupted by an angry Wolverine. Having been researching his own past, he came across Xavier's files about his fathers past dealings, and Wolverine is suspicious of the similarities with his own findings. As Carter escapes from the hospital, Wolverine & Xavier discuss their pasts, and seeing news of Carter's father's death, Xavier decides to start his investigation there. At the funeral of Alexander Ryking, who worked with Xavier's father, Carter attacks the crowd. Xavier attempts to stop his old childhood friend, but instead, Carter kidnaps him, intending to take him to the Almagordo research facility where their fathers worked. Later, Val Cooper discusses the situation with the X-Men, and Wolverine surmises Carter's destination. Cyclops tells Val the X-Men will handle this themselves, and Val agrees, even as she insists that Almagordo has been a graveyard for decades.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Force in Focus: Shadows of the Empire Action Figures

From the beginning, action figure licensing has gone hand-in-hand with new Star Wars movies. So when the Shadows of the Empire initiative attempted to create all the usual tie-ins associated with a new movie (despite not having a new movie to tie them into), a line of action figures had to have been a no-brainer for LucasFilm. Thankfully, Kenner had, in 1995, relaunched their long-stagnant line of Star Wars figures under the "Power of the Force" line, so the groundwork was already in place for a line of Shadows "tie-in" figures.

The end result is small sub-line under the "Power of the Force" umbrella, consisting of five individual figures, two multipacks containing a pair of figures each, and three vehicles (one of which contained an additional figure not found elsewhere).

Figures
Chewbacca in Bounty Hunter Disguise
Dash Rendar
Leia in Boushh Disguise
Luke Skywalker in Imperial Guard Disguise
Prince Xizor

Multipacks
Boba Fett vs. IG-88
Prince Xizor vs. Darth Vader

Vehicles
Boba Fett's Slave I
Dash Rendar's Outrider
Swoop Bike w/Swoop Trooper

Friday, December 9, 2016

X-amining X-Factor #82

"Sittin' by the Dock of the Bay"
September 1992

In a Nutshell
X-Factor battles the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants

Writer: Peter David
Penciler: Rurik Tyler
Inker: Al Milgrom
Letterer: Richard Starkings
Colorist: Glynis Oliver
Editor: Kelly Corvese
X-Titles Editor: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Plot
As local police & immigration officials discuss the situation with the Genoshan mutants seeking asylum, Sauron is revived by the life force of a drunk who strays too close to him. Overhearing the discussion, he decides to contact his Brotherhood teammates about some potential new recruits. Meanwhile,Val is admonishing Jamie for this handling of the Rhapsody situation, but Alex intervenes, saying Val needs to submit her criticisms through him. Their argument is interrupted by the phone. Just then, Lorna returns from the hospital and learns X-Factor has a new mission. Elsewhere, Strong Guy says goodbye to Shrew, her testimony complete with no sign of Cyber. At the docks, an immigration official argues with the Genoshans, saying the situation in Genosha is better now, so the US can't grant them asylum. Suddenly, they're drawn outside by the sound of a fight, as the Brotherhood arrives and attacks the soldiers in the name of the Genoshans. Shortly thereafter X-Factor arrives, and manages to defeat the Brotherhood. Meeting with Prodigal, the Genoshans' leader, Havok reiterates that Genosha is a changed, better, place now, and to prove it, he and the rest of X-Factor will accompany the would-be refugees back to Genosha.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

X-amining X-Force #14

"Payback"
September 1992

In a Nutshell
X-Force escapes SHIELD while Cable & Domino attack Tolliver.

Writer: Fabian Nicieza
Guest Penciler: Terry Shoemaker
Guest Inker: Al Milgrom
Letterer: Chris Eliopoulos
Colorist: Kevin Tinsley
Editor: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Plot
Having survived the destruction of X-Force's base, Cable teleports himself and Domino to Graymalkin. Meanwhile, X-Force & the remnants of Weapon: Prime emerge from the wreckage of the base, protected by Cannonball's blast field. Just then, SHIELD troops arrive to reinforce Weapon: Prime, but led by Cannonball, X-Force is able to overpower them and capture their IPAC vehicle for themselves. Putting in a call for medical help for the injured agents as well as Bridge & Kane, X-Force leaves, with Rictor joining them now that Cable is out of the picture. Elsewhere, Gideon's scientists decides to proceed with phase 2 of their experiments on Roberto. Aboard the IPAC, X-Force debates their next move, eventually deciding to hide out at Warpath's old reservation for the time being. Just then, Crule attacks, determined to kill Cannonball. In Italy, Cable & Domino sneak into oneof Tolliver's bases, expecting to surprise him, but instead, they find Deadpool & Tolliver waiting for them, along with the real Domino, and Cable realizes the Domino with him is a fake.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

X-amining Uncanny X-Men #292

"...the Morlocks Take Manhattan!"
September 1992

In a Nutshell
The X-Men battle the Morlocks

Writer: Scott Lobdell
Layouts: Rurik Tyler
Penciler: Tom Raney
Inkers: Josef Rubinstein & Al Milgrom
Letterers: Lois 'n' Tom
Colorist: Steve Buccellato
Editor: Bob Harras
Mr. Broadway: Tom DeFalco

Plot
As the Morlocks spill out into Manhattan, Bishop, Colossus & Jean Grey attempt to contain them. Back at the mansion, Mikhail attacks Iceman, turning his body from ice into water. In the Morlock Tunnels, Professor X discovers that the Morlocks' frenzy is being caused by one psychic, scared Morlock child, while on the surface, Bishop's efforts are impeded by the arrival of the police, who want to arrest him. At the mansion, Mikhail seemingly destroys Iceman, scattering him, while Callisto searches Storm's attic to reclaim her leadership vest. In Manhattan, Storm recovers from her claustrophobia attack and prevents Bishop from harming the cops, while Xavier manages to work with the Morlock child to calm the riot, sending the Morlocks back into the tunnels. At the mansion, Mikhail reveals he hasn't killed Iceman, for he still cannot bring himself to take the life of another, something Callisto says they'll have to work on.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Force in Focus: Shadows of the Empire

This week marks the 20th anniversary of Shadows of the Empire, LucasFilm's ambitious 1996 multimedia Star Wars project. The general idea behind it was to tell an official story set between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi (storytelling ground that had been relatively untrod even in '96), with all the by-then usual trappings of a movie release: a tie-in novel, comic book series, soundtrack, video game and action figure line. The catch being, there was no movie, and the story was all told through the tie-ins themselves (though chiefly through the novel).

It was a reasonably clever idea (at one point, LucasFilm even cut together a trailer for the "film", using pre-existing footage, and showed it at a few conventions, before eventually pulling it for fear that fans would get confused and expect a movie), one which showcased the growing multimedia might of the Star Wars brand in the mid-90s and helped stoke interest in the franchise ahead of the 1997 Special Editions and The Phantom Menace in 1999. The Silver Age of Star Wars had begun in 1991 with the release of Timothy Zahn's Heir to the Empire, reviving interest in the brand after the franchise had more or less gone dark in the late 80s. That renewed interest eventually led to subsequent novels, a new comic book universe via Dark Horse, and a revamped action figure line from Kenner. Shadows of the Empire, then, could be viewed as the zenith of this brief era in Star Wars history, when the franchise was becoming more and more popular despite the lack of any new stories being told via film.

Friday, December 2, 2016

X-amining Wolverine #59

"Unnatural Resources"
Late August 1992

In a Nutshell
Wolverine, Terror & Jubilee rescue a logging executive's daughter from eco-terrorists.

Writer: D.G. Chichester
Penciler: Darick Robertson
Inker: Joe Rubinstein
Letterer: Pat Brosseau
Colorist: Ariane
Editor: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Plot
Terror & Jubilee use a nearby river to freeze the spike in Wolverine's chest long enough to prevent it from exploding as they pull it out. Later, Wolverine gives himself a haircut in order to infiltrate the group holding Alice Hoff without being recognized. With the help of Alice's boyfriend Jake, leader of the Nature Defense League, Wolverine attracts the attention of Johnny Bloodcede, leader of the group holding Alice. Smelling Alice on him, he runs off to find her while Jubilee & Terror take care of Bloodcede's gang. Wolverine discovers Alice tied to a tree, and manages to free her just as Bloodcede knocks down the tree. In the aftermath, Wolverine pays back Bloodcede for the explosive spike, then reunites Alice with her father. Before leaving, Wolverine advises the father to consider changing his ways, not because of what happened to his daughter or pressure from groups like the NDL, but because there's something to be said for simply doing business with more than profit in mind.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

X-amining Spider-Man #25

"Why Me?"
August 1992

In a Nutshell
Spider-Man & Captain Britain battle Arcade

Writer: Terry Kavanagh
Penciler: Chris Marrinan
Inker: Mark Stegbauer
Letterer: Chris Eliopoulos
Colorist: Kevin Tinsley
Editor: Danny Fingeroth
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Plot
When Spider-Man receives a mysterious note asking for help, seemingly from Captain Britain, he spends his recently-acquired bonus traveling to England. Once there, he's attacked by first a gargoyle and then Juggernaut. Defeating Juggernaut, he's attacked in turn by Captain Britain and Excalibur, who see him as Juggernaut. When they realize they're being tricked, Nightmare & D'Spayre appear, claiming to be behind the illusions. In the ensuing battle, Phoenix is injured, and while trying to revive her, Spider-Man briefly adopts the Phoenix force. But when his blast reveals Nightmare & D'Spraye to be robots, Captain Britain realizes his "Phoenix force" is just a mechanical trick as well. Just then, a cadre of Spider-Man villains attack. After defeating them, Spider-Man & Captain Britain realize they're being played, and Captain Britain figures out they're unknowingly wearing virtual reality helmets. They track the helmets to an imprisoned Arcade, and with Meggan's help, get him to confess to having attacked the pair of heroes.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

X-amining Avengers #350-351

"Repercussions" / "Retribution"
August 1992

In a Nutshell
The Starjammer's attack Black Knight while Professor X & Cyclops meet with the Avengers.

Writer: Bob Harras
Penciler: Steve Epting, Kevin West (issue #351)
Inker: Tom Palmer, Bud Larosa (issue #351)
Letterer: Bill Oakley
Colorists: Palmer & Mossoff, Gina Going (issue #351)
Editor: Ralph Macchio
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Plot
#350: Starjammers Raza & Hepzibah meet with a former Kree admiral, who hires them to assassinate the Avenger Black Knight, killer of the Kree Supreme Intelligence, offering Hepzibah money and a reluctant Raza information as to the whereabouts of his believed-dead wife & son. On Earth, Professor X & Cyclops meet with the Avengers, along with Val Cooper & Quicksilver, to inform them of renewed activity involving Magneto's Acolytes, and the potential threat to Quicksilver & Crystal's daughter Luna. Later, after Hepzibah convinces Corsair to take a trip to Earth to check on their teammate Binary, recovering with the Avengers, the Starjammers arrive at Avengers Mansion. During the ensuing gathering, Raza slips away and attacks Black Knight in the hanger. Black Knight seems to have the upper hand, until Raza threatens Luna, leaving Black Knight open to a killing stroke as he tries to save her. Alerted by the commotion of their fight, the Avengers & Starjammers rush into the hanger to find Raza standing over Black Knight, and an enraged Hercules declares that for killing Black Knight, Raza must die.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

X-aminations in December 2016


We round out the year by inching ever closer to "X-Cutioner's Song", then take a little holiday break with yet another trading card set (comics weren't the only hobby industry experiencing a soon-to burst boom in 1992!) and the end of Wolverine's final bi-weekly shipping stint!

On Sale July 1992
December 7th: Uncanny X-Men #292
December 8th: X-Force #14
December 9th: X-Factor #82

December 14th: X-Men (vol. 2) #12
December 15th: Excalibur #54
December 16th: Wolverine #60 

December 21st: Unstacking the Deck: Marvel Masterpieces Series I

December 28th: Ghost Rider #29
December 29th: Wolverine #61

Monday, November 28, 2016

The Milch Studies - HILL STREET BLUES, The Wrap-Up


Even as a show on its last legs, Hill Street Blues opens Season Seven with a string of memorable episodes.  When Hill Street is at its best, the hallmarks of a David Milch cop drama are all present -- conflicted heroes, clashes between principled intellectuals and the men stuck in the trenches, and Dennis Franz stealing most of the scenes.  The middle stretch of episodes aren’t as good; many of the character subplots just aren’t that engaging, and the gimmick of placing a lead in jeopardy is overplayed (characters on Hill Street can be shot or even dismembered but still turn out okay within an episode or two).  Most of the major plotlines are still worthwhile, however, with Captain Furillo’s strained relationships with both Ray Calletano and Henry Goldblume becoming the focus for much of the year.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Force in Focus: Star Wars #54

"Starfire Rising"
December 1981

In a Nutshell
The Star Warriors rescue Leia and help defend Shiva IV.

Writer: Chris Claremont
Pencilers: Carmine Infantino & Walt Simonson
Inkers: Palmer, Giacioa & Milgrom
Colorist: Wein
Letterer: Burzon
Editor: Jones & Fingeroth
Ed-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

Plot
After detailing his plan to use an anti-matter bomb to destroy Aron's kingdom, General Sk'ar order Aron & Leia put in a cell. En route, they break free of their bonds and steal an air ship. Pursued by TIE fighters, they end up crashing the ship on Sk'ar's battle cruiser. Leaping out, they engage the Imperial forces, but just when they're about to be overwhelmed, Luke, Lando, Chewbacca & Aron's ally Keral join the fight. As Leia races to defuse the anti-matter bomb, Lando chases Sk'ar onto a shuttle, which Chewbacca manages to down just as Leia deactivates the bomb. During the ensuing celebration of their victory, Threepio informs Leia that a Star Destroyer has entered the planet's orbit. The Star Warriors leap into the Millennium Falcon and prepare to take on the Imperial ship, despite being overmatched. However, a nearby black hole gives Luke an idea, and with the aid of the Force, he pilots the Falcon around the edge of the hole, a maneuver the Star Destroyer attempts to match, but cannot, due to its greater bulk. As the ship and all aboard are destroyed, the Falcon races away, having ensured the freedom of Aron's world, at least for a time.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Unstacking the Deck: Marvel Universe Series III

Impel 1992

Vital Statistics
200 cards (including the checklist card) and five hologram chase cards.

The background on the front of each card is a star field, with a varying geometric shape set between the background and the central image of the character.

The card backs are landscaped, with a headshot of the character along with a quote and the series, issue number and date from which the quote is taken on the left of the card. Beneath that is the character's real name, group affiliation, and first appearance.

To the right of the headshot is bar graph mapping each character's aptitude in strength, intelligence, energy projection, mental powers, fighting ability and speed. Beneath that is the character's biographically information.

Monday, November 21, 2016

The Milch Studies - HILL STREET BLUES, Season Seven


After a seven-year run, and a move to Tuesdays at 9:00 (opposite the hot new series Moonlighting), the consensus amongst critics seemed to be that Hill Street Blues was entering its final days.  I’m not entirely certain when David Milch and company knew that the series was truly done, but apparently the final nail was star Daniel J. Travanti’s decision not to return for a hypothetical eighth season.  You’d think that the concluding episodes of the run would serve as a tender farewell to Travanti’s honorable cop boss, but the character of Frank Furillo actually spends the final days of the series with little to do.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Force in Focus: Star Wars #53

"The Last Gift From Alderaan!"
November 1981

In a Nutshell
Leia crash lands on a strange planet targeted by the Empire.

Writer: C. Claremont
Pencilers: Infantino & Simonson
Inkers: Kupperberg & Palmer
Colors: G. Wein
Letters: Leferman
Editor: Louise Jones
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

Plot
Drawn by a recent surge in Imperial activity, Princess Leia is participating in a mission to scout the Shiva system when her ship is hit with a mine. In order to protect the ship and its crew, she's forced to fly a damaged shuttle down to the planet Shiva IV. Crashing on the planet, she is attacked by a raiding party, but is rescued by Aron Peacebringer, leader of one of the local factions. Returning to Aron's capital city with him, she tries to warn him of the danger posed by the Empire, but he questions their existence. Weeks later, with no sign of rescue, Leia is attending a ball in Aron's court, finding herself somewhat enjoying the courtly life free of responsibility she's built for herself, when she and Aron are captured by a pair of Stormtroopers. They are taken before the Imperial general Sk'ar, who declares Aron's planet is his next target. Aron, realizing Leia was right about the Empire, vows to fight, and make him rue the day he ever set eyes on Aron's world.

Friday, November 18, 2016

X-amining Wolverine #58

"Monkeywrenching!"
Early August 1992

In a Nutshell
Wolverine teams up with Terror to locate a girl kidnapped by a cult-ish environmental group.

Guest Writer: D.G. Chichester
Guest Penciler: Darick Robertson
Guest Inker: Joe Rubinstein
Letterer: Pat Brosseau
Colorist: Ariane
Editor: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Plot
When a logging executive friend of Xavier's named Barton Hoff asks for help locating his daughter Alice, who was kidnapped by a group of environmental extremists called the Nature Defense League, Xavier is forced to decline to protect the X-Men's secrets. But Wolverine, looking for a distraction after Mariko's recent death, takes it upon himself to help the girl. He and Jubilee track a member of the group to an Oregon bar, where they learn Ecotage, a splinter group of the NDL, has captured Alice. Wolverine gets into a fight with one of the members, who kills himself rather than be captured. At the morgue, they rendezvous with Terror, an apparent acquaintance of Wolverine's, who uses his power to learn that Alice is being prepared for some kind of cult-like sacrifice. Just then, Monkeywrench, the leader of Ecotage, and his associates attack, and Wolverine is stabbed in the chest with an explosive spike.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

X-amining Excalibur #53

"The Litter"
August 1992

In a Nutshell
A flashback tale of Captain Britain & Spider-Man.

Writer: Scott Lobdell
Penciler: James Fry
Inker: Chris Ivy
Letterer: Michael Heisler
Colorist: Glynis Oliver
Editor: Terry Kavanaugh
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Plot
In the midst of spring cleaning, Meggan discovers a scrapbook of Brian's, which includes a picture of Peter Parker, whom Brian says is, in many ways, responsible for the hero he is today. He proceeds to tell her a story from his time as Peter's roommate in college, when he was training with Spider-Man on how to be a better superhero. After arguing with Peter and nearly getting into a fight with a group of foreign exchange students, Brian is in a bad mood the next night when he meets Spider-Man for their training session. This prompts Spider-Man to bow out. On his own, Captain Britain encounters the Litter, the foreign students he ran into before, who transform into humanoid dogs and attack him. Their fight draws Spider-Man's attention, but Captain Britain goes too far, using lethal force against one of the Litter, nearly killing her. Instead of calling an ambulance, a shocked Brian flies away and wanders the city, realizing he's never been held accountable for his actions. But when he returns home, he finds Peter waiting, and is told he has to leave. In the present, Brian tells Meggan this provided the wake-up call he needed, and he returned home resolved to be a better person and hero.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

X-amining X-Men (vol. 2) #11

"The X-Men vs. the X-Men (Again)!" "Over Again"
August 1992

In a Nutshell
The X-Men defeat Mojo.

Pencils: Jim Lee, Mark Texeira (2nd Story)
Writer: Scott Lobdell
Inks: Bob Wiacek, Mark Texeira (2nd Story)
Letterer: Lois Buhalis
Colorist: Marie Javins
Editor: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Plot
As Dazzler reluctantly agrees to work with Mojo II to save the X-Men and bring down Mojo, the X-Men, Longshot, and Lila Cheney fight one another in Mojo's Wizard of Oz parody. Eventually, the captive Professor X is able to make contact with Psylocke, freeing her from Mojo's control and using her to boost his strength. As Dazzler and Mojo II sneak into the arena, Psylocke & Xavier are able to use Cyclops and Wolverine to weaken the window into Mojo's control booth, and then free Rogue, enabling her to smash an opening into the booth just as Dazzler and Mojo II enter. Seeing Mojo on the verge of defeat, the people of Mojoworld rise up in rebellion, storming the facility as Longshot ends Mojo once and for all. In the aftermath of the battle, Mojo II is placed in charge, but is cautioned that Longshot & Dazzler will be keeping a close eye on him, and the recuperating X-Men look towards an uncertain future.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Force in Focus: Star Wars #52

"To Take the Tarkin!"
October 1981

In a Nutshell
The Rebels destroy the Tarkin 

Writer: David Michelinie
Penciler: Walt Simonson
Inker: Tom Palmer
Colorist: Don Warfield
Letterer: John Morelli
Editor: Louise Jones
The Force: Jim Shooter

Plot
After drawing the attention of a pair of Stormtroopers, the Rebel force aboard the Tarkin splits up to carry out their mission. On the bridge, Vader receives the news of their attack, but says he'll take care of the problem personally, which the officers hoping to eliminate him view as their best chance at doing so. On the planet below, Lando climbs out of the Falcon's holding compartments, having stowed away in the hopes of proving his trustworthiness to the Rebels, just as the ship draws the attention of some Stormtroopers. Aboard the Tarkin, Chewbacca and the droids manage to destroy a target beam generator, while Leia fights off a squad of Stromtroopers, hoping Luke is having more luck. But Luke, nearing the main reactor, is also nearing a waiting Vader just as the Imperial officers strike, opening an airlock near Vader. Both Vader and Luke manage to survive, but Luke loses his proton bomb. However, Leia finds herself near the station's main weapon machinery, and shortly thereafter, radios everyone to meet her at the docking bay. Just as Lando manages to bribe away the Stormtroopers and take off, the Rebels on the Tarkin steal a shuttle and fly away. They fend off a pair of TIE fighters with Lando's help, then board the Falcon just as Vader joins the fray in his personal TIE. Luke and Lando manage to outfly Vader just as the Tarkin fires it weapon, hoping to destroy both the Rebels and Vader, but instead, the station explodes, as Leia explains that she was able to reverse the polarity of the ship's weapon so that it basically shot itself.

Friday, November 11, 2016

X-amining X-Factor #81

"Belles of the Ball"
August 1992

In a Nutshell
X-Factor defeats Cyber & the Hell's Belles.

Writer: Peter David
Pencils: Larry Stroman
Inks: Al Milgrom
Letters: Rich S.
Colors: Kevin Tinsley
Editor: Bob Harras
Chief: Tom DeFalco

Plot
As Cyber explains that he'll only give Strong Guy the antidote to the poison he injected him with in exchange for Shrew, Briquette accidentally sets the hotel's boiler on fire, triggering an explosion that separates the two teams. Meanwhile, Madrox prepares to break Rhapsody out of jail, but when she reveals that while she didn't murder Mr. Sharp, she was complicit in his death, he leaves her in jail and tells Quicksilver it's time to go home. Meanwhile, Val receives a call from Cyber arranging the meeting to exchange Shrew for the antidote, but a government doctor has been able to create an anti-toxin. Strong Guy is less than confidant, however, prompting Havok to poison himself, saying he won't ask his teammates to take a risk he himself won't take. Together, he and Strong Guy drink the anti-toxin. In New York Harbor, a ship arrives carrying a group of mutants, lead by a man named Prodigal, who tells the authorities he and his people are seeking asylum. That night, X-Factor arrives at the prearranged meeting place. With the Belles lacking any leverage and with X-Factor reinforced by the return of Madrox & Quicksilver, they're able to defeat the villains, with Shrew seemingly killing Cyber by forcing him into the path of an oncoming train. In the aftermath of the fight, Havok admits to Quicksilver that he didn't really drink the poison, but tricked Strong Guy into thinking he did, earning Quicksilver's admiration.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

X-amining X-Force #13

"Everything Hits the Fan"
August 1992

In a Nutshell
Weapon: Prime attacks X-Force

Writer: Fabian Nicieza
Pencils: Mark Pacella
Inks: Dan Panosian
Letters: Chris Eliopoulos
Colors: Steve Buccellato
Edits: Bob Harras
Fan Cleaner: Tom DeFalco

Plot
Weapon: Prime attacks X-Force, taking them by surprise, but as Cable scrambles to remove his technology from the base and re-set the charges intended to fakeout Tolliver, his team manages to overcome Weapon: Prime. Meanwhile, Gideon meets with Dr. Joshua, who is conducting painful experiments on Sunspot. Back at X-Force's base, Cable puts in a call to SHIELD medivac to retrieve the injured members of Weapon: Prime, then prepares to blow up the base and go after Tolliver. Just then, the charges go off, seemingly of their own accord, with Cable & Domino getting separated from the rest of X-Force and Weapon: Prime. As the base comes down around them, Cannonball shouts for everyone to get near him. Later, in Sicily, Tolliver gloats to the real Domino over reports of an explosion in the Adirondacks, revealing that Vanessa's override trigger worked, before toasting the death of Cable.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The World Turned Upside Down

I was twenty years old on September 11th, 2001, just a few days into my junior year of college. In the closing hours of that day, my dad suggested I take some time to write down how I was feeling, to record my immediate reaction to the seismic events of that day for the sake of posterity. I took his advice, and did so. This morning, in the wake of another, possibly even bigger, seismic shift in the history of the world, I remembered his words, and as an act of both posterity and catharsis, tried to put into words how I was feeling. I did my best to limit the histrionics and hyperbole in what I wrote, while still capturing the essence of what I feel (which is very much filled with hyperbole & histrionics), so as not to drown out my very real concerns and fears.

Back in 2001, I wrote my reactions by hand, in a journal I was keeping at the time. I'm putting this here now because this website is a bit like a journal, and because, in part, it represents a sort living body of my work. Today is a day I will probably always remember, so it feels appropriate to work this recollection into that body.

Generally speaking, I try to avoid making things too political on this site; there are plenty of places online that are good for that, and it's not what anyone really comes here for. But I'm also not shy about my opinions, and any regular readers who have been visiting this site for a long time shouldn't be surprised by how I'm feeling today. I contemplated not allowing comments on this post, not because I want to shut down discourse but just because I'm not really in the mood to get into it with anyone who's celebrating today. But I'm leaving them on, because some people might need a friendly place to vent as well. If not, that's fine. And if you comment, I may respond, and I may not. But if you're a Trump supporter, congratulations, and I hope we can find a way to work together. But right now, today, I really don't want to hear it, so please, keep it to yourself.

Anyway, here's how I'm doing today. Tomorrow, we'll be back to talking about how crappy X-Force is right now, and continue to do so for as long as we're able.

X-amining Uncanny X-Men #291

"Underbelly"
August 1992

In a Nutshell
Callisto returns as the Morlocks prepare to attack the surface world.

Writer: Scott Lobdell
Guest Pencils: Tom Raney
Guest Inks: Hilary Barta
Letters: Lois Buhalis
Colors: Joe Rosas
Edits: Bob Harras
Chief Edits: Tom DeFalco

Plot
Late one night, a badly injured Callisto and the Morlock Healer arrive at the mansion. Reading Callisto's mind, Xavier learns they were attacked by Morlocks after the Healer tried to enlist Callisto's aid in leading them after Masque's recent death. Xavier insists the X-Men must help the Morlocks break this cycle of violence, though Mikhail, who someone managed to join Xavier's psychic link, disagrees. As the X-Men debate their course of action, the Healer uses the last of his strength to heal Callisto, in the process restoring her original appearance, and she vows vengeance on the Morlocks. Meanwhile, a mysterious figure visits an incapacitated patient at a nursing home whom he calls humanity's last hope. That night, the X-Men, including Professor X, enter the Morlock Tunnels to find the Morlocks tearing themselves apart. Back at the mansion, Iceman, who stayed behind to guard Callisto, is confronted by Mikhail, who demands Callisto be released. In the tunnels, as the X-Men try to stop the Morlocks from killing themselves, a group swarms Storm, triggering her claustrophobia and causing her to blast a route to the surface, out of which the Morlocks pour.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Force in Focus: Star Wars #51

"Resurrection of Evil"
September 1981

In a Nutshell
The Rebels learn of the Empire's new superweapon, the Tarkin.

Writer: David Michelinie
Penciler: Walt Simonson
Inker: Tom Palmer
Colorist: Don Warfield
Letterer: John Morelli
Editor: Louise Jones
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

Plot
After a fighter carrying Rebel Captain Tev's body & a message cannister reaches the fleet, General Rieekan orders an emergency recall of three specific warriors: Leia, Luke and Lando. Rendezvousing with the fleet, they're briefed on the information Tev died to get to the Rebellion: the Empire has built a new superweapon to replace the Death Star, dubbed the Tarkin. Lacking any obvious weaknesses, General Rieekan says the only way to destroy the weapon is from within, and who better to lead that mission than the only Rebels to have been aboard the Death Star and survived. Later, Darth Vader executes an Imperial officer for having failed to earlier capture Luke, while the disguised Rebels arrive on the planet supplying the Tarkin, where they are able to bluff their way onto a shuttle that takes them aboard the station. Once they arrive, however, Vader senses Luke's presence, and orders all security personnel away from the main reactor. Meanwhile, in the bowels of the station, a group of Imperial officers meet in secret, and, in light of the way Vader executes them for any mistake, vows that before the day is over, Darth Vader must die.

Friday, November 4, 2016

X-amining Wolverine #57

"Death in the Family"
Late July 1992

In a Nutshell

Writer: Larry Hama
Penciler: Marc Silvestri
Inkers: Green, Milgrom, Rubinstein
Letterer: Pat Brosseau
Colorist: Steve Buccellato
Editor: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Plot
Wolverine, Mariko, Gambit & Silver Samurai retreat from the Hand into the Yashida mansion, which is heavily bobby-trapped. Outside the complex, Silver Fox & Reiko meet with Matsu'o. Silver Fox tells Matsu'o that Reiko is the means to his victory, while Jubilee & Yukio attempt to get into the mansion through the roof, but find they are not alone. Shortly, Reiko proceeds inside the mansion, her blindness helping her through the traps. Matsu'o is worried her obligation to Wolverine will foil their plan, but Silver Fox insists Reiko doesn't know about his relationship with Mariko. On the roof, Yukio & Jubilee encounter Cylla, drawing Wolverine's attention. He goes to fight Cylla, while Reiko extends Mariko an offer on Matsu'o's behalf: he will buy her underworld holdings, thus divesting the clan of its criminal elements without bankrupting it, in exchange for Mariko offering atonement in the Yakuza manner, by cutting off one of her fingers. Reiko offers a blade, stabbing herself to prove it's not poisoned, and Mariko agrees. Outside, Silver Fox admits to Matsu'o that she arranged for Cylla to distract Wolverine, while Mariko cuts off her finger. Immediately she cries out in pain, the blade poisoned with a toxin to which Reiko is immune. At Mariko's cries, Wolverine goes back inside, and Reiko, realizing what Mariko means to Wolverine, kills herself. Wolverine brings Mariko to the Yashida chapel, where she asks him to use his claws to end her suffering. On the roof, Jubilee & Yukio fight off Cylla, just as Wolverine emerges from the chapel, carrying Mariko's body.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

X-amining Excalibur #52

"All You Ever Wanted To Know About Phoenix...But Were Afraid To Ask"
July 1992

In a Nutshell
With the help of Professor X & Jean Grey, Excalibur learns the truth about Phoenix's relationship with Rachel.

Writer: Alan Davis
Breakdowns: Will Simpson
Finishes: Jimmy Palmiotti & Dave Hoover
Letterer: Michael Heisler
Colorist: Kelly Corvese
Editor: Terry Kavanaugh
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Plot
After seemingly encountering various X-Men from anachronistic times at the X-Mansion, Professor X wakes up in Braddock Manor, stunned to learn ten hours have passed since he projected his mind into the mind of Phoenix. With Jean's help to break down Phoenix's defenses, Xavier then projects Excalibur into Rachel's mind, where the Phoenix proceeds to share with them its history: from birth to its encounter with Feron & Necrom, then, much later, Jean Grey; it's subsequent "death", after which it first encountered Rachel, who had sent her mind back in time, and learned of her horrific future; how it sent a portion of itself back to the future with Rachel where, at the urging of Kate Pryde, used its power to send Rachel physically back in time and suppress her memories. When Excalibur asks where Rachel is now, Phoenix explains that while her physically body has been healed, her mind is still shattered after the encounter with Necrom, and Phoenix, having learned the hard way, is reluctant to try to repair it. So Phoenix is protecting Rachel's psyche until it heals itself. Returning Excalibur to the physical world, Phoenix, in control of Rachel's body, flies off into space. Meanwhile, a pair of police officers investigate the disappearance of all the people from a small, northern hamlet, as they are unknowingly watched by the Crazy Gang.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

X-amining X-Men (vol. 2) #10

"Where Happy Little Bluebirds Fly..."
July 1992

In a Nutshell
Longshot and the X-Men are captured by Mojo.

Writer: Scott Lobdell
Pencils: Jim Lee, Mark Texiera (2nd story)
Inks: Scott Williams with Wiacek, Altstaetter, & Panosian, Mark Texiera (2nd story)
Letterers: Buhalis & Orzechowski
Colorist: Ariane ,Mike Rockwitz (2nd Story)
Editor: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Plot
Longshot finds himself stuck in a Wizard of Oz parody, along with Cyclops, Rogue, Beast & Wolverine, as a captive Professor X and Mojo watch. Taunting the remaining captured X-Men, Mojo replays the events of their capture: after Dazzler fled to Earth for the X-Men's help, a double agent transported the team to Mojoworld. Weakened by the transport, they were quickly overpowered, though Dazzler managed to escape, at least until she encountered a brainwashed Longshot working as a guard. Surprised, she was blasted out of the citadel, seemingly to her death. With the replay over, Mojo sends Gambit, Jubilee, Psylocke & Lila Cheney into the Wizard of Oz program to attack their teammates. But outside, an unconscious Dazzler is found by a hooded figure, who declares she is their best chance at finally pulling the plug on Mojo TV.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

The Walking Dead 7x01: The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be


The Walking Dead is back with a new season! Yay?

All summer long people were waiting for this new season. Were people excited about what new direction Rick’s character may go? Were they excited for cool and new interesting characters to arrive? Were they excited about how Alexandria would progress as a safe haven?

No, they were excited to see what main character was going to die. Frankly, I can’t think of a better descriptor of The Walking Dead than that.

Friday, October 28, 2016

X-amining X-Factor #80

"Belles & Whistles"
July 1992

In a Nutshell
X-Factor battles the Hell's Belles.

Writer: Peter David
Pencils: Larry Stroman
Inks: Al Milgrom
Letters: Michael Heisler
Colors: Glynis Oliver
Edits: Bob Harras
Chiefly Edits: Tom DeFalco

Plot
Alex, Guido, Rahne and Val visit Lorna at the hospital. Her jaw wired shut, she tells them how she was attacked from behind by someone who warned her not to protect Marilyn Maycroft, X-Factor's next assignment, and that they should go through with the job regardless. Meanwhile, in Maine, Madrox convinces Quicksilver to help him exonerate Rhapsody, and the pair set about trying to find dirt on Dick Roper, the business partner of the man Rhapsody is accused of killing. Elsewhere, a mutant named Flambe learns where Marilyn Maycroft is staying, while Madrox begins harassing Roper and Rhapsody seemingly kills a prison guard. Later, at the hotel where X-Factor is guarding Marilyn, Flambe and the rest of her teammates, the Hell's Belles, attack. As Havok & Wolfsbane battle Flambe, Strong Guy fights Tremolo & Briquette, with some help from Marilyn. In the process, Strong Guy ends up falling into the hotel's basement. But as he heads up the stairs to rejoin the fight, he's pricked from behind by Cyber, the Hell's Belles' leader, who tells him that his claw was tipped with poison. If X-Factor hands over Marilyn in the next twenty-four hours, Strong Guy will receive the antidote. If not, he can change his name to "Dead Guy".

Thursday, October 27, 2016

X-amining X-Force #12

"X-Ternals A Prologue" / "Traitors to the Cause"
July 1992

In a Nutshell
Gideon recruits Crule as Weapon: Prime prepares to attack X-Force.

Plot: Rob Liefeld
Writer: Fabian Nicieza
Penciler: Mark Pacella
Inker; Dan Panosian
Letterer: Chris Eliopoulos
Colorist: John Cebollero
Editor: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Plot
In Madripoor, Gideon confronts fellow External Crule. After being bested by Gideon, Crule agrees to take out Cable on Gideon's behalf. Meanwhile, X-Force confronts Domino about working for Tolliver, and Cable comes up with a plan, while Weapon: Prime picks up their final member, Grizzly, then prepares to attack X-Force. At X-Force's base, Domino contacts Tolliver, telling him she's surreptitiously set charges that will detonate the base and kill everyone inside. But in actuality, Cable intends to use the explosion to fake X-Force's deaths. Elsewhere, Rictor tells Kane that Cable killed his father, the reason for his vendetta against him, while Gideon returns home with Krule, much to Roberto's dismay. The next morning, Weapon: Prime reaches X-Force's base, just as Cable promises that once they blow up the base, nothing is going to stop them from taking the fight to Tolliver.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

X-amining Uncanny X-Men #290

"Frayed"
July 1992

In a Nutshell
Forge leaves the team, ending his relationship with Storm.

Plot & Script: Scott Lobdell 
Pencils: Whilce Portacio
Inks: Scott Williams
Letters: L. Lois Buhalis
Colors: Kevin Tinsley
Editor: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Plot
As Iceman and Hiro battle the Cyberai, Colossus makes travel arrangements for he and his brother to return to Russia, and misses his brother accidentally turning a delivery boy into a tree. Meanwhile, Storm considers Forge's proposal, while Forge discusses Storm's reaction with Jean. When Jean refuses to tell Forge whether or not Storm truly loves her, he rushes off. Back at the restaurant, Hiro tells Iceman to get Opal to safety while he holds off the Cyberai. At the mansion, an increasingly-insane Mystique taunts Bishop about the death of Randall, but is shielded from his retaliation by Forge. As Iceman and Opal flee the restaurant, Hiro detonates his armor, killing the Cyberai and himself, to Opal's shock and horror. Back at the mansion, Storm prepares to give her answer to Forge, but he cuts her off, telling her he's leaving to help take care of Mystique, believing she needs him more than Storm ever will, that Storm will never leave behind her responsibilities with the X-Men to be with him. Saying he now knows she'll never marry him, he departs, leaving a crushed Storm to quietly whisper that she was going to say yes.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The Milch Studies - NYPD Blue Season Seven, The Wrap-Up



The only season of the show that truly has a season-long arc is the first, although Season Seven comes pretty close with the extended drama of the Kirkendall family.  I sincerely doubt this was a plan; it seems as if David Milch had wrapped up Jill’s story with the death of her ex-husband, and was content to then move on with other ideas for the rest of the year.

Then, Andrea Thompson announced she was leaving the show.

X-aminations in November 2016


The Image Exodus concludes this month, as we look at Jim Lee's final X-Men issue, thus forcing reinvention on the X-universe once again now that the creators who forced reinvention on it less than a year before have all left.

Then we spend Thanksgiving week with the third series of Marvel Universe trading cards, and the month wraps up with a couple of X-centric one-off guest appearances in other titles as Wolverine continues its bi-weekly summer shipping.

On Sale May 1992
November 2nd: X-Men (vol. 2) #10
November 3rd: Excalibur #52
November 4th: Wolverine #57

On Sale June 1992
November 9th: Uncanny X-Men #291
November 10th: X-Force #13
November 11th: X-Factor #81

November 16th: X-Men (vol. 2) #11
November 17th: Excalibur #53
November 18th: Wolverine #58

November 23rd: Unstacking the Deck: Marvel Universe Series III

November 30th: Avengers #350-351
December 1st: Spider-Man #25
December 2nd: Wolverine #59

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Force in Focus: Star Wars #50

"The Crimson Forever!" / "Rage in the Red Nebula" / "Against the Scarlet Night"
August 1981

In a Nutshell
Luke is inflicted with the Crimson Forever as part of Domina Tagge's revenge scheme.

Writer: Archie Goodwin
Artists: Al Williamson, Tom Palmer & Walt Simonson
Colorist: Don Warfield
Letterer: Ed Stuart
Editor: Louise Jones
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

Plot
Lando & Chewbacca are pulled from their search for Han Solo by Leia. Luke has contracted the Crimson Forever, a disease he acquired when he led a team of Rebel pilots aboard a seemingly-derelict Star Destroyer carrying a large red jewel. Now near death, Leia needs Chewbacca's help to save Luke, as she recalls Han telling her of a similar encounter with such jewels. Through C-3PO, Chewbacca recounts the tale of his and Han's adventure in the Red Nebula, in which they were pressed into service by a pirate gang and forced to help steal a pair of red jewels from a planet inside the nebula. However, Han tricked the pirates into leaving with fake jewels, though one of the pirates died as a result of briefly separating the jewels, and Han leaves the jewels with their caretaker in exchange for a ship to take them off-world.

Friday, October 21, 2016

X-amining Wolverine #56

"We Got Cylla, Can Mothra Be Far Behind?"
Early July 1992

In a Nutshell
Wolverine's fight with Cylla leads to a confrontation with the Hand at the home of Clan Yashida.

Writer: Larry Hama
Penciler: Marc Silvestri
Inker: Dan Green
Letterer: Pat Brosseau
Colorist: Steve Buccellato
Editor: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Plot
As Wolverine fights Cylla, Gambit & Sunfire continue to battle Hand ninjas. In the course of their fight, Sunfire accidentally destroys the police station. When Cylla emerges from the wreckage to find herself facing Gambit & Sunfire as well as Wolverine, she flees. Meanwhile, Jubilee & Yukio set about finding Wolverine, while Reiko attempts to leave the country. However, she's captured by Hydra, led by Silver Fox, who offers to trade her protection from the Hand in exchange for use of her skills as a poisoner. Elsewhere, Wolverine decides to seek out Mariko's help in finding Jubilee. He arrives at the ancestral home of Clan Yashida, along with Gambit & Sunfire, just as Silver Samurai is admonishing Mariko for her leadership of the clan. Wolverine & Silver Samurai are poised to attack when they're interrupted by news that the Hand has surrounded the complex. Outside, Matsu'o sends an envoy to Mariko, telling her to give herself up, while Jubilee & Yukio watch from cover. When Jubilee asks who lives on the estate, she's shocked when Yukio answers that it's Wolverine's true love.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

X-amining Excalibur XX Crossing

"XX Crossing"
July 1992

In a Nutshell
Excalibur is forced to fight the original X-Men.

Writer: Scott Lobdell
Artists: Steve Lightle, Ron Lim, Dweayne Turner, Joe Madureira, Jae Lee, Malcolm Jones, Rick Leonardi
Inkers: Jimmy Palmiotti, Al Gordon, Joe Runstein, Shawn McManus, Jae Lee, Malcolm Jones, Al Williamson
Letterers: Michael Higgins/Janice Chiang
Colors: Moreshead/Thomas/Corvese/Tinsley
Editor: Terry Kavanaugh
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Plot
Auditioning to become Dr. Doom's personal assassin, Sidestep targets Excalibur, using his power to pit each member of the team and against a member of the original X-Men, plucked from the past and inserted into a different historical time period, with the X-Men having home field advantage in each era. One by one the members of Excalibur defeat the X-Men, Frustrated, Sidestep brings both teams to the present, before Doom, and the X-Men attack. But Professor X, using Nightcrawler's astral self as a temporal anchor, reads Sidestep's mind and learns all his power comes from his vest, a lost weapon of the Kree. With that knowledge, Nightcrawler teleports the vest away from Sidestep, at which point both Excalibur and the X-Men are returned to their places of origin. Dr. Doom proceeds to dispatch the now-powerless Sidestep, then calls forth the next applicant.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

X-amining Ghost Rider #27

"Vengeance. Pure and Simple."
July 1992

In a Nutshell
Ghost Rider and the X-Men defeat the Brood Queen beneath New Orleans.

Writer: Howard Mackie
Artist: Ron Wagner
Inker: Mike Witherby
Letterer: Janice Chiang
Colorist: Gregory Wright
Editor: Bobbie Chase
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Plot
In the catacombs beneath New Orleans, the X-Men & Ghost Rider track down the Guild children captured by the Brood. While the rest of the X-Men work to free the kids, Ghost Rider, Gambit & Wolverine set out in search of the Brood Queen, seeking vengeance. Meanwhile, just outside the city, Johnny Blaze learns Ghost Rider is in the French Quarter and sets out in search of him. Beneath the city, the X-Men are attacked by more Brood, as well as the shadowy figure targeting members of the Thieves Guild, who taunts Gambit about his murders. Just then, the Brood Queen appears. Ghost Rider attacks her, and manages to use her tail spike to pull the skin from her body. But the skeletal queen rises up, declaring she has no need for flesh. Just then Blaze arrives, and blasts the queen in the head with his Hellfire shotgun, seemingly killing her. Just to be sure, Wolverine, Gambit & Cyclops each take a turn destroying the head. Later, the X-Men say goodbye to Ghost Rider & Blaze, with Gambit thanking him for helping avenge Bella Donna. But as the leave, the shadowy killer watches, declaring he'll be seeing them all again soon.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The Milch Studies - NYPD Blue Season Seven, Cast and Guest Stars


Does anyone remember the Sela Ward drama Once and Again?  I don’t, but I do know that it’s responsible for the seventh season of NYPD Blue debuting in January 2000 instead of its normal Fall premiere date.  The deal Steven Bochco struck with the network, which wanted to permanently grant the struggling drama Blue’s time slot, was for Blue to stay on Tuesdays at 10:00, but to debut months later in the midseason.

Another drama signified more of an existential threat to the series -- by the end of 1999, The Sopranos had debuted on HBO, soaking up all of the critical accolades that used to belong to Blue.  Even though NYPD Blue did manage to defeat the Sopranos pilot for an Emmy this year, the writing was already on the wall.  Prestige programs had moved on to pay cable, and the shows critics and TV snobs wanted to dissect and discuss weren’t going to be on network TV anymore.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Force in Focus: Rogue One Trailer #2


The second full Rogue One trailer (and third look at the film counting the initial teaser) was released earlier this week (along with the official movie poster), and it was once again packed with a ton of cool images and teases about the film's story. By all accounts, this will be the final trailer for the film (barring the likely TV spots as it gets closer to release), so here are some final thoughts on the images presented thus far, at least until the movie is released.

Friday, October 14, 2016

X-amining Wolverine #55

"Thirty Slashes Over Tokyo (Or Sayonara Yellow Brick Road)"
June 1992

In a Nutshell
Wolverine & Gambit go to Japan to bail out Jubilee.

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

Plot
Wolverine & Gambit board a plane for Japan, though they're forced to call Nick Fury for authorization due to Wolverine's metal bones. That call alerts the cyborg Cylla to Wolverine's whereabouts. In Japan, Jubilee uses her power to fend off a pair of fellow inmates, causing one of the inmates to recognize her and alert the Hand. When Wolverine & Gambit get off the plane, they're attacked by Hand ninjas sent by Matsu'o, who calls Mariko to confirm Wolverine isn't in the country at her behest. Wolverine & Gambit arrive at the police station just as Jubilee is driven away in a police van. Inside the van, Jubilee is joined by Reiko, who has been sent to kill Jubilee by Matsu'o in exchange for restoring Reiko's eyesight. At the station, Cylla attacks Wolverine, just as Sunfire arrives ahead of more Hand ninjas. He & Gambit fight the ninjas while Wolverine battles Cylla. Meanwhile, Reiko learns Jubilee is a friend of Wolverine's, so she releases her, saying that her debt to him is thus repaid. As she leaves, Jubilee is met by Wolverine's old friend Yukio.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

X-amining Excalibur #51

"Don't Drink the Water"
June 1992

In a Nutshell
The Dinosaur Excalibur of Earth-99476 works to returns some lost humans to Earth-616.

Writer: Alan Davis
Penciler: Dougie Braithwaite
Inkers: Jeff ALbrecth, Jose Marzan, Marck McKenna, Jimmy Palmiotti
Letterer: Michael Heisler
Colorist: Glynis Oliver
Editor: Terry Kavanaugh
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Plot
The Excalibur of Earth-99476 meets with WHO regarding a group of mammals that arrived on their world from Earth-616, and were recently kidnapped by the High Evolutionary and taken to the Savage Land. Meanwhile, on Earth-616 in Brighton, the mammals' saurian counterparts suddenly revert to more primitive forms. The Saurian Excalibur arrives in the Savage Land, accompanied by Dr. Lykos, while Dai Thomas is called in to deal with the now-rampaging dinosaurs, watched by a morose Gatecrasher, who vows revenge on Excalibur. On Earth-99476, Excalibur battles a brainwashed Fantastic Five and learn that the High Evolutionary plans to use the kidnapped humans to stabilize his artificial race of humans, whom he believes genetically superior to the Saurians. But Lykos destroys his machinery, prompting the Evolutionary to vanish and the Fantastic Five to regain their senses. As Dai Thomas attempts to call the exhausted Excalibur of Earth-616, the humans are taken back to the Saurian WHO, where a means of returning them home is devised. Excalibur and the Fantastic Five arrive on Earth-616 in the midst of the dinosaurs' rampage. They corral the dinosaurs through their portal, saying that the pollution on Earth-616 caused their transformation. At Braddock Manor, Excalibur wakes up to news of the dinosaur attack, as well as a message from Jean Grey saying she and Professor X are on their way to help Rachel.