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

Monday, February 29, 2016

X-aminations in March 2015

I'm traveling for work this week, which creates as good excuse as any to slot in the next "Unstacking the Deck" post, which examines the second series of Marvel Universe trading cards, on sale at the same time as the issues currently being reviewed.

After that, we wrap up the Muir Island Saga, get even more Rob Liefeld thanks to Marvel Comics Presents, and look back on the initial iteration of X-Factor, all the while contending with Wolverine double-shipping.

Also, Excalibur. But Alan Davis' return is nigh!

March 2nd: Unstacking the Deck: Marvel Universe Series II

On Sale June 1991
March 9th: Excalibur #40
March 10th: Wolverine #43
March 11th: Wolverine #44

On Sale July 1991
March 16th: Uncanny X-Men #280
March 17th: X-Force #2
March 18th: X-Factor #70

March 23rd: Wolverine: Bloody Choices
March 24th: Marvel Comics Presents #85-91 (Beast story)
March 25th: X-Factor Retrospective

March 30th: Excalibur #41
March 31st: Wolverine #45
April 1st: Wolverine #46

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Force in Focus: Star Wars Action Figures Wave 1

There is arguably no film more directly tied to its merchandise in the eyes of fans and the general pubic than Star Wars, and no licensed toy line has had a bigger impact on the history of toys than the Star Wars figures. The success of Star Wars toys led to countless film properties in the 80s and the 90 churning out tie-in toy lines to varying degrees of success and relevance, while the Star Wars toys also ushered in the age of the 3.75 inch action figure, which the revamped GI Joe, amongst other, would adopt to massive success in the Real American hero line.

The first wave of action figures released as part of the initial Star Wars line consisted of R2-D2, Chewbacca, Luke Skywalker (Farm Boy/Tatooine), Princess Leia, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Darth Vader, Han Solo, C-3PO, and Stormtrooper, with the Death Squad/Star Destroyer Commander, Jawa, and Tusken Raider/Sand People added on to the first wave in the wake of the line's quick popularity.

Somewhat famously, Kenner (the initial maker of Star Wars action figures) underestimated the popularity of Star Wars, and didn't have any product ready for the holiday season of 1977 (which in itself boggles the mind, given how nowadays new figures are released well in advance of the film they're supporting; if Star Wars hadn't been a huge hit, what would have been the point of having action figures out sometime in 1978?). In order to meet the demand, they essentially sold a promise, in the form of the "early bird certificate", comprised of a cardboard backdrop and a coupon that could be mailed in to Kenner in exchange for four figures. As a result, hundreds of thousands of kids received for Christmas in 1977 the promise that they'd eventually get toys sometime later (Kenner limited the Early Bird packages to 500,00; in the first year of release, they would go on to sell over 40,000,000 figures overall).

Friday, February 26, 2016

The Walking Dead 6x07: Heads Up

Glenn lives!

Is it surprising? I'm not sure. I will admit that when I first saw the end of "Thank You" I thought Glenn was a goner. This is partially because I've thought for the past few seasons that Glenn was primed to die. Glenn is the most expendable character whose death would get the biggest reaction. (In other words, obviously Rick and Carl are safe since they're the two primaries on the show, I don't think The Walking Dead would have the guts to kill off ultra-fan favorites Daryl, Carol and Michonne and anyone else wouldn't get as much of a reaction as Glenn would. Maybe Maggie?)

Anyway, as the episodes moved forward and there was no confirmation of Glenn's death I, as well as most of the internet, got suspicious. There's the old saying in serialized fiction, no body equals no death. And, sure enough, we find that Glenn preposterously survived. Not one zombie got in a single bit on Glenn? Not one!?! Whatever.

X-amining X-Factor #69

"Clash Reunion"
August 1991

In a Nutshell
X-Factor joins the fight against the Shadow King.

Writer (with lots of help): Fabian Nicieza
Penciler: Whilce Portacio
Inkers: Task Force X
Letterer: Michael Heisler
Colorist: Dana Moreshead
Riot Control: Bob Harras
Riot Control Controller: Tom DeFalco

In the wake of angry, hate-filled riots breaking out all over the world, Val Cooper calls X-Factor to the White House on behalf of the President, where they are reunited with Professor Xavier. On Muir Island, Forge frees Banshee from the Shadow King's control, and he tells Forge, Wolverine and Rogue that the Shadow King is using Polaris as a nexus between the real world and the astral plane, her ability to absorb negative emotion empowering him, which he then uses to fan the flames of hatred in the world. Meanwhile, X-Factor and Professor X, at the head of an international task force including Val Cooper and FBI agent Jacob Reisz, are approaching Muir Island via submarine. They plan to send X-Factor to the island, using Jean's telepathy to mask their presence, and disrupt whatever nexus the Shadow King is using.

The Walking Dead 6x06: Always Accountable

Zombies aren’t the enemy. People are. That theme is a well worn path for The Walking Dead. Heck, even if that theme was new to The Walking Dead it still would feel unoriginal because “we have met the enemy, and they are us” has already been done to death in other fiction.

Now, just because something is unoriginal doesn’t make it bad. And, frankly, a long form story about zombies needs a splash of human villains to keep things fresh. Sure, I would like it if there was more focus on the struggle of people trying to keep zombies at bay whilst rebuilding society however even I must acknowledge that adding some antagonists with actual personality can really spice things up.

But boy oh boy, we’re really piling on the human enemies this season.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

X-amining X-Force #1

"A Force To Be Reckoned With"
August 1991

In a Nutshell
X-Force attacks the MLF and draws the attention of SHIELD.

Everything but: Rob Liefeld
Words: Fabian Nicieza
Letters: Chris Eliopoulos
Color Art: Brad Vancata
Baggy Eyes: Bob Harras
Baggy Boss: Tom DeFalco

After weeks of training, X-Force attacks the Mutant Liberation Front's Antarctic base. Though they take out a fair number of the MLF's troops, Stryfe manages to escape, triggering the base's self-destruct mechanism in the process. Meanwhile, Roberto and Gideon prepare for a corporate buyout meeting at the World Trade Center. Later, SHIELD commander G.W. Bridge inspects the remains of the MLF base, determining that Cable was involved and resolving to bring him down. Meanwhile, X-Force acclimates themselves to their new headquarters, Larry Trask's old Sentinel base in upstate New York, and Cable tells Sam a bit about his "son", Tyler. In Manhattan, Gideon and Roberto arrive for the meeting, but the head of the company being bought out announces she is refusing to sell, then brings in Black Tom Cassidy, who declares that everyone in attendance are now his hostages. In Canada, Bridge checks in with Nick Fury, who gives him a mandate to bring in Cable. Bridge then asks to be connected to General Clarke in the Canadian military, declaring it's time to bring in Weapon X.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

X-amining Uncanny X-Men #279

"Bad to the Bone"
August 1991

In a Nutshell
Professor X restore's Colossus' memories and frees him of the Shadow King's control.

Writers: Chris Claremont & Fabian Nicieza
Guest Penciler: Andy Kubert
Inker: Scott Williams
Letterers: Team Append-X
Colorist: Glynis Oliver
Editor: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco
Plot Assist: Jim Lee

As the Shadow King-enthralled Colossus clambers from the burning wreckage of a car, Xavier and Stevie Hunter race for the X-Mansion's access hatch, barely making it ahead of Colossus. Inside, Xavier turns the mansion's defenses against Colossus before leading him into the Danger Room. However, Colossus breaks into the control room, attacking Stevie, and Xavier is forced to mentally destroy the Peter Nicholas persona in order to free Colossus from Shadow King's control. Meanwhile, on Muir Island, the now-enthralled X-Men hunt for Forge, the only X-Man not claimed by the Shadow King, but he manages to bring Wolverine and Rogue to their senses. Back in New York, Xavier, Stevie and Colossus reach Salem Center, seeking medical attention, only to discover the townsfolk turned into a mob that is attacking a child. Xavier turns them away, but the Shadow King telepathically taunts him, saying the world is his now. With the rest of the X-Men captive, Xavier declares that to defeat the Shadow King, they'll need the help of his original students, X-Factor.

The Walking Dead 6x05: Now

If there was an “it” couple in The Walking Dead it would certainly be (have been?) Glenn and Maggie. Now, this is mostly by default since the only real competition they have had has been...ummmm...Rick and Lori? We certainly don't want to go there. Abraham and Rosita? Well, regardless, even if they're the default couple, Maggie and Glenn have generally been likeable.

So naturally The Walking Dead writers want them to go through as much turmoil as possible. They did it in Season 4 and they're doing it again. However, the writers seemed to learn a lesson since Season 4.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The Milch Studies - NYPD Blue Cast List, Season Two

NYPD Blue opened Season Two as the most popular drama on television, yet with a star who couldn't wait to leave...

The main cast this year consists of:

David Caruso as Detective John Kelly

For the first four episodes, at least.  Anyone who watched TV of this era remembers David Caruso leaving after Season One of the show, but I think his stint in the first four episodes of Season Two has been forgotten.  David Caruso clearly doesn’t want to be there in the season premiere, as he gives a sleepy, indifferent performance throughout the entire episode.  (Milch has written that Caruso was so thin when he came back for Season Two, the crew worried he was sick.  Caruso’s people informed Milch that he was losing weight in order to look good on the big screen.)  He comes back to life in his last three episodes, however, and even if Det. Kelly is unusually skinny in these episodes, it actually works in the story’s advantage.  Kelly’s getting screwed out of his job, and even if he presents a stoic front, he’s clearly worrying himself sick.

The Walking Dead 6x04: Here’s not Here

Can complete and total pacifism work in a zombie apocalypse? Is everyone worthy of life? Can pretending to be Donatello cure you of insanity?

These are all the big questions raised in The Walking Dead episode, Here's Not Here. We get a flashback of Morgan going from the insane man we saw in Season 3 to the bad ass pseudo-monk he is now. The answers to these questions, according to the episode, are I don't know (but probably not), I don't know (but probably not) and YES!

Monday, February 22, 2016

The Walking Dead 6x03: Thank You

Alright, due to laziness, moving and other stuff keeping me busy, I'm obviously very behind on my The Walking Dead reviews. I'm attempting to play catch up here. The plan is to do one a day until I finally catch up. So, take a trip down memory lane with reviews of these episodes you probably barely remember!

Boy, those Alexandrians really suck, don't they? I mean, they're truly, truly, truly inept. I'm not just surprised they've made it this long after the zombie apocalypse, I'm surprised these people even made it TO the zombie apocalypse!

How did they even manage to build that wall? I would've assumed there'd be numerous accidents like Alexandrians nail gunning their shirt sleeve to a wall panel and then flailing about helplessly as zombies eat them or an Alexandrian accidentally grabbing a knife by the wrong end or Alexandrians mistaking bleach for water. I think there were around 50 to 100 Alexandrians before the Wolves attacked. Judging by this episode, there must've roughly been 1,000,000 when the city first formed.

That was the point of this episode, right? To show us how inept the Alexandrians are? There has been a narrative in The Walking Dead (at least from Rick's point of view) that the Alexandrians have been lucky. They built a wall and haven't had to deal with all the death, heartbreak and soul-killing decisions that other people outside of walls have had to deal with. They were lucky because of the walls they've built sheltered them.

I've always argued that finding other ways to survive besides violence and sacrificing "the weak" is its own kind of strength. I understand the need to at least be trained on weapons in the world of The Walking Dead but I also think that intelligence, amongst other skills, can be just as valuable as good aim and zero empathy. I said Rick's group and the Alexandrians could learn from each other respective strengths and weaknesses and both could become better for it. That's the direction I wanted the show to go in. But, in the end, the writers hold all the cards. The writers really wanted to show how much better Rick's groups ways was in contrast to the Alexandrians and by golly they did it.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Force in Focus: Star Wars #30

"A Princess Alone!"
December 1979

In a Nutshell
Princess Leia helps inspire rebellion on an Imperial factory world.

Writer/Editor: Archie Goodwin
Artists: Carmine Infantino & Gene Day
Colorist: Petra Goldberg
Letterer: Joe Rosen
Consulting Editor: Jim Shooter

Princess Leia infiltrates the Imperial factory world of Metalorn, posing as one of the local labor force. Meanwhile, Baron Tagge has arrived on the planet as well, meeting with the governor and inspecting the operation on behalf of the Emperor. When a report comes in of a Stormtrooper being attacked, they use the combined Weapon Detection System created by Tagge and the Information Control program written by the governor to track the assailant into the sub-levels. There, Leia fights off a squad of Stormtroopers, ultimately escaping detection by abandoning her stolen blaster. She proceeds to sneak into a mess hall, where she meets an old teacher from Alderaan, Arn Horada. However, she's interrupted by Tagge, who managed to identify her as Princess Leia and deduce which person on the planet she'd be there to see.

Friday, February 19, 2016

X-amining Wolverine #42

"Papa Was a Rolling Stone!"
Late July 1991

In a Nutshell
Wolverine learns Sabretooth is NOT his father after all.

Script: Larry Hama
Breakdowns: Marc Silvestri
Finishes: Dan Green
Lettering: Pat Brosseau
Coloring: Glynis Oliver
Editor: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Wolverine and Sabretooth continue their fight even though the chamber they're in is filling with water. On the other side of the wall, Elsie-Dee urges Cable to blast through the door to release them, but Cable refuses, saying Wolverine doesn't bring out his altruistic side. Elsie-Dee responds by removing her head and throwing it at Cable, distracting him enough that her body gets a hold of his gun and blasts an opening in the wall. Wolverine, Sabretooth and the water come rushing out, sweeping everyone into the main causeway, where they get trapped by the grate lowered by the Morlocks. But Elsie-Dee removes her head and detonates her body, destroying the grate and sending them back out into the East River, where they're picked up by Nick Fury and SHIELD, called in to help by Forge. When Sabretooth regains consciousness, he attacks Wolverine, but Elsie-Dee's head bites down on his neck, forcing him from the helicopter, and the two tumble into the river below. Afterwards, a SHIELD technician runs a blood test, confirming Sabretooth is not Wolverine's father. In the river below, a revived Albert retrieves Elsie-Dee's head.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

X-amining Wolverine #41

"Down in the Bottoms"
Early July 1991

In a Nutshell
Wolverine and Sabretooth battle in the tunnels under New York City.

Script: Larry Hama
Pencis: Marc Silvestri
Inks: Dan Green
Letters: Pat Brosseau
Colors: Glynis Oliver
Editor: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Forge and Jubilee search the river for Wolverine, but find no signs of him. However, Elsie-Dee has managed to drag the badly-injured Wolverine into the sewer tunnels, which are quickly flooding due to the storm raging overhead. Leaving him to find help, Elsie-Dee stumbles over Sabretooth, inadvertently waking him up, as Forge calls in a favor to help locate Wolverine. Meanwhile, Masque leads the Morlocks in staving off the flood waters, just as Sabretooth attacks Wolverine, declaring that he is Wolverine's father. The sounds of their battle reach Elsie-Dee, who runs into Cable in the tunnels and asks for his help. Just then, Sabretooth and Wolverine are swept away by flood waters redirected by the Morlocks, while on the river bottom, Albert awakens.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

X-amining Excalibur: Possession

"The Changeling"

In a Nutshell
Meggan is possessed by the ghost of Changeling.

Writer/Letter: Michael Higgins
Artist: Tom Morgan
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Color Artist: Paul Mounts
Assistant Editor: Kelly Corverse
Editor: Terry Kavanaugh
Bigger Editor: Tom DeFalco

Following a training session with Nightcrawler, Meggan suddenly takes on demonic characteristics and attacks the team. Phoenix manages to subdue her, and senses that she's been possessed by a malevolent force. Alistaire Stuart directs the team to an old contact with mystical knowledge named Myrd. With Myrd's help, the team begins a seance to identify the spirit possessing Meggan. After calling forth Mickey and Jackdaw, two spirits from Captain Britain's past, as well as Doug Ramsey, Professor X appears. However, Professor X morphs into Changeling, the true culprit, who has targeted Meggan in order gain a new corporeal form and seek out his revenge. Together, Excalibur manages to cast out the spirit of Changeling, freeing Meggan, after which Myrd reveals himself to be Merlin, the wizard who first granted Captain Britain his powers. Merlin soon disappears, but only after affirming the importance of Excalibur and the work they do.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Force in Focus: Star Wars #29

"Dark Encounter"
November 1979

In a Nutshell
Darth Vader battles Valance the Hunter

Writer/Editor: Archie Goodwin
Artists: Carmine Infantino & Bob Wiacek
Colorist: Glynis Wein
Letterer: John Costanza
Consulting Editor: Jim Shooter

Aboard his Star Destroyer, Darth Vader tortures a Rebel spy, learning the name of Rebel deserter, Tyler Lucian, who knows the identity of the pilot who destroyed the Death Star. On Centares, Valance the Hunter, seeking the same man, roughs up a cantina owner and his patrons in order to learn the whereabouts of Lucian. After running afoul of some Stormtroopers, Valance finds Lucian hiding out in the tower of an old resort, long abandoned after the Empire poisoned the water, but he arrives just moments before Vader. Meanwhile, on Yavin Four, Artoo is restored to full operation, while Luke learns that Leia has left on a mission alone. Back on Centares, Valance and Vader fight, with Valance unwilling to let Vader get the identity of the Death Star destroyer from Lucian.

Friday, February 12, 2016

X-amining X-Factor #68

July 1991

In a Nutshell
Cyclops is forced to send his son into the future to save his life.

Plot: Jim Lee & Whilce Portacio
Script: Chris Claremont
Penciler: Whilce Portacio
Inker: Art Thibert
Letterer: Michael Heisler
Colorist: Dana Moreshead
Editor: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Face to face with the massive Apocalypse, X-Factor is attacked by the Riders of the Storm and brainwashed Inhumans Medusa and Crystal. Overpowered, they are captured, and Apocalypse gloats that he will use their power to increase his own. However, just then Black Bolt and the free Inhumans counterattack, just as Cyclops and Black Bolt had planned. However, Nathan has been infected with a virus by Apocalypse, and is dying. He instinctively pulls Jean into his mind to face an avatar of Apocalypse, and Jean proceeds to bring Cyclops in as well, who manages to defeat the avatar. Returning to the physical world, Cyclops blasts Apocalypse, destroying him, but Nathan is still dying, and Beast says there's no way to cure him in time. However, Askani declares that she can save him, by taking him with her back to the future, and Cyclops reluctantly says goodbye to his son in order to save his life. In the aftermath, the Watcher once more comments on humanity, applauding Cyclops for choosing hope over despair.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

X-amining Excalibur #39

"Heart of the Matter - Book Three of the Promethium Exchange"
July 1991

In a Nutshell
Darkoth's helps defeat Dr. Doom and become Limbo's ruler.

Writer: Lobdell
Artist: Badger
Letterer: Eliopoulos
Colorist: Vancata
Editor: Kavanaugh
Editor-in-Chief: DeFalco

In Limbo, Phoenix is able to telekinetically hold back Doom's sword stroke, preventing him from destroying the heart of Limbo. Just then, the horde of demonic superheroes attack Excalibur and the Avengers, leaving Darkoth to fight Doom. Their struggle distracts Phoenix, enabling Doom to plunge the Soulsword into the heart of Limbo, reducing the demons to indistinct forms and opening a portal to Earth. His work done, Doom leaves the place. But in his absence, Darkoth claims the sword just as S'ym suddenly appears, wanting it for himself. But Darkoth swallows up S'ym and declares his intent to kill himself, destroying Limbo in the process and thus fouling Doom's plan. A horrified Meggan overhears this, and willing merges with Darkoth, using her empathic abilities to overcome his sorrow. At peace with himself, Limbo becomes calm and orderly, a reflection of its new master. Opening a portal, he declares he will remain as the guardian of the now-empty Limbo, and the heroes return to Earth.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

X-amining Uncanny X-Men #278

"The Battle of Muir Isle"
July 1991

In a Nutshell
The X-Men launch their attack on Muir Island.

Writer: Chris Claremont
Guest Penciler: Paul Smith
Inker: Hilary Barta
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Colorist: Joe Rosas
Editor: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

As the Shadow King gloats to Lian Shen about the level of hate & discord in the world empowering him, Professor X breaks into a WHO base and steals back the Blackbird from Excalibur. Meanwhile, on Muir Island, new arrivals Rogue and Guido fight in the arena, Moira's version of the Danger Room, and Rogue is stunned by how bloodthirsty both herself and the other residents have become. Not far away, Xavier meets with the X-Men, and they plan their next move. On Muir Island, Rogue is fully overwhelmed by the Shadow King, just as the X-Men launch their assault on the island. However, all but Forge are quickly attacked by one of the island's residents. Meanwhile, Professor X arrives on the grounds of the X-Mansion, hoping to use Cerebro to locate the presumed-dead X-Factor and locate the Shadow King. Just then, an out-of-control car careens down the drive, with the driver leaping free just before it crashes. As Xavier tends to the driver, Stevie Hunter, the Shadow King appears, projecting an image of the defeated X-Men just as the enthralled Colossus emerges from the fiery wreckage of the car.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

The Milch Studies - NYPD Blue Season One, The Highs and Lows

Season Highlights:
There’s no way this is going to be a comprehensive list.  Listing every memorable moment of Season One would turn into me writing a recap of every single episode.  I’ll likely leave something out that would’ve made someone else’s list, so please forgive me.

John Kelly and Andy Sipowicz already have fully developed lives when we first meet them.  The pilot episode could’ve easily been a Season Six episode of a hypothetical Kelly/Sipowicz cop drama that began when Kelly was promoted to detective.  The show assumes you’re smart enough to pick up on the various aspects of their lives without spelling out every tiny detail.  It’s one of the elements that makes the series feel so real in the first season.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Force in Focus: The 10 Best Moments from Marvel's Star Wars Comics

No new '77 series review this week, on account of being generally busy and sick, but I did write a piece for Pop Optiq about the first year of Marvel's new Star Wars comics.

January 2016 marked the one year anniversary of Marvel’s new Star Wars line, launched in the wake of Disney’s acquisition of LucasFilm and the transfer of the comic book license to Disney’s in-house comic book company. In that year, Marvel has churned out comics on a level that is somehow both restrained and filled with gusto, in that, they released a ton of Star Wars comics in that first year, but at the same time, it would have surprised nobody if they’d released a whole lot more. The quality level of those comics, in three ongoing series (Star Wars, Darth Vader and Kanan: The Last Padawan) and five limited series (Princess Leia, Lando, Shattered Empire, Chewbacca, and one issue of Obi-Wan  & Anakin) has remained remarkably consistent, maintaining a level of above average quality alongside some top notch issues and a (surprisingly) few out-and-out stinkers. Looking back over that first year, here are the ten best moments from across the line, the moments that made reading Star Wars comics this last year worthwhile.

#10 – Star Wars #3 – “The Walker has fallen.”

Not surprisingly, the very first story of Marvel’s new, canonical Star Wars comics featured Darth Vader as the central villain, bringing him face-to-face with Luke in a rare (for licensed Star Wars fiction) pre-Empire Strikes Back encounter. But the first real jaw-dropping, fist-pumping moment of the series comes in issue #3, as Darth Vader single-handedly brings down an Imperial AT-AT walker commandeered by Han Solo and Princess Leia. It’s a great bit of spectacle beautifully rendered by John Cassaday, and it not only establishes Darth Vader as a force to be reckoned with, but shows that the Star Wars comics are as capable of delivering high octane action as the movies.

Read the rest of the post here.

Friday, February 5, 2016

X-amining Wolverine #40

June 1991

In a Nutshell 
Elsie-Dee and Albert are reunited in New York. 

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

At the X-Mansion, Forge examines Elsie-Dee, determining her to be made mostly of explosives, and that her destruct sequence has only been halted, not eliminated, making her a continuing danger. In Venice, federal agents arrive to obtain Albert, but discover he has healed and upgraded himself, making his escape from the police station easy. Able to sense Elsie-Dee across the country, Albert breaks into a military base and commandeers a stealth aircraft to fly to New York. In the city, Wolverine and Elsie-Dee hustle pool, but as Albert draws closer, Elsie-Dee picks up his signal, and requests Wolverine take her to higher ground so she can get a solid lock on it. The pair race to the top of the World Trade Center, where Elsie-Dee is able to establish communication with Albert, just as he reaches the city, flying the jet into Wolverine. The two fight, until Elsie-Dee breaks it up, telling Albert they're free of Pierce's programming thanks to Wolverine. Just then, the stealth aircraft is attacked by US fighter jets who had been pursuing it, and the plane crashes into the river, along with Albert, Elsie-Dee and Wolverine.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

X-amining Excalibur #38

"Out on a Limbo - Book Two of The Promethium Exchange"
June 1991

In a Nutshell 
The West Coast Avengers join the fight against Dr. Doom in Limbo. 

Writer: Lobdell
Artist: Badger 
Letterer: Spike
Colorist: Vancata
Editor: Kavanaugh
Editor-in-Chief: DeFalco

In Limbo, Excalibur is attacked by the demonic simulacrums of various superheroes, while back on Earth, the Avengers West Coast are greeted by Alistair Stuart outside Excalibur's lighthouse. The Lady of the Lake explains that Doom intends to destroy Limbo in order to gain its promethium, at which point England will be sucked into Limbo through five portals scattered throughout the country. She then teleports the Avengers into Limbo. Excalibur and the Avengers split into five teams, intending to destroy the portals then rendezvous at Doom's castle. They manage to close the portals, but are unable to stop Doom, observed by the demon Darkoth, from plunging the Soulsword into the heart of Limbo, transforming all of its native inhabitants into promethium.   

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

X-amining Sensational She-Hulk #26

April 1991

In a Nutshell 
Excalibur and She-Hulk team-up to battle a trash monster. 

Story: Simon Furman
Pencils: Bryan Hitch
Inks: Jim Sanders
Letters: Jim Novak
Colors: Glynis Oliver
Edits: Bobbie Chase
Edits-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

En route to London to defend Meggan in court, She-Hulk's plane is attacked by a possessed Captain Britain. The rest of Excalibur arrives, helping to land the plane safely and chase off Captain Britain. Afterwards, they explain to She-Hulk how Captain Britain is being possessed by an evil spirit, which had earlier possessed Meggan (leading to the charges She-Hulk is there to help her fight) before jumping to Captain Britain. She-Hulk comes up with an idea to defeat the creature and prevent him from possessing anyone else in the process. The rest of Excalibur tracks down and attacks Captain Britain, before She-Hulk appears wearing little but trash, drawing the creature out of Captain Britain's body. Just then, Rachel telekinetically hurls trash at the creature, which it absorbs. She sends more and more garbage at it until its overloaded, and explodes, raining trash on the city. With enough evidence of possession to clear Meggan's name, all that's left is to clean up the possessed trash, which is turned into recycled paper. 

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

The Milch Studies - NYPD Blue Season One, The Story

Cable television (and Netflix) has trained audiences to expect season-long story arcs with only the occasional interruption for smaller stories; a practice most network TV dramas still resist. Watching the first season of NYPD Blue, it’s not difficult to see the DNA of today’s “acclaimed” television. Not only in the flawed heroes, but in the episode-by-episode escalation of the season’s main storyline. One of the tricks David Simon employed on The Wire was to open each season with a seemingly benign incident that eventually escalates until it’s a major drama involving the community, police force, media, etc. Looking back on NYPD Blue’s first season, I see David Milch and Steven Bochco pulling the same trick. (My favorite example from The Wire is the seemingly petty controversy over who pays for a church window.) Virtually every “important” event from Season One stems from Andy Sipowicz’s grudge with overweight goomba Alfonse Giardella.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Assassin's Heart

As those of you follow me on social media are probably well aware by now, February 2nd sees the release of my good buddy Sarah's debut novel, Assassin's Heart. Long time blog readers may know Sarah as Falen, who comments here occasionally, when she's not busy being awesome on her own blog and, you know, publishing excellent books.

You can read the official plot synopsis of the book on it's Amazon page, where the book is compared favorably to Game of Thrones, Romeo & Juliet, and The Godfather (which are apt, and impressive, comparisons). I've read the book in a couple different drafts (though not yet in its official, published version), and while the plot synopsis is spot-on, it doesn't speak to two of the most impressive things Sarah does in the novel. For one, her world-building is impeccable, as she crafts a believable universe for her to characters, one where assassination isn't just legal, but revered. She put a lot of thought into every detail of her universe, from the strata of assassin families and their relationships to one another, to the differences and similarities between the various fictional city-states and how religion shapes their societies, right down to the types of clothes worn and weapons used by the characters. The world of Assassin's Heart at once feels both familiar but unique, lived-in but refreshingly-new.

Secondly, in Lea, Sarah presents a remarkably compelling protagonist, someone who, despite her role as a professional killer, is ridiculously easy to root for. Lea is far from perfect, but her foibles and failures will only make you root for her more, to hurt when she hurts and cheer when she cheers (and there's more than one fist-pumping, cheer-worthy moment in this book). Lea is not an invincible superwoman, which makes her competency all the more compelling, her catastrophes all the more crushing. The world of Assassin's Heart is not a fun, friendly place, but by the time the book is done, you'll want to live in it, if only to give Lea a hug, to clap her on the back, to simply hang out with her, and that's all down to the marvelous job Sarah does at making Lea a fully-realized, three-dimensional character.

I've know Sarah for a long time now (coming up on...jeesh, seventeen years? That can't be right. We can't be that old), and been in a writing group with her for just about that long. To make it in publishing, especially traditional publishing, it takes some measure of talent, and a hell of a lot of hard work. Sarah has always had talent in spades, but she's also one of the hardest workers I know (our writing group insists she possess some ability to bend time; she insists that's not the case. We don't fully buy her denials). Assassin's Heart is the culmination of all that hard work, crafted by her not-insignificant talent, but it's also only the beginning. There's big things ahead for Sarah. She's earned it.

If you're so inclined, you can purchase Assassin's Heart here, in traditional book form, eBook, or audiobook, whatever your preferred flavor.