Monday, March 21, 2005

Comics Stash

So the Comics Stash is winding down. I intended to only run it for a month or so, and we’re at the point where books are already looping back around. Part of this because of schedule shifts, but part of it is also that some books go “semi-monthly” these days, which means two books in the same month, to increase sales and interest.

That’s why there are repeats in this write-up. Just so you know. Don your Spoiler Helmet and follow me (for likely the last time) into the Comics Stash.

It seems that this week was “everybody mambo!” week, where more and more guest stars were added to the mix of the team books, until you need a scorecard to identify the players. JLA #112 has the team fighting The CSA, and the JLA has pulled in the JLE and JSA* to help, and then the New Gods show up for some yet-unrevealed reason. In Uncanny X-Men #457, they’re still fighting dinosaurs, but have added the Savage Land Mutates** to the mix. And in Teen Titans #22, the eight members of the team are getting whupped by Doctor Light (who kidnapped Green Arrow for this week’s Green Arrow appearance), so they throw another twenty or so former Titans at him, including a new Hawk & Dove.

Flashbacks are also big this week. Incredible Hulk #79 has Mr. Green Genes on an island fighting supposedly dead opponents, while flashing back to Banner’s childhood, where the Hulk is Bruce’s “imaginary friend”, a gamma-irradiated Hobbes to his Calvin. Captain America #4 *** has the Captain flashing back to a WWII which may or may not be true, as he investigates the desecration of the graves of two former Captain Americas. Black Panther #2 continues in the same fashion as #1, wih an NSA briefing for the Marvel Universe’s version of Condi Rice. The briefing lays that the Black Panther and his home nation of Wakanda doesn’t want or need any help from the US, making both of them a danger to national security. And Young Avengers #2, starts revealing secret origins of a group of mini-frosted versions of Cap, Thor, Iron Man and the Hulk. In this issue, Iron Lad is revealed to be the younger version of the villain Kang the Conqueror, who fled back in time to avoid his own future. This last book also brings back the Vision, who was messily slain, what, three months ago?

The writing in Black Panther is very good, but the best plotting in the Marvel Universe this week is over in its Ultimate universe, where you recognize the heroes (mostly) but they have a slightly different spin. Ultimate X-Men #57 has a different take on a handful of mid-eighties characters – Longshot, Mojo, Arcade, and Spiral, and plays them off in unexpected ways. Also unexpected is Ultimate Spider-Man #74, who, without the baggage of hundreds of appearances in the mainstream MU, can be fresh and react to things like a teenager again. And in The Ultimates 2**** #4, the Ultimate universe’s version of the Avengers have taken care of the Hulk and now are turning on Thor, who may or may not be mentally unhinged. The Ultimates are also interesting in that most of them are jerks to one degree or the other, so the de facto assumption that they are right because they are heroes does not apply.

There are others in the stash– Stormbreaker #3 of 6 continue the fight between Beta Ray Bill and a Herald of Galactus. Wonder Woman #214 wraps up a crossover from Flash #219. Exiles #61 wraps up their tie-in with the resurgent Age of Apocalypse. And Fantastic Four: Foes #3 of 6 inadvertently underscores one of the problems for the mainline FF – they are beyond the reach of a lot of their bad guys these days – Annihilus, a mysterious and potent force in the Ultimates version, is written off quickly here, as is the Superskrull.

OK, that’s it for the time being. I think we’ve looped around now into a full month, so next time I get to do some analysis.

More later,

*The CSA is the Crime Syndicate of Amerika, the “Evil JLA” of another universe. The JLE is Justice League Elite. The JSA is the Justice Society of America. There also was a Justice League Europe, a Justice League International, and a Strike Force Justice League, but lets not muddy the waters further (too late).
**In the Marvel Universe if you DNA was kinked a birth you’re a mutant, if your DNA gets kinked as an adult, you’re a mutate. Potato, potahto.
*** He’s alive in this book, though he was shot dead in another book. However, his former sidekick, the Bucky of the fifties, has been shot and stuffed into a trunk.
**** That would be issue #4 of the second series of the Ultimates. Again with screwy numbering series.