Monday, September 18, 2017

MARVEL FANFARE #13

”THE WIDOW… ALONE”
Script: Ralph Macchio | Pencils: George Pérez | Inks: John Beatty & Brett Breeding
Letters: Diana Albers | Colors: Ben Sean | Editing: Allen Milgrom
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: An unconscious Black Widow is taken to a mysterious island complex, where Snap Dragon brings her before her master, Damon Dran. Dran explains that he has replaced the Widow with a lookalike who Jimmy Woo is bringing back to the S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier. The false Widow will lead the helicarrier to Dran’s island and then assassinate Nick Fury on the bridge, escaping just before Dran’s cannons blow the ship out of the sky.

Widow is thrown into a dungeon but manages to escape. She bumps into her guardian, Ivan, brainwashed by Dran, and knocks him out. As she explores Dran’s complex, the Widow is attacked by Snap Dragon, but this time she defeats the assassin. Ivan regains some of his old memory and joins Widow in her mission.

The Widow calls the helicarrier and convinces those aboard that the Black Widow with them in an imposter. Fury shoots the false Widow and orders all weapons to open fire on Dran’s island. The island, filled with munitions, explodes, and the Black Widow and Ivan are found drifting in the sea by a S.H.I.E.L.D. aircraft.

Friday, September 15, 2017

G.I. JOE VS. THE TRANSFORMERS #2

Written by Josh Blaylock
Pencils by Mike S. Miller | Inks by Cory Hamscher & Armando Durruthy
Letters by Dreamer Design | Colors by Lynx Studio with HI FI Colour Design
Edits by Mark Powers

The Plot: While Cobra conducts tests on their Transformers, the newly formed G.I. Joe team discusses strategy. Elsewhere, two Autobots, Wheeljack and Bumblebee, have remained free of Cobra's control, and Wheeljack determines where the terrorist organization will likely strike next.

On Cobra Island, Doctor Mindbender has difficulty controlling Optimus Prime. Meanwhile, at NSA headquarters, an analyst named Mainframe is handed some important files. At G.I. Joe headquarters, Snake-Eyes demonstrates his skills to his teammates, but the sparring match is interrupted when Hawk, General Flagg, and Lady Jaye arrive with a Cobra defector named Mercer, who reveals that Cobra's "Battle Android Troopers" are actually sentient alien robots.

Destro arrives on Cobra Island and Mindbender demonstrates the Transformers' abilities to him, then reveals his newest accomplishment: Soundwave.

Continuity Notes: We learn this issue that Cobra needs energon to power their Transformers, and that Megatron, trapped in gun mode by Cobra Commander but allowed to retain his free will, has been helping them gather the ingredients.

The Joe team's ranks have swelled this issue, and they have a bunch of cool-looking vehicles in their headquarters. Among the more notable Joes seen are Scarlett, Doc, Roadblock, Rock N' Roll, Shipwreck, and Quick Kick. Duke is also name-checked (Sergeant Conrad Hauser) and glimpsed late in the issue with no dialogue.

Monday, September 11, 2017

MARVEL FANFARE #12

”THE WEB TIGHTENS!”
Scripter: Ralph Macchio | Penciler/Co-Plotter: George Pérez | Inker: Al Milgrom
Letterer: Jim Novak | Colorist: Bob Sharen | Editor: Al Milgrom
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Black Widow defeats all of the assassins except Iron Maiden, who escapes when S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Jimmy Woo bursts into the store. But Widow placed a tracking device on Iron Maiden, allowing her and Woo to follow the armored woman into the sewers. There, Black Widow and Woo defeat Iron Maiden, but both are quickly subdued by yet another assassin — the deadly Snap Dragon.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: Kono the Sumo Warrior, one of the assassins, is shot… in the face. By an automatic pistol. Mark Gruenwald would later use him as a villain in the pages of CAPTAIN AMERICA with no explanation as to how he survived being shot… in the face. With an automatic pistol. The kicker: this story’s writer, Ralph Macchio, was editor on those CAP issues!

(There will be more of this next issue, which I’ll cover when we get there.)

Friday, September 8, 2017

G.I. JOE VS. THE TRANSFORMERS #1

Written by Josh Blaylock
Pencils by Mike S. Miller | Inks by Cory Hamscher & Armando Durruthy
Letters by Dreamer Design | Colors by Lynx Studio with HI FI Colour Design
Edits by Mark Powers

The Plot: A clandestine terrorist army called Cobra discovers a crashed spaceship on Earth filled with giant deactivated robots. Some time later, a group of American commandos is dispatched to guard a peace conference when Cobra attacks. Their vehicles are revealed as shapeshifting robots, and while the attack results in minimal casualties, a commando nicknamed Snake-Eyes is maimed. Cobra departs, having delivered a message to the world.

Later, one General Flagg meets with the commandos' leader, Colonel Clayton Abernathy, and with two advisors, Alison Hart-Burnett and Dashiell Faireborn. Together, the quartet makes plans to create an elite military anti-Cobra unit named G.I. Joe under Abernathy's command.

Continuity Notes: We're told that Snake-Eyes is a real chatterbox, but he gets blown up before he has a chance to speak.

G1 References: A number of Transformers from the first two years of the original toyline are glimpsed, deactivated, aboard the spaceship in the opening pages, including (but not limited to) Cosmos, Cliffjumper, Starscream, Jazz, and Megatron. The fact that all these character are aboard ship together seems to indicate that this continuity follows the established G1 backstory, at least up to this point.

Unlike most of his contemporaries (described below), Megatron's alternate mode on Earth is the same as it was in Generation One: a pistol.

Monday, September 4, 2017

MARVEL FANFARE #11

”BACK IN THE U.S.S.R.”
Scripter/Co-Plotters/Penciler: Ralph Macchio & George Pérez
Inkers: Joe Sinnott & Jack Abel (credited as “J.J. Sinabel”)
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski | Colorist: Ben Sean | Editor: Al Milgrom
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Black Widow eludes security forces on the grounds of a Russian mansion, then after making her escape, recalls the chain of events that led to that situation: She arrived in Russia weeks earlier undercover as a defecting American scientist in order to help with the project Ivan was working on for the Soviets. But, unknown to her, the KGB was aware of her identity and fed her information until she made her move to free Ivan, at which point they sprang their trap.

Following the lead of a distinctive dagger used by one of the KGB agents she fought, the Widow travels to Hong Kong — but as she investigates the dagger’s origin, she is attacked by six assassins who take her out quickly and prepare to finish her off.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: A note on the first page tells that this story takes place before the Widow cut her hair and got a new costume in the pages of DAREDEVIL. As a matter of fact, her new look debuted over a year prior to this issue (but one month less than a year before the prior installment) in DAREDEVIL #187 from October of 1982.

S.H.I.E.L.D. is identified per its usual nomenclature of this era, the Supreme Headquarters, International Espionage Law-Enforcement Division.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

TRANSFORMERS BY DEVIL'S DUE

The past few years beginning in September, I've looked at various smaller/shorter Transformers comic book runs from a couple of publishers. In 2013 and 2014 I covered IDW's TRANSFORMERS: REGENERATION ONE, and in 2015 and 2016 it was Dreamwave's brief time with the Transformers license. This year, my time with the Transformers comes to an end as we look at one last publisher's finite take on the Robots in Disguise.

In 2001, the tip of the spear in eighties nostalgia hit the comic book industry as Devil's Due Press, then an imprint of Image comics, acquired the license to G.I. Joe and launched a new comic book series starring the Real American Hero. Two years later, riding the success of their ongoing JOE comic, Devil's Due negotiated a limited license to team up the Joes with the Transformers. The series was successful enough to spawn three sequels in 2004, 2006, and 2007. I own all of these series, and I seem to recall mostly liking them at the time, so here we go again: for the rest of the year, I'll be looking at Devil's Due's G.I. JOE/TRANSFORMERS comics an issue at a time.

A couple notes: at some point over the past decade, I misplaced my copies of these issues, but since I really wanted to cover this stuff, I went ahead and purchased the digital collected editions in an IDW sale last year (IDW now having the reprint rights since they picked up the full G.I. Joe license several years ago). But the IDW reprints naturally omit the Devil's Due logo and trade dress from the issues' covers -- and since I like to use covers here which fairly closely resemble what was originally published, I've had to furiously Google in search of the original versions. What I've wound up with are scans of varying quality, some quite nice and others of extremely low resolution and/or quality. But know that any substandard covers you see over the next several weeks are the best I could locate!

Also, speaking of those IDW digital collections, the publisher should be pretty embarrassed by what they've put out. Maybe Devil's Due still owns the original digital files or something, but IDW could've invested a bit more in clean-up of what they're distributing. These look like scans of the original issues. Were I so inclined, I could've just pirated this stuff and gotten the same quality. I'm curious whether the physical trades look this bad too.

Lastly, as noted above, this is likely my last autumn go-round with the Transformers. Between REGENERATION ONE, Dreamwave, and now Devil's Due, I will have covered pretty much all the "micro" continuities that interest me. So next fall, whatever I cover will not be related to my favorite Robots in Diguise (though I may try to keep it somewhat sci-fi and/or toy related if I can). Don't say you weren't warned!

Friday, September 1, 2017

RED ONE, VOLUME 2

"UNDERCOVER"
Created by Xavier Dorison & Terry Dodson
Script: Xavier Dorison with the collaboration of Antoine Cristau
Pencils & Colors: Terry Dodson | Inks: Rachel Dodson | Letters: Clayton Cowles

Here we go again. I wrote about RED ONE volume 1 last March, and despite Terry Dodson's beautiful artwork, I wasn't terribly impressed with the story. But these volumes are so cheap that I decided to give the series one more chance to impress me. Did it? Let's find out...

When last we left our Soviet heroine, Vera Yelnikov, she was in battle with the Carpenter, a masked agent of a sinister American fundamentalist named Jacky Core, in Los Angeles. Vera rescues the Carpenter's target, a pregnant lesbian named Judith, and even apparently kills the Carpenter by running his truck off the road and into the water.

From there we begin to learn a few things that -- at least to my year-plus-old recollection -- were either unclear or glossed over in the prior volume: namely, gubernatorial candidate Jacky is a pastor who entertains her flock by showing them a post-World War II fundamentalist film called THE FARM, and that Vera's American employer, porn producer Lew Garner, is working on a salacious remake of THE FARM, called SEX FARM, which he believes will (somehow) ruin Jacky's reputation and cost her the election.

This is a weird book. It's really kind of obvious that it's written by someone born and raised overseas, because his grasp of how things work in the United States is tenuous. Early on, when Vera rushes Judith into a hospital, she's told bluntly that it's a private institution and the doctors will do nothing for the beaten and dying woman. Yeah, we have privatized healthcare in the U.S., and yeah, the bills for the sort of treatment Judith needs would probably sink her into crippling debt... but find me a hospital anywhere in this country that would simply and coldly turn away a mortally injured pregnant woman. You can't. Neither now, nor in 1977, and especially not in Los Angeles, has such a place ever existed.