Over 10,000!

What, 10,000?

That’s right! Yesterday was the day when UncannyDerek.com reached over 10,000 views. For being open for only 14 months, I had no idea that so many people would have been interested in this site.

To celebrate, let’s all dance like Pocoyo.

Pocoyo

And don’t forget to check out UncannyDerek on Facebook and Twitter!

Thanks again for all of your support! And keep on Space Truckin’!

Ah, what the heck. Let’s watch some Stormtroopers dance, too.

Stormtroopers

Classic Comic Fridays: X-Men #95

It has been about four months since I’ve last done a Classic Comic feature. For the new folks here, Classic Comic Friday’s feature a comic from my personal collection which I look back upon and review. Then, if we’re lucky, I can compare it to newer comics similar to it so we can see how things have changed.

This past August, I was fortunate enough to find a decent-quality copy of X-Men #95: The death of Thunderbird. He was arguably the first X-Men to be killed (because people debate Changeling), and set-off a idea of the “unknown” with these X-Men comics. Another notable mention is that X-Men #95 features Chris Claremont’s second story with the X-Men.

So here we go:

X-Men 95

X-Men #95 (October, 1975)
Chris Claremont (writer), Len Wein (plotter), Dave Cockrum (pencils, cover), Sam Grainger (inker), Petra Goldberg (colours), Karen Mantlo (letterer) Cockrum, Gil Kane & Dan Crespi (cover). $0.25

If you were unfamiliar with the X-Men prior to this issue, Claremont and Wein set up this story so you can fully grasp each character within the first few pages. You find out who is the strongest, which heroes can fly, who the X-Men’s field leader is, plus who has the smartest mouth and who has the biggest ego to them. All within the first few pages. Within those pages, would you believe we also get a recap to who all the villain is – Count Nefaria – AND his masterplan! They certainly do not make stories like they used to.

So now that everyone and everything is established at the beginning, the rest of the story is a playground of fun ideas to entice the reader to keep reading. Nightcrawler teleports in the enemy base to let the X-Men in, followed by a battle between the the villains evil creations: The Ani-Men and X-Men. Just when the X-Men have seemingly won, Count Nefaria escapes in a jet plane. Fortunately, X-Man Thunderbird follows suite and jumps on the plane. As Nefaria tries to escape, Thunderbird uses his brute force and beats the plane down to stop Nefaria at the price of Thunderbird’s own life.

As shocking as it comes to a comic reader that a hero had just died, it was done so artistically well, thanks to the legendary Dave Cockrum. Well-known for his clean pencils and well-plotted out panels, Cockrum owns this book. When the X-Men are on a mountain, their hair is blowing. When problems appear, the faces clearly represent what the characters are saying or feeling. The action sequences are never jumbled and without dialogue, we can tell what is happening in the story. It is very rare to see comics these days like that. But like I said, Cockrum owns it.

Thunderbird's Death

In fact, the whole artistic team really controls this story. While the exposition sets up the characters, the true feeling of this story comes from the art. With a very James Bond-like tone, it’s as if the reader can feel themselves in the trees on a mountain or smell the machinery inside the hidden base. Both Grainger and Goldberg accentuate Cockrum’s pencils with a tremendous dramatic effect. Nothing is overdone on the inks and the fluidity of colour is spot-on. Vibrant sheens across each page really gives this book a light-hearted tone – setting the reader up for the unexpected.

The most exciting part of this book is definitely the unexpected death of Thunderbird. The build up, while readers have seen it in hundreds of comics throughout the years up to this point in 1975 – the death was sudden and done tastefully. The X-Men do not take the death lightly. However, because of the character development and the “team” feel the book gives, readers are forced to read on to the next issue to see how the team deals with the death.

That’s right. There’s no twist ending to make readers want to jump back to the book like a season finale of a TV show. Claremont and Wein compel readers to come back because throughout the book readers are forced to care for the characters. And that’s a more powerful reason to continue reading a book than any cliffhanger could bring.

Grade: 8/10

Looking back on this book, it’s amazing to also consider that Thunderbird is one of the few Marvel characters whom have stayed dead. Aside from some flashbacks or the more-recent Chaos War – Thunderbird, John Proudstar – has stayed dead. It’s interesting to see why that has been the case. Three issues in, of course he would not have a lot of reader fanbase – but it still remains.

To top it all off, there was no cliffhanger of a villain suddenly appearing on the last page. Nor was there a jaw-dropping moment for readers to say, “Wow! I need to go back and read this book!” The readership is solely gained because of how the writers make us feel for these characters. Name three comics nowadays that end that way. It’s pretty hard to come up with a list.

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So until next time, keep on Space Truckin’!

The Tragic Tale of Bill Mantlo

On Wednesday, November 9th, Bill Mantlo – writer of The Incredible Hulk, Micronauts, ROM the Space Knight, and creator Cloak & Dagger – turned 60.

For his birthday, LifeHealthPro.com wrote an incredible gut-wrenching and saddening story about Mantlo’s fight with Health Care and his current condition.

Bill Mantlo

From the article:

On Friday, July 17, 1992, Bill left work early for the weekend, and made his usual three-mile rollerblade journey through Brooklyn traffic to his apartment near Morningside Park. Just four blocks from home, a car came around a corner and hit Bill. The left side of Bill’s head impacted the windshield. He rolled across the hood of the car, and the right side of his head impacted the pavement. The driver never stopped and was never identified.

The accident jostled Bill’s head so violently that his brain squashed against the inside of his skull, and his brain stem severed. This did not paralyze him, but it would make it very difficult for Bill’s body—particularly his extremities—to accurately receive and process electrical messages from his brain.

The story includes interviews from fellow writer Chris Claremont and Marvel’s past Editor-in-Chief, Jim Shooter.

The last personal entry in Mantlo’s journal, dated Feb. 14, 1995:

“My name is Bill Mantlo. I want to go home.”

Off to the right of the website, I’ve had since day-one, a link to The Hero Initiative.

The Hero Initiative is a organization dedicated to helping comic creators in need whom may need financial aid or support for essentials of life.

Many auctions of books and original art are sold through the site. 100% of all proceeds go to the Hero Initiative. You can also make a direct donation by clicking here.

The Hero Initiative has given to Mantlo in the past. The idea however, is not only to help Mantlo, but all of the other creators – or even every-day-Joe’s in this same situation.

If you can donate, please do so. If they haven’t already, tell your local comic store about the Hero Initiative and have a collection box set up. Even yet, have them order in books which the Hero Initiative has published. I first heard of them with The Hulk 100 Project, when I blindly bought a copy of the book at my LCS.

So for Bill Mantlo and the others like him, please help out any way you can.

Review: X-Men Legacy #258

With two issues left on Mike Carey’s exceptional run on X-Men Legacy, as expected, we’re about to get a lot of closure with the characters he’s used for years – not to mention the homecoming of the Starjammers!

X-Men Legacy 258

X-Men Legacy #258
Mike Carey (writer), Steve Kurth (pencils), Ed Tadeo (inks), Brian Reber (colours), Cory Petit (letters), Mico Sayan & Sonia Oback (cover). $2.99

With the fear of the X-Men being obliterated mixed with the possible homecoming of Havok, Polaris and Phoenix, this should be an exciting book.

And you know what? It is! But once I finished the book, I found me asking myself, “What the heck just happened?” But first:

Once again, writer Mike Carey hits his knowledge of the X-Universe home with these characters. Magneto pulls some trickery from his hat (or helmet?) while Rogue and Rachel combine their powers to finish off Friendless once-and-for-all.

With so many characters running about in the book, it’s great to see how Carey balances them all. Frenzy gets her time to shine, while Gambit – with so few words in-story – is still same the Gambit we all know and love.

In terms of development, Carey makes Rogue not only act as leader, but has her prove it again and again in this story. With the conclusion of this story arc, Carey really improves his take how on our favourite Southern belle has moved so far from the comics which we grew up with her in.

But I asked, “What the heck just happened?” When the story ended, I was still unclear about the events that took place. And it wasn’t Carey’s fault.

I enjoy Steve Kurth’s work. From time-to-time, characters look a bit stringy or faces do define the character too-well, but he definitely is a clean, sharp artist. I especially love his depictions of Rachel and Gambit in this book. What bothered me was rather how the story progressed. By no-means am I a professional artist, but I’ve read enough comic books to understand how storytelling works. While Kurth has been doing this for years, this book didn’t do it for me.

The problem lays in with the massive panels. While Kurth’s art is pretty immaculate, the story-telling aspect became muddled in the large panels – especially when they are exterior shots of the ship which story takes place in. I really have no idea what I’m looking at – whether the ship was in peril or not. It’s close to crashing, it’s not close to crashing – it went into a wormhole? It was unclear with what was happening. If there were smaller panels, it would give Kurth a lot more space to explain the events in the story. Big images are gorgeous, but many panels can tell a story clearer than a single splash page with one or two smaller panels embedded.

X-Men Legacy 258I hope you enjoy the colour yellow

And while the art was good, Brian Reber’s yellows really clustered what was visible outside of the ship. Things were too yellow or orange. In fact, aside from a few characters who have blacks in them, and the “trance blue,” yellow and orange were really the only two colours that ran through the book.

Like I said though, Kurth is a strong artist. However the small qualms with storytelling in this issue really detracted from what happened.

With Carey only having two issues remaining on his run on Legacy, the way he concluded this arc makes it look like he’s just getting started.

Grade: 6/10

Keep on Space Truckin’!

The X-Men’s New Rosters – Who Did You Choose?

From both Uncanny X-Men #1 and Wolverine & The X-Men #1, we get to see who took which side.

Who did you end up siding with? Wolverine or Cyclops? Click for a bigger picture on both rosters. The wonderful artwork was done by Irene Lee.

Let us not forget that these charts are still missing personnel from Uncanny X-Force and X-Factor.

Wolverine at the Jean Grey School of Higher Learning:

Wolverine Faculty

Cyclops on Utopia:

Utopia

Keep on Space Truckin’!

About These New X-Men. . .

With the releases of X-Men #20, New Mutants #33 and Uncanny X-Men #1, tied-in with Wolverine & The X-Men #1, I’d have to say that Marvel’s “Regenesis” project is now in full-swing.

What greatly surprises me though is how much I am loving it.

I was very timid about seeing the X-Men “start over” with the events of Schism. However, now four books in, I have to say that it’s great to witness it happening. Here’s why:

Unused characters are finally getting some voices of their own. For example, Karma in New Mutants, Magik is actually “normal” in Uncanny X-Men, and Storm, Warpath and Domino finally get some air in X-Men. In Wolverine & The X-Men, the roster is much larger, but Husk seems like she’ll be a major player, while I’m sure something is lingering behind Toad. Those are just a few examples, but you get the idea.

New readers – jump on! If you have no idea about the X-Men universe at all, here is where you can join in. While the continuing titles will be a bit of a learning curve, the both Jason Aaron for Wolverine & The X-Men and Kieron Gillen for Uncanny X-Men have made their stories pretty comic-friendly. That’s not to say that some readers may still have a hard time wrapping their heads around some of the character – but for the most part, it’s easy reading. Not to mention, Marvel has created some simple character guides at the end of their Uncanny X-Men and Wolverine & The X-Men books for you to gather the who’s who.

It’s still exciting – and I don’t mean it’s action-packed. I read New Mutants this week and couldn’t help but feel like I was a part of a family. I’ve been reading the New Mutants since forever, and to watch these characters grow and mature – my goodness, Dani Moonstar’s grown to be a tremendous force to be reckoned with. It’s really astounding to see how these characters have evolved and yet still remain grounded. This is exciting for someone who has read about these characters years ago and watches them grow up. I couldn’t imagine what real parenting is even like. . . Until then, I’ll live it vicariously through comics.

X-Club 1

With X-Factor, Uncanny X-Force, Generation Hope, Astonishing X-Men and the new X-Club (just-annouced and coming in December by Simon Spurrier and Paul Davidson), who knows where this Regenesis will be taking us!

P.S. – Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning need to permanently stay on an X-book. I love their story-telling.

P.P.S. – Isn’t it weird no one has seen Cyclops cry over this Schism yet?

P.P.P.S. – If you’ve read Uncanny X-Men #1 already, what do you think is going to happen to Miss “Perfect” Frost?

P.P.P.P.S. – War Machine is gonna lose, I’m sure.

P.P.P.P.P.S. – When you hear X-Club, how many of you start singing, “Ain’t no party like an X-Club party” like how I do?

P.P.P.P.P.P.S. – I am absolutely in love with Jason Pearson’s cover for New Mutants #33.

New Mutants

Keep on Space Truckin’!