Classic Comic Fridays: Daredevil #181

Happy two-month anniversary to my blog! It’s been fun so far. I’ve had over 1,100 views – all showing me that people actually want to read about comics. Who knew?

As for today, every Friday, I will yank out an old comic from my personal collection and review the crap out of it. So why not do something epic?

This week, I am going to review one of the greatest Marvel stories, Daredevil #181, from April of 1982. Also, I will be bringing up the Marvel’s current Shadowland story arc. If you do not want to read spoilers, stop reading here.

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The story was done by legendary writer and artist Frank Miller – guilty of making Daredevil ridiculously popular, while also teaming up with Chris Claremont to create the awfully popular Wolverine limited series. One day I’ll review that here, too.

Colours, inks and some finishing art was done by Klaus Janson, arguably a great artist with little credit given to him – especially noted with his run on Daredevil here.

This double-sized issue of Daredevil features a showdown by two of Marvel’s greats – Elektra and Bullseye, with the subtitle, “One wins. One dies.” Needless to say, this story would easily draw any reader in even if it was to just look at the conclusion.

In case you haven’t heard, Elektra is the one who dies (sorry, folks). But that’s not nearly the part of the story that gets me excited. It is entirely on the build-up.

The story begins with Bullseye in jail – Daredevil having him put there. He’s suffering from headaches, requiring the guards to give him pills to stop the pain. While in jail, he pushes himself to workout and plot his revenge, and while in a courtyard, he runs into Frank Castle, the Punisher who also is in jail, and says that the Kingpin has replaced Bullseye for another assassin. Soon after, Bullseye is put on television for an interview about his murders. While having another headache, the guard gives him another pill which Bullseye promptly spits in the guards eye, allowing Bullseye to jump free, hold hostages, and eventually escape through a helicopter. Brilliant.

While off to find the hired assassin, he runs into some thugs, telling him that the assassin Elektra is hired to kill Daredevil’s lawyer partner, Foggy Nelson. Recognizing that Dardevil could possibly be Matt Murdock, he follows Elektra as she hunts for Foggy.

Elektra runs into Foggy, and shortly after, Foggy recognizes Elektra as Matt Murdock’s old girlfriend. Sensing Bullseye nearby however, she allows him to escape and waits for Bullseye to show himself.

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The two begin a monumental battle with cuts and bruises on both sides. Miller’s beautiful artwork shows both combatants nearly at an equal match – each using the environment to pull of fighting moves. The colours of red and blue splash on the page with the two fighting to their death. Trapping Elektra in a corner, Bullseye pulls an ace of spades and whips it at Elektra’s neck. She fumbles, loses her sai, and is prompted by Bullseye to be stabbed in the chest. Crawling back to Murdock’s house, Elektra dies on his footsteps.

Back at the Kingpin’s, Bullseye tells the Kingpin that he has found out Matt Murdock’s secret identity. After some convincing, Bullseye is sent off to murder Murdock.

Planning the second assassination, Daredevil places a dummy Matt in the house, forcing Bullseye to be fooled about Murdock’s real identity. Daredevil appears behind Bullseye, and the two battle it out for the exciting showdown. Falling off a building, Daredevil catches Bullseye and listens to him plead for his life. Daredevil thinks otherwise and refuses to let Bullseye kill again – dropping him to his death.

Murdock goes to Elektra’s grave site to mourn, while the final page shows Bullseye in the hospital with broken bones – plotting his revenge.

When I first picked up this book, I had no idea what would actually happen. I mean, I knew that Elektra would die, but I never would have figured Daredevil for a murderer at the time. It was out of character for Daredevil – but that is what’s best about the comic. It is not a traditional story for Daredevil.

Miller’s change of attitude for Daredevil opened up doors for the character which were never explored before. The rage and revenge Daredevil had towards Bullseye overshadowed his own morals and beliefs. It truly changed the character all together.

The dark tones with sinister themes and little dialogue with the characters really pushed the story to become an iconic issue for both Daredevil and Marvel. I have to say both story and art are not separated as two individual items for they are one in the same with Miller’s work.

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For me, this also is one of my first comics I’ve read where the villain was the primary character. Most of the focus was on Bullseye and part of me always wanted to see more of his sadistic self run rampant. Fortunately, I did get that much later on, thanks to the Dark Avengers. But none of that would have started had Miller not written such a brilliant story.

Grade: 10/10

Of course, the idea of Daredevil being a true hero remained the same. That is, until the Dark Reign. Norman Osborn tried to have Bullseye finally kill Daredevil once and for all, but it ended with Bullseye leveling a apartment, killing hundreds of innocent people. Snapping from allowing Bullseye to get away with so many deaths for so many years, Murdock became tied up with The Hand and in Shadowland #1, his dark side appeared. As you can see, Bullseye had what was coming to him.

Keep on Space Truckin’!

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Classic Comic Fridays are Back!

Utter madness, I know!

What I’ve decided for my Classic Comic Friday from my collection is no-other-than Spider-Woman #1 from April of 1978!

Spider-Woman #1 was written/edited by Marv Wolfman who would have just stepped down as Marvel’s Editor-in-Chief, allowing Jim Shooter to take over. Wolfman would only write up to issue #8, allowing other writers like Marc Gruenwald and Chris Claremont to take over the series. Spider-Woman was also penciled by a Marvel great, Carmine Infantino, who has drawn comics from Captain America, to Ghost Rider, to Star Wars, Nova, and Iron Man. He would draw up to Spider-Woman #19, setting up the next issues for later artists.

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From what I know, Spider-Woman was not really a popular character as of yet either. She made a few appearances in other comics, but never held her own until she was given her own monthly title. I am not entirely sure about where her popularity grew from, but it definitely was an interesting time for female heroes, as Ms. Marvel #1 appeared a little more than a year before Spider-Woman. The Dark Phoenix Saga was about to begin in the Uncanny X-Men storyline, while Kitty Pryde was also about making her debut in the series. Also, one of Spider-Man’s most interesting female “heroines,” the Black Cat would also appear a year later. Clearly this was a big push for women in Marvel.

So where does Spider-Woman stand?

If anything, from knowing what I do now about Jessica Drew, reading back on the origin of Spider-Woman and seeing Drew with her original blonde hair, it is a bit of a refresher to dabble back in the past. Nowadays, she’s just known for being ex-Hydra, ex-SHIELD, now Avengers, etc. Little is brought up – if ever – about her solo work.

Admittedly, there isn’t much to pull from. The story itself opens up with Spider-Woman with a full mask covering her hair. She is robbing a grocery store when a man, Jerry Hunt prevents her from stealing. As she tries to escape, he pulls of her mask (amateur mistake on her behalf) and sees her face. He recognizes her from somewhere, but leaves it at that. Jessica escapes home and stays in for the night, reflecting on almost getting caught.

Going to sleep, she has a nightmare, so-to-speak, about gaining her powers on Wundagore Mountain – sparing the mumbo-jumbo – she goes into suspended animation and comes out as Spider-Woman. Why did I do that? You didn’t miss much.

She awakes from sleep the next day and decides to go out job hunting. There, Jerry Hunt sees her again and tries to stop her. Quickly, she changes into Spider-Woman and escapes.

At the end of the book (we’re there already?!), Drew decides to make a new mask and dye her hair black to give her a bit more of a disguise. While out, she would encounter Mr. Hunt yet again (must be a small city) who is under attack by some crooks with lasers. She knocks them all out, but Jerry is wounded. She takes Jerry to the hospital and puts some of her blood in him to promote faster healing. Spider-Woman then leaves Jerry in the hospital to wonder who she was.

End story.

Marv Wolfman is credited for creating up some of Marvel’s finest characters such as Blade, Terrax, and the Black Cat. However, the dud with the introduction to Spider-Woman really left me at a loss for words.

Great dialogue was the only forward momentum this story carried with it. Realistic dialogue between Spider-Woman and Hunt, and even in the dream world with Jessica’s father, Johnathan Drew and the High Evolutionary (named Herbert Wyndam in the comic) felt real. But the execution for how dialogue in the story progressed was not as exciting. There was too little interest in Jessica’s development as a character because it was shrouded by her origin story.

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What I will recognize is the nice art from Carmine Infantino and inks by Tony DeZuniga. True body movements mixed in with delicate shading flooded the pages with depth and realism. A particular page after the failed grocery store robbery, Drew walks home through a park and into her apartment. Great care was taken with the various characters she walks past in the story with brilliant shading placed where it needed to be in a daylight scene. Art held what the plot could not – a story.

I mentioned earlier that this was a time where women in Marvel really made a push for popularity. Although I am familiar with everyone else I mentioned but Ms. Marvel and Spider-Woman, I feel as if Spider-Woman was thrown under a bus for the women of Marvel. Although she may be a bigger character now, her storyline fell flat in this first issue. Had it been 1978, I would not have picked up the second issue. Also, I wouldn’t have because it somehow involved Merlin the Wizard. Yup.

But great art by Infantino and a gorgeous cover page done by Joe Sinnott definitely makes the comic score higher than it should have.

Grade: 6/10

I’m also sure some of you are asking yourself, “What about Spider-Woman Origin from 2006?”

Well, that story is pretty inconsistent with the one I just reviewed. To make Bendis’ Secret Invasion work, he had to create a new Spider-Woman origin. I am not 100% sold on the story, but apparently Marvel is just forgetting Spider-Woman #1 from 1978 even existed. Then again, if you just read my review, we all probably should.

Keep on Space Truckin’!

Classic Comic Fridays w/ Wednesday Reviews?!

Tuesday marked my one-month anniversary of the blog, meaning in one month’s time, I’ve had 680 views! I think that’s pretty fantastic so far, so thank you everyone who has supported this idea! Last week’s article about Women in Comics was a huge success. Thank you for the comments and feedback received. Believe me, I’ll definitely be doing more posts like that in the near-future.

As for this week, I was late getting my comics on Wednesday hence no review. So instead of doing two separate blog posts, I’ll slam together one epic-post involving my weekly reviews, plus my Classic Comic feature. Sounds good? Okay!

So I am planning on doing three reviews for comics I grabbed this week, plus the Classic Comic, thus my reviews will be a bit shorter than usual as I want to cram everything in and not bore anyone. Also, please keep ***SPOILER ALERT*** in mind for when you read these reviews.

So without further adieu, let’s start with the Classic Comic!

As I’m sure you’ve heard about The Increduble Hulk coming back to television, so is a favourite of mine, Cloak and Dagger.

So as such, I shall review Cloak and Dagger Vol. 2 #1 from July of 1985. The second volume only lasted eleven issues, as it followed from a four-issue limited series. Bill Mantlo wrote both series, while Rick Leonardi penciled Volume 1, and up to issue four on Volume 2, only to have each issue after that drawn by different artists. Needless to say, this was to be Cloak and Daggers big break.

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The comic opens with the duo stopping a child sex-ring, which makes the story start pretty dark for characters who flew out of the Spider-Man comics. A battle ensues with the gang who steals the women, where Cloak and Dagger both put an end to the nonsense. They manage to hold off any death until the police arrive, and they head back to their home – The Holy Ghost Church – their sanctuary.

There, the Father believes Cloak is a bad influence on Dagger and believes he is persuading her in a life of crime. They discuss with the Father that they are runaways (it’s written in bold in the book and thus explaining their cameo in the Runaways series) and give a brief story about who they are, and explain how Cloak saved Dagger and they are a team.

While taking refuge in the church for a few days, Cloak inexplicably attacks church goers and makes them see their darkest fears. Dagger attacks back, believing Cloak must have been angry at the Father for his judgment. However, during the battle, two red eyes appear from the darkness making the reader assume Cloak has been possessed. Dagger, unknown to this, thinks Cloak is arrogant and leaves him, giving the reader the understanding that the duo is no more. So ends the comic.

Cloak and Dagger #1 is dark and gritty – exactly how the duo are upon facing crime. They are misunderstood and believe in high-morals, fighting for what’s right while still dealing with their own demons. The first issue really emphasized the image of C&D, especially with inker Terry Austin at the helm giving us the looks of a grungy city.

Story-wise, it ended weak with Dagger being almost ridiculous with her reaction to Cloak. It seemed like something out of Degrassi. However, that lull at the end does not overshadow the true nature of the comic throughout. It was unfortunate that the series only lasted eleven issues. Although the two were back for Volume 3 in the late 80’s, their run only lasted nineteen issues and left the duo to guest star in comics from there on out.

They had been most recently seen in the Uncanny X-Men storyline during the Dark Reign saga under the belief that they were mutants. However, in the Cloak and Dagger one-shot released after Siege, the two discovered they were not mutants and went back out into the wild to find their place in the world. Apparently that may be seen in television next.

Grade: 7.5/10

As for the rest of the comics, I wanted to review three this week which I found were unbelievably awesome: New Mutants #18, Chaos War #2, and Kick-Ass 2 #1.

New Mutants as of late, have been trying to get some R&R post-Second Coming, but unfortunately they’ve been pulled into limbo and are fighting government-bred mutants over the life of Illyana.

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Written by Zeb Wells and drawn by my favourite local artist, Leonard Kirk, New Mutants #18 was a blast. Literally. The entire issue was dedicated to fighting for Illyana’s life – the New Mutants versus the government mutants. Each page splashed with colour of explosions and drama.

But what really makes this comic exceptional is Wells’ work on individual characters, such as the government mutants, mixed in with Kirk’s take on how to explain with art. For example, Cannonball flies towards a government mutant named Toko at full speed only to be repelled back instantly. What’s Toko’s power? Who is she? We can only see what is given to us, and it’s done so beautifully. When you take in the wonderful mix of bright red and orange colours, you get incredible contrasts which usually are not found in many comics today.

This comic was a pleasant surprise despite being all-action. Story is told through the little dialogue, but pushes enough through so someone picking up the series for the first time would not be lost. Over all, a great read.

Grade: 8/10

Now I feel bad for bashing Chaos War #1 two weeks ago. Pak and Van Lente definitely kicked butt with this comic. Keeping the plot line brief: the world is doomed and no hero is left to help but gods themselves.

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All superheros/people in the world have been put into a coma by the Chaos King. Planes crash, people “die,” but are not really dead because the underworld is being turned upside-down. It’s a long story.

We see the underworld get turned into a crap-storm as characters such as Ares, Zeus, Banshee, The Abomination, and more, are summoned as dead heroes by Pluto (Lord of the Dead) stating he will set them free if they fight for him against the Chaos King. Immediately we see Zeus slain by the Chaos King, showing that in death, one can still die.

Hercules feeling his fathers death, realizes he needs to set up a team to defeat the Chaos King. Of all things, ETERNITY, is summoned from Hercules. If you don’t know who Eternity is, take the strongest thing in the universe and put it into this guy. Regardless, Hercules wants help, and Eternity says he cannot give it as the Chaos King is an Anti-God, Eternity’s opposite, and cannot fight him as it would be like fighting himself.

So lost, Herc calls upon some strong friends: Amadeus Cho, Venus, and Thor are already there, so he calls upon Sersi of the Eternals, followed by Galactus and the Silver Surfer, making them the God Squad.

It’s really a page-by-page, jaw-dropping comic. Beautiful art again by Pham shows us the immensity of the other worlds. Fire and brimstone trickle the battle fields and Hela’s appearance at Hades with her army really shows the immensity of this battle about to explode. Although the first comic failed to impress, sticking around really showed me wrong.

Grade: 9/10

And alas, the inevitable Kick-Ass 2, #1. Still written by Mark Millar and drawn by John Romita Jr., I can see where Romita Jr. put all his attention when he was drawing the Avengers comics. We get to see his great art again!

Taking off from the hit-comic-series-turned-movie, Kick-Ass is back, and kick-assier than ever! The comic kicks-off pretty much how the first comic ended, and we see Hit-Girl training Kick-Ass to be a better fighter. Although it doesn’t explain it, it seems like awhile has passed since the first comic.

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I say that because shortly after training, we see our hero Kick-Ass, or Dave Lizewski, meeting up with another hero, Doctor Gravity. They walk the street and are approached by a gang – which in turn, they fight, split up, and meet up again at a underground lair where other superheroes have joined together, calling themselves Justice Forever. Superheroes are becoming a norm it seems.

Mindy is also battling her new dad, Marcus, about being a superhero. She is hiding it from him, but being a detective, he knows she’s lying. So she’s banned herself from being Hit-Girl as she promises Marcus she will not do it anymore.

Also, much like in the first comic, we get a small flash-forward to what is to come – Red Mist’s super villain army versus Kick-Ass’s superhero army in the middle of the streets. So we know what’s to come.

Over all, there’s no real threat aside from what was teased to us earlier in the issue. It is also hinted that Red Mist is gathering villains, but it is not really explained how it is known. We also see that someone Kick-Ass knows is brain-damaged, while his house is also blown up. I’m not a big fan of spoilers, but it seems as if we are given a bit too much information too early on. I already feel like I know the ending before the story began.

However! Kick-Ass 2 is, so far, a lot better than the first series. I enjoyed the first series greatly, but I suppose with already established characters, I feel connected to these people a lot more. It also seemed a bit darker – which Millar was going for – but I only got that feeling when he gave us a hint of what will happen, rather than what is happening. Mix the forward-moving story with great art finally coming out of JRJR, I have to say, Kick-Ass 2 did not disappoint!

Grade: 7.5/10

I also think this is an interesting read: Click here to read it. It’s the blog from the person who won the bid for lunch with Joe Quesada. The proceeds went to charity, The Hero Initiative, and he got a great day out of it! What really stands out is that he has the same views I have with breaking into the comics industry: the feeling of getting closer to the dream with each step you take.

And on a heavier, unrelated note, I had the KFC Double-Down the yesterday. Do not believe the hype. Although it may be two patties of chicken which replaces bread, the sandwich itself is no bigger than the palm of my hand. I had it down in four bites and it does not fill you what-so-ever. Is it worth the bragging rights? I don’t even know anymore. But I felt fine after eating it!

Until then, keep on Space Truckin’!

Classic Comic Fridays: Invincible Iron Man #69

Every Friday, I will review a classic comic from my personal collection.

Pulling from the archives, I yanked out Iron Man #69 from August of 1974. The bi-monthly comic had Mike Friedrich as the writer, while Goerge Tuska did the art. Legend Len Wein was also the EiC, and about to be seceded by Marv Wolfman in January of ’75 and go on to revitalize the X-Men. But that’s a different story. This issue also sported the Marvel Value Stamps. However, mine was cut out. 😦 Lame.

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Well on with the story!

There honestly is not much happening with it. I feel bad for reviewing it, but it’s something I pulled out and was old. For what story there is, it starts off with Iron Man rocking his Mk IV armor, and going underwater to stop the Mandarin and rescue Sunfire. Mandarin has a base there (of course) and a battle ensues. What is really interesting during the battle is we get a close up of the Mandarin’s hands. With his rings providing his power, we actually see each individual ring – numbered. Then on the side, in the middle of a battle, there is a numbered definition to what each ring does. How about them apples? So in case you were wondering, on Mandarin’s let hand, 1 is Ice Blast, while 2 is the Mento-Intensifier (hypnosis), 3 is Electro-Blast. . . and so on. Just remember when Mandarin is giving you the middle finger from his right hand, he actually may be using his Vortex Beam, so watch out.

While Iron Man tries to save Sunfire, a side story of five panels (two half-pages) Happy tries to solve Pepper and his marriage problems through a letter which contents we do not learn of. In the middle of the second page, we get another two half-pages with Roxanne in Vietnam gets bombarded by bombers from the Saigon government despite a cease-fire. She is rescued by Marty March and the panel cuts quickly back to Iron Man versus Mandarin. Yes, two side-stories in less than three pages. They were that quick. And for a bi-monthly comic, that would be a brutal waiting period.

Regardless, Iron Man does save Sunfire in the end. After a few heavy blows from the Mandarin, Iron Man tries to take off. Not flying fast enough, the Mandarin hits Iron Man, knocking Tony Stark unconscious inside while his rockets fly him off into space uncontrollably.

Back at the Mandarin’s base, Yellow Claw is there trying to steal from the other villain when suddenly, Mandarin returns home and reawakens Ultimo. Because Iron Man is in space – expected to die – the Mandarin believes nothing is to stand in his way!

And so ends the story. It was definitely action-packed, which is not a problem at all. However, a lot of dialogue with Iron Man kills the pace as he describes every scene, rather than the art doing it for us. What also kills the pacing is four-pages in a row of ads. I’ve seen double-page ads with comics from this time – but back-to-back-to-back-to-back ads are almost as boring as you reading this sentence probably.

With the tacked on sub-plots, it really is a wonder why Iron Man was not given a monthly release. There is clearly a lot of story which needs to be developed, but the appropriate time was not given. Well at least now Iron Man is one of the most popular and beloved comic book characters of all-time – despite the bumpy start.

Unfortunately, due to lack of interesting content and really just flashes of battles on panels, I cannot give this comic a great review. I give it props for great art for the characters – but it does lack with scenery. Oh, Iron Man. Where did you turn awesome?

Grade: 4/10

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As a side note, a new live-action Hulk series is in the works for ABC and you can read about it here.

There you can also read that Marvel will try to put Cloak and Dagger on television! Win! WIN! BIG WIN!

A little known fact about my love for comics is that I simply LOVE Cloak and Dagger. They are Marvel’s tucked-away icons which tons of people wish to see. They first appeared in Spider-Man, and since then have gone in and out of comics for decades. They have recently been in the X-Men, but were given a one-shot a few months back only to leave the group and be off on their own again.

Aside from X-Men, I would be most-particular about who they chose to cast for these characters. They better not blow it. But then again, with Marvel on the helm of some of their characters, hey – they may do it right.

Keep on Space Truckin’!

Classic Comic Fridays: Uncanny X-Men #134

Every Friday, I will review a classic comic from my personal collection.

For my classic comic feature this week, I’ve decided on a personal-favourite of mine, Uncanny X-Men #134 from June of 1980. It was written by the man who arguably made the X-Men who they are today, Chris Claremont. It was also co-written by artist John Byrne, the legend who drew the X-Men for their re-conception in the 70’s and 80’s. Needless to say, this was the X-Men’s A-Team. This is also the issue which gives readers the first appearance to Dark Phoenix!

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What’s fantastic about this issue – or at least, what stands out for me – are two things. First is the excitement from panel-to-panel with the ensuing battle between the X-Men and the Hellfire Club. And second is the building up of Dark Phoenix.

The story actually trails issues before this one, where Jean Grey has been getting random dreams and flashes of being a queen with a man named Jason Wyngarde. After so many issues, Grey is fully tricked into being a queen and is brought to the Hellfire Club, where, along with Sebastian Shaw, Donald Pierce, Jason Wyngarde, and Harry Leland, she becomes the Black Queen.

The X-Men in a few issues prior, go to save Jean, but are all captured. Luckily, Wolverine had eluded capture earlier and breaks in to save the day – only to be stopped by Jean under Wyngarde’s control. All seems lost, but Jean removes a helmet Cyclops was forced to wear to withhold his powers, and he blasts the X-Men free. It seems as if Jean was able to beat Wyngarde’s control. . .

With the X-Men free, they begin battle against the Hellfire Club with awesome panels drawn by Byrne. Colossus takes on Pierce and rips off one of his robot arms, while Leland takes on Wolverine and loses, of course.

Cyclops and Shaw battle it out. Although Shaw could absorb Cyclops’ blasts, Summers plays it smart and blows out the floor beneath Shaw, forcing him to fall.

Storm and Nightcrawler take on Shaw from the lower level, where Storm tries freezing the Black King. Shaw grabs Nightcrawler and throws him at Storm preventing a full-freeze. Defeated, Shaw escapes with Pierce and Leland into a secret passage within the club.

As the story winds down, we see that Wyngarde was not who he was – but instead Mastermind, generating queen illusion to Jean, as well as making the fake image of Jason Wyngarde. Mastermind tries to figure out how he lost, and the readers discover that it was not Jean Grey at all. In fact, Mastermind was playing mind-games with the Phoenix force itself!
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Angry for being tricked for so long by Mastermind, Phoenix decides to destroy him for what he has done. In result, the fake-Jean opened his mind into all the feelings and sensations the Phoenix felt around the universe. Unable to handle such immense power in his mind, Mastermind fell into a coma.

Escaping the club, the X-Men regroup to the Blackbird and begin to leave. Cyclops tries to figure out what was wrong with Jean as she also seemed to be short with him on their way to the jet. After a few moments of gathering themselves, the X-Men turn around to see Jean floating in a red costume proclaiming, “No longer am I the woman you knew! I am fire! And life incarnate! Now and forever, I am Phoenix!”

And then the Blackbird blew up.

What a way to end a story, eh?

Claremont’s build up to such a dramatic story could not have been any better. No one, whether in the X-Men or the Hellfire Club could have known this was coming. Not even the readers knew, or were hinted at, that Jean Grey was not who she was. It came as a complete shock to all players for the comic.

Afterward, the Dark Phoenix Saga begins for a few issues, followed by the inevitable death of Jean Grey in issue #137, entitled “Phoenix Must Die!” I’m sure you’ve all seen the awesome cover. It’s also my profile picture on WordPress here.

One thing to definitely discuss is Bryne’s brilliant art throughout the comic. Panel-to-panel, the X-Men have to battle the Hellfire Club, and we have to see how each individual’s power affects the story. Wolverine versus Leland’s power to increase gravity to the people around him ended in failure as Wolverine jumped on Leland. Given his only was to generate weight, they both crashed through the floor, Leland obviously defeated.

Pierce’s battle with Colossus shows how Pierce just relies on brute strength rather than technique. The snapping of Pierce’s arm by Colossus’s technique brings one of those, “hell yes” moments to the page. Byrne’s great for that.

As for how X-men comics go, this was definitely one of the strongest X-Men comics I’ve ever read. X-Men, I’d argue, is my forté, so when I say this, I do mean it. Overall, this story – filled with plenty of surprises and great action – make obvious to why Claremont and Byrne’s run on the X-Men was so successful.

Grade: 9/10

Keep on Space Truckin’.

Classic Comic Fridays: The Mighty Thor #338

I figure that I’ll start doing something a little different. Every week, I’ll review a classic comic from my collection at random. Simple as that.

This week, I’ll kick off with the second appearance of Beta Ray Bill, Thor #338 from December of 1983, back when Jim Shooter was the EiC of Marvel. The art and story was also done by Walter Simonson, where he did Thor’s run from issue 337-367. Thor #337 was the issue which introduced Beta Ray Bill, meaning Simonson created him.

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What intrigues me most about this issue is that we finally see someone who is not god-like, nor Asgardian, take on Thor. On top of that, we learn that Beta Ray Bill is Thor’s equal. In issue 337, Bill steals Mjolnir, Thor’s hammer for its power (which until Bill, could only be lifted by Thor), and by issue 338, he is teleported to Asgard via the hammer by Odin.

Odin, confused on how Bill holds Thor’s hammer, summons Thor back to Asgard to discuss Bill’s appearance and why Bill wishes to have Mjolnir. Bill explains how his race was dying and needed to leave their galaxy for fear of death. In doing so, his race’s scientists bio-engineered Bill and merged him with the most ferocious carnivore of their empire, so that he may lead their exodus. With his warship the Skuttlebutt, he must save his race from alien invaders. Since Bill bested Thor in battle (by stealing the hammer in the previous issue), he believes he should wield the hammer to save his people.

By all means, Bill is not shown to a man with bad intentions, nor a villain of any sort. He just wants to save his people. Because Mjolnir finds Bill worthy to wield it and Bill believes he deserves the hammer since he took it from Thor, Odin decides that they duel to the death for Mjolnir.

Odin strips both men of their powers and sent them off-world so neither have an advantage. Both warriors fight equal blows with each strike. Their final blow knocks both unconscious on a rock bed riding down a lava lake, soon to be thrown down a waterfall of lava.

Bill awakens first and sees Thor still knocked-out. Being a noble man, Bill feels Thor is too brave to perish and instead tries to lift him to safety, only to be too-late and thrown down the waterfall. Falling, Odin teleports them back to his throne room for Bill to state at the books conclusion, “The hammer is mine!”

The story itself is wonderfully paced, especially for introducing a new character. Simonson makes Bill not just a worthy opponent for Thor, but a just one. Bill’s main drive is to fight off invaders from his people and just requires a weapon to defeat them. However, I did neglect the extremely minor side story involving the Warrior’s Three during the epic battle. Although it did not throw off the pace at all, it shows Simonson’s flawless transitions between stories.

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Simonson was considered to be the savior of Thor comics at the time for not just introducing Bill, but for great dialogue, and exposing emotions and truths behind characters. Mixed in with his powerful art, Simonson had great imaginative ideas to play with – generating a new race, a new hero, and a brilliant plot point involving one of Marvel’s greatest heroes.

When I look back at other issues from the eighties, I seem to find them lacking substance. They involve characters which seem to get dumb-downed to reach a larger audience. In Thor, we have intellect, mixed in with powerful morals, as well as an enemy we cannot hate. Arguably advanced for its target-market, this issue was a powerful indication that Thor is not the only major power in the universe.

By the next issue, Odin creates “Stormbreaker,” a hammer equal to Mjolnir, and gives it to Bill for being noble by saving Thor. Both Thor and Bill become blood brothers, and help one another in their most desperate times of need. Recently, Bill arrived to Asgard during the Secret Invasion – saving Thor from the Skrulls showing us that blood brothers stretch beyond realms.

Grade: 8/10

Keep on Space Truckin’.