Thursday, February 20, 2014

Comics Weekly Review: Issue 03

This week on CWR I will be continuing the story our beloved West Coast Avengers and the quest to rescue Wonderman and Hank Pym who were captured by Ultron-12.  This issue was written by Steve Englehart, drawn by Allen Milgrom and inked by Joe Sinnott.

All images Copyright of Marvel Entertainment, LLC 1985.

In this issue we meet up with the team after they fly to New Jersey to help Vision and Scarlet Witch.  Since they have not found a house there yet, the meeting actually takes place in a motel.  I found it hilarious to think of today's Avengers meeting in a Motel 6 parking lot.

After the team gets together in New Jersey they go to investigate an old factory that was once an investment of Simon Williams before he became Wonderman.  During the course of this investigation Iron Man tells a story of how Stark Industries put Williams Manufacturing out of business and Simon saw this as a failure.   Then Tigra gets into an argument with Iron Man about how Simon is not a thief.

Then the group heads of to continue their investigation by questioning Simon's mother.  Because Vision's brain is based off of Simon's, as soon as Vision hears Martha Williams talk about her two sons Vision shouts out Mother and has a touching reunion with his Mom.  It helps to develop Vision as more of a human character, rather than just a robot.  Which, in turn helps make it more believable that Wanda would fall in love and marry the syntheziod.

Also, a big part of the story revolved around the brother's relationship between Simon (who is now Wonderman and the brain of Vision) and Eric (who is now Grim Reaper).  I'm not even sure that I realized that Wonderman and Grim Reaper were brothers from the last issue.  If it was made clear, then I certainly missed it.

The whole 4-issue crossover is coming together now in my mind. It is a story about family. At first we were examining the relationship between father and son (or creator and creation) in the plot-line involving Hank Pym and Ultron. Then there are two ongoing stories about marriage comparing the relationship of Hawkeye and Mocking Bird with the relationship between Vision and Scarlet Witch.

Of course the brothers relationship between Eric and Simon Williams is also a bigger part of the story.  The down side of this is that there has been little action in this issue.  So much of the story involves looking at the complex web of relationships that we don't really get the chance to see the superheroes being super.  I have a feeling that this will change in the 4 issue of the crossover, The Vision and Scarlet Witch issue 2.

There was also an interesting exchange between Man-Ape and Grim reaper that shows the time period that this comic was written in.  Apparently Grim Reaper is a racist.  He refers to Man-Ape as a "black savage" and then continues to berate him for being incompetent.  Man-Ape then goes and complained to Black Talon who is also of African descent and they even go as far as saying that working for Grim Reaper is like slavery.  I can see that this is being used as a plot development to get Man-Ape and Black Talon to abandon Grim Reaper making him easier to defeat but this all just seem so heavy handed that it distracted from the story.

It is also addressed that Nekra is black as well, but she is an albino.  I just find it hard to believe that if Grim Reaper really was a bigot that everyone he hires to help him, except Ultron, is African American.

Although the premise was all about looking into Wonderman's past to see what they could find about Simon's brother, it was really about telling Vision and Wonderman's back-story.  I was a little disappointed finding this out because I wanted to see more of the relationship between Ultron and Hank Pym.  I know that Ultron shows up a lot in these old Avengers comics but part of the reason I'm taking a look at this series is to get some back story about Ultron in preparation for the second Avengers movie that comes out in 2015.

What I liked:  Again, I'm going to focus on the character development.  I'm reading these old comics to get to know some of these characters better so they are clearly doing their job in that respect.  I had no idea that Wonderman and Vision basically have the same brain.  I also had no idea that Vision was the original Human Torch, long before the Fantastic Four came around.

I'm also seeing how much different comics are written today.  This is a big idea story with a lot of knowledge necessary to really understand what is going on in each issue.  There are complex ideas being thrown at the reader every few pages that can really make you think.  But at the same time, to much emphasis on these story ideas can

What I didn't like:  I don't like all the insecurities that these superheroes have.  In this panel to the right Simon is confessing his fear of death to Hank Pym.  I know it is supposed to make Wonderman more relatable but really it just makes him look like a wimp.  He is practically invulnerable, has super strength and the ability to fly.  All that has been done to him so far is to have him captured and sealed in an energy field.  He is losing it and telling his entire back story to Hank Pym.  Why can't he just sack up, and wait to be rescued?

Looking Forward:  I'm looking forward to how this story finishes and how all of these different plot lines come together.  I'm also hoping that this results in adding a sixth member to the West Coast Avengers team.  In truth, I already know who is on the team in later issues, but I can't for life of me remember how the team got to it's roster.  I'm also looking forward to Ultron doing his thing in the 4th issue of the crossover and how Pym continues to be an important part of the story.  Cheers!

World Premiere of First Guardians of the Galaxy Trailer

Well ... now I am excited to see this.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Comics Weekly Review: Issue 02

In this installment of CWR I will be picking up where we left off last week by reviewing issue 2 in the 4 part crossover between West Coast Avengers and the Vision and the Scarlet Witch limited series.  I am talking about Vision and the Scarlet Witch issue 01.  I would like to point out how this issue advertises both "Lovers and Zombies" on the cover to make the point that zombies were indeed popular in 1985 (although they are more mainstream today).  This issue was written by Steve Englehart and Richard Howell, drawn by Andy Mushynsky and inked by L. Lois Buhalis.

All images Copyright of Marvel Entertainment, LLC 1985.

This issue starts off with Scarlet Witch waiting impatiently while the Vision is being examined in Project Pegasus (somewhere in Upstate New York).  A little back story for those who are just being introduced to these characters but Scarlet Witch is a mutant (daughter of Magneto) and Vision is an android.  They are married.  Vision is being checked out by Gyrich (who I believe is the inventor of the sentinels in X-Men but I'm can't confirm that).  Vision is
actually a synthozoid as he corrects Gyrich during the investigation.  Aparently in Avengers #254 Vision tried
to take over the world, but he was being controlled by and alien computer.  Gyrich works for the American government and is the agent in charge of investigating the Avengers (and mutants).

Apparently Vision was originally called the Human Torch and fought alongside Captain America  from 1939-1955 until he went Nova.  He was eventually remade and fell into the clutches of Ultron-5 (interesting) who reprogrammed him with a new voice and personality using Wonderman's brain patterns as a model.  [All of this is new information to me as I only had West Coast Avengers issues as a child.]

After waiting 15 hours for tests Wanda (the Scarlet Witch) breaks into Project Pegasus to get Vision out using her hex-powers.  Wanda gives an empowered speech about mutant and synthoziod rights and then both Vision and Scarlet Witch quit the Avengers.  They vow to live as private citizens.  The story continues with Wanda and Vision trying to buy a house in Leonia, New Jersey.  Then they are attacked by zombies.

I want to take a moment to flash back to the end of West Coast Avengers issue 01 with this panel.  In this panel Hawkeye has just figured out how Goliath, Man-Ape and Ultron are connected.  In the second to last panel (which I showed last week) Hawkeye is piecing it together.  This panel is when he figures it out.  I didn't include this panel because it spoils who the real enemy here is.  I was planning it as a "tune in next week to find out who the West Coast Avengers are up against" sort of cliff hanger.  The dude with the funny looking, blue head-gear is Grim reaper.  You can also see smaller head-shots of Ultron, Man-Ape and Goliath around him.

The zombies that attacked Vision and Scarlet Witch are being controlled by Black Talon and Nekra, who are both working for Grim Reaper.  The zombies manage to neutralize Vision and capture Scarlet Witch.  When reading this issue of VatSW I was starting to think that they were not connected until halfway through the issue there is a page where Hawkeye is trying to contact Vision.  Then it flashes to Vision and Wanda being attacked by zombies.

So Grim Reaper is the mastermind behind this plan.  He had Ultron capture Wonderman in California and he also ordered Black Talon capture Vision.  Black Talon was not successful in capturing Vision, but instead takes Scarlet Witch as bait assuming that Vision will come after her.  This plan seems a little complicated but there is a reveal at the end of the issue that clears things up a bit.

The panel to the right shows Grim Reaper and Nekra in the upper right.  The panel on the lower left shows Grim Reaper scolding Black Talon.  And the lower right panel is Black Talon defending his job of protecting something that is hidden under the tent (what is hidden under the green tent is this week's cliff hanger).  What is hidden under the tent finishes the connection between the happenings in New Jersey to Wanda and Vision with what happened in California to Wonderman and Hank Pym.

As you might expect, Vision foils the plan and rescues Scarlet Witch.  He then contacts Hawkeye, or Hawkeye finally get a hold of him (it's not very clear) and Hawkeye begins to summarize what happened in WCA #1.  I assume that this is leading up to them all teaming up to take on Grim Reaper and his groupies.

I wanted to include this panel to show the stinger at the end of this issue which tells you that the story continues in West Coast Avengers #2.  The editor's use of 'Nuff Said!' is classy and really brings me back to my childhood in the 80's.  You don't really get to see stingers like this much in comics these days and believe me the editors have a heavy hand making sure you catch all the references in these comics with many little yellow boxes explaining what is going on.  I guess back then there was not other way to get that information to readers since is was before the internet or Wikipedia was around for people to look this information up on their own.

What I liked:  I enjoyed how the writer tried to humanize Vision and make the reader feel for what Wanda and Vision were going through in New Jersey.  At some point in recent history, their neighbors formed a riot and burned down their old house.  Then Vision tried to take over the world so he has the government breathing down their necks.  Wanda and Vision are just trying to settle down and they are questioned by the government and shunned by their neighbors in New Jersey.  Those are real feelings that the reader can relate to.

What I didn't like:  That is took so long for the story to be connected to the events of West Coast Avengers #1.  I was not even sure why this issue was important until it was revealed later in the issue.  I was excited to see Hawkeye and the group rush out and save Wonderman and Pym, instead I got 15 pages of history on Vision and Scarlet Witch.  All of this information is proving vital to the plot so I suppose I understand why it is included, but I could have used a little more action interspersed.

Also, what was up with the zombies in this issue.  They are being mind controlled by Balck Talon, but they are nothing like the zombies of today.  The could talk, and expressed feelings and one of them was able to communicate with Vision and reveal the location of Black Talon's hideout so he could rescue Scarlet Witch.

Looking Forward:  I'm excited to see the two stories collide in West Coast Avengers #2.  When what's left of the West Coast Avengers help to uncover why Vision and Scarlet Witch were attacked and try to save Wonderman.

I'm also looking forward to when Hawkeye has to face the Wasp and come clean that her ex-husband, Hank Pym, has been captured.  I thought it was hilarious how Hawkeye was casually talking to Tigra about Pym's abduction and how he was afraid of telling the Wasp, not afraid for Pym's life.  Cheers!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Comics Weekly Review: Issue 01

Today I will be reviewing an old comic from 1985, that says on the cover "A 39-page Action Epic" and was the first issue of a monthly on-going series that shaped my love for comics.  It was one of the first comic books I collected as a child, the first Marvel team book that I collected and my first exposure to the Avengers.  I'm of course talking about West Coast Avengers Issue 1.  This issue was written by Steve Englehart, drawn by Allen Milgrom and inked by Joe Sinnott.

All images Copyright of Marvel Entertainment, LLC 1985.

In this issue the team is getting established in their new base of operations, the Avengers mansion that Hawkeye and Mockingbird had selected the in mini-series leading up to this issue.  They are also starting to work as a regular team for the first time.  The issue opens with a visit from ex-Avenger, Hank Pym.  His visit is played off as Hawkeye recruiting his at the 6th member of the team, but it is clearly a plot devise because Pym becomes a larger player in the story with the later appearance of Goliath, who uses Pym's technology to grow larger and stronger.

Tigra and Wonderman are flying over the bay on patrol when they are attacked from behind.  Iron Man comes to the rescue and you see the muscle of the West Coast Avengers go to work on these flying robots.  In typical 80's action style, the girl (Tigra) is dropped into the ocean and has little to no affect on the ensuing battle.  Although later in the issue Tigra does have her moment to shine, this issue is all about the boys beating up bad guys and the girls playing ancillary roles.  It's not necessarily a fault as these characters are just being developed, but more as a sign of the times in comic book stories that are almost 30-years old.

I found it interesting how robots were attacking these character for seemingly no reason and how that caused them to interact with each other.  There was some nice character moments between Wonderman and Tigra but in the end it just gave Wonderman an excuse to show off his strength and for Iron Man to prove that he should be a regular part of the team.  Wonderman talks about how he started as a villain and how he is trying to prove himself as a hero, and it sheds some light on Iron Man feeling of inadequacy as he is shown up by Wonderman's pure strength.  I think Iron Man becomes a more key character in the series in later issues, but at this point it is clear that the focus is on Wonderman and how he fits on the team.

The issue continues to progress with the team trying to figure out why Wonderman and Tigra were attacked, why Pym is really there and how Goliath fits in.  Here is an interesting quote from Steve Englehart's website about Pym:
The main thread in these early issues was the alarming deterioration of Hank (Ant-Man, Giant-Man, Goliath, Yellowjacket) Pym's mental state - until, with #16, he planned to commit suicide. AVENGERS fans consider this series Hank's high-water mark, which is fascinating because I never warmed up to the guy.

Eventually the issue takes us to the harbor where the West Coast Avengers decided to investigate a cargo ship that is using a lot of energy.  What they find inside is quite surprising and starts one of the longer, continuing story lines throughout the series.  That's right, it's Ultron.

They fight Ultron-12 to a standstill and narrowly escape.  Ultron is one of the Avengers Villains and was created by Hank Pym.  You can now see how the plot begins to unfold.  Pym is in California studying Goliath (who he used to be) and now finds the West Coast Avengers fighting one of his creations.

Overall this issue is quite campy and ironic, but a fun read and a great look back at superheroes almost 29 years ago.  It focus on how each member of the team plays a role

What I liked: I liked all the character development that took place in this issue.  I enjoyed the interaction between Tigra and Wonderman before they were attacked.  It helped to explain the back-story and motivation of both characters.  I got a kick out of how Tigra calls Wonderman a "turkey" in this panel.  I have actually been calling my daughter a turkey for years (no idea if it was stuck in my subconscious from reading this as a child).

I also enjoyed the plot threads that Englehart is playing with in this story.  He is pushing the character to develop and overcome their feelings of inadequacy at being the b-team Avengers.  He is also clearly laying some groundwork for some upcoming story ideas.

What I didn't like: That Mockingbird says "Meow" on more than one occasion in the book.  First in reference to Tigra hitting on Pym and a second time when Wonderman is questioning Hawkeye's judgement leaving Pym alone with Goliath at the Avengers complex.  I just bothered me how 1-dimensional Mockingbird is in this first issue.

I also didn't enjoy how Hawkeye refereed to everyone with cutise nicknames.  He calls Wonderman "Wondy" and the Wasp "Waspy".  I surprised that he didn't call Mockingbird "Birdy".

Looking Forward: I'm excited to be revisiting these comic that had such a profound effect on me in my youth.  I'm also looking forward to seeing how each member of the West Coast Avengers overcomes their own feelings of inadequacy and begin to get more comfortable in their role as an Avenger.

I want to explore the plot lines that Englehart is playing with and get to know the characters better.  I'm also ready for more good comics staring my favorite superhero from my you, Hawkeye.  The Hawkeye comic by Matt Fraction and David Aja is on many people's best comics of 2013 lists and I'm hoping that new Hawkeye fans don't forget that he has been a valuable member of the Avengers over 30 years.  Cheers!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Gluug is 90!!

Yesterday my DK Gluug turned 90.  He is my first level 90 character in World of Warcraft.

It was an awesome feeling of achievement, followed by a bunch of confusion about what to do next.  Not a lot of time to write today, but I just wanted to give Gluug his moment in the Sun.  I'm only half way to my Loremaster of Pandaria achievement so I still have half of the MoP content to work through.  But at least now I can tag along when AIE does a flex raid.  Cheers!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Chuckem in AIE

Well I did a few new things in WoW over the last few days and I thought you might be interested.  Specifically because they involve the original Lord of Assets, Chuckem.  I had not played Chuckem in a long while, mainly because my old guild on Demon Soul had basically died so there were not many players on.  I did manage to get Chuckem to level 85 after Cata but I just kind of stopped playing him because I didn't like playing without anybody on guild chat.  I had moved on to playing Gluug with AIE.

Anyway, I realm transferred Chuckem to Earthen Ring where my other toons are already in AIE so I could play him there.  This has caused me to fall in love with my mage all over again.  I have been playing Chuckem non-stop since the transfer and I'm loving every second of it.  As you can see Chuckem joined alea iacta est audacia and is now a proud member of the largest guild in the United States.  There are always plenty of people in guild chat.

Interestingly enough, I'm not taking Chuckem to Pandaria to level to 90.  I was struck by the same news about Warlords of Draenor dropping sometime in 2014 and hearing that Blizzard is going back to rework Outlands.  I have always had the Loremaster achievement in the back of my mind as I have been leveling my alts and now I'm suddenly afraid that it will not be possible to get Outlands Loremaster after WoD drops.  So I'm challenging Chuckem to cover all the old content in Outlands, Northrend and post-cata Azeroth for my Loremaster achievement.  I think finishing these quest lines will get him to level 90 without ever having to step foot into Pandaria.  I'm already in the middle of Pandaria with Gluug so I'm going to have him complete the Loremaster there and I have some lower-level alts who can finish up the 1-60 content of Azeroth for me (I did double check that you can spread Loremaster out on many characters so that is my current plan).

I have been through Outlands twice already, on Chuckem and Gluug, but this time I'm going back to do it all.  I completed the 84 quests in Hellfire Peninsula for that achievement over the weekend.  I'm now in Terokkar Forest working on that achievement. This will not only earn me the Outlands Loremaster achievement but also will familarize myself with Draenor and it's Lore for when WoD dropps later this year.  I'll keep you posted.  Cheers!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Read: Fear and Loathing

There is a great little blog post over on Amateur Azerothian called Fear And Loathing In Pandaria.  I really enjoyed it because it is honest about something most MMO gamers have experienced, bringing an alt through content you have already played.  I can relate since I have rolled several alternate characters on WoW and have struggled to bring them through certain zones like the Barrens.  I to found MoP visually stunning but found a lack of interest to push through to the end.  Thematically, I should have loved Pandaria since it incorporates many cultural nods that I usually enjoy.  Anyway, check it out.  Cheers!