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Jun 23

House to Astonish Episode 208

Posted on Sunday, June 23, 2024 by Al in Podcast

It’s been a few weeks, but we’re back, and we’ve got a full basket of comics news which we’re dispensing left, right and centre. This time round, we’re remembering Don Perlin and Peter B. Gillis, looking at Jeff Lemire’s Minor Arcana, the finales of Jupiter’s Legacy and Marvel’s Star Wars, and the new Blade: Red Band mini, chatting through the ends of Zeb Wells and John Romita Jr’s run on Amazing Spider-Man and Joshua Williamson’s runs on Green Arrow and Batman and Robin, and drawing your attention to the Wicked & the Divine‘s covers collection Kickstarter. We’ve also got reviews of Destro and Self-Help, and the Official Handbook of the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe belongs in a museum. All this plus Blade: Special Vampires Unit, an alien goth and Spider-Man’s 1980s toy restoration hobby.

The episode is here, or available via the embedded player below. Let us know what you think, in the comments, on Bluesky, via email or on our Facebook fan page. And if you don’t have a House to Astonish t-shirt by now, then God, Jed, I don’t even wanna know you.

Jun 23

Daredevil Villains #28: The Thunderbolts

Posted on Sunday, June 23, 2024 by Paul in Daredevil

DAREDEVIL #69 (October 1970)
“A Life on the Line”
Writer: Roy Thomas
Artist: Gene Colan
Inker: Syd Shores
Letterer: Artie Simek
Colourist: not credited
Editor: Stan Lee

No, not those Thunderbolts.

This story is set in Harlem, and there are multiple black characters with speaking parts. It’s Marvel in 1970, so that can only mean one thing: it’s time for an improving exercise in social commentary.

Daredevil stops two black gang members from robbing a warehouse. A third tries to escape, only to crash their van into a brick wall. He turns out to be a 15-year-old boy. The Black Panther shows up, and the heroes race the kid to hospital. His unspecified injuries call for a top surgeon, which Daredevil and the Panther are able to sort out. Although the story doesn’t labour the point, the clear implication is that the kid would otherwise have died thanks to the wonderful American health care system.

While our heroes wait for the outcome of the surgery, the Black Panther fills in some back story with an extended flashback. This is the period where the Panther had a civilian identity as school teacher Luke Charles. The kid is his brightest student, Lonnie Carver. Lonnie idolises his older brother Billy, who has just returned from Vietnam. Despite having become a pacifist as a result of his experiences, Billy wears his army uniform around the streets of Harlem, just in case we were in any doubt as to his status as a saintly veteran.

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Jun 21

Charts – 21 June 2024

Posted on Friday, June 21, 2024 by Paul in Music

This week’s chart is laughably uneventful. Well, except for…

1. Sabrina Carpenter – “Please Please Please”

Climbing from 3 to give Sabrina Carpenter her second number one, a mere three weeks after “Espresso” ended its five-week reign.

A bit of context: Sabrina Carpenter has been releasing singles since 2014. During years in the Disney orbit, she had negligible impact on charts anywhere. She had a number 19 hit in Norway in 2017. After she jumped from Disney she had a minor internaional hit with “Skin” in 2021, mainly because it was widely understood as an answer record to Olivia Rodrigo. And then somewhere around 2022 she seemed to get it to click, but even then, her UK peak was just inside the top 20. To go from that to two number 1s in a row is quite the step up.

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Jun 19

The X-Axis – w/c 17 June 2024

Posted on Wednesday, June 19, 2024 by Paul in x-axis

Well, this is quiet…

X-MEN: FROM THE ASHES INFINITY COMIC #2. By Alex Paknadel, Diógenes Neves, Arthur Hesli & Clayton Cowles. Don’t ask me what the schedule is for this book – the first two issues were released, um, twelve days apart. But it’s a nice solid story. It’s simple – something is possessing a bunch of people and making them march off through the snow. Scott is one of them, and he needs to find a way of getting Jean’s attention (because while she could easily keep track of him whenever he’s out of sight, she doesn’t). It’s basically a ghost story, and it’s got some relatively detailed character work, certainly for an Infinity Comic. Neves has always been a solid artist and he has some good uses of the vertical scrolling format here, with merging panels and the occasional interesting perspective trick. It’s pretty good!

WOLVERINE: BLOOD HUNT #2. By Tom Waltz, Juan José Ryp, Guru-eFX & Cory Petit. Um. Well, this is mostly extended fight scenes. There’s a little bit suggesting that Maverick has a more complicated agenda than the first issue implied but… no, mostly it’s just Wolverine and Nightguard fighting a zombie horde. Sorry, vampire horde. But it’s the same thing to all practical purposes. I see why we’re doing Blood Hunt tie-ins this month – it’s a very handy buffer between X-seasons. But this is the sort of issue that makes my heart sink at the thought of reading the rest of the crossover. Even the core titles participating in this event are only doing three issues each. The X-books are doing eight! And while Jubilee at least has a hook to do vampire stories with, there’s a real diminishing returns element to tie-ins taking place in the margins of a crossover like this. How many different stories can you really do about vampire hordes roaming wild? Because by my count there are 48 tie-in issues to Blood Hunt not counting the core series, and I’m willing to bet that the answer to my question isn’t “48”. In isolation, this is a competent action issue but… god, how much of this?

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Jun 16

Daredevil Villains #27: Phoenix

Posted on Sunday, June 16, 2024 by Paul in Daredevil

DAREDEVIL #68 (September 1970)
“Phoenix and the Fighter!”
Writer: Roy Thomas
Artist: Gene Colan
Inker: Syd Shores
Letterer: Artie Simek
Colourist: not credited
Editor: Stan Lee

No, not that Phoenix.

After four issues in Hollywood, Daredevil is back in New York, but without Karen Page in tow. She’ll be back, but she’s out of the picture for the moment. In the meantime, Daredevil moves on to something else entirely.

Daredevil arrives at the DA’s office to find Foggy in a shouting match with three guys from an extremist group called Phoenix. The only one who gets a name is called Kragg. The Phoenix members wear brightly coloured tunics with logos on the chest – Kragg’s costume has a phoenix head, and the others have a sort of stylised flame thing. They generally look like they’ve wandered out of a Buck Rogers story and left their ray guns at home.

Kragg is trying to get Foggy to stop “hounding” his group. After Daredevil shoos the extremists away, we learn that Foggy is investigating them because they’ve mysteriously bought the contract of middleweight boxing contender Kid Gawaine. The Kid has an upcoming title match at Madison Square Garden, and his trainer, Pop Fenton, once trained Battlin’ Jack Murdock. For obvious reasons, a story of boxing corruption piques Daredevil’s interest, and he decides to look into Phoenix himself.

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Jun 15

Charts – 14 June 2024

Posted on Saturday, June 15, 2024 by Paul in Music

Have we wandered into the album chart or something?

1. Eminem – “Houdini”

Two weeks. Which is surprising in itself from a man in his fifties who ought to be a legacy act by this point. But it’s even more surprising when you realise that none of his other ten number ones made it past a single week.

3. Sabrina Carpenter – “Please Please Please”

Well, there you go – “Espresso” wasn’t a one-off, and Sabrina Carpenter is a star now. Remember, she’d never made it past number 19 until “Espresso” became a number one. In fact, “Espresso” is still there at number 2, so she has a majority of the top 3.

“Please Please Please” is an interesting choice of follow-up single – technically I suppose it counts as a ballad, of a sort? I like it, but I doubt she could have got a hit out of it before “Espresso”. She has a persona that only really makes sense that you accept the premise that she’s a star – which is obviously a lot easier once the public agree with her.

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Jun 14

The X-Axis – w/c 10 June 2024

Posted on Friday, June 14, 2024 by Paul in x-axis

“The old world is dying, and the new world struggles to be born; now is the time of monsters.” – Antonio Gramsci

X-MEN: HEIR OF APOCALYPSE #1. (Annotations here.) This is a truly weird month for the X-books. Krakoa is finished, but the new X-Men titles don’t start until July. In itself, that’s no bad thing. I’m all for a season break. But you can’t really pause the line for a month, and so we have a month of… what? Well, there are Blood Hunt tie-ins, and that event is nicely timed to provide X-filler. There’s a ludicrous number of Wolverine side projects. And then there’s this.

I’m not sure the scheduling has done it any favours. It makes it seem less like the X-event for June and more like it was so inconsequential that you could ship it before X-Men #1 without spoiling the launch. Yet it picks up on Apocalypse’s storyline from X-Men #35 so… apparently not? There are mixed messages here. It’s puzzling.

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Jun 12

X-Men: Heir of Apocalypse #1 annotations

Posted on Wednesday, June 12, 2024 by Paul in Annotations

As always, this post contains spoilers, and page numbers go by the digital edition.

X-MEN: HEIR OF APOCALYPSE #1
Writer: Steve Foxe
Penciller: Netho Diaz
Inker: JP Mayer
Colour Artist: Alex Sinclair
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Editor: Annalise Bissa

And on we go. X-Men: Heir of Apocalypse is a four-issue miniseries shipping over June and July. It has a weird position on the schedule. On the one hand, this is one of the first X-books from the new office, it picks up a major plot point from X-Men #35, and the premise generally seems as if it ought to be significant. On the other hand, the fact that it appears between the end of Krakoa and the launch of the new X-Men titles – alongside a bunch of Wolverine minis and Blood Hunt tie-ins – positions it as a decidedly second-tier release. Still, it’s as significant as X-books are going to get in the remainder of June.

As I said in the post about Free Comic Book Day 2024: Blood Hunt / X-Men, I’m thinking of altering the format of these posts in what I expect to be a less inter-connected line going forward. Besides, the new regime seems to be much more relaxed about doing its own footnotes. So let’s see how the approach I used for the FCBD issue works out here…

THE STATE OF MUTANTKIND

We’re after X-Men #35 but before any of the relaunched X-Men titles, and so this is another book which is awkwardly coy about the status quo of the mutants from Earth.

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Jun 9

Daredevil Villains #26: Brother Brimstone

Posted on Sunday, June 9, 2024 by Paul in Daredevil

DAREDEVIL #65-66 (June & July 1970)
“The Killing of Brother Brimstone” / “…And One Cried Murder!”
Writer: Roy Thomas
Penciller: Gene Colan
Inker: Syd Shores
Letterer: Artie Smiek
Colourist: not credited
Editor: Stan Lee

Once again, we’ve skipped a couple of issues with returning villains. Issue #63 is a Gladiator story, and issue #64 is the return of Stunt-Master. There have been some developments in those two issues.

After months of pestering Matt to quit as Daredevil, Karen Page has lost patience and walked out. She was expecting Matt to stop her at the airport, but he was too busy being Daredevil to show up. So Karen is now living in Los Angeles with her old college roommate Sally Weston. And Matt has followed her out there, which means we get four issues in Hollywood. In issue #64, Daredevil fails to locate Karen, who is avoiding him. Instead, Daredevil gets sidetracked by Stunt-Master.

Now, obviously, Daredevil has pursued Karen to the other side of the country because he’s a romantic lead. It’s not like he’s some sort of stalker! So in issue #65, he breaks into Karen’s bedroom to find out where she’s working.

As it happens, Sally Weston is the assistant director on gothic daytime soap opera Strange Secrets, and she’s got Karen some acting work on the show. Readers at the time would have recognised Strange Secrets as the ABC daytime soap Dark Shadows, which ran from 1966 to 1971. Accordingly to Wikipedia, it “became popular when vampire Barnabas Collins (Jonathan Frid) was introduced ten months into its run. It would feature ghosts, werewolves, zombies, man-made monsters, witches, warlocks, time travel and a parallel universe.” By early 1970, the show was past its peak, which is in fact how Strange Secrets is presented here.

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Jun 8

Charts – 7 June 2024

Posted on Saturday, June 8, 2024 by Paul in Music

Now here’s someone I wouldn’t have predicted having a number 1 hit in 2024.

1. Eminem – “Houdini”
38. Eminem – “Without Me”

This is the lead single from his upcoming album “The Death of Slim Shady (Coup de Grâce)”, which seems to be some sort of weird meta thing about his past career and old Slim Shady persona. This track is, fairly obviously, a riff on “Without Me”, even though the hook is from the Steve Miller Band’s “Abracadabra” (number 2 in 1982). “Without Me” itself re-enters at 38, which is an unusual case of a spillover hit. His greatest hits album is back in the top 10 as well.

Whether the whole album is throwback stuff or whether this is set-up for something else… who knows. It’s Eminem’s 11th UK number 1, spanning a period of 25 years. For those wondering, the other 10 are: “The Real Slim Shady” (2000), “Stan” (2000), “Without Me” (2002), “Lose Yourself” (2002), “Just Lose It” (2004), “Like Toy Soldiers” (2005), a guest appearance on Akon’s “Smack That” (2006), “The Monster” (2013), “River” (2017) and “Godzilla” (2020). Basically, Eminem’s imperial phase is long behind him but, unusually for someone at this point in his career, he can still pull out a number 1 single or at least a big hit from each new album. In fact, the streams on this are huge – equivalent to over 100,000 sales, which is the biggest we’ve had in a year.

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