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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 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 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 6

The X-Axis – w/c 3 June 2024

Posted on Thursday, June 6, 2024 by Paul in x-axis

X-MEN UNLIMITED INFINITY COMIC #142. By Steve Foxe, Steve Orlando, Nick Roche, Yen Nitro & Travis Lanham. Well, at least this is finished. Clocking in at a ludicrous 22 issues, this really does seem to have been nothing more than a bunch of side quests to occupy the C-listers. There’s no interesting concept in here, and it’s ultimately just self-indulgent sprawl. The book wraps up by annoying me one last time by having the X-Men gratuitously torture their defeated prisoners, and actually express regret that they can’t do the same thing to Selene. This was terrible.

X-MEN #35. (Annotations here.) On the other hand, this is much more like it. The final X-book of the Krakoan era (well, except for the other one that comes out this week) is a massive epilogue issue, and with Gerry Duggan, Kieron Gillen and Al Ewing co-writing the main story. A price tag of £8 is somewhat alarming, but at 88 pages in digital format, that’s not such bad value. It still triggers the involuntary “Blimey, how much?” reaction, though.

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Jun 5

X-Men #35 annotations

Posted on Wednesday, June 5, 2024 by Paul in Annotations

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

X-MEN vol 6 #35
“Dream’s End”
Writers: Gerry Duggan, Kieron Gillen & Al Ewing
Artists: Joshua Cassara, Phil Noto, Lucas Werneck, Leinil Francis Yu, Walter Simonson, Mark Brooks, John Romita Jr, Scott Hanna, Jerome Opeña, Luciana Vecchio, Stefano Caselli & Sara Pichelli
Colour artists: Romulo Fajardo Jr, Phil Noto, David Curiel, Laura Martin, Sonia Oback, Marcio Menyz, Matt Hollingsworth & Matthew Wilson
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Editor: Jordan D White

COVER / PAGES 1-2. The Krakoan era cast, including some of the villains, make their way across the page, Official Handbook style – though at a gentle stroll. Some of the villains are included. I’m not quite sure how Gateway made the cut for this, but it’s nice to see him. (If you’re wondering why this is two pages in the digital edition, page 1 is the cover as it looks on the shelf, and page 2 is the entire gatefold.)

This is the final issue of X-Men vol 6, and the final comic of the Krakoan era – although some unfortunate scheduling means that Ms Marvel: Mutant Menace #4, which takes place before Fall of the House of X, also came out this week. The other X-book this week, Wolverine: Blood Hunt #1, is post-Krakoan, and comes from the new editorial office.

Applying “legacy numbering”, Marvel also regard this issue as Uncanny X-Men #700.

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Jun 2

Daredevil Villains #25: Nighthawk

Posted on Sunday, June 2, 2024 by Paul in Daredevil

DAREDEVIL #62 (March 1970)
“Quoth the Nighthawk, ‘Nevermore!'”
Writer: Roy Thomas
Penciller: Gene Colan
Inker: Syd Shores
Letterer: Artie Simek
Colourist: not credited
Editor: Stan Lee

We’ve skipped issue #61, which is a rematch with Cobra, Mr Hyde and Jester. And that brings us to a guy who just marginally qualifies for this feature.

This is where I normally say: No, not that one. This is a long-forgotten one who appeared in one issue of Daredevil at the tail end of the Silver Age. But… yes, that Nighthawk. Kyle Richmond. The one who goes on to join the Defenders.

What’s he doing here? Well, at this point, Nighthawk’s only previous appearances were in 1969’s Avengers #69-70, as part of the Squadron Sinister. In that story, the Grandmaster alters history to create four supervillains that he can pit against the Avengers – Hyperion, Nighthawk, Dr Spectrum and the Whizzer. The Squadron are blatantly a knock-off Justice League of America, and the whole thing is just a thinly veiled excuse to have the Avengers fight the JLA.

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May 31

The X-Axis – w/c 27 May 2024

Posted on Friday, May 31, 2024 by Paul in x-axis

X-MEN UNLIMITED INFINITY COMIC #141. By Steve Foxe, Steve Orlando, Phillip Sevy, Yen Nitro & Travis Lanham. The penultimate chapter of this exceedingly protracted arc, and at least it’s a half-decent closing fight, I guess. But it’s clear we’re not going to get anything at the last minute to tie this whole thing together in any very satisfying way.

RISE OF THE POWERS OF X #5. (Annotations here.) Right, the main event. And Kieron Gillen and Luciano Vecchio give us a rather more satisfying resolution than we had in Fall of the House of X. In itself, that doesn’t come as a great surprise – the Enigma storyline seemed to be able to play out more or less as intended, and Rise was able to leave Fall to try and make something of Orchis. But I had my doubts about how well the Enigma storyline would work as a resolution for the Krakoan era, as opposed to just being a big storyline that happened to be ending at the same time. What did Dominions ever have to do with Krakoa, really?

As it turns out, Gillen ties everything together remarkably well on that level too. Yes, sure, there’s a degree of arbitrariness going on in the plot. Stuff happens with Phoenix because, well, because it’s Phoenix and stuff can just happen with Phoenix. But you can get away with that if it makes sense thematically, and in the end Rise does bring it together. The latest explanation for Phoenix – there’ll be another one sooner or later, I’m sure – has them as an embodiment of mutantkind, and frankly, that makes at least as much sense as any other explanation that’s been offered in the past.

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