Sunday, June 30, 2024

The Weird #4 (July, 1988)

The Weird was aroused by Batman, who was looking for a way to stop Superman; who was laughing off being double-teamed by Martian Manhunter and Doctor Fate; and Nuklon; who was taking on everyone else (including Guy Gardner, whose head will apparently be wrapped in gauze for 75% of this mini-series.) As one would expect in a Starlin book, The Weird recaps the prior issues of the mini-series, which offers the Dark Knight no clues as to how to defeat the Macrolatts that have possessed his super friend, and also Nuklon. So that's 7 pages of 38 down. The duo of possessed metahumans defeated the rest of the present heroes and lay waste to just enough of Metropolis to look like something out of Akira, but somehow not enough to rate any future mention or leave any trace that won't be cleaned up by the next Superman comic. Also, The Weird had a big speech about how the only way to save this reality was to prevent the Macrolatts from ever reaching it, so The Weird won't waste the remainder of his existence (measurable in hours) on a futile gesture. The Caped Crusader chided, "You may look like a man, Weird. But you've got a lot to learn about actually being one."

Page 16. The Weird kneels before the Macrolatts, speaking to the error of his ways and promising to tell his masters of potential threats to them in this realm. If there were any actual threats, they weren't shared with Batman, so we'll give him the benefit of the doubt that he played indignant before being slapped down by the Weird to help sell the lie. The Macrolatts are so arrogant as to be offended by the idea that anything could threaten them, and smack the Weird around before he fully surrenders, ostensibly to allow them to drain him of all his knowledge and power, ending on a twelve panel page of the possessed heroes slowly reaching toward Weird. Pages 22-24: The Weird reaches into Superman and Nuklon's chests with his variable density powers, pulls out a Macrolatt in each hand, and destroys them both. Well... that was a swift and convenient reversal of the story as told.

Oh, there's still 16 pages to fill? Super studies show that nothing can be done to save The Weird. He spends three pages building a small island as a monument to himself. Superman flies Billy Langley to the island across one page, and it's revealed in the opposing splash. Kind of looks like a sailing ship. Walter Langley's son is somehow meant to make it to this small personal island to play on a mostly barren rock whenever he feels lonely. The proposed logistics of that are the weirdest thing in The Weird. They hug, and then Martian Manhunter is stuck with the thankless task of flying this sobbing child back home to the mother that refused to visit, but was totally cool with allowing her son to fly off with Superman to parts unknown. I do wonder if there was some symbolism in the roles, but most probably J'Onn just got the **** detail, so Superman and Guy Gardner could fly off to unpopulated space to watch The Weird explode. I'd like to say Guy was the only Green Lantern dumb enough to risk it, but they're all so "confident" in their power rings, aren't they? The Weird does blow up a significant distance away, so I guess that explains why an energy bubble wouldn't have contained it. Superman, the Kevin Smith of super-heroes, sheds a tear at his passing. Even Guy looks a bit choked up, or maybe it's like how someone puking makes you want to puke, and Guy is just worried for his tear ducts. The final page is a somber distance shot of the island at sunset.

"...Armageddon" was by Jim Starlin, Berni Wrightson, & Dan Green. Well... that sucked. I liked Batman: The Cult when I got it a few years later, and almost ordered the new edition that's coming out, but I didn't like the production work on display. I mention that because I'm a lifelong Starlin fan, and I'm glad that he produced a script worthy of collaborating with Wrightson at some point, but this wasn't it. All the stuff with the father and son was unearned, because instead of developing that relationship to have any independent weight, they Zarolatted and punch-faced us. I can't remember if they bothered to name the wife/mother, but obviously the story didn't care any more about her than we did once it was done. This feels more like an outline than a complete narrative, and at least twice as many pages of art were produced than were needed to tell this basic of a story. Frankly, it was too obvious and unadorned to even earn its given name. The Lame would have been more honest. At least I got to see Wrightson draw the Alien Atlas, I guess?

Monday, June 24, 2024

The Weird #2-3 (May-June, 1988)

Smarmy TV news reporter undermines heroes and wonders aloud about The Weird. The remains of Walter Langley show off "his" powers for "his" son, then explains the basic cosmology of the story. Macrolatts are oppressive energy vampires who seek to expand their empire to our reality. Zarolatts are passive beings who are fed upon unto nonexistence by Macrolatts. Going straight from one reality to another means destruction, so the Macrolatts seduced homicidal narcissist loser Jason Morgan into transforming into a being capable of creating a bridge that would allow them safe passage. The Weird's proximity to these events while being fed upon gave it access to these events and a means of escape through the initial bridge, and its growing power is in service to its conviction toward the newly learned concept of freedom. Returned home, Billy Langley keeps all this from his mother.

"The Jason" found his failed businessman father's body hanging when he was four. His mother turned to the bottle and maybe prostitution before Jason found her body in bed after one of her gentleman callers took a razor to her. Despite being an impoverished orphan who was academically lax and had no prospects, Jason's belief that he was better than everyone else held fast despite his poor social skills, being an incel, living on the streets, doing a stint in prison for the violent assault of a woman, and eventually ending up a garbageman. He was primed to turn on humanity, ready to believe anything the Macrolatts told him if it meant power, and using it to take murderous advantage of at least one woman victim. Although held captive for a time, The Weird eventually freed himself, and at great personal distress, determined that the only way to stop The Jason was to snap his neck.

The Weird played hide & seek with Superman for fourteen continuous pages in one issue. The Justice League looked on throughout a couple of issues as The Weird had entanglements with other, more powerful beings. "Unbelievable! Not even J'Onn J'Onzz's incredible strength seems able to put a dent in that barrier." Nor Captain Atom's quantum energies, not Green Lantern Guy Gardner's power ring, nor Doctor Fate's mysticism, et cetera. Even after witnessing The Jason's execution, they mostly offer disapproving glares. Well-- that and an order from the Dark Knight to the green one. "It was just as you predicted, Batman. My powers of invisibility caught him completely by surprise." Unable to adapt in time, The Weird took two blows and a hard tumble. Unfortunately, two Macrolatts had escaped to possess Superman and... Nuklon? I guess for his variable density abilities, but yeah, not the guy you'd expect when you have all these powerhouses in Metropolis and Infinity Incorporated is all the way on the West Coast. Also, there was a whole bit about how The Weird had taken over a corpse rather than displace the life energy of a host, so by the rules laid out in the story, both these guys should have died.

"Questions" & "Confrontation" were by Jim Starlin, Berni Wrightson, & Dan Green. These single word narrative direction story titles speak to the reductive nature of the mini-series. Each issue has a few points to check off on a predictable agenda, and the rest is just vamping to fill out space. The art has its moments, but I think everyone involved would have benefited from the space being cut in half. It reminds me of when George Pérez quit Infinity Gauntlet midway through because he was sick of drawing fight scenes where a bunch of people gang up on Thanos and lose. So much of this series involves powerhouse DC heroes floating impotently outside energy fields or getting slapped around by what ultimately prove to be nothing characters, for clout more than narrative necessity. It's all so cheap, pointless, and passionless-- a purely commercial venture that nonetheless can't conceal its distaste toward its own existence. Anyway, I got through the second issue after coming home from HeroesCon, realized the Alien Atlas wasn't in that one, and decided we'd just double up on issues for the following week. This would keep, especially since I have to do my own scans on this thing.

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

The Weird #1 (April, 1988)

A fit blond white man with roughly half his physical form replaced by a jagged green crystalline substance sat cross-legged on the bathroom floor in his apartment and conjured an atomic energy form. This was an intended "bridge" for his "friends." A red gem of similar coarseness to his own body began to form in midair, but then an energy escaped it, leaving the gem to crumble away. The man, Jason Morgan, was shocked and dismayed.

The small energy ribbon hovered in the sky above Metropolis, and Superman investigated. The energy had no atomic structure-- no mass-- but when the Man of Steel passed his hand through it, he was knocked back three miles. By the time he flew back, J'Onn J'Onzz and Captain Atom had arrived to observe the energy. An hour later, there was a military cordon and a No Fly Zone, then the new Justice League were on the scene. Examinations through varied disciplines were attempted, including a science team on The Bug aircraft consisting of Blue Beetle, Batman, Black Canary, and more. When Doctor Fate's mystics were stymied, Green Lantern Guy Gardner attempted to probe deeper with his Oan Power Ring. An energy surged knocked out Gardner and blacked out the Bug and city as a whole.

Two probes were fired off by the energy ribbon in opposite directions. One was pursued by Superman, as it passed immaterially through a genetics lab's fluid beakers and into its complex computers. The other was followed by Manhunter to a funeral parlor, where the Martian met repeated resistance in contrast to the immediate aid and trust conferred upon the Kryptonian. The energy went into a service in progress, and caused the body of Walter Langley to vanish as mourners looked on in shock and horror. The probes reunited with the core energy, and the gathered heroes watched as the borrowed elements slowly coalesced into a new physical body of a lanky adult male in a queer red and black garb. Super senses detected that this being was not quite right, a sort of cosmic Frankenstein made up of misfit parts that were not quite human. The being collapsed into unconsciousness from the effort, and was taken to S.T.A.R. Labs for testing. Super senses determined that the Weird being, as dubbed by Blue Beetle, was molecularly unstable to a degree that its energies threatened a detonation that could destroy the Earth.

The Weird awakened and assisted upon attending to tasks that "he" refused to take the time to explain to the super-heroes, who attempted by failed to detain him/it by force. The Weird had its vibratory patterns thrown off by the proximity of the super-beings during its maturation period, which had altered the form in unexpected ways. This allowed The Weird to unintentionally push the Alien Atlas across a room, although the Manhunter fared better in a follow-up physical altercation than most of the rest of the League with their varied abilities. Regardless, the Weird at least briefly laid low everyone but Batman, while Superman had left prior to the fight to correct a compromised passenger jet's flight elsewhere.

The Weird sought out "The Jason," the half-crystal man that had been conjuring earlier, but found only his empty apartment. It/he declared the Jason to have a "dark and twisted nature" that would see him pursue world domination. However, a misalignment of the harmonic vibrations in the apartment would prevent Jason Morgan from attempting another inter-dimensional bridge for 18 hours, so the former Walt Langley had some time to kill, The Weird retained some of Langley's memories and motivations, causing him to visit Walt's former home. His widow, Eva, bemoaned his fatal mugging and the scene at the funeral parlor. "I don't care what the police say, I'm sure it's all the doing of that terrible green man." Meanwhile, in the back yard, young Billy Langley recognized his visiting father, even in this altered form...

"Conception" was by Jim Starlin, Berni Wrightson, & Dan Green. Following by introduction to Justice League International with their eighth issue, my reintroduction to the Man of Tomorrow via John Byrne, and a broader exploration of the Post-Crisis landscape moving out from the Millennium event series, I was a target audience member for The Weird house ads. However, I don't know when I had access to individual issues, and do know that I only read the first issue at some point after the final one. Neither experience was satisfying, and I won't know if I ever bothered with the meat of that story sandwich until I move on to covering the second installment. One quarter of "The Studio" and the crown prince of cosmic comics were long time friends who would prove a formidable pairing... on Batman: The Cult. This excessively long warm-up session noodles for 38 pages of heroes impotently watching stuff, then getting trashed by the second in a series of very powerful but rather boring sci-fi/magical Mister Spocks based on the visual template of Syzygy Darklock. I do like though that both Starlin and Wrightson are clearly a more comfortable fit on the Sleuth from Outer Space over Superman. Wrightson seems to relish his dark, exaggerated features over an off-model Man of Steel, with a broad flat nose and thick lips suggesting a less Caucasoid interpretation of the Manhunter, with the strongly implied prejudice that goes with it. I do wonder if Grant Morrison was influenced in his views of J'Onn J'Onzz here (and I think that's the only name he's been referred to in the issue.) Also, Wrightson's horror background gives the takedown of the heroes a more ominous quality than the story would seem to dictate, a sort of accidental element of interest in what otherwise feels more akin to a Radio Shack rudimentary science edutainment giveaway. The issue is way too long to accomplish so little, and I do wonder if this was initiated as a prestige squarebound mini-series for more niche audiences that was either determined not to rate the expensive ask, or was diverted to take advantage of the JLI's building heat on the newsstand.

Monday, June 3, 2024

Lovens Vogtere Nr. 4 / Med Super-Klubben Nr. 32 (1988)

"But you know what the funniest thing about Europe is? It's the little differences. I mean, they got the same stuff over there they got here, but, it's just, just, there it's a little different. You know what they call a Justice League in Copenhagen? Lovens Vogtere." I may be paraphrasing. Run through Google Translate, that yields "Guardians of the Law," which I guess is in the ballpark? Based on my experience while visiting comic shops, the League didn't quite catch on in Denmark like it did here. As best as I can tell from internet searches and observed back issues, the League only ever received a couple of very brief runs under the publisher Interpresse: five issues in 1968 (sharing space with Supergirl & Grønne Lygte Hal Jordan,) and four issues in 1988 that collected more or less the contents of Justice League: A New Beginning (JL International #1-8.)

Faraos Cigarer was easily the friendliest, most elaborate and well stocked comic shop that I visited in Copenhagen, and they had much of the first run. Had I known that there were only five total, I may have considered springing 1500DKK ($224.27) for Nr. 1 when I saw it locked in a glass case behind the front door. I did get the Ill Mac the Kr. 60.00 Super-Helte Alliancen Klassiker Nr. 4 / Med Marvel-Klubben Nr. 51 (1984) with the black & white reprint of Avengers #100 and Thanos' debut in Iron Man #55 (don't tell Mr. Fixit!) If you can believe it, Avengers comics were even less in demand than Justice League ones, and I only found two total, one existing only because it reprinted a two-part Spider-Man guest appearance.

Both the DC and Marvel comics were published by Interpresse, at least until about 1990. That's where the Super-Klubben / Marvel-Klubben comes in, because most any DC reprint had a Superman shield on it, and the Marvel ones had a Spider-Man web. While the indicia indicates Lovens Vogtere as the title, a second title/number on the cover seems to indicate that a lot of these series were like Dell Four-Color, essentially a revolving reprint anthology with its own overarching numbering system. The four "Lovens Vogtere" issues weren't even consecutive, cover-noted as Med Super-Klubben Nr. 20, 24, 28, & 32. I'm guessing it was a weekly release that made the Lovens Vogtere installments a de facto monthly. Based on my research, these four issues (or 7 U.S. comics) may be the only Danish-language versions of this series.

Clearly, the final cover of the single issue I found was derived from the comedy classic "Moving Day," though the colors are much less vibrant and more peachy. Justice League International #7 was an extra-length 38 page story, involving an 8-page coda to the Gray Man story arc. That part is not included here, picking up with page 9 and titling the rest "Forberedelser" with new Lappan-esque lettering credited to John Lysmand.

There are no ads anywhere inside the comic, but at the center-spread the story pauses briefly for a Captain Atom Who's Who entry, and then a blurry, slightly-overblown reprint of the U.S. cover to that issue. After the final five pages of the first tale, "Flyttedag" begins at the turn of the page. Both of the inside covers offer black & white letters columns punctuated by S-Shields and a tiny Byrne Superman. The only advertisement is on the back cover, a monochromatic orange Modesty Blaise ad with red lettering on the logo.

I've still got about a foot tall stack of these comics, many bought as gifts that I haven't had the chance to give yet, and a few as "investments" that I couldn't resist (more because it would bug me to leave them behind and less any actual intent to sell.) There will be a few more Martian Manhunter specific ones when we get to the 60th anniversary, but I've been so lousy about posting lately, I wanted to give ya'll something a little special this time. While not the biggest Alien Atlas adventures, this edition does contain "Moving Day," probably the first comic story I read where J'Onn J'Onzz stood out as a character to watch (and laugh with.) An early favorite!