Monday, December 19, 2016

TEX'S BACK-ISSUE QUEST #43: (Psylocke...How It All Began)

Hey there, my fellow comic book fans!

    I wish the happiest of Happy Holidays to you and your families - whatever Holidays you may be celebrating. After seeing a few posts by my buddy on G+, Nick Edwards, I decided to dig into my comic book files and do a write-up on a mutant who has conquered the imaginations (and libidos) of comic book fans for several years: The one, the only...

PSYLOCKE!!! That's right, the purple-clad, psionic-powered, psychic superhero whose looks are as lethal as her skillset, entered the comics scene with barely anyone noticing way back in 1976. And she didn't even first appear in American comics, but in a book published by the then burgeoning Marvel UK:

Here are my three, that's right, THREE copies of "Captain Britain" #8, featuring the first appearance of Elizabeth "Betsy" Braddock, twin sister of Brian Braddock, AKA, Captain Britain! I started hunting these down years ago when no one was looking for them, and every time I came across a nice copy, I bought it outright. I think the most that I ever paid for any of these was somewhere around $25. Yup.

   When Betsy Braddock first appeared, she was a blonde caucasian woman with absolutely no apparent powers. A post-grad Physics student at the fictional Thames University, she worked as a charter pilot. She was created by veteran American artist, Herb Trimpe (R.I.P.), and breakout British writer, Chris Claremont, who along with his contemporary, Alan Moore, would become legendary in the comics industry, elevating comics writing to literary levels previously unseen. Claremont would also become the architect of the X-Men for years to come. Betsy had several adventures as a supporting character to Captain Britain, including being made to attack her own brother under the mind-control of the malignant Dr. Synne, but she didn't have her first psychic incident until issue #34, published in 1977. It was in this issue that her powers begin to manifest, as she had a horrifying vision of the danger Captain Britain faced against the insane professor, Lord Hawk. She eventually got into the modeling business, her powers continued to grow, and in Daredevils #3, published in 1983, she is shown to be working with S.T.R.I.K.E., the UK's answer to S.H.I.E.L.D., honing her psychic abilities. 

   Betsy continues her adventures, but as things will, soon it all goes bad. She lost contact with her brother, Captain Britain, for several years, and S.T.R.I.K.E. was secretly taken over by a powerful crime-lord, Vixen, who then proceeded to hire the super-assassin, Slaymaster, to take her and the other psychic agents out. Captain Britain saved her, but then Betsy became embroiled in his battle against the near-omnipotent superhero killing machine, the Fury, and the battle against its totally omnipotent, totally insane, reality-warping creator, Mad Jim Jaspers. It was also during this time that the love of Betsy's life was murdered. 

   Betsy recovered and returned to Braddock Manor, but things would still be bumpy, as Captain Britain was tricked into leaving the UK. And then this happened:

Above, you see a few pieces of my collection of "Captain Britain" vol 2. In the center, are issues #12 and #13. Why are they important? Glad you asked. In issue #12, Betsy actually takes over as Captain Britain! She wears the suit she is sporting there on the cover of issue #13, right beside it. That suit augmented her strength to superhuman levels and gave her the power of flight. Sadly, this wasn't enough to save her from Vixen and Slaymaster who lured her into an ambush and blinded her. Although Captain Britain arrived in time to save her due to their strong psychic link, he was not able to save her eyes. Betsy relied on her psychic abilities to give her a semblance of sight...But soon she would fall into the power of someone who would restore hey eyes, someone sinister - the otherworldly horror named Mojo - emerging as the powerful mutant known as Psylocke! But that is another story. ON TO THE FUN FACTS!

FUN FACT 1 - "Captain Britain" #8 is not only the most valuable of the Psylocke's key issues (1st app), it is also the hardest to find. Marvel UK comics, in fact, UK comics, period, had print runs considerably smaller than those of American comics, which makes them scarcer, especially the key issues. 

FUN FACT 2 - Betsy Braddock's hair was shown as purple for the first time in "Daredevils" #3, in 1983, another series published solely in the UK. 

FUN FACT 3 - Betsy suffered attempted rape at the hands of her brother. Well. Not really. It was Kaptain Briton, a sadistic version of Captain Britain from another universe. Betsy mind-blasted him and killed that dude dead as disco. She later uses his suit to become the new Captain Britain.

FUN FACT 4 - At the hands of her powerful, reality-warping brother, Jamie, and a version of Jean Grey from another universe, Betsy is now an Omega-Level Mutant, on par with Jean Grey and Charles Xavier. 

FUN FACT 5 - Psylocke was portrayed by Mei Melançon in "X-Men: The Last Stand:"

FUN FACT 6 - More famously, Psylocke was played by girl-gamer gone TV/movie star, Olivia Munn, in "X-Men: Apocalypse:"

FUN FACT 7 - Psylocke's outfit has been the center of controversy for some time. Some say her outfit plays to men's fantasies and is an insult to the powerful, competent character that Psylocke is. Some love the outfit. Others attack the suit's feasibility for battle as it offers little protection...Some just wonder how she'd fight in high heels with that leotard riding up where the sun don't shine. 

FUN FACT 8 - Psylocke's racial appearance has generated a bit of controversy as well (usually with people who don't read comics), as she goes from being a blonde caucasian to a purple-haired Asian by the 1980s. You can read all about it here: Comic Book Legends Revealed. What I have noticed is that fans are not necessarily bothered by female race switches as long as the character remains sexy, or becomes even more so. The blowback with race changes of female comics characters is usually considerably smaller than that of when it happens to their male counterparts. Others say this doesn't count as a race switch because it was originally part of an X-Men storyline in the comics (Uncanny X-Men #256) - I would agree. You decide. Me? As long as the comics and shows are good, I really couldn't care less. 

That's all for today folks! Thanks for reading! Happy Holidays and Happy Trails!

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Saturday, December 17, 2016

Mulligan #1

George C. Romero Presents: "Mulligan" #1 from Grind House Comics -

     In the year 2136, in a maximum security prison located in Ft. Leavenworth, KS, Mulligan, a man-monster waits for death. Mulligan was a sickly child, abused and tossed aside by his peers until a miracle drug not only saved his life, but gave him heightened strength, and durability as well. He trained both his body and his mind, finally becoming a scientist at a huge pharmaceutical conglomerate. He discovered a way to access the carbon in the human body for fuel; however, he also discovered that it damaged the patients, the hemotites, irreparably. Seeking to shut down the experiment, his was rejected by the maffia-like conglomerate, and this rejection cost him both his career, his sanity, and his hand. Mulligan retaliated by brutally mangling homeless people until law enforcement closed in on him. At his point of death, the government comes calling - they have opened a dimensional door that they can't close, and they need a brilliant, tough, and absolutely INSANE son of a gun to help them clean up the mess they've made. Will Mulligan fix the problem...Or just crank up the crazy to "11?"

    Robert and Ashley Mulligan write this dark little sci-fi tale published by a new player in the comics game, Grind House Comics. In concept, Mulligan is quite an interesting character with a formulaic, but effective origin story. A sickly, ostracized child gets a drug that gives him a mildly potent superpower and develops his body and mind to serve humanity, first as a scientist, and after more tragedy, as a vigilante. But Mulligan goes off the rails, and the hero - who tried to stop the conglomerate from hurting innocent people - becomes a serial murderer. It is a real head-scratcher, and sucks a bit of the life and the enjoyment out of the story from there. Even though the entire book is exposition, the fact that we never really find out why Mulligan is killing vagrants bothered me continuously. Is he insane? He doesn't seem to be. Did he have an agenda? Didn't seem like it. Were the homeless people infected in some way by his research? Any connection I had to the protagonist was gone after that, as the story moved, again formulaically, towards the old "Boxed Crook" trope. Not that I don't like the "Boxed Crook" trope - "Escape From New York" and "Escape From L.A." are my jams. Don't mess with Snake Plissken, knowhutImean? Juliya Glagol's artwork is perfect for the story - it is sketchy, kinetic and moody. I enjoyed it most times, but often the panels were so dark that I could barely make out what was happening. Overall, "Mulligan" wasn't a bad read; the plot had some real potential. It just wasn't coherent enough in some places, and the protagonist was just too inconsistent - both of which made it not stand out enough for me to continue with the series - especially not at $3.49 per issue.

RATING: 6 out of 10.

PS - George C. Romero is the SON of the legendary filmmaker, George A. Romero, creator of the American zombie cultural phenomena that started with the cult classic, "Night of the Living Dead."

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Monday, December 12, 2016

Motro #1 Review

"Motro" #1 from Oni Press -

      A lone boy dwells all alone after his family was tragically ripped away from him. His only companion is a seemingly sentient toy motorcycle that acts as his friend and his guide. After waking from another horrible nightmare, he decides to go down to the village to trade for supplies; he finds that it has been attacked and overrun by vicious barbarian-like men and their sentient tanks...Tanks which share very strong emotional bonds with their brutal drivers. The boy pleads with the men to stop, but they don't heed his pleas - he decides to make them stop by force, surprising them with strength well beyond that of any normal human. The boy stands alone against harsh, vile men and their mechanical machines of murderous mayhem. One child, his moral code and his mighty fists that mirror his even mightier heart. Can he hope to prevail in a world where only the most vicious and brutal thrive?

    Ulises Fariñas and Erick Freitas pen this weird sci-fi story, "Motro." It is a very, very offbeat story about a child in a post-apocalyptic world who has lost so much and is fighting to keep it together and to keep his vision of the world alive. Even though the protagonist is super-powered, he is both physically and psychologically vulnerable. He is not your average tough guy hero - in a mean and hateful world, he retains his kindness and gentleness, yet with fists that hit like jackhammers. The protagonist doesn't show any of the stereotypical signs of masculinity - no "bring-it-on" attitude, no bulging muscles, no desire to rush head-on into adventure and conflict; rather, he is a peaceful warrior who would rather just be peaceful. He seeks to live out the code that his beloved father taught him - and he does so with tenderness, tears, and a burning desire to do what is right even if the cost of that is violence. In this world that Fariñas and Freitas have created, vehicles seem to live, communicating with their partners in emoji-filled word bubbles. It seems to me that the authors are trying to do something different with the traditional American action hero, giving their protagonist a rare softness to contrast with the power of his fists. Interesting. Ryan Hill provides the simple, cartoony, yet very expressive pencils. It's a simple-looking book that is seemingly exploring some not-so-simple themes about masculinity, strength, and weakness. "Motro" #1 is not my cup of tea; however, Fariñas, Freitas and Hill have created such an interesting protagonist, I will probably stick around for a few more issues. Again, "Motro" is a very offbeat story with a very offbeat protagonist - it's not for everyone. But I'd give this one a try, you just might find that you like it. I did.

RATING: 8 out of 10. 

PS - I have a feeling that this book had a pretty small first print run. 

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Sunday, December 11, 2016

Masked #1 Review

"Masked" #1 from Titan Comics -

     The city of Paris is changing, and not for the better. With the appointment of Joel Beauregard to the position of Special Prefect of Greater Paris, the city has gotten darker, more segregated, more tense, more violent. He is using his expansive authority in ways that are turning Paris into a huge, futuristic metropolis, but at the same time, these changes seem to be affecting the collective psyche of the people of the city for the worse. And then there are the anomalies - graffiti-like writing, tiny robots and mechanical monsters - that have been popping up, seemingly from nowhere, causing fear and havoc all over the city.  But the biggest puzzle is the masked humans showing up with super-powers. No one knows where the come from, or who they are. Ex-Sgt, Frank Braffort, was a Peacekeeper with the French forces working to keep the peace on the Georgian-Russian border. However, after a terrible attack that destroys his unit leaving only him and one of his soldiers alive, Frank is blamed for their deaths and court-martialed out the military...But Frank has a secret. That day he and his soldier were all but dead until an anomaly, a super-powered human, saved them. Now, a struggling private citizen of Paris, Frank wonders, like everyone else, what is going on with the city. However, when the Head of Security for the Special Prefect of Greater Paris mysteriously summons Frank to a press conference, Frank will embark on a journey that will begin with a terrifying face-to-face confrontation with a murderous mechanical monster out for the Prefect's blood!

    From the remarkable mind of French science-fiction author, Serge Lehman, comes this stunning, futuristic tale of metaphysical mayhem. From the outset, it is easy to see that this will not be your average, run-of-the-mill, skin-and-bones science-fiction story - one that has been simplified for the comic book format. Lehman takes his time and introduces his protagonist's past life correctly, helping the reader to connect with him. Then we while we watch the protagonist living a normal day in his life, Lehmam introduces us to the world he has created through media news reports, à la Frank Miller. I was instantly sucked into Braffort's life, and I was sucked into Lehman's gritty futuristic world, a world brimming with that familiar brilliance and heaviness of classic French sci-fi stories by writers like Moebius, or those fascinating old stories found in magazines like Heavy Metal (Métal Hurlant). Told in a cinematic style, Lehman's story develops slowly, but by the end, the reader is fully immersed, caught up on most of what's happening with the protagonist and with the city, and ready for the action-packed finale. Besides this, Lehman is choosing to deal with some pretty heavy metaphysical themes in this work - exactly what one would expect from any self-respecting French science-fiction author nourished on the works of the famous French philosophers. The question of reality is at the forefront it seems, what it is and how collective human consciousness can affect it, along with causality - similar to ideas developed by Descartes, Durkheim, and others, and oversimplified in the very fun film, "Tomorrowland." I just cannot wait to see how far down the rabbit-hole this book can go. If this all weren't enough, the four-page prose tie-in story in the back of the book is simply amazing, and in the comic story, Stépane Créty lays down some absolutely gorgeous, busy pencils that keep your eyes wandering all through the panels as you greedily consume the story and art in one massive feast for your mind. Lehman and Créty have killed it on this first issue and I am definitely sticking around for the entire ride.

RATING: 10 out of 10. This little quiet storm of a comic looks like it may be a sci-fi masterpiece in the making.

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Saturday, December 10, 2016

The Three Stooges #1 Review

"The Three Stooges" #1 from America Mythology Productions -

      Join America's favorite knuckleheads in new adventures! Watch the hijinks when Curly, Moe and Larry take a gig selling concessions at a baseball game. Then the boys tear up the town as private-eyes looking to help a blonde bombshell recover compromising photos from a big-time gangster. Finally get your classic "nyuk-nyuks" in  a reprint from an old Dell comic when the lovable lunkheads take a job at the circus, and Curly gets his shot at being a lion-tamer! Hilarity will ensue...And I ain't LION! 

      The Three Stooges are back in the pages of this fun little anthology, "The Three Stooges" #1. And it's good to have the boys back. Sure you'll see those zany classic gags like face slaps and eye-pokes, along with those lightning-fast one-liners, but for a fan of The Three Stooges, it never gets old. The stories mirror the set up of many of the old films - the boys have a new job, and we get to laugh our butts off as they bungle their way through trying to do it. We know it is going to be a disaster with lots of fun on the way to the finale. Writer S.A. Check pens the first story in the book, giving us the Stooges as they screw up an entire baseball game trying to sell peanuts and sodas. There are some nice chuckles in this one, with cartoony, Archie-like art from artist Bill Galvan. J.C. Vaughn writes the second story that finds the boys up against the mob on behalf of a blonde looker. This story is the funnier of the new stories - the hijinks had higher energy, and it had more of a classic-Three-Stooges feel to it. Artists, Brendan and Brian Fraim put some really nice pencils down on this one. Finally, we get a reprint from Dell #1170 (1942), and by far, this feels the most like a Three Stooges classic...I guess...Well...Because it actually is. It is a HUGELY entertaining, totally zany tale from writer, Jerry Belson, and artist Sparky Moore. All in all, "Three Stooges" #1 is a whole lot of good, clean fun like they just don't do anymore in comics or films. These stories took me back to those lazy Sundays with my grandma watching old Tarzan and Flash Gordon films, and those crazy Three Stooges shorts. Good times. If you're in the mood for wackiness or feeling nostalgic, this book won't disappoint - you even get some cool fun facts about the Stooges! What's not to like?

RATING: 8 out of 10 for pure nutty fun. The Three Stooges put the "comic" back into comic book.

Let's sign off with a Three Stooges classic, "Disorder In the Court" from 1936.

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Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Namesake #1 Review

"Namesake" #1 from BOOM! Studios -

      The Blessing has come. Every seven years, Earth is able to come into perfect dimensional alignment with Ektae, a world where magic and alchemy are not only commonplace, they are the driving forces behind it's economic and political might. The night of the Blessing is always out of control - humans head to Ektae and some from Ektae come to Earth in an unbridled, and often dangerous, exchange of magic and sexual energies. Jordan Molossus is a fireman tasked with saving lives from dangers of both normal and magical causes. But Jordan has a secret: he was an orphan of both Ektae and Earth, having one parent from each planet, both of which abandoned him. Having received a cryptic message from one of his long-lost, now dead, parents, Jordan sets off to Ektae to fulfill a final request: to bury his parents together on Ektae. But Jordan may be the one who ends up buried on Ektae - he's carrying the ashes of his dead parents in iron balls, a substance emphatically outlawed on Ektae, and he's got a price on his head, a price offered by a very dangerous man. 

    Steve Orlando scribes "Namesake" #1 from BOOM! Studios. It's a science-fiction/fantasy piece that feels a bit like Blade Runner (in certain panels) because of Jakub Rebelka's artwork that is alternately moody and gritty, then overly cartoony and stiff. And honestly, Rebelka's artwork is the highlight of this book, because as hard as I looked, I could not find any way to be interested in the characters, nor the story. Orlando attempts to build his world by throwing us right into the story, which is a great technique, but along the way we are offered very little backstory about the Earth and Ektae's ties and how they came to be. Neither are we offered a coherent backstory on the protagonist, just the fact that his parents were of both worlds, that he's a gruff fireman, and that someone really bad with magic powers wants the dirty done on him. These things may work well to start off a film where the gaps get filled in pretty quickly, but in a 22-page comic everything seems rushed, disjointed, and a bit pointless. The most important part, the development of a connection between the reader and the characters, is totally neglected, just nonexistent. I knew why Jordan Molossus was headed to Ektae, I just didn't care about him, nor his quest. I really just wanted this book to be over - and it is rare that I feel in such a way. I cannot recommend this book, neither will I be sticking around for any further issues. It is a shame. "Namesake" seems to have such potential, but you just have got to stick the landing on that first issue. Not feeling it.

RATING: 4 out of 10. 

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Sunday, December 4, 2016

Ether #1 Review

"Ether" #1 from Dark Horse Comics -

     In the near future, Earth has discovered magic. Real, true magic. But one man doesn't believe in magic, or faith, or anything except numbers, data, information...FACTS. Dr. Boon Dias uses the Crossroads, a gateway between Earth and the magical realm of The Ether, to enter the mystical metropolis called Agartha in order to suss out the science behind what Earthmen call magic. After many forays into The Ether and Agartha, Boon has made some friends, some acquaintances...And some enemies. Boon's insatiable scientific curiosity has made him somewhat famous in Agartha as he was able to use science to follow clues and solve crimes that the supernatural citizens of the city just weren't equipped to handle. When the mighty protector of the Ether, The Blaze, is assassinated in a puzzling manner, Boon is summoned by the mayor of Agartha to find her killer. Boon, and his friend, Glum, The Gatekeeper of the Crossroads, are hot on the trail of the murderer - but they already have a suspect, and he is the most learned, most dangerous man in Agartha. Can Boon and Glum reach the end of this case successfully...Or will the case end them once and for all?

   Matt Kindt puts his creative genius to work to build a fun fantasy realm in "Ether" #1. Kindt gives us a protagonist that takes a while to grow on you in Boon Dias. He is a bit of a butthole, concerned mostly with mapping out the science behind the magic, and little else. It takes us a while to really be captivated by the zany genius of Boon simply because Kindt chooses to show his character through action and dialogue rather than using captions to give us a glimpse into his inner workings. However, once Boon gets going, it is a lot of fun - like watching a mix of Sherlock Holmes and The Doctor thrust into a realm of magic to solve crimes that simply don't follow the physical laws of our universe. Kindt builds an otherworldly realm that seems pulled right out of a child's wildest dream, full of wonder and strange, but mostly friendly, characters. It is an interesting world, but there aren't many particulars about it just yet, which makes me think that Kindt was more focused on the story than the world where it takes place. I hope that changes. Kindt taps David Rubin to build his crazy magical world, and Rubin hit the perfect tone with his pencils - his work is wild, over-the-top, and cartoony. It is a joy to see page after page. Kindt and Rubin may just have created a fun, and slightly tragic, character and a mystical realm of mysteries and marvels that have the potential to captivate readers for years to come. I love this book - and I love the fact that I can share it with my daughter. Perfect.

RATING: 10 out of 10. This property "movie / TV show" written all over it.

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Saturday, December 3, 2016

Grand Passion #1 Review

"Grand Passion" #1 from Dynamite -

     Steve and Mabel are a modern day Bonnie and Clyde. They live out their days for the thrill of the hunt, and the adrenaline of taking that which doesn't belong to them. Different towns, unpredictable strategies, different banks - they all fall one by one to the courageous cunning of the larcenous lovers. It seems that this duo is unstoppable, that their love should be an adrenaline-stoked fire...But secretly, in her deepest places, Mabel is lonely, unfulfilled, incomplete. In Fair Valley County, Illinois, James "Mac" McNamara has just moved there and landed a position as a sheriff's deputy. He goes about his life day to day doing his job as well as he is able and doing his best to fit into a small town where he is considered to be an outsider, even by those he has to trust with his life. A solemn man, James is also a widower, passing his time in a haze of pain and loneliness. But life is about to spin wildly out of control for both James and Mabel in a way neither could ever imagine. When Steve and Mabel decide to hit Fair Valley's bank, James, and his partner, show up to stop them; however, when Mabel and James lock eyes, a fire is lit, a passion is ignited like neither of them of have ever felt before. They only problem is that both of their partners end up dead...And love or no love, James and Mabel are out for vengeance. There will be blood. 

    James Robinson writes this very interesting tale of modern-day star-crossed lovers in "Grand Passion" #1. Despite not being very attracted to the romantic genre of comics, I felt intrigued enough by this story to pick it up and check it out. I was in no way disappointed. Robinson gives us a Greek Chorus-like narrator that has shades of omniscience. Utilizing the captions, the narrator gives us the settings, the backstories, even candid glimpses into the inner lives of the characters - but the narrator never makes an appearance.  Through the narrator's eyes, we, like the narrator become fascinated with these characters, their motivations and their emptiness. I was left wondering who the narrator was, why they knew so much, and what part they played in the tragedy that was about to unfold for James and Mabel. Tom Feister's art communicated Robinson's story amazingly here. Feister drew faces that were so expressive that it was haunting sometimes - he knows how to makes the eyes of his characters truly speak their emotions. Sure Feister's work can be a bit blocky at times, and there was a sex scene with human bodies in a position that seemed a bit unnatural, but overall, Feister hit the mark with emotional content for his artwork, which is really what I think this book is all about. I love the premise of this book. How hugely tragic it must be to have to murder your soulmate and all your dreams with your own two hands. I am all in. 

RATING: 8.75 out of 10. 

CAVEAT: This book has mature themes and nudity. FOR MATURE READERS ONLY.

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