WrestleMania Flashback: WrestleMania XI

wrestlemania-xiWell they all can’t be good. And not even Salt-N-Pepa could save WrestleMania XI. There was something about this event that just doesn’t make it feel special. And that’s why it’s mostly forgettable.

THE GOOD: This was part of the era where Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels were always having the best (if not one of the best) matches on the card every night. So their respective matches with Bob Backlund and Diesel really carry the show.

THE BAD: The Undertaker/King Kong Bundy, well, they have  match. At least you get the trivia question of having longtime MLB umpire being the special guest referee. And what was up with all of the celebrities at WrestleMania XI? Not only was there Bam Bam Bigelow’s match with football player Lawrence Taylor (which I still don’t understand was the main event), but the rest of the show featured a who’s who of the early 1990s by having Nicholas Turturro, Jenny McCarthy and Pamela Anderson also appearing at the event.

MATCH TO WATCH: You can really skip this one. Go read a book or something instead.

WrestleMania Flashback: WrestleMania X

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I started this feature a few years back, giving me a reason to re-watch all of the WrestleManias. Unfortunately, I’m clearly a lazy blogger so this got put to the backseat for a long time. Anyway, with the WWE Network making it so easy to see all of the old pay-per-views, so I have no excuse to not finish this.

THE GOOD: WrestleMania X is a really good show. It has the Shawn Michaels/Razor Ramon ladder match that is a classic. The show’s opener, Bret Hart vs. Owen Hart, is a great match that still holds up. Not only that, but it set up a bunch of rematches and story lines for the rest of the year. At the end of the show, Bret manages to pull out a good match out of Yokozuna, reclaiming the WWF World Championship he lost a year earlier.

THE BAD: Thankfully, there isn’t that much at WrestleMania X that was bad. If anything, I’d have to say the Bam Bam Bigelow/Luna Vachon match against Doink/Dink, or the Quebecers/Men on a Mission Tag Team Championship match are pretty much skippable.

MATCH TO WATCH: Randy Savage has an awesome Falls Count Anywhere match against Crush that I really loved at the time and still do to this day. The story that built up to it is so cartoony and everything that you love about professional wrestling. Crush–who was a brightly, neon colored good guy–gets squashed by the evil Yokozuna. When he comes back, he’s super bitter and angry. Not because he was nearly crushed (see what I did there?), but because Savage, whom he thought was his best friend, didn’t send him a get well card. This sets off a huge feud between the two former friends. You read that right.

Red Hood and the Outlaws #36

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I’ll admit, I don’t remember what has happened in the last few issues of Red Hood and the Outlaws. I’m getting old; what can I say. The issue starts out with Red Hood having just taken out a whole buildings worth of thugs and his narration is about him taking the Venom (the same super-steroid that Bane gets his powers from) and just kicking ass. As he exits everything is on fire and he finds Arsenal’s quill.

Arsenal is getting dropped off at a hospital by Starfire. He’s severley burnt over most of his body but she’s not sticking around. A barely conscious Arsenal gets visited by both Red Hood and Green Arrow in their civilian gear. They have some awkward conversation about what has happened and Roy is barely coherent. Before they wind up getting into fisticuffs in the hospital, the mystical warrior Essence that Red Hood has known for a long time shows up to tell them that Roy will fully recover. Red Hood leaves to find Starfire, and Green Arrow and Arsenal have strained conversation, since they are former best friends and all.

As this goes on, Starfire goes to Poland to take some alien drugs. So I guess she’s the junkie and not Roy in this reality.

Friday Fights #26: Archangel vs. Nemesis Enforcer

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Due to popular demand, we’re bringing back the old Friday Fights feature. And by popular demand, I mean that I’m actually sticking to doing my regular blog schedule again. This week pits two winged warriors against each other–Archangel takes on Nemesis Enforcer.

The one ability that both have is that they can fly, thanks to wings that are attached to their spine. Archangel’s are a form of bio-technology created by the Celestials that has been bonded to him (since, you know, his flesh and feather ones were ripped off of his body). The composition of Nemesis Enforcer’s wings are never really explained, but the fact that they can be used to rip through things and deflect gun fire seem to suggest that they are somewhat strong.

Archangel’s wings have another advantage; the fact that he can shoot off feather like razor blades (sometimes with a neurotoxin) at his enemies. The Enforcer can’t do that, but he does boast those

Future’s End: Red Hood and the Outlaws

8c_372191_0_DarkDaysThe whole concept of this series has really connected with me, with Red Hood, Starfire and Arsenal doing their own version of super heroics around the New 52 universe.

The story pretty much deals with what happens to the group in the friends, and basically none of them wind up being friends anymore. Starfire goes back to her home planet of Tamaran to take the throne, rightfully. That seems to be at the root of the break up of the group, as both Arsenal and Red Hood were at one point romantically involved with her. It’s just like Nikki Sixx used to say; chicks equal trouble.

Since then, Arsenal has attempted to become a higher profile super hero. At one point he was a member of the Justice League and took Green Arrow’s spot. I assume Green Arrow died, since his Future’s End special had a headstone on the cover. That didn’t work out to well and he’s back on his own.

Red Hood has wound up becoming a lethal vigilante ala the Punisher. This has put the two at odds with each other; they are no longer on speaking term. The rest of the issue has Red Hood plotting the deserved murder of Global Broadcasting head Morgan Edge, who has been involved in some highly evil organized crime.

Scott Lobdell does a great job with these characters and it’s a compelling story. I like how it’s all contained in a single issue. Great stuff all around and that’s why this series is currently my favorite monthly published by DC.

Future’s End: Booster Gold

01_372123_0_PressurePointI think I’ve said it before, but anything that involves Dan Jurgens writing/drawing Booster Gold is a must-have for me. Future’s End: Booster Gold falls into that category.

In this one-shot, Booster Gold is being forced to jump through time and the Multiverse, jumping from the “Gotham by Gaslight” era, to the end of the New 52’s Justice League International series where he witnesses himself disappearing from the time stream, to even the world where the Carlton characters are still around. He even winds up fighting the tiger-people from Kamandi’s future in a perfect homage to Jack Kirby.

As this is going on, there is another Booster Gold being tortured by robots under the control of Brainiac who hope to learn the secrets of time travel. Eventually the two Boosters meet up (along with his sister Michelle) and one of the Boosters winds up being willing to explain the concept of the Vanishing Point to Brainiac to save their sister. A lot of that stuff I really didn’t understand, since I’ve been avoiding the Future’s End story line.

But hey, all I wanted was some more Jurgens doing Booster Gold, and that was what this issue was all about. Plus it came with a cool lenticular cover so I have nothing to complain about.

Deathstroke #1

Sometimes all it takes is a #1 on the cover of a book to get me to buy it. That was the case with Deathstroke #1.

deathstroke1cvrI haven’t followed Deathstroke too much in the New 52, except for Rob Liefeld’s run on the character which introduced the new version of Lobo. That said, I’ve always thought the character was pretty cool and I know that Tony Daniel gets a lot of positive buzz.

So what did I think?

Deathstroke is off to Russia on a job, to take out someone who looks to be another metahuman assassin named Possum. He doesn’t know who is paying him for this. I think if I were an assassin, I would want to know this sort of thing. This is set up of some sort; he winds up being set up and chased by a small army. A really beaten and bloody Deathstroke instinctively looks for this old monk named I-Ching. I mean, what luck would you have to have to not only have someone to turn to in the middle of Russia, let alone would be conveniently located for you to walk to after you’ve had half of your head shot off.

Deathstroke wakes up in front of a group of monks who have apparently saved him and allude to having hired him to come to Russia in the first place. He now owes them, as they have saved him from certain death. The last page has him standing, looking much younger, mostly recovered and having both of his eyes.

This is how you do a first issue kids. I can’t wait to find out what happens next.

Spider-Woman #1

Spider-Woman-2_612x931Spider-Woman #1 was a bit confusing for me, as I’m not currently reading the Spider-Verse stories. However, I really love Jessica Drew. She really is probably one of my top ten characters. Needless to say, I was surprised that this series starts out with her, along with Silk and Spider-Man Noir, riding dinosaurs on an alien looking world.

The group is fighting these weird Team Rocket looking brother and sister duo called the Inheritors, who are killing all the Spider-heroes throughout the multiverse to feed off their life energies.

The whole Spider-Verse story does interest me, but I think this might be something that I’ll revisit once it gets back to just being a book about Jessica. On the plus side, I think this is the best art that I’ve ever seen from Greg Land.

JSA #54

jsa-thanksgivingI’ll admit; I bought JSA #54 because it had this awesome Carlos Pacheco cover. I mean, really, what’s there to not like about the Justice League of America and the Justice Society of America getting down for a Thanksgiving party.

I mean, I will give you that it does seem a little odd how Superman and Power Girl are posed respectively as the mother and father as this group. Especially when you remember that they are cousins. But there’s something Norman Rockwell-esque about this cover that just gets me.

The story itself is a one off written by Geoff Johns, and it’s a fun quick read. It’s a very light one at that, pretty much having all of these super heroes getting together for an afternoon of holiday fun.

You can check it out on Comixology; it’s a cute one.

New Teen Titans #22

newteentitans22I’ve always been a big fan of Brother Blood, mostly due to picking up some comics that had the Teen Titans fighting him. That, and a really wicked cover of him rising out of a vat of blood. The New Teen Titans #22 is the second appearance of this highly underrated villain.

The issue is joined in progress, with Brother Blood’s cult having kidnapped Robin and Wonder Girl, both of whom are being tortured by a very generic looking cult member called the Confessor. Robin also spends most of the issue running around in his underwear, until Cyborg and Kid Flash rescue their missing team members.

Brother Blood attempts to escape, but a staged accident frames the Titans for killing the cult leader. Things don’t look good for the next issue, as Starfire’s evil older sister Blackfire is en route to planet earth.

The art is awesome; it’s George Perez at his peak. And the story is fine. Good book.

Uncanny X-Men #158 and 159: The Time They Broke Into the Pentagon

Uncanny-X-Men-158Talk about two issues that have completely different plots! Uncanny X-Men  #158 and 159 have the X-Men travelling between Washington DC and Manhattan.

In issue #158 Storms and Wolverine go about breaking into the Pentagon to delete all the files that the military has about the X-Men. They do this because Ms. Marvel has been hanging out with them and happens to have the credentials to get them in the door. This is also the type of plot you get when your writer, in this case Chris Claremont, is writing two different comic series at the same time and wants a crossover.

While in the Pentagon, Wolvie and Storm wind up throwing down with both Rogue and Mystique, who are independently getting into trouble there. It’s just a weird series of events, and I think it ended with Ms. Marvel deleting some of the information that the Pentagon had on her.

uncanny-x-men-159.Issue #159 has the X-Men dealing with Storm, who has been been turned into a vampire thanks to a vampire bite from Dracula.

You read that right…Dracula.

The X-Men race to find a cure but aren’t successful. There is lots of fighting with the new and vampire improved Storm, who royally kicks the crap out of them.

Then in a weird twist of niceness, Dracula shows that he isn’t really that bad of a guy and returns her to her normal form. Total waste of an issue.

Uncanny X-Men #154: When Dad Comes To Visit

uncanny-x-men-154I read some more Uncanny X-Men from the Chris Claremont era. This issue seems to have a million different artists on it (including Dave Cockrum and Bob Wiacek) and starts off in typical Claremont fashion with the X-Men in the Danger Room.

Activity time doesn’t last too long, as Corsair and the Starjammers pay a visit to the X-Men. Along the way they manage to stop an alien invasion of some sort, Corsair reveals to Cyclops that he is his father (which the uni-eyed hero doesn’t or doesn’t want to believe) and it’s revealed   that the Shi’ar are blaming the good people of Earth and the Starjammers for the disappearance of their beloved empress Lilandra.

Along the way we get to see Professor X in one of the worst outfits that he’s ever graced a comic book in: a yellow safari outfit, complete with hat. He looks like he’s more mentally equipped to be a zookeeper that looks after Curious George instead of being the premier advocate of mutant kind. But then again, it’s the eighties everyone.

Uncanny X-Men #139: Exposition Junction

The X-Men are still reeling from the loss of Jean Grey (who died as a result of the whole Dark Phoenix Saga) and Cyclops (who has gone on leave, since his girlfriend was Jean and all). That said, there is a lot of exposition in this issue from the Claremont/Byrne era..

The team is getting used to having Storm calling the shots, which isn’t too much of a problem for anyone. Angel is still trying to work his way back into the team, and, well, sucks at it.

Kitty Pryde has officially joined the X-Men as an active member, and there’s a series of panels of her trying to come up with a code name that is just so annoying. No wonder everyone thought she was so insufferable.

The most interesting part of the comics is the Wolverine and Nightcrawler subplot, with them going off to Canada to resolve some of Wolvie’s unfinished business with the government and wind up going Wendigo hunting. It also seems to be the first issue of Wolvie in his brown/yellow costume and the first instance of him being called Logan to boot.

Figment #2

It makes perfect sense that Marvel would put out some Disney-themed comics. When they announced that there would be a Figment series, I will admit that I was a little skeptical. The little purple dragon is one of the most beloved characters in all of the Disney Parks and has a lot of emotional cache. It would be hard to do him justice. 

But the creative team of Jim Zub and Filipe Andrade managed to do it.

The second issue has Figment and the Dreamfinder–who has the birth name of Blarion Mercurial–traveling into another dimension through some sort of interdimensional riff. As they explore a realm with furry creatures and small elves that look like they were straight out of Avatar, alien robots are coming through into London.

Figment is a very light, whimsical fantasy book that is suitable for all ages. It reminds me of the Adventure Time comics in a way. But what makes this a good read is that it captures the spirit of the original theme park ride. 

Uncanny X-Men #135

 

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Uncanny X-Men #135 is a key part in the Dark Phoenix Saga. Basically Phoenix goes completely nuts, killing off all the nice people in the picture above. So why do we care so much?

By this point it becomes perfectly clear to the rest of the X-Men that Jean Grey is gone and that the Phoenix Force has completely taken over her physical form. Unfortunately, there isn’t much left that they can do to stop her, short of killing her.

Loki: Agent of Asgard #1-4

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Thanks to Tom Hiddleston’s awesome portrayal in the Thor movies and to Kieron Dwyer’s writing the last few years, Loki has never been this popular. How popular? He gets a new solo series called Loki: Agent of Asgard.

The premise is pretty straight-forward; in exchange for forgiving his prior sins, the All-Mother have enlisted Loki into their service to do their bidding. Through this first story arc, Loki has to retrieve the magical sword Gram which Odin had once planned on giving his adopted son should he be worthy. With his weapon retrieved, his first assignment is tracking down Sigurd the Everglorious, the previous holder of Gram, and return him to Asgardia.

Al Ewing basically crafted what you would expect from a Loki comic book.There is a good mix of humor, trickery and even the lead character pulling a fast one on the dark one himself Mephisto. The art on the book is great too.

Basically, Loki is a comic book for people who don’t want to read about super heroes, yet like super heroes. I think this is a series I’m going to revisit in a while so I can binge read.

X-Men #4

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Happy Father’s Day!

Brian Wood’s X-Men #4 seems to be a fill-in issue, as it is mostly self-contained and features art by David Lopez. There’s two really interesting stories going on that mostly show the more emotional parts of these characters.

As the cover shows, the main one features Wolverine and Jubilee, as they visit the mall where the X-Men first wound up encountering her many years ago. Through their conversation, it really shows how she has matured through the years and now that she has her son Shogo in her life, she really is an adult. You also really get a look into her relationship with Wolverine, who really treats her like his daughter. He winds up buying her childhood home so she has a place to raise the child.

The rest of the X-Men are trying to rescue a crashing airplane, which should be simple if not routine for them. However, this new group is still trying to get their team dynamics under control if they’re going to save the day. Spoil alert: they did. And quite frankly I didn’t care that much, as the scenes with Wolverine and Jubilee were so good.

Nightwing #30

I’ll admit it; sometimes I purchase comics because of the hype that is around them. And that is precisely why I bought Nightwing #30. It features the debut of the New 52 (although it feels really odd still calling it that nearly three years later) of Helena Bertinelli, better known as the Huntress.

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The issue starts out at a refugee medical camp in the Congo that has fallen under attack by a “depopulationist” group called the Fist of Cain, which is made up of some of the most random looking assassins and murderers they could hire. One is decked out in corpse paint, looking like the lovechild of a Norwegian black metal band and King Diamond. The other looks like he walked straight out of Disney World’s Adventurers Club.

One of the relief workers was Dr. Leslie Thompkins, Batman’s long-time doctor. She is conveniently rescued by Helena, who is wearing some sort of white disco suit and has a bit of a fro going on. Leslie is taken to her headquarters where she talks with a man with an unrecognizable face and might have spilled the beans about Batman being Bruce Wayne. We know this because she’s telling Batman the story, and he doesn’t look too happy. Leslie also mentions the group has a weird insignia that she keeps remembering, an eye at the center of a spider-web.

The story then shifts to the Batcave, where Batman and Nightwing are involved in some sort of weird Fight Club style conversation. Basically in the last few months Nightwing has had his secret identity revealed by the Crime Syndicate, turned into a living bomb and apparently “killed” by Lex Luthor. It has been quite the rough past few months for him. So instead of talking about why he should join the cover black-ops group Spyral, they have a fight to the death to see if he is up to the challenge. Of course he is. The book ends with Dick going off with Valerie, setting up the new Grayson series for next month.

As an issue, it nicely ties up everything from the Nightwing series, but I really could have done without the Bats/Dick fight to the death. It just seemed over the top. I think Batman really needs to learn how to communicate with people without using his fists so damn much.

Uncanny X-Men #244

Uncanny X-Men #244 is the debut of everyone’s favorite firework/firecracker thrower Jubilee into the X-Universe! The story is by Chris Claremont and Marc Silvestri.

Jubilee has been causing a ruckus at the local mall with her mutant powers (this is so late 1980s it makes me sick!), causing the local mall security to call in the M Squad. Basically they are a private mutant hunting group that you call in. Instead of being pest control for mice, they hunt super humans.

Back at the X-Men’s temporary headquarters in the Australian outback, things are getting difficult for the X-Women. Mostly they just hate it there.

So Dazzler winds up convincing them that they need a day at the shopping mall to cheer them up. Things get weird with her, Storm, Psylocke and Rogue shopping and eventually going to a male revue. You read that right. What kind of shopping mall is this?

Eventually the M-Squad finds the X-Women and there’s a bit of a light scuffle between the two groups. The M-Squad are more like the Keystone Cops, and it’s up to the mutants to save everyone in the mall! As they teleport back home, Jubilee decides to join them and runs into the portal just in time.

X-Men #1-3: Primer

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It’s ladies night!

I keep forgetting how awesome a writer Brian Wood is and the first three issues of X-Men are just another example.

This volume of X-Men focuses mainly on the female characters in the X-Universe which is a first. Quite frankly, it’s about time.

The story starts with Jubilee showing up at the X-Mansion with her baby (well I should say adopted baby that she found) Shogo because the sentient bacteria creature named John Sublime has been stalking them. I thought this was a new character, but it turns out that he’s been around since the early 1990s.

After being stopped by an X-Men squad of Psylocke, Storm, Rogue, Rachel Summers and Shadowcat, Sublime reveals why he was stalking Jubilee and Shogo. It turns out his evil sister Arkea–who is also an evil bacteria organism herself–was travelling around on Shogo’s body. Things get worse when Arkea then infects the unconscious body of Omega Sentinel and the X-Men have to find a way to stop Arkea without using lethal force.

Wood just hits this one out of the park; everyone in this book gets equal story time. Now I know I’m biased because I like all these characters, but everyone comes across looking really important. He even managed to make Sublime and Arkea interesting.

On the art side, Olivier Coipel is no slouch. What a great way to start a new series.