Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Deaths of Mys-Tech Wars

Back in my comics-buying youth, one could buy comics in more places than just your local comic shop. Department stores, drug stores and dollar stores used to have discounted packs of assorted comics, organized in no way I could discern, in packs of three, four, and sometimes even 5 or ten! On one such occasion I found issue number three of a limited series called Mys-Tech Wars ( written by Dan Abnett with art by Bryan Hitch, with Caroline Steeden on Letters and Helen Nally and Helen Stone on colors), a Marvel Comics 'UK' series in one of these assorted packs, and what I saw inside immediately appalled me, and appealed to me ALL AT ONCE! (Huzzah!)

The opening double page spread (Bryan Hitch is pretty damn great at drawing a double page orgy of death) features a grouping of X-Men, Avengers and other Marvel characters battling it out with an army of Psycho-Warriors, who were unleashed by the evil Mys-Tech board to destroy earth or something. The Psycho-Warriors look like a cross between the borg and the gimp from Pulp fiction, and have the power to kill a whole boatload of Marvel super-heroes. OH, also in this two page spread: Cyclops getting a giant hole blasted through his chest and dying. No one is safe in Mys-Tech wars. This was back in 1993, the X-men cartoon was still going strong on TV, and the younger me was just getting into super hero comics full steam. To see one of my favorite characters die right there on the page was...kinda effed up.

The other thing about Mys-Tech wars are the reactions to the character's deaths. They are fairly realistic, or at the least how I imagine a reaction to a loved one's death would be. Upon seeing Cyclops gunned down in front of her, Jean becomes irrational and becomes hysterical, begging Jubilee to help her drag Cyclops' laser-hole ridden corpse to safety, further risking her own life and that of a fellow X-Man. This is the first instance of my repulsion/attraction to this series. I do not think that Jean would react in that fashion to Cyclops being killed, she has plenty of training in battle, and was the wielder of the Phoenix force for goodness sake, one of the mightiest powers in the entire universe, capable of destroying suns and flying clear across the galaxy. Here, she is reduced to nothing, a blubbering inconsolable wreck, who ends up killing herself when the world, and her mentor and friend Professor X need her the just does not ring true to the character for me, which basically encapsulates my general feeling on Mys-Tech Wars as a whole. At the same time however, it is kind of cool to see a book where no character is safe..but there aren't enough hero moments, the good guys can never seem to catch a break.

The whole thing begins with Nick Fury, who invades the secret lair of the Mys-Tech board, some group of evil old people including an enemy of Nick's during his Howling Commando days. Here's what happens to Nick :

Mys-Tech then unleashes a hoard of Monster Lizard things which swarm the earth, killing many notable heroes. Spider Man and super-team Excalibur die on the same page, followed by a whole bunch more...

As it turns out, the baddies are altering reality, and the heroes that are dying were never meant to die in this fashion, and one of the main characters in the series, I think an original Marvel 'UK' character, Dark Angel, leads the fight to set things right. I think it seems like an excuse to shock and kill off a bunch of popular super hero characters...but there isn't anything really wrong with it...although sometimes things get a little too dark for my tastes in this type of super hero book, for example:

Pretty brutal, right?

The series also features a bunch of Marvel UK characters, like Dark Angel and Death's Head II. Outside of Death's Head II, I have never seen any of these characters used anywhere else, and in additon, none of them die in this series, only the established Marvel characters bite the dust.

At the end of the day, a select few living heroes alter reality and erase the damage done, and sabotage Mys-Tech's operation. Captain America and Logan stop Nick Fury from infiltrating the enemy base to get a beer instead, which is my favorite moment of the whole comic.

All in all Mys-Tech Wars was an interesting journey, that filled me with conflicting nerd feelings about the nature of superhero comics as a young fan. I had to seek out the back issues at local Philly comic shop Fat Jacks, and all of the intense battle sequences by Bryan Hitch are impressive to behold. An intense oddity if nothing else.


Monday, July 25, 2011

Mys-Tech Wars

An insane cover by Bryan Hitch, to the Marvel UK (never heard of it!) 4 part miniseries Mys-Tech Wars. It's basically a story in which almost all of the marvel characters are killed by some weird Orc/Borg soldiers and lizard monsters, with some new and most-likely-never-seen again-after-this-series Marvel UK characters. There will be more on this later, but I had to share this cover.


Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Punisher Holiday Special!

I was gifted the Punisher holiday special #1 by a friend at a recent gathering, and it is another grand example of the insanity that is 90's Punisher comics.

The tale begins in the ritzy dining room of 'Little' Tony Caruso, who is demanding his henchmen bring him the head of Frank Castle, The Punisher, because the Punisher killed his father 'Big' Tony Caruso, and Little Tony doesn't get what he wants for Christmas anymore.

Little Tony explains this while holding a Bust of the Punisher. Little Tony had a bust of the Punisher made (or perhaps he is a sculptor in his spare time?) and proceeds to destroy it while getting worked up about not getting presents at Christmas.

So Little Tony's people spread a rumor that they are going to hit a mall on Christmas Eve, bait that the Punisher is all but guaranteed to take...and their plan works! The Punisher is fed the rumor by a hippie drug dealer who is being thrown off a roof by some ne'er do-wells.

The Punisher goes to the mall and hides under a car until the mall closes, then realizes it was all a trap! He punctures the gas tank he is laying directly under for no reason (he later blows the car up) and proceeds to go up against the mall cops, who are also gangsters and have real guns?

As it turns out, Frank isn't alone in the mall. A young girl is hiding there, because of something her dad did...

but then she turns around and says her dad "bought it" in Vietnam, which pretty much means her dad died in Vietnam, unless my understanding of slang is grossly outdated or misinformed. I suppose her step dad is the threat to her returning home, but things like this ain't important or the reason anyone reads a Punisher comic. Also the Punisher lets her know that her current lifestyle would probably lead her to further crimes, and he would hate to have to have to kill her. Classic Frank.

The bad guys have The Punisher's weapons, so Frank uses the only items at his disposal, mall Christmas ornaments! He showers one enemy with Christmas balls, and impales another with a model of Santa and his sleigh (slay?) complete with spear-like reindeer antlers. He also pole vaults off of the top of a Christmas tree!

The Punisher ends up killing the bad guys and saving the girl, who ends up going home for Christmas, and for some reason that Dad she was worried about gets arrested ( I can only assume it was for child abuse, but it would have been nice if this story angle was a little more clear) and the Punisher lets us know that he is so focused on his mission that he forgot who jesus is...

There is a backup story in this volume as well, but I really wanted to just comment on the main story in this special.


Monday, July 18, 2011

The Punisher: G Force

Upon reading an article on the Comics Alliance blog, I came across a recommendation from writer Chris Sims of a Punisher one-shot, titled The Punisher : G Force. I count myself a Punisher fan, mostly of the Garth Ennis Marvel Knights/Max material, and the current Punisher Max Jason Aaron run, but I have been looking to expand my Punisher palette. Upon finding a copy of that very same volume Mr. Sims recommended at Fat Jack's Comic Crypt in Philadelphia, I had to buy it...I mean look at this cover!

In true comic book fashion the scene pictured on the cover (painted by a man known only as NELSON) never actually happens in the book itself, but what DOES happen in this volume is a lot more...well, insane. I would also like to say I really miss traditionally painted covers for comic books/graphic novels and one shots, most especially when they are of this caliber. Including the fancy cover, this volume also has some pretty awesome endpapers, I genuinely miss this format from Marvel ( the Wolverine/Punisher/Ghost Rider team up with a great John Romita Junior fold out cover and Wolverine: The Jungle Adventure with art by Mike Mignola are both prime examples of classy one shots put out by Marvel.)

So our story begins atop a high rise building, where a scuzzy french astronaut offers a woman he fancies some coke, and they scuttle off to make whoppee...meanwhile below, the Punisher is trying to kill 'Uncle Snake' who is luring a hooker into his car with Wontons.

The Punisher is already in Uncle Snake's car somehow, and tries to slit Uncle Snake's throat, but Uncle is wearing too many gold chains, so the Punisher's blade cannot find it's purchase on that sweet sweet neck. This enables Uncle to draw a gun on the Punisher, who is having some trouble with his prey. Fortunately, the woman on the high rise building that was with the French astronaut plummets to her death right onto Uncle Snake's car, crushing Uncle Snake in the process, and saving the Punisher's life. It turns out she has drugs in her system, although it is never explained why she was thrown off the high rise or if she just fell. It gets the Punisher looking into the affairs of this French spaceman , and it turns out he is using his diplomatic standing to smuggle addition to using a giant space laser to destroy rival Colombian drug factories...from space.

The Punisher goes undercover, is forced to shoot coke, and makes lots of funny faces...

To track down the evil French astronaut, the Punisher even space-suits up, and travels to outer space, with no astronaut training, and blows up the space station that has a laser that blows up drug labs from space (wouldn't the Punisher love that space station...or commandeer it for himself?!) then hijacks a space shuttle back to earth and lands it in the desert.

Obviously this comic is ridiculous, the coloring is not my favorite...and some of the figure work I could take or leave. This was the era where the Punisher wore a Rambo-nian headband somewhat frequently. I must say that the drawings of all of the space machinery and vehicles is fairly impressive, and looks convincing. The most ridiculous aspect is the dialogue, and the introspective panels of Frank Castle, the Punisher. Some examples:

Also this interaction...WHO IS THIS JULIUS?!

He is bathed in shadow, and I do not trust him one bit...