Sunday, May 29, 2011

What If? Classic Collection Vol. 7 (What If Vol. 1 #40-#47)

#40 (Aug 1983): Dr. Strange doesn't become the Sorcerer Supreme by a quirk of timing, instead
his traditional foe Baron Mordo does. Strange goes on to teach medicine due to his injured
hands. Mordo plays the "good guy" role for a while until he betrays his teacher "The Ancient One" to a demon called Nightmare, who teams up with another demon nammed Dormannu to conquer
the (alternate) "Earth dimension". Strange somehow manages to summon up his raw powers to
defeat both Mordo and the demons anyway, and then it all turns out to be a dream (according
to the last panel). Not interesting at all. D

#41 (Oct 1983): The Sub-Mariner stops the destruction of Atlantis during the 1950s by a
(mutant?) telepath wielding the Serpent Crown, which allowed him to control minds. (In the
normal "616" timeline he succeeds, causing a dispora of Atlantians for about 20 or
so years.) Namor's cousin manages to take over Atlantis while Namor is away and frames
him for the murder of his grandfather, the Emperor. Namor goes into exile for a while
but eventually comes back when aquatic barbarians then take over Atlantis. However, he
comes a little too late and the survivors of these events decide to abandon Atlantis,
leaving Namor to rule an empty kingdom. Eh. C-

#42 (Dec 1983): Sue Richards dies during her first pregnancy because the (other three)
members of Fantastic Four don't come back fast enough from the Negative Zone with a
device to stabilize her internal cosmic energies, or something. A crazed Reed Richards
goes back into the Negative Zone to commit a suicide attack on its ruler Annihulus,
and despite the best efforts of the Torch, Thing, and (oddly enough) the Sub-Mariner, he
succeeds. Lots of funeral montages during the issue. Melodramatic mush. D+

#43 (Feb 1984): Conan The Barbarian gets stuck in the 1980s for some reason. He becomes a
master criminal and eventually takes over a black gang (!), becoming its leader. Then he
has a showdown with Captain America. Very strange (yet mildly entertaining) story. The
B-story involves a dimension where the Ultimate Nullifer was used to destroy the universe;
only Dr. Strange, the Silver Surfer, and Phoenix remain due to being exiled beforehand.
The "spirit of the universe" appears when they try to reverse the Nullifer's effects and
begs them not to bring it back to life. Only the B-story appears in the Marvel TPB, as
Conan's copyright is currently being used somewhere else. C+ (B-story alone is just a C-.)

#44 (Apr 1984): Captain America is never found by the Sub-Mariner or the Avengers. After
Nixon visits China, an outraged anti-Communist working in a government lab frees the
"second" Captain America and Bucky out of their cryogenic freeze (they were a 1950s
version who had to be put away in suspension by the government after they got out of
control). This Captain uses his influence to help create an "America First Party" that
takes over the country and enacts apartheid conditions. The real Captain is then found
by a Navy submarine crew. This Steve Rodgers then goes after the fake Captain (who's
working under several supervillains under the guise of "fighting Communists") and defeats
him on TV, with the help of a fugitive Nick Fury and Spider-Man. At the end, everyone
pledges allegience to the American flag. Kinda odd but interesting too. C+

#45 (Jun 1984): Hulk is more berserk than usual after being "created", goes on a killing
spree that ends up killing Iron Man, the Thing and the Human Torch. Thor manages to snap
his neck after a fight to the death. Eh. (Original cover is pretty nice, though.) C

#46 (Aug 1984): Spider-Man's Aunt May was killed instead of Uncle Ben. Uncle Ben manages
to figure out Spider-Man's identity early on and helps "coach" him on life decisions. He
ends up revealing Spider-Man's identity to J. Jonah Jameson to stop the Daily Bugle's
media attacks on him, but JJJ instead talks him into allowing the Press to cynically
use the "Is Spider-Man A Villain" headlines to sell papers, while boosting Peter Parker's
salary to a "decent" wage. The Green Goblin figures out that JJJ knows Spider-Man
personally and kidnaps him to extract the truth, but JJJ's recently superpowered son
(from exposure to radiation as an astronaut) kills him in a berzerk rage, then almost
kills JJJ too until Spider-Man saves his life. Again, eh. C-

#47 (Oct 1984): Loki kills Thor in his human form before he can get his mystical hammer.
Odin thinks Hela (goddess of the underworld) is at fault, so he wastes a lot of time and
forces attacking her until he realizes the truth. Meanwhile, Thor exists as a spirit in
the nicer part of the underworld until an Asgardian girl he liked sacrifices her life to
bring him back (along with his hammer). Then he goes and kicks Loki's ass. The sum result
of all of this? Odin loses an eye. Not much a final issue for the first volume of "What If?". D

Overall: Another mediocre collection of stories. I can see why this version of the series
was canceled before issue #50. Oh well...C-

That's it for the Vol. 1 series! Vol. 2 (which is longer but not collected so well in
Marvel's TPBs) may or may not be next.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Movie Review: CRACK HOUSE (1989)

(yeah, I know this isn't really related to the other reviews I've put on this site.
Oh well. It was originally posted on 3/29/09 on my old Livejournal blog.)

Starring: Jim Brown, Richard "Shaft" Roundtree

Wow. This LA-based B-flick definitely has roots in the "blaxplotiation" genre,
but with lots of hispanics too. Two teenagers in love have their lives shattered
by the drug wars flaring in Los Angeles. Lots of stereotypical gang crap, but
the movie really takes off into crazyland when Jim Brown shows up as a badass
drug dealer who likes to beat his women. Quentin Tarentino often recommends
this movie as a "modern comedy classic", which says something about his state
of mind...and what that is, I probably don't want to hear. There are some "LOLs"
to be had, particularly concerning how the movie portrays "withdrawal" from
crack. I guess this would be crack's "Reefer Madness" if "New Jack City" hadn't
eclipsed it a couple years later. Grade: D+

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

What If Vol. 1 #39 - Thor Meets Conan

#39 (Jun 1983): Thor somehow ends up in Conan the Barbarian's universe (or era of history, depending on whether or not you see Conan comics as being "canon" in the Marvel timeline) as an amnesiac. He and Conan hang out and kick some ass. Then Thor goes to see Conan's god Crom for answers to his questions about his lost identity. Crom ends up beating on Thor for a minute and
using his powers to throw Thor's hammer far away, since Crom is stronger than Thor because
"it's his time, not the Asgardians'". Conan's enemy Thoth Amon gets the hammer and uses it
to enchance his magic powers, but ends up being killed during a fight with Thor. Thor dies
too (because he doesn't have full scope of his godly powers and so is somewhat mortal), but
Conan gets his magical hammer and proceeds to go off to see Crom for some reason. It's not
too bad per se for a fantasy comic story, but it's not included in the Marvel TPB reprints
of "Classic What If" due to copyright issues. C+

Sunday, May 1, 2011

What If? Classic Collection Vol. 6 (What If Vol. 1 #33-#38)

#33 (Jun 1982): Dazzler becomes a herald of Galactus. She manages to turn him "vegan" or
something for a while, because he eventually switches to eating planets without intelligent
life. He beats on an assembled starfleet of survivors from his previous feasts, then
releases Dazzler from her duties as his herald, after centuries of employment. She goes back to Earth only to find it lifeless. The B-story has Iron Man transported back to the time
of King Arthur via Dr. Doom. His suit only works some of the time but he manages to become
King of England after Arthur dies fighting an enemy force. Eh. C

#34 (Aug 1982): An awful "parody" issue. A typical gag: "WHAT IF POWER MAN (Luke Cage)
WERE WHITE?", with an albino-looking Cage saying "Luke Cage is a funky honky!". Yuk. F

#35 (Oct 1982): Elektra doesn't get killed by Bullseye. Her and Daredevil run off to
another country. That is the whole plot of the main story on the cover. There's an okay
(non-What If related) B-story about wizards creating cat people and the problems that ensue.
The C-story involves Hank Pym dying during an Avengers mission under the Yellowjacket
identity. His wife Janet "The Wasp" Pym turns "grim n' gritty" and engages in solo vigilante
antics, while holding a grudge against Captain America for what she percieved as his role
in Yellowjacket's death. Her beef with Cap almost gets another teammate killed when the
team tries to save people from a burning building. She becomes remorseful and quits the
team. Something's wrong when the best story of the issue isn't even a "What If" plot. D+

#36 (Dec 1982): Fantastic Four delay their first spaceship flight and never gain powers
because they made the right adjustments for safety. They manage a faster-than-light
spaceflight to a distant solar system and return to Earth, and within less than a decade
Earth has colonies in other solar systems. The "Fantastic Four" still have to fight their
first villain, the "Mole Man", except without powers this time (as the "Rocket Group").
Mole Man ends up blowing up an atomic bomb on his island to avoid capture. The B-story
revolves around Nova not giving up his powers by staying on an alien planet (in the main Marvelverse, a group of aliens force him to keep his powers on their planet in order to
protect themselves from Skrulls). He ends up giving them up anyway, but not after a fight
with the aliens after he attempts to run away from the planet back to Earth.
Kinda blah. C-

#37 (Feb 1983): Another three-story What If. The A-story involves the Thing suffering
from a degenertive viral disease after being infected by MODOK. In this reality he
doesn't get cured and ends up mutating out of control. He tries to isolate himself from
society but the Fantastic Four (along with his blind girlfriend Alicia) track him down.
He ends up exploding due to an interaction between the virus and the cosmic rays that
gave him his power. Oddly enough, not only does this return him into a "normal" human,
it also gives his girlfriend true sight for the first time in her life. Eh. The B-story
involves Beast mutating out of control after he swallows a "mutant" formula to prevent
a corporation from getting their hands on it. In the main universe it simply turns him
into a furry blue creature but in this universe it also robs him of his intellect. The
x-Men track him down and exile him into the Savage Land before he can do any real damage.
The C-story involves Galactus demoting Silver Surfer back into human form. The Surfer's
girlfriend on his home planet takes his place so Galactus won't eat her planet, and the
Surfer asks for his old job back so his girl won't have to endure as his herald. Instead,
Galactus restores Surfer's powers but alters them as well so that he is forever trapped
on his own home world, albeit with cosmic abilities. So-so issue. C

#38 (Apr 1983): Yet another three-story What If, this time set in the (relative) future! The A-story is more of a pure "alternate future" storyline, as it's set 50 years ahead of then-current Avenger chronology. The Vision's wife Scarlet Witch is dying of old age. The android Jocasta somehow switches "minds" with the Witch so that Vision can have a wife that will live as long as he will. Kinda odd for the android to sacrifice her own life (in essence) just to give Vision's
wife a permenant body, but oh well. The B-story is both an alternate timeline and a "future"
story, as it's set 30 years later in 1980s Avenger chronology (and with the premise that
Captain America's girlfriend Sharon Carter didn't die). An older Captain America patrols
the streets of a decayed 2013 America, and ends up running into the Red Skull, who is
planning to install his son as the leader of an American "Reich". The C-story involves an
older Daredevil (also in 2013) dealing with the Black Widow, who is now the President of
the Russian Federation. They team up in the end to deal with the Kingpin, who himself is
planning to enter politics, but first needs to kill Daredevil and Black Widow for some
reason. Interesting to see an 80s comic predict the demise of the USSR, but pretty
average stuff otherwise. C

Overall: A pretty average What If offering, except for the awful #34. C-

What If? Classic, Vol. 5 (#27-32)

#27 (Jun 1981): Phoenix had lived instead of killing herself after becoming Dark Phoenix.
The Sh'iar Empire briefly contains the force within Jean Grey by using a "psychic
lobotimizer" (which strips her of her "natural" mutant powers) but it only works briefly,
as Phoenix comes back out of her during an X-Men fight with Galactus. Eventually the
X-Men catch her going out to outer space at night to secretly eat planets and stars to
feed the Pheonix force. They try to contain her, only to all be killed before Dark Phoenix
destroys the earth once she realizes what she has done. Plus yet another B-story about
the Kree. C+

#28 (Aug 1981): Two full-sized stories (and a mini-story) in one issue. The first story
speculates on what would've happened if Ghost Rider had been seperated from his host Johnny
Blaze. A ancient wizard steals the Ghost Rider spirit from Blaze in order to attack the Vatican
and become the "ruler of all Christianity" by brainwashing the Pope with magic or something.
Somehow the Rider and Blaze are still physically connected to the point where a physical injury
to one equally effects the other. Blaze uses this to his advantage, slaying the "Wizard Rider"
with his own magic sword...but this kills Blaze as well. I'm kinda curious on how the Pope is
the ruler of all Christianity considering the Protestants, among other groups, but whatever. The
second story involves a young Daredevil being found by Tony "Iron Man" Stark shortly after the
accident that blinds him. Stark ends up turning him over to Nick Fury and SHIELD, who then recruits and trains Daredevil as one of their agents. Meanwhile Daredevil's dad is kidnapped by HYDRA, but Daredevil manages to save him in time. Kinda predictable. And a [main continity] C-story involving the Eternals getting their ass kicked by the Kree for stealing one of their ships or something. The Kree capture a couple of them and realize that they're altered humans, which strikes them as unusual since Earth is still in the Stone Age. So the Kree go to Earth in an attempt to create their own subrace of "superhumans". Only the first story is really any good (if a bit odd), IMO; the substory about the Kree is somewhat interesting but has nothing to do with the "What If" concept, honestly. C-

#29 (Oct 1981): The Avengers (pre-Captain America) team up with a superbeing from the future
named Centurian in order to "save the Earth" by depowering all known superheroes and villains.
After a while the five Avengers become the only remaining beings with superpowers, and more
or less retire after Centurian reminds them that the goal was to remove all superpowers from
Earth. The Hulk does try to resist and has to be forced back into Banner form, while Thor
goes back to Asgard and the other three (Iron Man, Giant-Man, and the Wasp) stop using the
technology that gave them their powers in the first place. Centurian then tries to conquer
the Earth once he's convinced that all the superbeings are gone but Thor teams up with
the remaining Avengers (sans Hulk) to defeat the Centurian. Interestingly enough, this
alternate world was already showed in an Avengers issue, where Immortus (an alternate history
version of the Centurian) sends the mainstream universe's Avengers to this universe in
order to mess with his alternate history counterpart. In that issue the mainstream Avengers
manage to stop this world's Avengers from accomplishing their goal, but in this issue they
never appear to interfere with the Centurian. There's a B-story involving some mainstream
universe history between the Eternals and their cousins, the Inhumans. The C-story
speculates on what if the Sub-Mariner had remained a homeless amnesiac instead of regaining
his memory due to the intervention of the Human Torch. In this world the Sub-Mariner ends
up serving on a ship and using the name "Smith". He's loyal to the ship's captain even
though the rest of the crew think the captain is insane for his endless search for the
"center of the Earth". After a mutiny where the captain dies and the ship sinks, the
Sub-Mariner ends up stranded in Inuit territory, where they recieve him as some sort of god
because of his strength and how he can walk around naked in subzero weather. Ironically
their other "god" is a frozen Captain America, who in the mainstream universe was only
unfrozen after the Sub-Mariner throws his tomb of ice into the water while attacking the
Inuit during a temper-tantrum or something. Okay issue that actually ties in to mainstream
stories that dealt with alternate dimensions. C+

#30 (Dec 1981): Spider-Man's clone had lived. Yes, this was rehashed 15 years later in
mainstream conuinity as the Spider-Clone saga. This issue is more entertaining, but only
because it's funny to see the clone slowly realize who he is in reality (due to his
memories being outdated by a few years). The two Spideys team up to beat on the Kingpin,
then they make some sort of compromise where they switch-off on being Spider-Man every
couple of days. Plus a B-story about the Inhumans. B-

#31 (Feb 1982): Wolverine kills the Hulk during his Marvel debut. He then kills a Canadian
citizen who drunkenly attacks him in a bar. Rather than turn himself in, he becomes a
fugitive until Magneto finds him and recruits him into the Brotherhood. Soon Wolvie joins
the X-Men (the original five, not the 70s "rebooted" version) as a Brotherhood spy and
secretly disables Cerebro, but he then turns on Magneto after Magneto tries to kill Jean Grey.
He slashes Magneto to death but Magneto lives long enough to force Wolverine to rip out his
own throat with his claws. The second story involves the Thing going off on a rampage after
the cosmic flight that created the Fantastic Four. Somehow his behavior has ripple effects on
this reality in that Iron Man, Spider-Man, Thor, and the Hulk never become their superpowered
selves. Tony Stark and Bruce Banner use a special weapon in order to depower the Thing but it
backfires instead, making him stronger. By this time, however, he's so demoralized about
everything he just wanders off into deliberate obscurity rather than continue to fight the
military and various superbeings. The weapon accidently depowers the rest of the Fantastic Four
for good, however. Interesting issue. B-

#32 (Mar 1982): A powerful being named Korvac takes control of the Earth when the Avengers
fail to defeat him. He kills them all and then "recreates" them as loyal servants. He
manages to become one of the most powerful beings in his universe (at one point he manages
to seal it off from all other universes by sheer thought only) but eventually finds himself
under siege by every single godlike being that he didn't manage to kill. He uses Galactus's
"Ultimate Nullifer" to utterly destroy the universe rather than surrender. LOL. This is the
first issue where the Watcher actually tries to interfere rather than just observe events. C

Overall: The best of the "What If" collection I've read so far, which isn't saying much. :/ C+