Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Spirit of Vengeance to come Wednesday

I don´t believe in coincidences. In my last post I wrote about the good comics that came out in the 90s and Today it´s  Mark Texeira´s birthday.

And it´s a fact that Mark was a big part of the reason why the relaunched Ghost Rider comic was such a huge success. Great, since nothing says " Christmas " like undead skeletons with flaming skulls on a vengeance trip.

So to keep with the season - not exactly the with the spirit of Christmas past, present or future but with another spirit instead - it´s once again time to fire up the old way back machine and reminiscence on one of the best series Marvel ever produced. I hope my readers are not bored with my last few posts since they all tend to look at old comics instead of the new breed of four colored funnybooks but as you are probably tired of hearing from me lately I´m much more interested in old comic books.

Even if they come from what most people refer to as the dark comic age - the 90s. Now I covered some of it in my last post and while there have been no comments so far I know that there must be a lot of people who think I painted the 90s too favorable. Because I did not mention all the bad comics that were out there - or at least didn´t talk much about them.

Well, if you have read one of the posts that addressed the mission statement of this blog you know that I always try to be positive. Not to the extend that I exclude all bad things but instead of focusing on it I prefer to concentrate of the positive aspects. And let´s face it : do we really need ANOTHER post about how bad the 90s were with all the big guns, big boobs ( which I think wasn´t that bad, drool ), big hair, special covers and a lot of Rob Liefeld ? Yes, that´s exactly what I thought.

This topic also ties into another recent post because at the height of Ghost Rider´s popularity he was guest starring in a gazillion books and while those were obviously just cheap sales ploys to get more readers on other books by Marvel it brought me back to reading THE MIGHTY THOR.

Now I don´t know why I stopped reading Thor and I´m not sure which issue was my last one since I have gotten some of the missing issues.

Maybe it was the whole " been there, done that " feeling I got from the book which was further emphasized by the new look Ron Frenz and Joe Sinnott were going for which greatly emulated the classic Jack Kirby look.

Here is the colored version of this great splash page by Frenz and Sinnot :

Maybe I had the feeling the book was going nowhere which may have been an error on my part because after the big climax of issue 400 things were supposed to be quieter and building up to something. Maybe I decided to cut down my pull list for monetary reasons and Thor was just one of the books that landed easily on the chopping block or it might have been that the comic shop skipped some issues - which happened a lot. Whatever the reason somewhere between Thor and Hercules´ fights against Doctor Doom, the Wrecker and his Wrecking Crew and the Juggernaut, the Black Galaxy Saga, the introduction of the New Warriors, the guest starring of Excalibur and the return of the Juggernaut I fell off the Thor bandwagon.

Until issue 430 which guest starred the Ghost Rider in a story called " The god, the ghost and the guilty ! ". When Howard Mackie reintroduced the Ghost Rider - or rather the NEW Ghost Rider - one of the main mysteries surrounding this spirit of vengeance was if and in which way he was connected to his predecessor or the underworld and its ruler Mephisto.

Ghost Rider had already made an appearance in issue 429 but since he wasn´t on the cover I jumped into the story with issue 430. I had hoped to learn something new about the Ghost Rider and while as always you just got another small hint that didn´t really reveal anything a subplot was going on that indeed had started long ago and would have important ramifications down the road. And especially for Loki. In the issue Loki paid Mephisto a visit and readers saw the mysterious soul shroud for the first time ( although it was not quite finished at this point ) and learned of its mystic ability to capture the sould of a dead asgardian. Loki struck some kind of bargain with Mephisto and at the end of the issue the finished soul shroud was revealed with the face of the mighty Thor on it.

The next issue was drawn by Herb Trimpe and I really didn´t dig the art. I think it´s one of the missing issues I will not try to find. And the only reason for me to buy it again would be if I found it for 50 cents or so to fill that gap in my collection. The story is just your run of the mill Thor versus Ulik brawl while Loki drains the Wrecker´s asgardian power, killing him in the process. I have never been a big fan of trying to humanize villains because I think that the basic make up of a person decides if they become a hero or a villain. Let´s face it : both heroes and villains have the same origin stories but their own nature decides if they turn their tragedy into something positive or not. So I don´t want to know what Freddy Kruger or Jason did before they became the psychos we all love to hate. And I sure don´t need a tv series like GOTHAM to tell me what happened BEFORE Batman happened on the scene. Because that´s boring.

You want to know why ? Because there´s no Batman in it. And because it changes continuity. Now I know that television series have their own way of handling comic book continuity. In SMALLVILLE they changed a lot but they stayed true to the core of the comic characters and always had some surprising twists that you didn´t expect. Or the new FLASH series. Not only do they have a great new take on the Flash ( I´m still bummed out that it´s not Wally West but that´s what is to be expected with the NEW 52 ) they pay credit to the comic continuity. And the tv series continuity by making John Wesley Ship Barry Allen´s father and have Amanda Pays reprise her role as Dr. Tina McGee ( she was in post crisis Flash issues ).

Another thing that´s different from GOTHAM ( at least that´s what I have heard from various sources since I haven´t watched one episode of GOTHAM ) is that on THE FLASH they have a very subdued subtle way of introducing characters and giving the viewers hints as to who they are.

When Caitlin Snow´s character is first introduced all we know about her is that her fiancee Ronnie died in the explosion of a particle accelerator. It´s eight episodes into the first season that we learn his full name is Ronnie Raymond which already tells DC comic fans what his ultimate fate will be.

But this post is not about the way characters are built up in GOTHAM which I hear is more connected to blunt force trauma than to pointed storytelling ( in german we call this way of beating or hammering something into your audience " with the wooden mallet " ) but about Ghost Rider. And his guest appearance on Thor. We only got on this tangent because of issue 431 which focused on the Wrecker´s life story.

Issue 432 was the big 350th appearance of Thor and to celebrate that Loki and Thor faced of in a final duel to the death. In what was their final confrontation ( or so I thought at that time ) Loki was unusually brutal and determined, even going so far as to trying to kill Eric Masterson´s son Kevin afterwards - whom he had take hostage to entice Thor to battle him - but instead slaying Eric´s friend and love interest Susan Austin.

Loki is ready to be taken back to Asgard and take his punishment but Thor just can´t take it anymore. Loki has crossed the final line so he does what he is never allowed to do : take the life of another asgardian.

Although Thor´s action was justified Odin´s decree stays true so Thor is whisked away to Asgard to be judged and Loki is dead for good. Or is he ? I don´t want to say too much ( especially since this will be explored in future posts about Thor ) but there are still many unexpected twists and turns waiting for us not the least one the surprise ending of this issue.

And now I want to come back to the subject of Ghost Rider and Mark Texiera since it is his birthday Today. I only felt that I should talk about issue 430 of THE MIGHTY THOR because I have now twice mentioned it in posts about Ghost Rider and my readers were probably going to kill me if I mentioned it a third time without explaining what the whole deal was.

The new Ghost Rider series written by Howard Mackie started right at the beginning of the 90s with pencils by Javier Saltares and inks by Mark Texiera who took over the pencils with issue 13. He also did the art on later series and is one of the artists most associated with Ghost Rider.

He also worked on other Marvel titles like THE PUNISHER

everybody´s favorite miniature mutant WOLVERINE

and Christopher Priest´s excellent Black Panther series - which funnily enough also started in the 90s although at the end of it. One of these days I have to continue with that topic, I have only scratched the surface.

He also did short stints like a 4 issue MOON KNIGHT series in 1999

and aside from returning to the books he´s best known for like Punisher or Ghost Rider on various occasions in the last years he also did much work on new books with Warren properties like PANTHA or VAMPIRELLA.

Oh, I almost totally forgot, there was a 5 issue HERCULES series in 2005 that was written by Frank Tieri with pencils by Mark Texiera and inks by Jimmy Palmiotti that was really a great read. Highest recommendation.

The book also ties in with my DEATH IN COMICS theme because in the first issue Hercules crashes the memorial service for the the Avengers who perished during the AVENGERS DISASSEMBLED storyline ( one of my least favorite stories ) and he is miffed that Thor wasn´t included.

Iron Man is a dick again by claiming he doesn´t know anything and that you never know with Thor´s frequent and long absences from the team. And it´s not like Thor always tells the Avengers what´s going on with him or when he´ll be back. Anyway, in the series Hercules stars in a reality tv show where he re - enacts his famous twelve labors. But to appeal to the modern audience they have been updated - one of his labors is to steal the shield of Captain America. It´s a really interesting characterization of Hercules that shows Frank Tieri´s vast knowledge of greek mythology.

It´s one of the first hints that a character like Hercules still has a lot of untapped potential and it may have been one of the reason why Marvel decided to give him a more prominent role during WORLD WAR HULK.

Okay, time to wrap things up for Today. In tribute to Mark Texiera´s anniversary you might want to pull out some of his most recent work like SPACE PUNISHER, PUNISHER NIGHTMARE or his creator owned PSCYTHE ( I have to admit I haven´t read any of them ) or you might go for more old school stuff like me. In any case, many happy returns to Mark Texiera !

Today´s first video is from LENSMAN, I think Terry Hooper posted some of them on his blog. I have never seen it so here is POWER OF THE LENS.

I mentioned the 1990s tv series THE FLASH with John Wesley Ship and Amanda Pays therefore I wanted to post a video. I couldn´t find any from the actual episodes - at least none that was a full episode - but for all you young geeks out there who have never heard of the television series JOEY`S REVIEWS gives you a pretty good overview and critique of it.

I also wrote about the new Flash series and Gotham so here´s the great Amy Dallen once again talking about all the new comic series on tv.

For all my german readers here´s a new edition of GEBLITZT where Der Blitz talks about the new tv series Gotham, Constantine and The Flash.

New to the blog ? Everything you need to know about TALES FROM THE KRYPTONIAN : top ten posts / more posts of interest / best of the best

No comments: