Epic Beards of Review: The Incredible Hulk #312 (Comic-a-Day 76/365)

comicadayThe Incredible Hulk #312, OCT 85 (writer) Bill Mantlo (artists) Mike Mignola & Gerry Talaoc

Was a might disappointed to see the “Secret Wars II” triangle logo in the upper right corner of this issue, but was treated to a delightful origin story of the Hulk. We all know how the story goes, but this starts waybackwhen, all the way from Bruce’s birth.

I recall elements of this from the Ang Lee epic from a few years back (I think) but I can’t be sure if it has always been this way. No Marvel Zombie am I, but I dig it.

There’s something about Bruce growing up, being the Hulk right from infancy, that it tickles the toes and curls the nose hairs. Family life, high school, the workforce: it all adds up to what he becomes. There’s something really neat from the get-go as we see a ghost-like imposition of the Hulk overshadowing every panel that Bruce is in.

It’s quick, it’s easy, but it works. Bruce doesn’t have issues, he’s got volumes. It’s deep, man. The existentialism is on par with the last few issues of Doctor Strange, to the point where you see Bruce wallowing in some sort of interdimensional crossroads trying to figure out how he got to where he is. It’s silly, especially in juxtaposition of the dark of his origin.

Then there’s the last three pages. Don’t read ’em, make up your own ending or even rip ’em out for all I care: The Beyonder is a chump and he shouldn’t be seen in comics again. Three pages to ruin an issue. For SHAME.

Epic Beards of Review: Doctor Strange #81 (Comic-a-Day 75/365)

comicadayDoctor Strange #81, FEB 87 (writer) Peter B. Gillis (artist) Chris Warner

What a difference an issue makes, eh? Gillis does a fine job of filing us in as the story progresses, so it doesn’t feel like we’ve missed much overall.

Doctor Strange is in stasis, hurtling across the cosmos in the back of some spaceship. The minotaurian pilot is a disciple of the weaver guy seen in issue #78. Luckily for the Doctor, this Muppety-looking character has himself some mystic background and serves as a suitable vessel for Doc’s recovering body.

Things I wish I’d have seen:

  • first reactions to this hulking behemoth
  • the Fantastic Four’s reaction and bequeathing of a Skrull ship
  • all the drama surrounding Sara when she wanted to be chosen as Doc’s host body
  • Strange’s reaction being on the operating table, table’s turned on him.

This magical bad guy is waiting for Strange and ready to kick butt having taken all of the magic from Doc’s place and using it for himself. Wong and Topaz are still being held captive, perhaps to rattle their savior. This bad guy Urthona is very happy with himself and the baubles he’s recently acquired.

Urthona takes all the typical avenues of evil-hood: attacking from afar, then sending his minions to do his dirty work. Of course, once confronted by Strange himself (in his minotaur body double) the bad guy does what any bad guy does best: the beats the crap out of his hostage.

The minotaur leaves his own body for Doctor Strange’s body to help out. He rescues Topaz and what’s left of Wong. Somehow (last issue reveal?) this bad guy has the other half to Topaz’s soul.

Doctor Strange takes some pretty drastic measures here, much to Urthona’s chagrin. Great foil here, indeed. As conscious Doctor Strange has been lately with not thinking before using his powers, I’d like to see where this goes. He really did a number on the future of his title.

We’re done with the Strange run, folks. What could be in store for us next?

Epic Beards of Review: Doctor Strange #79 (Comic-a-Day 74/365)

comicadayDoctor Strange #79, OCT 86 (writer) Peter B. Gillis (artist) Chris Warner

This issues starts with a decidedly epic bend straight out of a work of sf/fantasy, and effective as heck setting the mood. Sorcery has overtaken this planet of industry and reigns supreme, as does the battling of war for a monarch’s pleasure.

“You have learned death in our sphere, champion. You shall be the one to teach it in others.” said Monarch says to the one whom bested all others. His new task: show Doctor Strange the taste of death.

The Doctor returns home from France looking rather swank in tight white pants and a blue bomber jacket and shades. Topaz again rushes to his side, and Wong is worried that Strange will again push her pleas aside. Some lady-friend named Morganna is pestering him, so he makes a date. He also shoos Sara and Wong out the door for th evening.

Doctor Strange meets Morganna out, with a later stop scheduled at a salsa bar. One can only assume that it’s an eighties thing, maybe the precursor to a tapas bar. They talk of Stephen’s preoccupation with his work and he being out of touch with things not associated with skulking around the night. Talk continues with his lacking of a personal life. Meanwhile, there’s a page devoted to Topaz awakening at the Greenwich mansion, heading to the portal Strange had forbidden her. Out of touch is right.

Morganna and Stephen hold hands and in zaps the champion by our unknown dark lord. Kicking butt and taking names, Doctor Strange is at the top of his list. Spells are bouncing off this mook, so Strange needs to get a little physical. Picking up a butter knife and imbuing it with magic will have to do.

Doctor Strange takes a sword. He’s not dead, and his astral form is still functioning. Against all odds and best judgement, he enters Morganna’s body to defeat this foe because he’s calling for more blood. She handles magic well, though unable to do all that Strange was. There’s an off-handed comment about her purity which brings a pretty good giggle.

Topaz makes contact with this entity (who looks a little like Gaiman’s Dream wearing the headgear) and the sanctum is whisked away with she and Wong in tow. Morganna is still donning the Doctor’s strange mystical clothing and it fizzles out and leaves her unconscious. We see Strange himself lying on a stretcher as well.

Things are not looking good.

Epic Beards of Review: Doctor Strange #78 (Comic-a-Day 73/365)

comicadayDoctor Strange #78, AUG 86 (writer) Peter B. Gillis (artist) Chris Warner

As per last issues rigamarole, Doc Strange needs himself a new cloak. Though he has no equal in the sorcerous realm, he can’t for the life of him figure out how to return his cloak to its former glory. He gets himself a spell going, though, but he finds that he’s not got nearly enough mojo for all that.

Strange is trying to give Topaz the help she needs to find the missing part of her soul, but still keeping her at arm’s length. Topaz has quite the missing self-restraint, and he doesn’t know how to handle it. As they proceed through his inner sanctum she almost does something disastrous be looking behind a curtain. They then try another curtain which reveals a mirror showing…alas, they’re interrupted by some hubbub elsewhere! Turns out Strange’s cloak of levitation is pulling a Mary Poppins and throwing his entire study in array.

Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, somebody dies from a new street drug. And speaking of cloaks, Cloak himself shows up, chasing shadows in an alley.

Doctor Strange figures the whole re-weaving of his own cloak is for naught. He does some research and transports himself there using the Map of Light. He finds this diminutive humanoid dinosaur who has spent years making cloaks like those of Doctor Strange. While waiting for his cloak to be completed, he hears desperation behind curtains just like his back home.

Cloak has confronted this drug dealer, but unwittingly played into her hands as she wraps herself in his cloak. Cloak himself is witnessing his worst nightmares, and this is what Doctor Strange hears from the portal. Doctor Strange does his due diligence in rescuing Cloak, though the villain isn’t necessarily foiled, and the issue ends in a very anti-climactic matter.

The one thing I’m enjoying about these Doctor Strange comics is the existentialism of them. The X-titles were full of outside influences (not to mention gobs of characters) but these Doctor Strange issues are all about this introspective journey. Throw in tight pacing and great art propels the story up and out. Classic, just wish I had more than five issues.

Epic Beards of Review: Doctor Strange #77 (Comic-a-Day 72/365)

comicadayDoctor Strange #77, JUN 86 (writer) Peter Gillis (artist) Chris Warner

Our story opens on a monastery where we’re witness to the dedication of their new master. Doctor Strange has had a hand in his selection, and we’re left to wonder why a pretty surfer boy was chosen. As things progress, a lowly monk interrupts the whole affair to warn them of the Indian government sending a garrison on troops to their holy temple. Surfer boy is exasperated, and a curse (even just the simple mention of it) has dire consequences.

Meanwhile, back in the Village, the good Doctor is meditating on events both recent and past. The ladies of his life run through his mind, kept at arms’ length, in thought as well as heart. He believes his lack of love pushed him to dispel of the bonds his friend Darryl had been subject to, effectively killing him. Hard to say if love’s to blame but the sorcerer’s mind is elsewhere to be sure.

Surfer boy’s thoughtless incantation spreads to the Indian defense minister speaking in front of the UN. The prime minister collapses on stage, a mouthful of war medals lodged in his mouth and throat! Doctor Strange heeds the call, and we see more backstory of the surgeon he once was. Standing guard, he dispels a minor demon, a lackey called a khat. Though Strange stops the continued proliferation of the prime minister, the khat decides to take out his revenge on the entire hospital.

Strange finds that he can’t help all of these victims, almost doesn’t want to, and begins to have some hugely doubtful urges. The khat’s insistence his home and ensorcels the Doctor back to the demon’s realm. Here, it is deafening for Strange’s thoughts. His pessimism has taken control of him, the demon using it against him. Tearing at him, the khat punishing Strange until there is nothing left, until Strange realizes where he is weak, and in tandem, learning wherein lies his strength.
Great storytelling, pacing and art. Enjoying these.

Epic Beards of Review: Doctor Strange #76 (Comic-a-Day 71/365)

comicadayDoctor Strange #76, APR 86 (writer) Peter B. Gillis (artist) Mark Badger

So, this is what I’ve been missing the last three months?

After all the dreck that the X-titles could be at times, there was so much headache trying to wade through years through of continuity. I’m two issues into Doctor Strange, and I won’t know what’s going on in the next three, but it doesn’t matter. There’s just enough to get by.

That being said, I want to know more. There’s a sense of backstory throughout this issue that never gets fulfilled, though it’s mentioned at the edges of inference. We’re told that the doctor who is the subject of this tome has some history with the Doctor.

There’s something missing, too, in the other doctor’s motivation. I get why it is that he delves into said debaucherous sorcery, but you don’t really get a handle on the descent. It’s a shame. I’d much have rather seen Regular Joe’s story than that of the villain.

Other than that, really stellar art and story. Bitchin’ twisty ending that I didn’t see coming.

Epic Beards of Review: Doctor Strange #75 (Comic-a-Day 70/365)

comicadayDoctor Strange #75, FEB 86 (writer) Roger Stern (artist) Sal Buscema

Figured now that I’ve got most of the mutants out of the way (they were really wearing on me) I thought I’d really switch things up a bit. Not so much on the “super” side of heroes, but still a pretty good read. Great cover by Mike Mignola certainly helped things as well.

Interesting enough, I ended the last issue of X-Factor Annual #2 with Franklin Richards, and we started this issue with Franklin kidnapped by Mephisto. Weird stuff, especially considering there’s a bit of a lapse (year-and-a-half) between issues. This kid’s in high demand.

Anyhow, turns out Franklin Richards is some pretty powerful stuff. We seem to be picking up in something that was continued from #74, but we’re caught up quick. At first it looks as if Mephisto is siphoning power from lil’ ‘ol Franklin, but there’s actually something to do with the sun and an evil dark nebula powering the dark one.

Doctor Strange frees Franklin from a crystal prison, and boy-howdy, does Franklin put a whooping on Mephisto. This hurtin’ is part and parcel because at that moment the nebula is rendered harmless by outside forces (as seen in ROM #65) but boy this kid packs quite a punch.

Freed from Hades, all return home. More on that later. Doctor Strange goes back to the Village and walks in on his bookkeeper who is having an awful time with simple math. Turns out she’s frustrated by personal matters, namely the hots she has for the good Doctor’s sidekick, Wong. She and Wong bonded over discussion of Doctor Strange when he was in the pits during his break-up. Turns out Wong’s got feelings, too, but he’s been betrothed to someone that’s not even born yet. This is not faring well for love this issue.

Love triangles aside, something has escaped from its Hadean prison (I loved seeing this in print) and is terrorizing a neighborhood in Connecticut. Doctor Strange has sensed something of great mystic power breaking through to our reality. He unleashes all his special tricks (I’m sure I’ll get used to the terminology in the next few issues) to figure out what’s going on.

Turns out water is a deterrent to this baddie, and we find wrapped up in this monster a woman named Topaz who has been freed. But only half of her! They need to find the missing half…of her soul!

Epic Beards of Review: X-Factor Annual #2 (Comic-a-Day 69/365)

comicadayX-Factor Annual #2, 1987 (writer) Jo Duffy (artist) Tom Grindberg

Aren’t these annuals supposed too mean something? In the mid-90s, you had epic epics spanning across multiple titles and things like trading cards and death and shake-ups to get you buying more.

This kind of thing wants me to buy a log so I can saw it.

There’s an interesting start to things where some kid (turns out it’s Franklin Richards) is having this dream about the Man in the Moon. Turns out the dream is about Quicksilver whisking Franklin off to the moon, but really, that’s about as good as it gets here.

There’re too many characters, too much exposition, and too much talking. Knowing what I know now, Jo Duffy was at the helm for this one, of he of Fallen Angels fame. Snore.

There’s some bickering between kids. There’s some bickering between Scott and Jean about Phoenix.

It’s as if they took the decent writing of Simonson and handed it over to Duffy because they were getting Cyclops and Jean Grey back together again and Simonson didn’t want any part of it.

Sad this is the last of the X-Factor issues.

Epic Beards of Reveiew: X-Factor Annual 1 (Comic-a-Day 68/365)

comicadayX-Factor Annual 1, 1986 (writer/artist) Bob Layton

Okay, not the best of these issues by far, but Layton’s got credit as both writer and artist. How come we can’t keep everyone around month-to-month?

Sorry to backtrack, but the annuals are always placed at the end of issue runs, especially not knowing where this one came into play. There’s not much within the continuity here, however; so other than knowing Angel’s dead where i left off in the single issues, this one’s action doesn’t make much of an effect on the rest.

So, the Ruskies want to know how to subdue nasty mutant problem, da? Who better than to call on X-Factor to teach Mother Russia how to deal with their mutant problems. Scott and the rest are shaken, wondering just how to deal with the problem. They’d like to write it off, but find out from Hodge and their contact in the Senate that there’s a mutant Gulag of sorts. How will they save the day but keep their cover?!

And as soon as they get to Russia, they’re attacked by mutants. Talk about double-agents! One mutant attacker is shot in the back and Bobby has a hard time keeping his cool.

Back in the hotel room, he lets loose, freezing temperatures hopefully neutralize any listening devices. Turns out Angel is flying to meet them at the mutant jail so the rest of X-Factor can rescue the camp. They attend a conference where a Dr. Heinrich woos Bobby with the promise of the ladies. “I guess I’ll have to do my bit for international relations.” What a ham.

Turns out Heinrich is the mutant Doppleganger, intent on stealing Iceman’s powers to use them against the rest of X-Factor. Aiming to put him on ice, Heinrich’s men are accosted by other mutants, who are working against the KGB to free their kind. Very neat to see a mutant priest.

They make it to the mutant prison eventually, and they find some sort of lab where mutants are kept alive, but brain dead. Iceman as a dupe, and he turns the tide by releasing some sort of robot on X-Factor. In the meantime, the real Iceman shows up and heats things up.

A neat issue, but awful wordy for the length. Pretty decent conclusion and great over.