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Wolverine: The Long Night podcast

Although I am a fan of Marvel and especially the X-Men, I have read remarkably few graphic novels about them recently. I heard about this Wolverine podcast during a commercial on the LeVar Burton Reads podcast that I listen to, so after I wrapped up season three of that podcast, I decided to give this one a try. I’m so glad I did!

The set-up of this ten chapter series: following a string of mysterious deaths in Burns, Alaska, Special Agents Sally Pierce and Tad Marshall arrive to investigate. They soon find there’s more going on than meets the eye.

A Thousand Ways To Die In Alaska

In this first episode, FBI agents Pierce and Marshall arrive in Burns, Alaska to investigate a fishing boat massacre that seems to be more than a drug run gone bad. When slash marks are found in the boat hull, we know that Logan, aka Wolverine, is tied in- because that’s what the podcast is all about, hence the title!

Goodnight Nobody

The agent’s line of questioning of the local police and townspeople point to them suspecting Logan, although they won’t admit that they are there under false pretenses. For a podcast based on Wolverine, he as a character has factored in very little yet. He is described by others and in some of these remberances his voice is heard, but he has yet to play a significant role. The agents are also questioning the supposed bear attacks of two local women recently and the quote “Goodnight Nobody” tattooed on one of the victims leads them to a new mysterious cult.

Underground

Additional suspicions are raised about the Aurora cult, a reclusive group that has settled in the area recently, led by Nicholas Prophet. Agents Pierce and Marshall investigate, accompanied by young Deputy Bobby Reid (who sounds incredibly like Tom Holland of Spiderman fame), to see if the Prophet could shed any insight on the rash of deaths in the community. Their compound is creepy, but no big clues to connect the cult with Logan are obvious as of yet.

Hunters

More suspects are interviewed by agents Pierce and Marshall.  The rich Langrock family, who are benefactors to the town but are  (not surprisingly) not what they seem, become the newest suspects. Could they be behind the drugs that one fisherman saw on the fishing boat before the bags disappeared? Other clues point to eco-terrorists in the area, and one family with feral children have connections to Logan. Descriptions of Logan are shattering my view of him as the dreamy Hugh Jackman, as he is described as short, squat and ugly. Sigh…

Into the Woods

The Langrock family sponsors a hunt to find the bear that has supposedly killed two women and the night before attacked yet another woman. Are they doing this as a true public service to the community or are they trying to distract the agents from the real killer? Clues would point to a double-cross, as video footage viewed by the agents show the local police in the Langrock’s back pocket, and they advise young deputy Reid to not be so subservient to those in power.

Archeology of the Night

A sacred grove of old-growth trees located in a canyon with ancient petroglyphs is scheduled to be logged by the Langrock family, and this news ties in with the eco-terrorists, the cult, the woman most recently mauled and Logan. A web of clues is slowly coming together, but more clues are needed such as who is the creature that is doing the mauling, that doesn’t quite sound like Logan (of course we all know he didn’t do it). And we find out some surprising news about Reid, and that perhaps his aww-shucks persona is hiding another agenda.

You’re Next

Clues on how the Langrock family is managing to smuggle the drugs between their fishing cannery and their logging company is revealed through research at the local library (be still my heart!). The sacred grove and a recently discovered cave with mystical symbols reminds me of the Pet Semetary novel by Stephen King and is furthered by a reference to a Windigo monster that an Inuit man brings up…yet the Windigo monster is a mythical creature from Native American tribes on the eastern coast of the United States and Canada and not of Inuit folklore. This hallowed area is also referred to as the Tarrack—a spiritual nexus that has the power to exact revenge on those that wish to destroy the region.

The Red Sunset

When a prime suspect is found dead, the agents are thrown for a loop, especially when the cult is found worshipping in front of the dead body and Prophet speaks of another future sacrifice.  A young woman with a strong allegiance to Logan clues them in to look into another suspect that I guessed earlier would be the true culprit. References are made by the agents about mutant genes, yet they seem slow on the uptake that there could be another mutant local to the town, besides Logan.

The Changing

In this penultimate episode, we find out definitively who the killer is (it’s who I thought it would be!) and there is a deep pathos in the person’s background that twisted them into a cold-blooded killer when their mutant power kicked in. Used as a pawn for revenge against others, the killer has a break with reality and fights Logan, just to run off and disappear into the woods. As we head into the last episode, questions remain about how the cult ties into all of this, and what the agents know about Logan’s past and mutant powers. I do want to mention that the sound effects in this podcast are excellent, with the noises heard in a pivotal scene in this chapter really adding to the atmosphere.

No Escape

What an ending! Turns out there was a huge secret that brusque agent Pierce and easy-going agent Marshall were hiding, and I was completely surprised, although there had been a tiny clue in the last chapter. What I liked is that some of the plot’s threads remain open, there is no neat conclusion to what happens to all the residents of Burns, Alaska. Logan finally takes center stage in the last chapter as he meets one of the agents, and through some references he makes to his past, I remain a bit muddled on his timeline in the X-Men universe. But no matter what, Weapon X (btw, that’s not a spoiler to the big secret I mentioned earlier) won’t give up on capturing what they consider their biggest asset, and I’m sure that will play a big part in Season Two- The Long Trail.

This podcast was beyond good! The voice actors were perfect for their roles, with Logan, Pierce and Marshall standing out. There is a graphic novel based on this story available, and I look forward to reading that to compare how the visual and the auditory versions match up. I will definitely be listening to season two, and between that and the LeVar Burton Reads podcast, I have much to enjoy listening to on my commute to work!

-Nancy

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The Infinity Gauntlet

Thanos is a big whiny crybaby!

Despite Thanos achieving omnipotence by collecting the six Infinity gems of time, space, mind, soul, reality, and power he is distraught that Lady Death does not love him back. Desperate to impress her, and egged on by Mephisto, Thanos kills half of humanity including many of the Avenger and X-Men heroes.

A seemingly random group of heroes remain: Captain America, Doctor Strange, Silver Surfer, Hulk, Wolverine, Scarlet Witch, Iron Man, Spider Man and a few others. They band under the direction of Adam Warlock, who is mysteriously alive again, to defeat Thanos. There were some confusing interactions with some cosmic deities,  and eventually his own self doubt leads to his undoing. But what of the huge swath of death that Thanos cut across the universe? You will just have to read this classic series to find out how!

I admired Jim Starlin’s story, as it didn’t become too convoluted and he gave Thanos a real pathos. The art work by George Pérez and Ron Lim is outstanding, of course.  I like how people are drawn realistically and proportionally, none of this bulked out men and sex kitten females that some artists feel they need to draw. I laughed out loud when in the background of a panel depicting a giant wave, a Trump tower was seen collapsing. Written in 1991, who knew what that picture would symbolize years later.

Depending on when you come into a fandom, there will be certain characters that you know better than others. As I was an X-Men & ElfQuest fan originally, and did not read many Avenger titles, Thanos is a new character to me. And although this book is due for some attention because of the upcoming Avengers Infinity War movie, I actually picked this up because I am on a Pérez kick (thanks to Kathleen!). Two other characters that I have recently come to know better in this book and last week’s JLA/Avengers are Galatcus and Nebula. While I vaguely remembered Nebula from Guardians of the Galaxy (I have not seen part 2 yet), I find it funny that my first connection to Galatcus came from The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl!

I enjoyed reading throw back stories these two weeks, for they give me a better understanding of past adventures and spotlighted characters I didn’t know that well. This was an epic story, one that newer Marvel stories pale next to.

-Nancy

Starlin, Jim, George Perez & Ron Lim. The Infinity Gauntlet. 1991.

Guest Post on My Comic Relief

Image by Babs Tarr @ Babs Draws

Michael at My Comic Relief has been running a series on his and other blogger’s reviews and reflections on the Logan movie, so I was excited to be able to add a guest post, Logan : A Fitting End,  to his blog. Logan was a superb movie that gave a fitting end to the story of Logan’s life, but his successor Laura is more than capable of carrying the Wolverine mantel into the future.

Please check out Michael’s site to not only read the Logan series but to read Michael’s erudite posts on comics, movies, and his excellent ongoing political series about the New American Resistance. Michael has been a big supporter of our site, and we are very proud to call him a friend!

-Nancy

You’re Fired Wolverine!

In anticipation of the upcoming Wolverine movie, Logan, coming out later this week I want to share this hilarious video by comedian Pete Holmes about our favorite brooding hero.

For his now defunct late night show, Holmes did a series of skits on the failings of many of the X-Men heroes, and how their vulnerabilities made them a threat to the team. Because if you really think about it -Wolverine’s metal claws could be manipulated by Magneto, he needs to be close up to fight effectively, and he’s often off “discovering” himself.  But…he’s sexy and has good hair, so who cares!

Just a heads up- the video is for mature audiences for it has profanity and raunchy humor.

 

There are eleven of these X-Men spoof videos,  so you can look forward to more posts on this topic in the future!

-Nancy

Top 5 Wednesday: Series That Got Worse With Each Book/Season

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Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme from Goodreads, created by Lainey from Gingerreadslainey and now moderated by Sam from ThoughtsOnTomes. This week’s topic is: series that got worse with each book/season. Unfortunately, I knew immediately what I would write about!

Old Man Logan was an awesome way of restarting Wolverine’s story, and a movie based on the series will be coming out in 2017. The first book had an intriguing line up of past and future heroes and villains, and I liked the dusty western-like feel to the illustrations. But going forward, the books had an author and illustrator change, and it is now in the Secret Wars/Warzones series, and that absolutely kills it for me. This new planet in the Marvel Universe where anything goes, rubs me the wrong way. It’s sloppy storytelling, where continuity doesn’t matter and because of that, I no longer am interested in reading the rest of the series.

Marvel 1602 was penned by the famous Neil Gaiman and I loved it. I again had the problem of the artist changing in future volumes, and the rest of the series looked amateurish to me. Kathleen recently read 1602: Witch Hunter Angela and liked it, but it is now in the Secret Wars/Warzones series, which as I stated, I hate. Done.

The X Files tv series was an absolute favorite of mine for many years. Dana Scully was a tough, smart professional who was beautiful, but that attribute was secondary, for she was all business. Fox Mulder was the believer, who was good looking enough for me to appreciate, but he also was a professional that wanted to solve the mysterious cases. Their relationship was realistic, with witty banter, and a touch of romantic tension between them. I usually liked the stand alone episodes the best, because the mythology of the series started to become unwieldy. When David Duchovny left the series for awhile and two other actors were brought in, the quality went down, way down. But I refused to give up on it. I’ve watched all the movies, and I enjoyed the recent reboot. True believers never gave up on Scully and Mulder!

The YA book, Life As We Knew It, was a solid dystopian novel about if the moon got knocked off orbit and how our weather would change drastically, which led to chaos. The main character was likable, the plot was realistic and I imagined what I would do under the same circumstances. The next two books in the series continued with the same family but also introduced another family into the mix. The quality declined, but still a good trilogy. Then the author decided to tack on another book, The Shade of the Moon, and ruined the whole series for me. Read my scathing Goodreads review to understand why.

Another example of a how a fourth book undermines the earlier books, is The Giver series. The first in the series is a classic, and for good reason. The village and moral dilemmas are fully fleshed out, and youth connect with the message of the novel. The second and third books deal with other people and villages, and it doesn’t seem as if they all reside in the same world. The fourth book, makes mention of a few earlier characters from the previous three books, but is very disjointed and rambling. Just read the first in the series, and leave it at that.

So readers, do you agree with my choices? What are your thoughts on the books and series I mentioned?

-Nancy

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X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills

Graphic Novelty²  would like to introduce our first guest to post on our blog, Nancy’s husband, Cliff!

So, final exams week for Nancy. I volunteered to do a guest post to give her a break, then remembered I really haven’t kept up with the comics world for many years (besides ElfQuest). Nancy’s already done a review of the elves, so I figured we’d go back to school; the Old School, that is…

I read The Uncanny X-Men for awhile in the mid 80’s, and this is the book that drew me in (I picked it up several years after it had originally been published). I’ve read that it wasn’t considered part of the overall X-Men canon for many years, but the story is a doozy nonetheless. Religious extremism bordering on fascism, an unlikely alliance between the X-men and Magneto, innocent mutant children being hunted and killed, torture and deception, a lot of suspense wondering about the fates of several key characters, and a final showdown at a Madison Square Garden crusade. The artwork has a dark and rough around the edges quality that fits the mood of the tale.

Looking back, I remember thinking that Wolverine was the coolest thing ever (I was in my early teens when I read this, ’nuff said) and wishing that he’d had a more prominent role (although he did play a significant part in the story); nonetheless, this graphic novel has a good overall balance. The character development is spread pretty evenly (with the notable exception of Storm), and two things in particular stood out when I re-read it: at the end, Cyclops/Scott confronts the evil William Stryker on the podium and makes an eloquent plea for acceptance and tolerance. I also was impressed with the way Kitty Pryde’s character was written. I remember her not being very well developed in the monthly comics; here, she shows a lot of backbone, standing up for herself and her fellow mutants, and she isn’t afraid to get angry. She also shows of some pretty cool survival skills that help her to outwit her opponents.

A few negatives: too many characters with huge thought balloons or those talking-out-loud explanations of what they’re doing that would never cut it in real time (think of those movies where James Bond has only 30 seconds to defeat an enemy and disarm a bomb, but the scene takes more than two minutes); however, this being a graphic novel that was sold in bookstores to the general public, maybe the author went in with the idea of placing a lot of character info in the story for those who were not familiar with the X-Men or their history. Also, while I’m no fan of fundamentalist religious beliefs, the bad guys felt a little too cookie cutter and one dimensional, though I did find Rev. Stryker’s background story pretty interesting.

Overall, I’d give this one a solid B. It was fun re-reading it all these years later. Maybe the costumes haven’t aged well, but the universal themes behind the story remain timeless. I’d definitely recommend it to anyone, comics fan or not.

School is now dismissed!

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Claremont, Christopher and Brent Eric Anderson. God Loves, Man Hates. 1982.

Bit of trivia: What is wrong with this picture???

 

Wolverine: Old Man Logan

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Millar, Mark & Steve McNiven. Wolverine: Old Man Logan. 2008.

Mark Millar, you did it again. Civil War, Red Son, now Old Man Logan– you really know how to tell a story!

I’ve been circling this comic for awhile, not sure what to expect from it, and feeling that Wolverine already gets a lion share of Marvel’s attention, did I really need to read another Wolverine book? Well, I did, and will be definitely be coming back for more.

Wolverine, who now goes by Logan,  is living in a post- apocalyptic world with his wife and two children (I’m sorry, but you just know they’re doomed) and is a pacifist with flashbacks to some great trauma from his past. He and his family are barely scraping by on their dying farm, when the Hulk family comes by to collect the past due rent. They beat Logan down, knowing he won’t fight back, and give the family one more month to pay up. While Logan is recuperating, for he still has his power of speed healing, old friend Hawkeye comes to visit with a proposition. Hawkeye, who is now practically blind, wants Logan to help him cross the country from the West Coast (present day Sacramento area) to the East coast (current day Washington DC). He is willing to pay Logan enough money to cover all his debts, so Logan gives his family a loving goodbye and sets off with Hawkeye in a former Spidey-mobile.

They run into a bit of trouble…Hawkeye’s rebellious adult daughter, Ghost Riders,  mole men called Moloids, dinosaurs imported from the Savage Land; all the while battling the flashbacks of what happened fifty years prior. We find out what happened to the X-Men, and I won’t spoil what happened, but it’s brutal.  You will understand why Logan put down his persona of Wolverine that day, and why he has not stepped up to help when all of America was falling to the super villains.

The duo make it out East to meet with an underground group and the secret that Hawkeye was carrying is revealed- serum to make super soldiers so they could restart an Avengers team. Betrayals and deaths occur and Red Skull is revealed to be behind it all. Logan fights the villains, but without his claws being unsheathed. He is able to make it make home with his reward, but as expected his little family is no more, killed by the Banner clan in his absence.

The claws come out in his grief, and he is Wolverine once more. The large inbred Hulk family doesn’t stand a chance when confronted with Wolverine’s fury. The show down between the original Bruce Banner and Wolverine is epic, with Wolverine persevering in an awesomely gory way.

The ending is apropos, with a nugget of hope built in. Enough plot threads and hints of other characters out there are left, to fuel future stories of how Wolverine is back and is going to reclaim the land, before he rides off into the sunset.

The artwork by Steve McNiven is outstanding. The color scheme is sepia toned and dusty, with an Old West feel to the people and terrain.  The characters are drawn realistically, with a good eye for detail.

I highly recommended this graphic novel- for it has a great way to restart Wolverine’s story, with an intriguing line up of past and future heroes and villains.

-Nancy

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Origin

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Jemas, Quesada, Jenkins, Kubert, & Isanove. Origin. 2001.

Back in 2001 when the first of the six comics came out, I thought Wolverine’s origin story would finally be revealed. I eagerly awaited each issue, anxious for the truth. As with any good origin story, some questions were answered, but many more were added.

We are first introduced to Rose, a twelve year old orphan who is being brought up the Howlett estate to be a companion for the younger sickly James Howlett in the early 1900’s.  We meet James’s father John and his grandfather, who are very unlike in temperament, with the older gentleman having made a fortune in copper ore in the Canadian mines. His mother, Elizabeth,  is but a ghost in the mansion, shutting herself away after the death of her older son. Rose witnesses long slash marks across her back, and is sworn to secrecy about these scars.

Rose and James strike up a tenuous friendship with Dog Logan, the son of Thomas Logan, the drunken groundskeeper who lives on the outskirts of the estate. Thomas looks strikingly like what we know the adult Wolverine looks like, and his brutality towards his son, starts to turn Dog into a cruel boy. Eventually the friendship dissolves when the class differences become too wide and Dog tries to assault Rose and kills James’s dog.

This prompts the Logan family to be kicked off the estate, with Thomas vowing revenge against the Howlett’s. Thomas sneaks up to take Elizabeth, confirming the hints of a relationship between the two.  John comes in to save her, but Thomas kills him; with James, Rose and Dog witnessing the murder. James flies into a rage, with his claws emerging for the first time, and kills Thomas. His mother becomes unhinged screaming that this has happened before, and cradles Thomas in grief instead of her dead husband John. Rose and James escape, with Elizabeth then shooting herself, leaving Dog the only one left alive at the scene.

The grandfather rejects his surviving grandson sending him and Rose away and covering up the crime. The two eventually leave Alberta and travel to British Columbia and join a logging camp where they hope for some anonymity. Rose becomes a clerk in the office, while James grows physically as he gains strength as a logger, eventually earning the nickname Wolverine for his dogged persistence at the job. They masquerade as cousins and James takes on the name Logan, and the years go by.

Rose keeps a diary of what has happened, as Logan refuses to remember or talk about the tragedy. She and the kind foreman Smitty eventually fall in love, and plan to marry and leave the camp. Rose worries about Logan, as he disappears into the woods for long periods, and worries about how he would cope without her stabilizing influence. As expected he does not take the news well, as he himself loves Rose. What happens next sets up the stage for the mysterious and continued tragic backstory of the Wolverine we know today.

This artwork in this story conveyed the darkness and foreboding of the family estate and later the rugged landscape of the logging camp and nearby wilderness. The panels were bordered by black, continuing the ominous color scheme. I did find the characters inconsistently drawn though, for the combination of pencil drawing and digital painting could take away from the precision that faces sometimes need. I particularly thought Elizabeth and Rose could veer between a realistic rendering, and a grotesque caricature of their normally beautiful faces.

Questions remain: Was Thomas Logan the father of James and his older brother? Are James and Dog brothers then? What exactly happened to the older brother?  Why did both brothers have this power? What more did the grandfather know? Who was Dog’s mother? Is Dog Sabretooth?  What happens to James/Logan/Wolverine in the intervening years after leaving the logging camp? Perhaps some of these questions are answered in Origin II (which I have not read yet) but I doubt it. Wolverine remains special for he is an enigma and his background remains murky. Kudos to the team who wrote this story for it just whetted our appetite for more.

-Nancy

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