Tag Archives: Juggernaut

Venom: The Madness – Eddie Brock Joins the Outer Church

“To get the facts, you need strong fingers on metal keys, paper white with honesty – and then you have to cut hard and deep to make the truth bleed ink.”

Eddie Brock, alien symbiote host who really loves his typewriter, from 1997’s Venom Minus 1.

Venom, perennial Gimmick Era favorite, had a tie-in to that month’s Flashback event because he was the star of a series of mini-series going back to Lethal Protector (my personal favorite). He was the hero of his own story and the main character in whatever temporary title the Spider-Office decided deserved an embossed cover that month.

In celebration of Madness Month, let us turn our attention to 1993’s Venom: The Madness, wherein we see that Tall, Dark, and Toothy did not merely adopt the dark, but was born in it, molded by it, and (I am fairly certain) has yet to see the light.

VENOM06
I would prefer reading Eddie Brock’s Twitter account to almost anything already announced for Convergence.

Eddie is an unreliable narrator. What else would you expect from a man who began his professional career as a journalist? He knows how to edit and what to present as fact. He is his own favorite storyteller. The quote above is from a scene that explains why he still used a typewriter. It tells you what it is he wants from the world. That purity, that honesty. For everything to be what it actually is and nothing else. This is a man who cannot help thinking violently, even about ink on a page. A man who does not want to become better because he believes it is the world that is at fault. What is there for an alien skinsuit not to love? Eddie was never going to be friends with Peter Parker. The Black Suit was merely the excuse. Together he and it are Venom, as in spider-venom (took me longer than I care to admit to piece that together).

Ann Nocenti scripted these three issues, though she was far from the only creator attempting to give Venom a voice in the early nineties. Between the complicated behind-the-scenes origin of the Black Suit itself and the overly complex way that Venom was so good at being a villain that he became a hero, this is a character who never had a stable life. Is it any wonder he would end up mad?

Even though Venom is a primarily toyetic property, I have a personal connection with him. My first comic was Amazing Spider-Man #346 by David Michelinie & Erik Larsen. My earliest memory of Spider-Man, who I have come to collect more than read (the only character I can say that about), is in the reflection of those otherwise blank, alien eyes. I thought of Venom as a hero for a new age. Spider-Man belonged to a previous era. A whiny throwback, similar to those guys at DC with the capes. Not Venom. Not Eddie! Then I read The Madness and watched him murder an elderly woman, who the author goes to lengths to show just how innocent she is.

VENOM07
The teeth constantly grow, phasing in and out from higher-dimensional space, the person they belong to merely forming around them.

Venom’s component parts felt slighted by Spider-Man, the mask, and Parker, the man. Everything that went wrong was conveniently the fault of that man, and so it must have made sense to hightail it across the country where no superheroes could bother you. What he finds is “The World Below” San Francisco, relic of the great earthquake from nearly a century before and haven for the disenfranchised. I assume that this originally meant the homeless and those wanting to live off the grid, but the fact that community activists and other sensible people feel welcomed among the crumbling ruins of a turn of the last century metropolis has me imagining it more as Portland of 2015 than the Morlock tunnels.

Our hero is coming to terms with himself and has even managed to have a love interest, as he becomes embroiled in a stock plot of corporate espionage and environmentally unfriendly shenanigans. This results in him contracting what is essentially super mercury poising and hearing a new voice. Referred to as “The Creep,” it is responsible for that wonky, multiple head thing you probably imagine when thinking Venom: The Madness. Never choosing between a singular or plural identity, the Creep takes Eddie’s mind out for a spin and finds that not only is it already a bit crowded but that he/they may not be the drunkest one at this particular party.

Some eras are best represented by cave painting, fresco, or relief. We have Flair ’94.
Some eras are best represented by cave painting, fresco, or relief. We have Flair ’94 Collectible Trading Cards.

Venom has the added bonus of being thrust into the literal Realm of Madness, presented as both the type of dark dimension that Marvel is lousy with, as well as merely a construct within his own mind. Is he actually fighting Dusk (unfortunately not the one from Slingers), a manic, supernatural entity or just his own “inner demons” as rendered by Kelley Jones’ claustrophobic, barely discernible art? Neither the character nor the reader is ever sure, but the former does not seem to care. Other superpeople make excuses for the things done under the influence of a foreign entity; Venom embraces it and never acts in a way other than how he chooses. Is this the will of the Creep, the Black Suit, or just Eddie Brock finding another way to justify getting what he wants? Does he even know what that is anymore?

It is an interesting reversal of the classic Black Suit story, present in comics and other media. Parker, iconic nebbish from Queens, gets tired of the world pushing him around (which it does mostly because he lies to everyone he cares about and is unable to meet any of his many commitments) and attracts the attention of some predatory alien entity. His anger gets the best of him, and he says and does a few regrettable things (that hair in Spider-Man 3) before throwing the entity back into the abyss. The wounded extraterrestrial animal finds solace in soon-to-be-mulleted ace reporter, Eddie Brock, who comes to love it and offer it a home within himself. He is empowered by that freedom and never turns back, unlike Spider-Man, who never referred to himself as “we.”

VENOM05
Inside the mind of Venom is a far more dangerous place than the cold, lonely world of several miles below early 90’s California.

Particularly surreal in the otherwise barren, underground cavern of the World Below are the trees. In the background of most panels are trees, leafless but seemingly alive, as evidenced by their size. Are they specially bred to live and thrive in a world without natural light and all but the deepest of underground wells? Is there a master botanist somewhere on the fringes of this society making sure everyone has air to breath? Someone is keeping this place running, though we are never shown who. The entire place has an odd mystery to it that promised to be far more interesting than whoever Venom was going to fight that issue. This could have been a new locale for the greater Marvel Universe. Maybe one of Confederates of the Curious retired here back in the day after helping with the earthquake.

Venom is at home in this Tim Burton-type of wonderland (lowercase “w”) with its beautiful old buildings, gnarly, unobstructed trees, and whimsical folk who, though homeless and destitute, are unfazed about asking a supervillain to help them out. These people have no hero, no champion. Why not Venom? They have already rejected the world they were born into; why not accept a similarly disenfranchised man to defend them, to be one of them? Taking the original, skewed narrative at face value, Eddie should welcome a release from Parker’s totalitarian impact in his life. Someone, somewhere, at some level of existence bought his sob story and gave him a genuine do-over. What does he do with it? This was 1993, what do you think he did with it?

He fought the Juggernaut.

There is no image of Cain Marko in this comic that anyone would be proud of so here is Jones' contribution to "The Multiversity."
There is no image of Cain Marko in this comic that anyone would be proud of so here is Jones’ contribution to “The Multiversity.”

You might remember the genre defining Roger Stern & John Romita, Jr. story where Spider-Man could not, under any circumstances, stop Juggy from doing whatever it was he wanted. The one that appears on all the Top Ten lists and, in two issues, tells the reader, new or old, all they need to know about Aunt May’s favorite nephew. Whatever it is that makes him unstoppable cannot hold up against having your name on the cover, and so Venom wipes the floor with him. This little X-Over may have been intended to cross-pollinate a few of the bigger books, and give Big Vee something to punch, but Nocenti still finds Juggernaut’s voice. This is him and here, among the mad, he apparently can be stopped.

Venom does not seem to mind the Creep, regardless of the fact that another character refers to it explicitly as a cancer, and in the end he just lets it go. If anyone we meet in this story is truly mad, there is no convincing Eddie it is him. Triumphant, the hero returns to his city, confident in the bedrock of his own mind despite all of the continually mounting evidence to the contrary.

Appearing as a shadow, interrupted only by the constantly shifting, endless row of teeth, Venom must be a comforting presence to the dwellers of this cavern home. The type of protector the disenfranchised expect because those that protect the World Above probably have little time for them. In this way, Venom has chosen to surround himself with those who have as unreliable a perspective as he does, those who assume and prescribe to their own views more than what actually occurs. Venom is at home with what someone not living underground would call madness. To Venom that is all there ever is.

"We accept [him]... one of us!"
“We accept [him]… one of us!”
Does the Black Suit feel the same way? Not to disparage the origins of the entity as already established, but I believe that it does not matter what happened to the Suit before it found its way into the Beyonder’s machine. For canon versus non-canon, I normally begin with this: what has survived through retelling? The Suit feeds on what a wearer feels. The stronger the impulses, the stronger the suit becomes. It learns, adapts, and is empathetic to its wearer. Venom does not trigger a Spider-Sense, is far more powerful that the Wallcrawler, and yet his only source of superpower is the Suit. What kind of state was it in when it met Eddie Brock in the first place?

The 80’s were a weird time. I do not remember much, but everything seems as if it was awful. Spider-Man wore the Black Suit (be it an alien symbiote or regular cloth costume) during some incredibly turbulent times in the character’s existence. I have always seen it as a mourning suit, the black shroud draped over a man who cannot help but lose people. It may have appeared too late to be a result of what happened with Gwen Stacy, but it still feels as if wearing it should tell the reader something other than that the artist cannot be bothered with Ditko’s Lines.

Spider-Man wore the Black Suit for Peter David’s first professional work, The Death of Jean DeWolff. This featured the Sin-Eater, a character whose reign of terror and subsequent capture were retconned into the origin of Eddie Brock. Less explicit to Venom is exactly what Peter Parker lost during that story. He was not yet married to Mary Jane. He watched as a good friend (who may have become something more), one of the few in law enforcement, is brutally murdered while the party responsible brings the whole episode to an even darker place. (The reveal is inconsequential if you have not read it, but if this would have been a spoiler then please go read it.)

If you have ever read "The Invisibles" you may recognize that as Barbelith.
If you have ever read “The Invisibles,” you may recognize Barbelith in the background.

Another notable episode is Jim Owsley’s Spider-Man vs. Wolverine. This a story filled with Cold War intrigue, piles of bodies, and the type of moral ambiguity that I do not know if Parker the character or Spider-Man the franchise was yet able to handle. Though the majority of that issue is spent in a knockoff version of the Red & Blues, it is the Black Suit that he wears at the beginning, and, if the climax is anything to go off of, what he returns to in the end.

These stories are the first instances of Parker’s identity being revealed to Daredevil and Wolverine respectively, setting the stage for the casual meet-ups of the 90s through today. Later on, when Spider-Man rids himself of the Suit, he could be attempting to free himself of all of this grief, anger, and misplaced trust. What if all of that pooled at the bottom of the proverbial basin, similar to blood, or, say, ink?

Eddie may be a sinkhole of desperation but Spidey could learn a thing or two about moving on.
Eddie may be a sinkhole of desperation, but Spidey could learn a thing or two about moving on.

The black ink that defines Venom. Those heavy shadows, those uncompromising depictions that have him ill-defined and almost part of the background. Venom is not only the arch-foe that Spider-Man needed in an era where Norman Osborn was dead and Doctor Octopus was not considered “bad ass” enough, but he is a literal reminder of what Spider-Man was put through. If the 80’s put the character into places where he had to confront the real world, then Venom is what happens when you want to tell those stories but need the conflict to be symbolic.

The Madness is not a story of personal growth. The time of the Black Suit had pain and readjustment that the Spider-Man franchise had to process. Venom is the result. Eddie’s madness is what happens when a fictional character tries to make sense of the real world. The moral ambiguities and unforgivable nonsense that people, not governed by seasoned creators, inflict on one another. Add to that the constant, market-driven demand to be the Next Big Thing, no matter what, and you have a concoction unlike any other. Forcing all of that into its own little box warps into the mess of drool, fangs, and heavy inks that I revered as a child.

Advertisements

The World You Have Always Known is Born-MC2 Part 3…A-Next!!!

 

 

Hey, everyone!  Welcome back to our summer series looking at the MC2 imprint!  I know you enjoyed my sister’s article last week on the first issue of the Marvel Knights Inhumans.  One day, we definitely will cover the Marvel Knights imprint with diligent focus, as it deserves it.  The first wave was such a huge event in the comic book industry, and especially for Marvel.

But the imprint we are focusing on for this summer is MC2, which incidentally was hitting the stands at the same time as Marvel Knights.  Marvel Knights survived and even thrived, while MC2, except for the Spider-Girl title, withered and died.  That probably had to do with the audience at which these titles were aimed.  Marvel Knights was aimed at your standard local comic shop direct market consumer.  MC2 was supposed to be sent to outlets like K-Mart in order to attract a younger audience.  That deal never quite came together, and so the MC2 line was put into local comics shops, where the audience was probably a little too old and sophisticated to want this type of book.  Alas, those shelves are where the comics ended up.

I am not sure that the comic books would have fared better had they been placed into K-Mart.  The idea put forth was that MC2 would be a good entry point for younger readers due to them not having to deal with continuity, (or at least that is what ol’ Dean Compton has been told.  If you know better, leave a comment!), but as much as I like MC2, there’s still plenty of Marvel continuity here.  I am unsure how this entry point would have been any less confusing for these readers.  Case in point, if one is going to understand the MC2 title A-Next, one has to understand Thunderstrike.  They do a good job explaining the connection between A-Next and Thunderstrike, but it still something thrust on the reader.

A-Next #1 - Page 6

I don't feel so bad about my intense dislike for Thunderstrike since his own son seems to think he is shitty.
I don’t feel so bad about my intense dislike for Thunderstrike since his own son seems to think he is shitty.

 

This is the last of the MC2 titles that I like, and to be honest, I just sort of barely like it.  I like it in that way where one yearns for something disgusting, like Vienna sausages or Krystal.  There’s just enough of a taste here to make me want it on occasion, but on no way could I eat this everyday.  Actually, I could probably eat Vienna sausages everyday, but no way on that Krystal.

I like the covers, and I like the blurbs, but the actual writing itself here is starting to replicate itself, and not in the way that cool movie monsters replicate, but in the way 2:55 on the last day of school seems to replicate.  I mean, here are some more new kids on the super hero block (insert your own NKTOB favorite here) alongside J2, who had his own title where he was having his own issues being a teenager who is brand-new to the superhero game.  Don’t worry though; you get more of that here, as J2 will be worried that he isn’t good enough to be an Avenger.

I enjoy the Marvel trope of the teenager finding his way in both the real world (or what passes for the real world in their non-costumed lives), but MC2 is overkilling it here.  I understand why, because these books were aimed at new readers, but you can’t tell me that new readers wouldn’t be interested in the adventures of some of the established Marvel heroes that continue their adventures in the MC2 Universe, such as Wolverine or The Defenders.  Surely one of the four books that focused on the youngsters could have been given to an anthology showing us some of those adventures!  But I digress.  We’re here to talk A-Next!

I like to think of this lineup as the same except that Mainframe is replaced by the Mainframe from 1980's GI Joe.
I like to think of this lineup as the same except that Mainframe is replaced by the Mainframe from 1980’s GI Joe.

The new team of Avengers starts out via some machinations from Loki, but first we have to get the group together.  Even though there have been no Avengers for some time, several members still hold on to their ID cards, which as well we all know, work as communication devices for the Avengers.  This was still cool in 1998, although by then, I had a couple pals with cell phones, so the jig on the ID cards was just about to be up.  By 2005, you would have a device rivaling these.  By 2012, you’d have one that would eclipse just about anything these ID cards could do.  Other than work in deep space, I suppose.

Poor Jolt.  She's somehow made to look less cool than Jubilee here, and making a cvharacter look less cool than Jubilee takes a lot of work.  Like, the amount of work it took to build the Hoover Dam work.
Poor Jolt. She’s somehow made to look less cool than Jubilee here, and making a cvharacter look less cool than Jubilee takes a lot of work. Like, the amount of work it took to build the Hoover Dam.

Seriously, I feel so badly for Jolt.  There certainly is nothing wrong with being a mother, and I admire her dedication to the cause of The Avengers despite her having to see her kids off to school.  I feel badly for her because the first thing we see is her calling herself fat (when she is also not only not fat, but is indeed morbidly frail.  (Why are people just morbidly obese?  We never use that adverb anywhere else.  At least no one but me.)  She leaps into adventure in a way that no fat people other than Chris Farley, Jack Black, or John Belushi ever could.

Then I also feel badly for her because I am imagining her returning to her normal life after saving the world with The Avengers, thinking to herself how proud her kids will be of her, but when she comes through the door, all they want are their damn pizza rolls.  What can poor mother Jolt do but sigh wistfully and commence to preheating the oven to 420 degrees?

At least she gets to team up with Speedball first, who amazingly, COMES OFF EVEN MORE UNCOOL THAN JOLT.  For real.  He is so lame here that folks will clamor and sell their unborn children just to see him in his Penance phase.  Don’t believe me?  Take a gander.

But notice how casual J2 plays it here.  "No big deal, just reading a book, guess I'll go fight some demon dudes with some strangers."  Also, I know you know who J2 is because you only shop in the finest comics shops, as mentioned here.
But notice how casual J2 plays it here. “No big deal, just reading a book, guess I’ll go fight some demon dudes with some strangers.” Also, I know you know who J2 is because you only shop in the finest comics shops, as mentioned here.

He’s shopping with his mother.  Jesus Christ, the world is on the damn line and so far we have a lady with body image issues, a kid who just got powers and really has little clue how to use them, a guy who shops for clothes with his mother, and JUBILEE.  Folks, if Jubilee is the best option between the MC2 Universe and annihilation, I suggest you start finding some precious memories of Spider-Girl and the Fantastic Five because it is all going to go to hell.  Man, I despise Jubilee.  It’s mostly due to the 90’s Fox X-Men cartoon; she’s atrocious in that.

But I am off course here.  This isn’t about how awful Jubilee is; the world would end before I finished a rant on that.  This is about how Tom Defalco for some reason has decided to treat most of these older heroes awfully.  MC2 was not necessarily destined to fail; I mean, Spider-Girl had a good run, but treating main characters like this wasn’t doing these books any favors.  I assume part of this treatment of the older characters is to make the younger guys seem cooler and more contemporary, but you’ve already got J2 rocking the flannel-tied-around-the-waist-look!  There’s no need to do what seems like picking on these heroes.  Another two heroes join our merry band of adventurers, and one basically disobeys her dad from the first moment we see her, which is the complete antithesis of Jolt getting fat-shamed.

The only way her rebellion against authority could be more 90's is if she had a skateboard and was letting everyone know that using it is not a crime.
The only way her rebellion against authority could be more 90’s is if she had a skateboard and was letting everyone know that using it is not a crime.

Oh and to round out the heroes, here’s a robot.

A-Next #1 - Page 13

A-Next #1 - Page 14
“I called you here, but I won’t reveal myself. Now let’s do what I want,” is the kind of rudeness only a robot can get away with.

 

And heroes they are, because just like when the Avengers originally started, Loki is up to no good, and it shall require a new band of heroes to stop him.

A-Next #1 - Page 16
Man, even Edward Bernays and Walter Lippmann would be jealous of the spin Loki put on himself there!

Smart people joke above!  Look out!

That Loki!  Always saying is the opposite of what he is in a cool way!  He also is responsible for the creation of his greatest foes, not once, but twice.  He also has this insane knack for giving people super powers via his magic bolts.  He did so for the Wrecker and the Wrecking Crew, and now he does so for Kevin Masterson because, you know, superheroes.

A-Next #1 - Page 18

Oh, no big deal, I have just always thought about this and now it has happened.
Not only did Kevin’s clothes and body change, but he also instantly gained the power to quip.

The battle is fierce, and it looks as though Loki and his minions may just win the day, when Kevin realizes they are in Asgard.  He then uses his power to summon everyone’s favorite Thunder God, The Mighty Thor!

I love this Thor costume, and I have from the moment I saw Simonson's rendering of it.
I love this Thor costume, and I have from the moment I saw Simonson’s rendering of it.

The Avengers save the day, and as Thor not so subtly suggests, many in the group determine the time has come for a new batch of Avengers to challenge the most powerful and dastardly foes that threaten the Marvel Universe!  Everyone who was along for this ride won’t stay in the group, though.

A-Next #1 - Page 23Once again, Jubilee is made out to be the coolest one here, which means you definitely know this ain’t canon, folks!  I should go easier on her, especially when we see the decidedly not-too-fat-for-her-form-fitting-costume Jolt leaving alongside Speedball, who tells us he prefers being a solo act.  I suppose that’s true, EXCEPT WHEN HE SHOPS WITH HIS MOM.  I keep harping on these points, but I do not believe I can do enough to establish how poor it makes these characters seem.

All in all though, the comic book is fun for all 12 issues, and it even has a few cool tidbits.  I’ll talk next week about when A-Next fought The Defenders, the next batch of Avengers, and even how we should have seen Secret Invasion coming!  See you next week for more A-Next, folks!

 

Mutants, Guns, and a Pariah

When it comes to the 90’s, we have lots to talk about.  There’s the early 90’s with great stuff like Acts of Vengeance, Foolkiller, Armageddon 2001, and more.  There’s the late 90’s with Kingdom Come, Avengers, Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E., and more.  The 90’s are more than just one title or even one genre, (Although as I am sure you have discerned, I’m a super hero guy), but sometimes it seems like they are boiled down into one guy.

 

Rob Liefeld.

No matter how many times I talk to folks about 90’s comics and insist that they are fairly good, and no matter how many times I even manage to find someone open-minded enough to let me talk to them as though 90’s comics might actually be worth looking at, they almost inexorably have to savage Rob Liefeld.

And I don’t mean just say they don’t like him, but you hear everything from how idiotic he is to how he can’t draw to how he ruined comics to how he wants to destroy Denmark.

Ok, you never hear that last thing; what you do hear though, is how much he loved shoulder pads, pouches, and big guns.  Hey man, he’s guilty of that, and guess what?  IT’S USUALLY AWESOME!

No one has ever had larger shoulder pads juxtaposed with a smaller gun.  Also, Boom Boom looks as 90’s as anyone ever has.  Possibly more so.
No one has ever had larger shoulder pads juxtaposed with a smaller gun. Also, Boom Boom looks as 90’s as anyone ever has. Possibly more so.

My biggest issue with all this now is how anyone fails to see how this captured the zeitgeist of the early 90’s perfectly.  Someone could take a gander at that, not know anything about superheroes, and could tell it is 90’s as hell.  Liefeld has faults, but he captured the essence of this era perfectly.  The 90’s were all about being bigger, bolder, and more confrontational than ever before.  We were extreme, and we didn’t give a shit who knew that or cared about it.

Look at the way wrestling was in the 90’s, or the way we Alternative Music rose to the heights it did.  Look at what we did at Woodstock ’99!  We wanted to be in everyone’s face, breaking all the rules, and making the big dot-com dollars!  We were all going to be rich, famous, and good-looking.  Obviously, I got all three, which is why I make so much money writing these blogs, people everywhere can’t stop saying my name, and folks never look away from my picture.  Or something different, whichever.

For better or for worse, these were the values then, and for better or for worse, X-Force was the embodiment of these values.  They were hard.  They were edgy.  They were led by a kick-ass, take no nonsense, character who believed in delivering the dream that Xavier had conceived that mutants and humans could live in harmony right to the doorstep of those who would destroy that dream.  He also carried a GIANT GUN to said doorstep.  And while that doorstep is a metaphor, that giant gun is most certainly not.

cable 1991
That gun sort of looks like how a Swiffer will look in the future.

My first exposure to X-Force came in the form, like many of my early 90’s comics exposure, of the 1991 Marvel Universe card set.  They’re just so cool.  Look at them!  There’s all sorts of delightful minutiae for a guy like me to devour.  First appearance?  Durability Stats?  Did You know?  Um, now I do, and I am ecstatic.

That’s sort of a stupid Did You Know.  You can’t see his leg, but I can tell from this picture that his leg and arm are obviously cybernetic, and cybernetic legs count for little as far as cool goes.  I mean, they don’t suck or anything, but they don’t scream cool the way a cybernetic arm does.  Although nothing beats a cybernetic eye with crosshairs on it.  I am a freaking mark for those.  HOW COULD THEY MISS?

But I digress, I wanted to show you the card that introduced me to X-Force…I reckon I can now!

Rather than their headquarters being unknown, I like to think of them as sharing a headquarters with The Riddler.
Rather than their headquarters being unknown, I like to think of them as sharing a headquarters with The Riddler.

I’m sort of a sucker for a few things, some of which y’all are already aware of, like cyborgs.  That alone would have had me enthralled with X-Force, but it didn’t stop there.  We also get a giant Native American, and while Warpath seems rather racist now, I loved him then, as he tied into my love of the Atlanta Braves. (I know, you’re thinking, what about the Kansas City Royals, Dean?  Relax, they’re still number one.  The Braves are my second favorite team.)  Throw in a guy with cool pilot goggles and a lady with a Spuds Mackenzie eye named Domino and I was instantly spellbound.  I didn’t even need to know anything else about the team, but the fact that they were once the New Mutants rang a bell for me.

I had a weird New Mutants comic when I was very young.  I got it when I was five, and I didn’t really comprehend it.  I remember Warlock being in it, and it being over my head, but I mostly remembered those guys looking like this:

Cannonball is cool because his legs disappear into back blast when he flies, but why is there magic marker all around Karma’s head?
Cannonball is cool because his legs disappear into back blast when he flies, but why is there magic marker all around Karma’s head?

Still, when I saw the connection between The New Mutants and X-Force, comic books became another thing I could know more than others about, and since trying to make others feel stupid was how I dealt with my insecurity at that time, this was truly a treasure trove of defense for me!

X-Force spent their first few issues kicking ass and looking cool, and if you tell me anything more important to a 13-year-old-boy than kicking ass and looking cool, I will tell you that we don’t discuss such things here and you are crude for having such a thought.

I would also show you this splash page from X-Force #1.

Between Feral, Wolfsbane, and Wolverine, all the X-teams at this time had a wolf person.  Was that mandated, or were wolf folks really that cool?
Between Feral, Wolfsbane, and Wolverine, all the X-teams at this time had a wolf person. Was that mandated, or were wolf folks really that cool?

 

Where is Cable jumping from in that picture?  He seems like he is hanging from an invisible trapeze, and let’s be honest, if he was, that would just make him even more hardcore.  Also with all of the other stuff we see Cable do, being in possession of an invisible trapeze would be completely unsurprising.

The issue culminates around X-Force raiding the headquarters of the greatly-named Mutant Liberation Front.  That name is amazing.  There should be more “front” teams in comics.  I mean, I guess they’d all have to be bad guys since terrorist groups seem to have a TM on using Front in their team name.

The MLF ruled though, and they looked so distinctive.  I liked Reaper with his scythe, Tempo in her quasi Iron Man get up, and Forearm with his…four arms.  Also, there were like a million guys in the MLF, from their Cable-clone leader Stryfe (hey sorry if I spoiled that for you!) to the enigmatic Zero.  There were all the guys I have mentioned plus Zero, Kamikaze, Wildside, Sumo, Dragoness, Strobe, Tumbelina, and more.  The idea of the numerous legions vs. the elite but small task force is an intriguing one in all sorts of fiction, but it was made familiar to us all in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

TMNT had swords on their cartoons too, but as awesome as it might have been and as much as we wanted to see it, Leonardo never did anything like this to Baxter Stockman or Slash, the Evil Ninja Turtle.

Shatterstar is able to easily slice people up because his sword has two blades.  DOUBLE CUTTING ACTION!
Shatterstar is able to easily slice people up because his sword has two blades. DOUBLE CUTTING ACTION!

 

Later, it would sort of become a thing that Reaper had body parts cut off.  I think he wound up with a cybernetic hand and leg.   After that, he ended up in the Ultraverse.  That’s a different conversation for a different article, though.  For now, just understand that Reaper was in the MLF, which was awesome, and therefore, by extension, Reaper is awesome.

I like Forearm a great deal, too, but I know his name is silly.  You don’t have to chastise me.

What I don’t like about X-Force is the entire “should I kill or not” trope that dominated superheroes also comes up quite often,  It’s extra annoying here because Cable is all “I can kill, but you can’t” to the rest of X-Force.  It reminds me too much of my own issues with authorities.

Of course, Cable is super awesome, so even when he is being a tight-ass, he is still a cyborg being a tight-ass.  Perhaps I would have tolerated authority better if the authorities had glowing eyes and metal arms.

 007 X-Force #1 - Page 12

Personally, I think it’s racism against Wolf Folks that made Cable decide it wasn’t ok for Feral to kill, but it was perfectly all right if he did.
Personally, I think it’s racism against Wolf Folks that made Cable decide it wasn’t ok for Feral to kill, but it was perfectly all right if he did.

 

I have complained about this before, and I am sure I will complain about it again, but it is just so stupid.  Kill or don’t, but quit the damn whining about it.  It’s as if many writers decided faux pathos and trite dialogue somehow substitute for genuine character development.   I’m not against tension or indecision in characters, but this gets old fast.  I’ve seen it in Darkhawk, and now I have seen it here.  Something tells me I am going to see it a lot more in this blog, whether I like it or not.

What I do like though, is Rob Liefeld’s Juggernaut.   Nothing can stop the Juggernaut, so nothing should look more powerful than he does, and few have drawn him with the inherent power and danger that Liefeld imbued him with.

Again, I have to ask, where is Shatterstar jumping from?  Did Cable lend him his invisible trapeze?
Again, I have to ask, where is Shatterstar jumping from? Did Cable lend him his invisible trapeze?

 

My favorite Juggernaut pic though, is this one.  In fact, it may be my favorite Juggernaut image of all time, which is saying something, because Juggernaut is my favorite super-villain.  Juggernaut looks angrier than a kid who had his pie stolen.  Not as sad though.

Is balloon stuffer a euphemism for a heroin dealer?  Also, note how Juggernaut is bleeding from his eyes, but he can still see.
Is balloon stuffer a euphemism for a heroin dealer? Also, note how Juggernaut is bleeding from his eyes, but he can still see.

 

 

X-Force is one of those titles that you love or hate.  I have been on both sides of the fence on it, and I like the view from both yards.  I can see why both sides come down on the side they come down on, and to be honest, I came into this expecting to detest it, or at least be meaner and snarkier about it.  Instead, I found myself enthralled by the magnitude of Liefeld’s art.  I found myself smiling as I recalled my days as a teenager who loved the excesses of this comic and just wanted to drink up the entire medium.  I smiled when I recalled how I became the comics hipster we all are at some point, denigrating Liefeld’s work as though it was inherently awful.  Now, I’m a man who appreciates that somehow, the dichotomy of those views make me work, and by bridging them together, I can appreciate the work for what it is while still recognizing its flaws.

There’s lots of X-Force left, and much of it doesn’t have Liefeld at all, but some of my favorite moments of the book (aside from the X-Statix stuff, which is crazy good), come from the period just after Liefeld leaves and forms Image; we will get to those next time I tackle X-Force, which will be quite sooner than later!   I had much more fun than I thought I would here; I miss X-Force tons, and I never would have believed it had I not gone back and devoured these Liefeld classics.  That’s right, I said classics.  No matter how you feel about him now, Liefeld changed the game.  X-Force changed the game.  No matter whether the change was for better or for worse in your opinion, the paradigm shift that came about can be directly attributed to Liefeld.  His early 90’s work had an energy and style that translated into what the era wanted at the time, and despite my days as a hipster, I find myself wanting more of his work now.  I don’t think I will be as kind to Youngblood, but X-Force is truly amazing in its own way, despite the flaws.  Give it a once-over and see if you don’t wind up agreeing with me, much to your shock and dismay over betraying the silly notion that you have held for years that “Liefeld ruined comics.”  If your self-revelation doesn’t cause you to die of a heartattack, then pick up the next issue of X-Force and enjoy the grandeur.

Be back here in two days for Bane and Doomsday in the Super-Blog Team-Up!