Wednesday, November 13, 2013

What If Wednesday #14: What if Sgt. Fury Had Fought World War II in OUTER SPACE?

On Wednesdays, The Amazing Justin Palm! gets drunk as shit and reviews an issue of Marvel Comics’ “What If?” so that you, the reader, can enjoy his drunken ramblings about a comic book whose sole purpose is to talk about shit that never happened, so it doesn’t matter at all. Dear Internet: You’re welcome.

Spoiler Alert: Nothing as exciting as the cover happens inside this issue.

I'm not gonna lie to you.  As I drink and read this, I am simultaneously watching cartoons AND playing video games.  I know, that seems unfair.  But seriously, this issue's concept?  I just am not thrilled with where this thing is going.  I get it, it was 1979,  Star Wars was huge, and they wanted to do a Star Wars thing (Even though Marvel already had the license to make Star Wars comics.  No, that's not a joke.).  But when on page 1 Uatu explains that "In this parallel reality space is divided into Alpha and Beta sectors... one on either side of the sun... just as your own Earth was divided into Eastern and Western fronts during your own World War II...!"  I'm just... ugh.  This is gonna get stupid real fuggin' fast.  World War II, but in space, almost as if it was a.... "Space Battles"?  No, that's not quite right, is it?

Marvel!  You literally made 107 issues of this stuff!  You were actively making the two books at the same time!

So, in this universe, in 1941, Space Station Pearl (ugh)  is attacked by alien monstrosities who are the Japanese in this universe, and I feel really racist for having typed that.  Nick Fury and Red Hargrove are astronaut solider dudes in green jumpsuits in this universe, and they fight the invading Japaliens, and space Capt Sam Sawyer (Tommy Lee Jones in Captain America, remember him?) shows up just in time to be killed in a laser fight. Then for reasons that are meant to justify this story's existence, but are mostly just silly, we spend two pages explaining that the reason technology is so much more advanced in this universe is because in our universe Leonardo da Vinci was too lazy to actually build any of his insane devices.  This is seriously a thing that happens in this comic.
 Man, our universe's da Vinci was a lazy shit, huh?

Anyway, later on, Space Sgt. Fury has formed his space Howlin' Commandos, only that doesn't make any sense, but whatever.  They're fighting space robots, who aren't at all related to the Japaliens, so I guess they are Robonazis?  Or Synthetitalians?  Whatever.  Dino has a picture of some hot chick back home with red skin, which seems to have nothing to do with the red aliens we see later (I peeked, sorry.  And the Japaliens are orange, so she's just some random girl with red skin or something?  Oy.  This comic, I tell you...),  and then Fury finds out that the Robonazis are- GASP!- controlled by some sort of computerizing machine!AND IT'S ALIVE!  (I guess?)

So, RoboHitler (I don't actually think that's his name, as he is basically a steel box on wheels that can talk, but without further context, I'm just going with it) can emit a paralyzing space gas that freezes space commandos right in their tracks, and wow, this is just so dumb you guys.  *takes another drink*   Wait, wait... I think it's actually supposed to be Happy Sam's brain in a robot body?  Making them do drills without telling them they're just drills?  They won't say yet (I haven't peeked that far), but he's ordering Fury around like Happy Sam did, so that's my new bet.  Robo-Sam tells the Commandos that they're on 24-hour call, because he expects a Betan Invasion, except for Red Hargrove, because he's got a secret mission for him to pilot.  Whatever.  Robo-Sam shoots Fury in the ass with a laser beam (yes, really) to tell him that he'll be watching, and I have never been so embarrassed for Nick Fury in my life.

He is always watching you, Sgt. Fury.  Even when you poop.

We're halfway done, and I really can not stress how silly all of this is.  This is not a What If.  This is "let's have random space adventures but we're too lazy to create new characters" or something.  It's a glorified Elseworlds, "Nick Fury... innn.. Spaaaace....".  Honestly, if they'd focused more on their flimsy excuse, "What If Leonardo da Vinci Wasn't Such a Lazy Ass?" I'd probably be more willing to go with it.  But whatever.  Let's pretend that World War II was in space and millions of lives weren't lost during the conflict.  That's in no way offensive, of course not.

We're introduced to Red-Alien-Lizard-Hitler, who's ordering Betan soldiers to butcher all non-lizard men that they encounter.  Wait, no, he's Red-Alien-Lizard-Hirohito, because they're still Japaliens, because he's sending his minions to take Midway, which is a pretty unsubtle reference to an actual Marine battle.  Oh, and then, look, it's Space Baron Strucker, who's a Betan spy posing as an Alpha Admiral, giving them secret info!  We're not supposed to know it's space Strucker yet, but his baldness, sinisterness, and the fact that this is supposed to be a Howlin' Commandos story give him away.  The Alienazi's even refer to him as "Herr".  It'd be cute, if it wasn't so stupid and vaguely offensive.

Remember kids, the difference between the Japanese and Lizard Aliens is there is no difference.

Oy vey.  Direct quote time from Space Strucker:  "The Betan is as much a fool as any of the Amerikaners to believe that they are not prepared for his approaching fleet.  In fact, it was I who let the word leak of the imminent invasion.  Ach!  My plan is perfect.  For it is inevitable that the Betan invaders will be totally defeated by the retaliating Terran ships... While Earth's forces will be severely weakened, thereby making it that much easier for my repressed HOMELAND... to RETURN to it's rightful place as RULING CLASS ON EARTH."

So, if I've got this right, the Japaliens are a threat, but Space Nazis are using them to weaken Earth's defenses so that they can take over once the Japaliens are defeated.  Right.  Whatever.

Red Hargrove flies a space ship that is totally not an X-Wing for a while.  It is the most boring thing imaginable.

The riveting, pulse pounding action that only What If? can deliver.

Fury and his Commandos are on duty in case their ship gets boarded, but it doesn't.  Space-Hirohito realizes his spy has betrayed him, which is what you get for working with Space Nazis.  Robo-Sam reveals to Fury that the Admiral in charge is a Space Nazi/Space Strucker, and if Robo-Sam knew that all along, why did he wait until the middle of a space battle to reveal this?

When Fury asks Strucker what's his deal, he basically says that he wants Space Nazism to rule the universe, and we'll all pretend this makes sense.  So as space ships blow up around them, the Howlin' Commandos start doing what they do best: Punching Nazis.  Fury pushes Strucker out of an airlock, so at least we get our "Punch Nazis out of airplanes" quota filled for the day.  The Americans... oh, I mean the Alphans defeat the Betans, Lizard-Hirohito dies, ra ra ra, democracy.  Robo-Sam admits he is, in fact, Robo-Sam, and Uatu shows up in the last panel to try and convince me this wasn't a waste of my time. It was.

"Oh god!  I had this terrible dream that I was in the worst 'Star Wars' rip-off ever!"

This issue is just dumb.  Really, really dumb.  The concept is crazy, and while I love crazy concepts, there's nothing about the execution that I can say is "good".  Like, they don't try to be silly, or funny, or interesting.  Its just a boring attempt to cash in on Star Wars.  And also to say that Japanese people are Lizard-aliens, or something.

Next time, on What If Wednesday!  What if Four Different People Became Nova?  Umm... I assume he'd be less powerful, or something?  Shit, that means that next time I'm going to have to explain Nova to everyone.  God damn it....

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Thor's Day Comic Recommendations

Hey everybody!  It's Thor's Day!  In multiple senses!  So, to celebrate the US opening of what I'm hearing from England seems to be a pretty great Thor movie, I thought I'd make some reading suggestions.  You know, for people who like Thor but don't really "get" comics culture.  So if you left the movie and are in a mood for more hammer throwing action from the god of thunder (or more scheming and trickery from the god of lies, like me), here are some books you may want to check out.  And because I'm so good to you, I've included both Amazon addresses and Comixology addresses, to better serve your preferred reading methods!  (And also availability, because Marvel may be doing many things right these days, but it's print run schedule on older material is just the worst.)

I'm not gonna lie, there's a ton of Thor comics I haven't read, but I've heard good stuff about, and they are probably worth looking in.  With that in mind, here are two....


The Eternals Saga

So, this sounds promising?  I've heard it's a classic, and it's written by Roy Thomas, and it involves Jack Kirby's Eternals, so.... Eh?

If I'm being honest, I was a late bloomer to Thor, and while I can recommend lots of Spider-Man and X-Men stories from the 60s and 70s, other than the ones in the first Essential Thor volume, I don't have a lot of knowledge of early Thor.  But this looks nice.  Also, I hear that Essential Thor Volume 2 is a marked improvement.  So I don't want to say that only modern Thor is good.  That being said...

Thor: The Mighty Avenger

How much has this book gotten praised?  So much that it's waiting in my comixology queue right now, because I realized how embarrassing it was that I hadn't read it yet.  I have heard nothing but praise for this comic, which was great but canceled due to it being a "kids comic" (because most comics aren't for kids, which is a stupid policy, but whatever) and no one read it until it was over.  So, I really recommend it, and promise to read it over the weekend myself.

Now, for books I'm not just guessing at...


The Mighty Thor Vol. 1 by Fraction and Friends

I liked most of Matt Fraction's run on Thor, but this was definitely my favorite part.  Not just because its got one of those "so simple its brilliant" Fraction ideas of Asgardian gods vs. Kirby World Eating Space God Galactus, but, if we're being honest, yes, mostly because of that.  There's one scene that is probably the best non-Jack Kirby use of Galactus ever, and I can say that even though I've read Silver Surfer: Parable. 

Okay, I'm getting a little comics-jargony, sorry.  But the scene with the preacher begging Galactus (who I would argue is the closest thing to "God" in the Marvel universe)... oy.  So great.  Also, it's not all serious, because this is a comic where the Silver Surfer's lack of pants is a subject of non-ironic discussion.  How can you not like that?

Thor by Kieron Gillen

Okay, I'll be honest, this is mostly to set up my next choice, because it's by the same guy, and without knowing that, this book is a little confusing.  So let me explain.

In the mid-00's, after being missing for a while(because he was dead), Marvel brought back Thor with a brand new comic.  Only they hired a writer of much acclaim to do it, whose name I will not state, because I don't want to accidentally summon his attentions like Bloody Mary or something.  Lots of people apparently love his work, for reasons that I don't understand. My parents love that TV show he made that was not Star Trek even though it was pretending to be, they have the whole thing on dvd.  But to me, he will always be the monster who raped Gwen Stacy's corpse.

And then destroyed Spider-Man's marriage by having make a deal with the literal devil that erased it from history.

In between that he killed Spider-Man and then the next issue brought him back as a deranged cannibal monster who ate a villain's head.

He is terrible.

But a lot of people still didn't think that yet, so they had him relaunch Thor.  And to his credit, lots of people liked it and praised it.  But then he did what became standard issue for him, and he just quit the story one day, despite all the fanfare surrounding it, because it was too much work to write a monthly comic.  Soon afterwards he traded sides to DC, and proceeded to launch new visions of both Wonder Woman and Superman, only to dump them 4 months later.  I do not know why people keep giving him money.

Anyway, Gillen came in to fix the problems he had left behind, and did a pretty great job.  His best and most interesting character work was Loki, and he was so great at it that he was chosen to do his very own Loki comic....

Journey Into Mystery by Gillen

Why they didn't just call this book "Kid Loki" I don't understand, because that would have sold much better.  Anyway, Loki died saving the universe in the event book "Siege" which you already know if you read Gillen's Thor (Siege happens in the middle of his run).  He'd been brought back as a child by Fraction, and now you know everything you need to know about this book.  It's Kid Loki trying to be a good guy, because he's not the same Loki as before.  Or is he?  He is, after all, Loki. 

It's so Loki, you have to love it.  And while Comixology seems to be missing a few issues, a shinny new Complete Collection comes out in March, and you can preorder it on Amazon at the link above.  Preordering saves you money, you know.  Just a helpful tip.

Incredible Hercules Vol. 5: The Mighty Thorcules

What's this?  That's not Thor!  That's an entirely different superhero god who's father is the head of his pantheon, who goes on adventures and drinking binges and beats up bad guys with a heavy instrument!  The hell?!?!?

But seriously, this comic is so great.  All of Incredible Hercules is pretty great, but here we have a situation where Hercules poses as Thor to deal with some Dark Elves (The Bad Guys in the New Movie!  Synchronicity!)  only Thor finds out, and he's annoyed (because Hercules just generally annoys Thor on a conceptual level) so he poses as Hercules, so it's kind of like Freaky Friday or something, but with fighting gods and freaky elf sex.  It rules the schools.  It is sadly out of print and I couldn't find all of the issues on Comixology, but if you can find a copy, you should definitely get this book.

Thor: God of Thunder

The current run of the comic, Thor: God of Thunder is the most metal thing there is.  It's so metal that one Thor wasn't enough for this comic.  It's got three.  Old, Young, and Current Thor have to team up to stop The God Butcher. 

He BUTCHERS gods. 

That's his thing.  And it is amazing.  Jason Aaron is great at big concepts, and seriously, his run so far has been SO MUCH FUN.  (It's also really, really pretty to look at.  That doesn't hurt.)  And we get a new issue every month!  Yay!

And finally, the big daddy of them all:

Simonson's Entire Thor Run

This is the one.  The Thor mega-story that every Thor writer ever since has tried to replicate, duplicate, or come close to hitting the same tone.  Everyone says it's the best Thor run ever, and having read all almost 1200 pages of it, I can see why.

Seriously, so much of modern Thor comes from this run.  Beta Ray Bill, Thor's space horse pall who is also worthy of Thor's power, so he gets his own almost-Thor's hammer and gets to be not-quite-a-Thor?  He first appears here.  In the first issue.  That's Walter Simonson's opening act. 

Drastic changes happen!  Ramifications!  Thor stops being Donald Blake and is just Thor now, no silly double identities!  Loki stands for himself ! (That joke is funnier when you've read the comic)  We see how awesome the Executioner really is!  Malekith the Accursed first appears here, so you literally have this run on Thor to thank for the movie you watched this weekend!

If you don't want to pay the $150 price tag for the whole thing/it's out of print (again, Marvel, stop that) Marvel has re-released it in a series of 3 softcover trades, the third of which comes out this fall I think.  But these are totally great, and you should get them if you're a fan of the character.

And what the hell, one last entry:


Thunderstrike:  A.K.A. Early 90's Almost-Thor

Here's the thing: Comics are kind of ridiculous, and by "kind of", I mean "almost always".

So, for a while there in the late 80's/early 90's Thor wasn't Thor, he was a single (I think?) father named Eric Masterson who had Thor's life force put in his body for a while, and then when Thor was given his own body back (or something) Eric got to keep having all of Thor's powers and blonde flowing locks, received his own not-quite-a-hammer, and for a few years there was Thor and there was not-quite-a-Thor named Thunderstrike.  Go to wikipedia if you need more details, because I was like 8 when this was all going down.  I have no recollection of what those comics were like, why they happened, or why you'd ever need a not-quite-a-Thor that isn't a space horse, but there you have it.

Like I said, comics are ridiculous.  Which is why when I was going through Amazon grabbing links for you, and I stumbled upon this collection, my curiosity immediately got the better of me.  This looks so ridiculous that I want to know more.  If you're curious too, you better hurray and buy it, because I nabbed the second to last copy they have.