Thursday, January 18, 2007

Five Free Comics (Part 1)

There was a wonderful little promotion (I hesitate to use the words "little promotion") where a comic retailer made the request for anyone to tell the story of their first comics, and get five free comics from the shop's discount comics room. Even with only 56 responses thus far (the promotion is going until Saturday) it is a very generous thing to do. Because not only were the owners doing this for patrons of their shop, but also mailing them out to schlubs like me. I was ecstatic to receive the package today. I have been feeling the length of the three week wait for this month's comics. Not to mention more than the week's share of normal stuff that goes on. So this was very well received.

I have to tell you it was an extra bonus to open the package, and the first comic was a DC title called "Scarlett" with a scantily clad redhead carrying a laughably large machine gun and firing away. I like my redheads, it was enough to wonder if the person who sent the comics read my diary first. A couple of other nice surprises were two Marvel UK books, one of those being an issue 1. It will be my starter issue, naturally. It is about the UK's own Supersoldier. Titled in a slightly Stan Leeish sort of obvious "Super Soldiers". Published in April of 1993 sporting two writers (twice as good right) Michael W. Bennent and Lee Stevens. Pencils by Andrew Currie. Inks by Rodney Ramos. Colors by Steve Whitaker. And (my favorite credit) Letters by Bambos!, that exclamation mark is in the credits, I promise. And EiC Paul Neary. Right off the bat I like the cover, cardstock, foil lettering. All very shiny and slick. There is a huge man, with a constipated grimace. He totes a large gun (and again laughably large) in his right hand, and a smaller gun in his left. In classic 90s fashion he is carrying so much you have to hold the surprise that he isn't just toppling over (maybe the gun is for balance?). I am hoping I can find this, and the other covers on Off in the corner is US Agent... Cap obviously couldn't be bothered, though I am sure it is no great loss.

Straight into the comic there is a huge emergency in a lengthily named research centre in Orgley, England. A cryogenic chamber malfunction has caused total system shutdown, and the body inside is warming up fast. The two regular looking scientists call in the steroid brigade for a red alert. I am not even kidding about steroids... not only is the appearance there, there are also large hoses which seem to be strapped to all the soldiers' arms. It doesn't take long before somebody says, "Not another bleedin' drill!" which reminds me to turn on my best Dick Van Dyke ala Mary Poppins. The football team readies themselves running towards the cryogenics room. But the captive is already breaking down the door. Boom intro splash page... it's not too bad... a naked man with wires and green smoke surrounding bust through the reinforced door with only three words, "Where is he?" I begin to wonder if I could find this pose in Weapon X, as it almost looks like a shot from that minus Wolverine's claws. The guards seem overly surprised and scared, considering they knew a man was in there, and they have insanely large guns. And judging by the shadows, our Super Soldier really isn't packing much.

Oh, nevermind... the double page splash tells me quite differently. The scene is quite brutal, at least for the dentist all these soldiers see. With one giant blow bodies are flying in ever direction.

The one guy left with teeth, and still standing (lucky bastard) says, "He's a psycho! Shoot to kill!" I am desperate to nickname him 'Captain Obvious', but if he is even in the rest of the book, he looks like the rest of the guys. Cept for that boyish grin. As we move along, to a page with actual panels, I get to marvel at the Super Soldier's most obvious power, disappearing pants. The next few shots are various poses of punching and the soldiers falling like dominoes. At least the chatty fellow got socked in the mouth. I will tell you one thing I have learned thus far... large guns are useless. In this page we get in our Soldier's mind... he sees in red and he moves fast. That is being quoted straight from the captions in his head. He dispatches the final football player, and continues a nice chatty conversation in his head. Ah, he has found his kit. It's a sad moment... trust me if you saw this outfit you might be crying too.

It isn't long before more guards come to where Joseph Hauer (I read his name in his locker) is in the armory, getting dressed. They think they have him cornered, but then he blasts through the door with 40mm grenade launcher. Oh and it also has armor peircing uranium rounds. I gotta say he comes off as pretty smart, he uses the big gun. It almost replays like the last 5 pages except with explosions instead of his powerful fists and striking fighting stances. Then we cut rather abruptly to a redhead talking to a recording device and smoking a fag (they will get to that eventually I am sure) and somehow driving to boot. She thinks there is a fire and she wants to get a closer -- Uh oh, grenade explosion, interrupting crucial dialogue. Super Soldier gets in the car and tells her to drive and she agrees.

Another quick cut to the lengthily named committee for superhuman activities in Whithall, London. A group of stuffy suits and generals are discussing the escaped popsicle. I thought the comic was going to lose me with chatty folks covering their bums, but with a mention of Nuke, and his New York rampage, and an editor's note to see DD-Born Again to boot, I am back in. There is a little discussion about sending out army units and Sirs contacting other Sirs... and a "Quite Right" in response.

One of the heads of the project is informed of the escape of Super Soldier, unaware that he is being set up to be a scapegoat. He blames the escape on buying British instead of Japanese... I don't have a frame of reference, need to check out the cryogenics market. The scene ends with a largely built fellow asking to kill our leading man. And the villagers rejoiced. Oh no, and we cut to Washington DC... wow, everybody knows about this soldier... ah, referencing Nuke again, and asking for the aid of an american superhero. Ah, now we are somewhere in Yorkshire, where we learn the name of our redheaded captive. Sarah Wilde. She talks of her connection to the research centre, she is a reporter investigating the mysterious suicides of scientists working on the Super Soldiers. "Super Soldiers?" Super Soldier asks. "Yeah," she responds. "Fitter, faster, stronger. Like Superheroes but working for the military." Then he says, "Well, I must be one." Honestly, this exchange has me just giggling, he's gargantuan... carrying a small weapons' shipment. And this is surprising? Ah well, the army is waiting in full force just in time to cut off conversation.

Now he prepares himself by strapping on a helmet and saying macho things, he charges into battle with the words that strike fear and intimidate an army. "Come on! You wanna go!" Now it is a page of bodies, bullets, and explosions. Oh but with a shot of the reporter to break up the carnage from one page to the next. "Jeez, I am getting some great shots here, this story will make me or kill me! I guess I should have listened to my mother and gotten married!' This is so wrong... so wrong. It's mum... I should have listened to me mum.. *sigh* Blamity blam... oooh, one man... one helicopter... hmmm four panels.

Uh oh, apparently Sarah is concerned as Super Soldier shot the helicopter on top of himself... "Maybe he's dead, and I can get the hell out of here." No such luck, but we were both hoping the same thing. She marvels at how he can walk out of an explosion so massive. Sarah, this is Dynamic-Pose Man... we expect nothing less.

Super Soldier nearly kills Sarah, but then excuses that as a case of 'roid rage. She tells him she doesn't want to be killed by him or anyone else and then invites him back into the car. They go off to find the one scientist from the super soldier program who hasn't been killed. We cut back to our scapegoat, and his eager killer. They discuss the taking down of the army and the car of a reporter who works for the Guardian. They are worried the lefty journalist with a liking to conspiracy theories will expose everything. Scapegoat sends the eager killer to stop our duo before they reach that scientist. Oh, and he can have reinforcements. Yeah, he might need that.

Now, we get to the cameos of the american heroes. It's a quick one, that's for sure. And we cut to our odd couple now in Bradford, England. Where they knock on the door of our scientist... and he invites them in. He informs them that he knows Super Soldier but never expected to see him again. The reporter demands to know everything about the program. And when asked why S.S says he wants to fix his total amnesia... and that the scientist can help... let's not mention the impending death. Good call. Here comes the recap of Captain America... along with explanations of later failed attempts to create soldiers. The british began a super soldier program shortly after the FF and Avengers and other beings appeared. Before long a program was started as part of the "Black Budget". Things were delayed and set aside for various reasons, but in the late 70s the program for the super soldier was reactivated. Attempts were unsuccessful until Nuke was created. As it turns out Super Soldier doesn't need multi-colored drugs though, his body secretes the drugs through various engineered organs.

Oh, good heavens, there are few things worse then turning from pages of Chatty McScience, only to find even more awaiting you. Blah blah blah, the british government had six super soldiers. One of them became addicted to the rush produced by the 'red' drug. Super Soldier thinks he might have had to kill him. The program was definitely cancelled. And the other scientists were killed for not cooperating... but this one did. He offers up the name of the man who ran the Super Soldier program... but a pesky gunshot to the head interfered. There is happy go lucky killer and his band of reinforcements... I count five total... and now Super Soldier says they are in trouble. What??? Five guys... equal trouble! This makes my head hurt. Well, it is nearly midnight. And what have we learned?

That this is the kind of thing Mark Millar makes work. And god bless him for it.

No comments: