Jan 9, 2015

The Amalgam Retrospective: Day 5

Day 5

Happy New Year, everyone! For the entire week, we'll be doing a retrospective on The Amalgam Age of Comics. In 1996, DC and Marvel crossed over for a whole month in a four-issue miniseries entitled, appropriately enough, DC vs. Marvel. As an added treat, near the end of the crossover, Marvel and DC "merged" into one universe to create the Amalgam Universe, where every character was somehow a mixture of at least one character from each universe. There were 12 Amalgam titles, followed by another 12 in 1997.

We'll be doing quick shots here! Likes, dislikes, things we don't get, and random thoughts for each Cuber.

Need to catch up? Here are part 1, part 2, part 3, and part 4. Otherwise, read on!
Iron Lantern
by Kurt Busiek, Paul Smith, Al Williamson (with assists by Pepoy/Adams/McLeod/Palmer/Milgrom/Smith)

Hal Stark, the Iron Lantern, has to fight the combined menace of Madame Sapphire and Great White.

Travis Likes: I love the armor design. The mashups are great. And there's a two-page scene that, for reasons I cannot entirely explain, is one of my favorite panel progressions in comics. This is towards the end, I believe, of Christie Scheele’s consistent work in comics and resembles more the effort and range in her paintings, making me wish she was still all over Marvel or someone's books today.
Travis Dislikes: Mandarinestro doesn't do much for me, even though he’s only there for two panels at the end.
Travis Don’t Understand: How is this so good?
What Travis Would Get Rid Of: Mandarinestro. He's not even a good tease for a next issue that will never come.

Matt Likes: The New Frontier look to it helps sell the mix of old and new. Metal and man, there, enough cliches.
Matt Dislikes: I really hate the little Stark moustache, in all forms
Oooh, ooh, ooh, a mash up of something I like and something I hate: I like the ideas behind GL a lot and do not like comic Iron Man, how did this turn out? Well, it works pretty well. I was surprised.
Letting down the let down? Hal Stark basically looks like David Niven and it’s a pretty decent Silver Age mash up, technogarbage story. I was pleasantly surprised by how not terrible it was.

Duy Likes: That this is a true Amalgam. I can see elements of both Hal Jordan and Tony Stark in Iron Lantern. There's Oa, the Living Planet. Madame Sapphire is a natural combination of Madame Masque and Star Sapphire and Pepper Potts.
Duy Dislikes: The same thing that takes me out of the story in most Kurt Busiek stories — some dialogue is just too off-kilter and overwritten.
Duy Don't Understand: Why, of all the possible Green Lanterns to merge with Kevin O'Brien as the traitor, it was Kyle Rayner.
Can Someone Tell Me: Who Great White is supposed to be?

Ben Likes: Paul Smith. I have an uncle named Paul, and my last name is Smith. If we could adopt a child and raise it to combine our powers, I’d use those powers to look at Paul Smith artwork, kid be damned. Hector Hammond and M.O.D.O.K. is probably the single most natural amalgamation in the entire line. DC needs to outright steal Madame Sapphire.
Ben Dislikes: Pepper Ferris is not anything anyone would be named. Not outside of a strip club. Mandarinestro is not anything anyone would be named. Not outside of a strip mall.
Ben Don't Understand: Why there aren’t more characters with hilariously large heads.
The Only Thing That Could Make Hal Jordan Worse: Mustache.

Magnetic Men Featuring Magneto
by Tom Peyer, Barry Kitson, Dan Panosian

Magneto gives the Magnetic Men human identities and tells them to go live real lives. Obviously it doesn't last.

Duy Likes: That this universe has a classic rock band called "The Rolling Doors," because why not just ago all the way?
Duy Dislikes: That they downplayed the Antimony/Magneto thing. I know I criticized it earlier. If it's any consolation, my hypocrisy goes only so far.
Duy Don't Understand: "Snapper Jones" is Snapper Carr and Rick Jones. "Lucius Richmond" is Lucius Fox and Kyle Richmond. "Lance Vale" is Lance Bannon and Vicki Vale -- and it's weird that Lance Bannon made it into Amalgam somehow. But who is Debbi from Debbi (not Patsy) Walker? And "John Henry Steele" is John Henry Irons, and Steel, who is also John Henry Irons. What?
Most Promising Next Issue Blurb: "Detective Dinosaur." This must happen.

Matt Likes: Bismuth, too many elements were left out of the Metal Men. All the magnetic bases are covered.
Matt Dislikes: The Sinister Society’s fake metals are just bad. Ninth metal is actually worse than Nth Metal.
Still More Opinions: I am of 2 camps regarding the AoA look. I kind of like it and hate it at the same time. So, basically, exactly like AoA.
Matt Don't Understand: I just don’t get the Krakoa/Savage Land/Mogo mash up. At least, I think it’s supposed to also be kind of Mogo. I just can’t follow it.

Travis Likes: Mister Mastermind. The amalgamated band, the Rolling Doors, which I guess means Marvel and DC each only have one of those bands?
Travis Dislikes: Blah. I just don’t feel it. Even the attempts at social relevance of characterization, like every “white” metal man getting a cushy, high paying luxury gig like model or billionaire, and the "black" one - even though he’s a riff on Steel, is relegated to construction worker (work Steel did do while hiding from the government, but still) comes off ham-handed.
Travis Don’t Understand: The Metal Men aren’t really amalgamated wittily, they don’t sell, so why two Amalgam comics?
Travis Would Rather Have Seen: Kokoro get her own oneshot.

Ben Likes: The Metal Men. Not this bastardization. Never this. (Sinister Society didn’t look half bad though. The names were awful, but they looked good. Okay, maybe just Kultron and Deathborg. Deathborg. Sigh.)
Ben Dislikes: I’ll give you three guesses. The winner gets a free adopted baby.
Ben Don't Understand: Why faces on green backgrounds, like with Chemodam, looks so darn cool.
Comic They Should Have Made Instead: Chemodam and Quasimodox vs Dinosaurs
JLX Unleashed
by Christopher Priest, Oscar Jimenez, Hanibal Rodriguez

The Armageddon Agenda has placed metamutants, including the JLX, behind bars, but they need to fight the menace of Fin Fang Flame!

Travis Likes: Fing Fang Flame is a great name and an awesome look! Dragon on fire!
Travis Dislikes: Knowing both the writer and artist’s styles, I can’t help imagining this would have been much better as a miniseries.
Travis Don’t Understand: Why does the Maxwell clock joke make me laugh both times?
Appearance That Blindsided Travis: Bruce Wayne, Agent of SHIELD.

Duy Likes: The incredible sense of a lot happening between the last JLX title and this one. The Dark Firebird Contract happened. The Armageddon Agenda happened. It all emphasizes that as long as it's done decently, you could miss issues and still get what's going on.
Duy Dislikes: That I know Runaway is supposed to be Rogue and Gypsy, but I can't see Gypsy at all except for the earrings and some of the hair, and that hair just reminds me of Ben now.
Duy Don't Understand: Who Fin Fang Foom is merged with here. Also, can't J'onn fly? How is he crippled if he's a shape-changer? Can't he just change shape into something with working legs?
It Would Have Been Nice: To see Diana Prince again, to see her reaction to the whole Armageddon Agenda mess.

Matt Likes: I do like the turnabout when the demon you summon kills your nefarious, but well-named, guild.
Matt Dislikes: I’m pretty sure the government just told Super Soldier to commit genocide and he seems rather nonchalant about it
The Hellfire League of Injustice Theory: Duy is just a pawn, pulling us into the depths of despair and the fires of Fin Fang Flame.
Will This Top JLX? In that it is better written, drawn and executed, yes. It’s still just a mashup of Civil War and AvX more than DC events (even though those events occurred 15+ years later).

Ben Likes: Amazon. It’s the closest I’ll ever get to an official Storm and Wonder Woman romance in comics.
Ben Dislikes: That they continually find ways to make X characters, who already looked awful in the ‘90s, look even worse. Or do I love it? I don’t know, I need a beer.
Ben Don't Understand: Why Nightcreeper looks like Duy.
Remember When: Mutants were more popular than Avengers?

Spider-Boy Team-Up
by R.K. Sternsel (Roger Stern and Karl Kesel), Ladronn, Juan Vlasco

Spider-Boy gets thrown around the timestream and meets the Legion of Galactic Guardians!

Duy Likes: What's not to love? The Legion's timeline gets revised so we get two sets of Amalgams, both of which are huge to begin with. Mig-El was a good twist.
Duy Dislikes: "Scavulture," because, come on.
Duy Don't Understand: Why would taking apart Spider-Boy lead to separate Spidey and Superboy, if during All Access, Dr. Strange confined Amalgam to its own universe? (You know I'm reaching when this is my nitpick.)
Most Risque Costume That Went Unnoticed: Invisible Girl, who would give Power Girl a run for her money.

Travis Likes: Ladronn draws the hell out of this comic. Scavulture is named, “Scavulture,” but he looks amazing.
Travis Dislikes: I don’t want to read this comic. The words blur into meaninglessness. I just want to look at it.
Travis Don’t Understand: Two writers I love, but I don’t like the writing?
Gag That Failed Travis: The Legion role call should make me laugh, and Ladronn does some great facial expressions on them, but it just falls flat for me.

Matt Likes: Multiple Maid and Paste-Eater Pete are pretty great.
Matt Dislikes: Soder-Cola. The amalgamation fails here and fails hard.
Team Up Take 2: There it is again, THX-1138, who is obsessed with this Lucas film??? Blatant rip off of Terminator too.
Molecule Lad’s Thoughts: Why didn’t they call it a Time Cube. Not to get all mathy on you, but that was definitely a cube.

Ben Likes: I love the Legion of Super-Heroes so very much, this was actually kind of fun. A lot less ridiculous than the first Spider-Boy comic. I love the way they incorporated the different Legion reboots; 5 Years Later and Zero Hour. Spider clone nods too! Funny stuff. The Frightful Five look pretty sweet, I like the Validus amalgam. Kang, the Time Conqueror! The art is really good and fits the story, nice Giffen impersonations in places. It’s pretty cool how the seemlingly random combination of Superboy and Spider-Man made for all these pretty natural amalgamations. Spider-Boy 2099, for example.
Ben Dislikes: Scavulture, Gideon Jupiter, Rex Leech? If they were trying to make Spider-Boy the character with the worst amalgamated character names, they succeeded brilliantly. Mig-El Gand? Groan.
Ben Don't Understand: Why Spider-Boy’s webshooter isn’t attached to his body in this reality. That’s a case of making things Amalgam different to the point of being illogical in-story. I’m not sure I like them lousing up Brainiac 5 with Martinex, but it could be worse. Plus, Molecule Lad, with the face lightning thingies! He makes up for anything, even Scavulture.
Best Battle Cry: By the Power of Advanced Silicon Technology!

Unlimited Access
by Karl Kesel, Pat Oliffe, Al Williamson

Like All Access, except with different time period. Spider-Man meets Wonder Woman! Hal Jordan meets the Savage Hulk! The Legion of Super-Heroes in the Days of Future Past!

Duy Likes: I pretty much like everything about this comic, from Karl Kesel writing to Pat Oliffe drawing — it was basically an upgrade over All Access (which is weird, because I'd consider Butch Guice to be stronger artist, but not between these two works). If I had to pick a favorite, it's got to be the "original" JLA vs. the "original" Avengers. That's a way to do JLA/Avengers before doing JLA/Avengers without blowing your load.
Duy Dislikes: Access, and this annoying narrative surrounding him and his stupid maybe-future self.
Duy Don't Understand: Access has to Amalgamate a group of heroes, but since he doesn't have access to all the heroes, he has to mix and match and make completely new Amalgams. Except Captain America and Superman are right there, and they make up Super-Soldier, the most powerful Amalgam in the universe. Instead, Superman gets combined with Thor to make Thor-El, and then Cap gets combined with Captain Marvel Jr. It's a small gripe, but considering Access has met Super-Soldier before, you'd think he'd have gone for it.
I Would Read a Series: Year One Batman and Daredevil. JSA/Invaders. And Anthro/Devil Dinosaur.

Matt Likes: Spider-Man runs out of web fluid just as Wonder Woman shows up...
Matt Dislikes: This particular 90s art style. Juggernaut just looks incredibly phallic.
Matt Don't Understand: Why anyone thought an unlimited amount of Access was a good idea. This story is completely unnecessary, unmoving and pointless. It’s a grab bag of stuff that didn’t appear in All Access and the poor quality shines through.
Final Conclusions, Finally: I am glad they no longer do Amalgam and wish I had all the time I spent reading it back.

Ben Likes: Wonder Woman flirting with Spider-Man.
Ben Dislikes: Access. Part of me wants to adopt a child, and raise it specifically to make Ron Marz pay. (Not, like, kill him. What were you thinking? It's just that Access sucks, and someone should be held accountable. Is their no accountability!?)
Ben Don't Understand: With the amount of people most likely involved in the production of this comic, why is it so terrible to read.
Best Character to Ship: Wonder Woman. I love unconventional male characters flirting with Wonder Woman. Batman in the Justice League cartoon. Spider-Man here. Basically anyone but Superman and Steve Trevor, because they both suck. (Yes, this is important to me.)

Travis Likes: Mantis voguing above the petty insects, aka citizens of New York. Jim Novak's lettering is hella good. Hal Jordan vs Hulk. Red Lash, combing Scarlet Witch and Lashina. Good era-specific looks and pastiches
Travis Dislikes: Wonder Woman looks weird. There's no point to this mini except the actions and the actions don't amount to much.
Travis Don’t Understand: Why are the New Gods so weak?
Best Cameo of Amalgam: Mr. Mobius, the guy who isn't Mark Gruenwald and runs the multiverse's bureaucratic end, and yeah, he is Mark Gruenwald.

We hope you guys enjoyed this retrospective on the Amalgam Universe! If you've read it, which ones were your favorites? If not, what're you waiting for? Go read 'em today!

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