Fantastic Friday: Mutant mania

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. It’s more manga-inspired action with 2004’s X4: X-Men/Fantastic Four. I was going to skip this series due to unavailability, but I found a copy at the last minute, so let’s get our mutant freak on.

What’s all this, then? The first issue cover credits Pat Lee and Dreamwave Studios, with the interior credits show writer Akira Yoshida, Lee on pencils, and variety of others on layout, backgrounds, and inks. Founded by Pat Lee, Dreamwave burst on the scene with super-cool comics such as Dark Minds and Warlands. They later got the license to the Transformers, and they were more or less the caretakers of the Transformers universe for a while. Dreamwave shut down in 2005, and there are a lot of differing and unfortunate opinions online as to why, with a lot of ugliness and people saying mean things to each other. It appears this miniseries came right at the end of Dreamwave, because starting with issue #3, the credits read “Dream Engine Studios” instead.

X4 begins in Earth’s orbit, where NASA space station Simulacra is welcoming home a Mars lander. Something goes wrong and, there’s an explosion. Cut the Xavier Institute in Westchester, New York. Wolverine is woken up due to the X-Mansion’s doorbell. With no one else around, he answers it and finds the Fantastic Four at the X-Men’s front door. Ben says, “Our big brain just wants to talk to your big brain.” Wolverine loses his cool, and he and Ben fight for several pages. Storm flies down from the sky, and then a fight breaks out between her and Johnny. These fights go on for a few more pages, in a classic excuse-for-the-characters-to-show-off-their-powers. Emma Frost then arrives and uses telepathy to break up the fight.  

The FF and the X-Men gather inside the mansion, with Reed explaining that he just had to make a request in person, rather than calling or emailing. Reed wants to speak to Professor Xavier, but Wolverine says the prof has taken off. Reed shows them footage of the Simulacra, saying that the station had an eighteen-member crew, and its unknown whether any survived the explosion. The Beast suspects that something was hidden on the Mars lander. Reed says he’s come to the X-Men for use of Cerebra, their advanced mutant-hunting computer.

Emma Frost says neither Cerebra nor any mutant telepath can reach space, and Cyclops suggests a team flying to space to get a telepath close to the Simulacra. The X-Men show off their new X-Jet, which combines human and alien tech, and capable of long-distance spaceflight. The FF are impressed, but there are only six seats inside. It’s decided that the team will be Emma for her telepathy, Ben and Wolverine for the muscle, and Sue, Nightcrawler, and Gambit for their “resources.”  They fly to the Simulacra, where Emma senses frightened survivors inside. The heroes enter the station to find a tentacled monster waiting for them.

Issue #2 begins with Reed and Beast comparing notes, with Reed saying he’s been tracking a cosmic irregularity that may be related to the incident in the Simulacra, and it’s similar to the cosmic rays that gave the FF their powers. Reed says he’s concerned about what cosmic rays might do to mutants’ X-factor that given them their powers. On board the Simulacra, the monsters are revealed to be the Brood, alien parasites whom the X-Men have often battled. The heroes fight off the Brood, and Emma coordinates everyone to split up, with one half of their group searching for survivors and one half further fighting the Brood.

Sue, Emma, and Gambit find the survivors, who have been implanted with Brood eggs. Sue wants to save them while Emma argues that the survivors are already dead. Sue undoes a Brood jamming device and contacts Reed, who tells them must evacuate because the cosmic storm is approaching. Sue agrees to leave, hoping to return and save the survivors once the storm passes. The X-Jet gets hit by the cosmic storm as the heroes depart. It is damaged, and comes crashing down to Earth, in the middle of a forest. The X-Men emerge from it, transformed into monster-like creatures.

Issue #3 begins with Reed, Johnny, Cyclops, Storm, and Beast searching the crash site in a Fantasticar. They’re attacked, only to discover their attackers are the four X-Men from the mission, now in their monstrous forms. More fighting breaks out, with Cyclops and Storm not wanting to harm their teammates. We see that Nightcrawler has gained Sue’s powers, and Gambit now has Johnny’s powers. Emma doesn’t speak, but lashes out at Cyclops her new diamond form – her secondary mutation – and mention is made that she’s like the Thing now. Wolverine’s arms are unnaturally long, meaning he has Reed’s powers.

There’s a lot more fighting, with Sue and Ben eventually revealing they are okay. With their help, the heroes subdue the four transformed X-Men. Beast and Reed start to talk about a cure when Wolverine comes to and flees into the woods. While the others stay behind to search for him, Reed and Beast return to the Baxter Building. Because Wolverine, Gambit, and Nightcrawler haven’t yet had a secondary mutation, Reed believes Emma’s secondary mutation could be the cure. Then Sue calls Reed with a more pressing matter. The space shuttle Titan is returning to Earth from its space mission, except it’s filled with Brood.

Issue #4 shows that the shuttle is headed straight for New York. Sue blames herself, as the Brood on the shuttle are what became of the survivors she left behind. Storm tells Sue not to blame herself and focus on saving New York. There are several pages of Sue, Storm, and Johnny working together to bring the shuttle down for a safe landing.

Beast worries that a larger team of superheroes will be needed to contain the Brood inside the shuttle, so he and Reed get to work curing the transformed X-Men. There’s another fight on the woods when Ben and Cyclops manage to subdue Wolverine. The take Wolverine to Reed’s lab for further work on the cure, when giant whale-like aliens appear in the sky over NYC, and the shuttle opens to let out the Brood.

The big battle kicks off in issue #5, with several pages of the X-Men and the FF fighting back a full-scale alien invasion. In Reed’s lab, Reed wonders if he can cure the X-Men when he’s never been able to cure Ben. Beast gives him a pep talk, saying the always-changing nature of mutation gives Reed the edge this time. The cure works, and Wolverine, Gambit, and Nightcrawler join the fight in the streets of NYC. With their help, the heroes fight back the Brood.

As for Emma Frost, she too is healed, and she and Reed return to the X-Mansion to use Cerebra. Reed uses his genius to amplify Cerebra’s power, and Emma says she will send the Brood on “a ‘trip’ they won’t soon forget.” Combining her telepathy with the new Cerebra, she makes the Brood think that both Galactus and Phoenix have arrived in New York as well. The Brood then retreat, fleeing in terror. The two teams compare notes, with Reed saying neither of them could have driven back the Brood on their own. Later, the FF join the X-Men at the Xavier Institute for one of the X-Men’s regular softball games. Sue and Emma have a heart-to-heart talk, in which Emma says it is good to have someone else looking out for her teammates, and Sue says, “That’s what being a family is all about.”

Unstable molecule: Reed says he’s unaware the X-Men are experiencing secondary mutations. But he’s saying that to Beast’s cat-like form, which is Beast’s secondary mutation! Maybe Reed was just being polite.

Fade out: Like many comic readers, Sue is perplexed by the relationship between Emma Frost and Cyclops. Emma tells her that the X-Men think of her and Cyclops the same way the FF think of Sue and Namor.

Clobberin’ time: I’d thought that the Reed-trying-and-failing-to-cure-Ben plot was resolved by this point (Reed can’t cure Ben because of Ben’s own mental blocks), but it’s referenced several times in this. In the end, Ben says he has faith Reed will find an answer someday.

Flame on: When Gambit has Johnny’s exact same powers, Johnny manages to defeat him not with fire, but by punching him right in the face.

SUE-per spy: The 2019 Invisible Woman miniseries revealed that Sue had a double life as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent all along. When fighting the Brood in this story, she creates an invisible sword out of a force field. When did she have this kind of control? Could it be her spy training at work?

Trivia time: Where are the X-Men at in continuity at this point? Astonishing X-Men kicked off its “Danger” storyline, which the Danger Room went haywire, evolving into a new character named Danger. New X-Men was in the middle of its “Haunted” story arc, portraying the X-Mansion as a haunted house. (This was unrelated to the Danger Room stuff, it seems.) Uncanny X-Men had the mutants taking on the Hellfire Club in a confusing tale also featuring nanites. And in the adjectiveless X-Men, it was the Christmas issue (!) in which Wolverine’s clone X-23 became an official X-Man.

Why isn’t Professor X there? Never minding that he has a long history of taking off and leaving the X-Men on their own, in this case he’d left for Genosha in hopes of rebuilding it from a wasteland back into a working nation.

When the FF and the X-Men meet in the mansion, we see three Xavier School students eavesdropping. The Marvel Wiki reveals these are Elixir, Wallflower, and Wind Dancer, three recent additions to the school.

Why is the X-Men’s mutant-seeking computer Cerebra and not Cerebro? Cerebra is the newer, better version, developed by Professor X and Beast. In addition to mutants, Cerebra can also direct Atlanteans and vampires.

There are several refences to the Avengers not being around. This is more fallout from the Avengers: Disassembled event, where the Avengers disbanded for a time. But wait, New Avengers, which co-starred Wolverine, debuted at the same time as this miniseries. I guess we’ll have to conclude this miniseries precedes New Avengers.

Fantastic or frightful? The story here is very basic, and the idea of giving the FF’s powers to four X-Men isn’t explored as much as I’d like. Nonetheless, there’s a lot of good stuff here. The shuttle crash scene is very well done and cinematic, as the comic walks us through how the heroes use their powers to stop the crashing shuttle.  The sky whales recall the 2012 Avengers movie, to where I wonder if the movie was directly inspired by this.

Next: Back on main.

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Want more? Check out my new ongoing serial, THE SUBTERKNIGHTS, on Kindle Vella. A man searches for his missing sister in a city full of far-out technology and hidden dark magic. The first three chapters are FREE, so give it a shot! Click here for a list of all my books and serials.

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Gamera rewatch – Gamera vs. Gaos (1967)

Rewatching the Gamera movies! Gamera vs. Gaos (1967) introduces Gamera’s most famous rival, and it features several classic Gamera-isms.

Here’s what happens: A group of farmers are unwilling to relocate to make way for a new freeway. This is complicated when Japan is wracked with mysterious volcanic eruptions, unleashing giant monster Gaos into the world. After Gaos and Gamera battle a few times, scientists determine that sunlight is harmful to Gaos, so a plan is hatched to keep Gaos distracted long enough to keep in the sun. When that fails, it’s all up to Gamera.

Nice gams: As the movie begins, it’s been two years since anyone has seen Gamera, and there’s a lot of speculation as to where he went and whether he will return. Gamera’s return is ambiguous. Was he hibernating at Mount Fuji alongside Gaos? Had he traveled there from parts unknown, drawn to the volcanic energy? The movie doesn’t say.

Turtle power: Gamera draws his limbs into his shell, and then rolls down a mountainside like a huge bowling ball to crash into Gaos. When injured, Gamera goes to the bottom of the ocean to heal.

Big baddie: The story goes that producers originally wanted to make a Dracula movie, therefore Gaos drinks blood (!) and he’s vulnerable to sunlight. Gamera and Gaos are evenly matched. They can both fly, and Gamera’s fire breath is as powerful as Gaos’ laser breath. Gaos’ best move, however, is the power to generate city-destroying gusts of wind with his wings.

Hapless humans: Our hero is intrepid reporter Okabe. He sneaks onto restricted land to investigate the volcanic eruptions, discovering Gamera’s underground hiding place. He pretty much disappears after the first act.

Kid stuff: Eichi is a kid who follows Okabe onto the volcano site, and Gamera rescues him during the first battle with Gaos. Eichi and Gamera seem to develop a psychic bond after that, with Eichi speaking on Gamera’s behalf in front of the adult soldiers and scientists.

Thoughts on this viewing: I liked this one! It finds a pretty good balance between the action movie stuff with monsters and fighting and humans trying to science their way out of it, and the kid-friendly stuff with a child bonding with the giant turtle. It’s got some surprisingly blood scenes, but also some goofy slapstick humor.

Next: When aliens attack.

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Want more? Check out my new ongoing serial, THE SUBTERKNIGHTS, on Kindle Vella. A man searches for his missing sister in a city full of far-out technology and hidden dark magic. The first three chapters are FREE, so give it a shot! Click here for a list of all my books and serials.

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Fantastic Friday: Fantastics-giving

It’s a holiday weekend, so here’s some Thanksgiving/holiday stuff:

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Want more? Check out my new ongoing serial, THE SUBTERKNIGHTS, on Kindle Vella. A man searches for his missing sister in a city full of far-out technology and hidden dark magic. The first three chapters are FREE, so give it a shot! Click here for a list of all my books and serials.

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Gamera rewatch – Gamera vs. Barugon (1966)

Rewatching the Gamera movies! Gamera vs. Barugon (1966) has its high points, but the franchise hasn’t found its voice yet.

Here’s what happens: At the end of the last movie, humans defeated Gamera by putting him on a rocket and firing him away from Earth. That doesn’t last long, as the rocket hits a meteor, and Gamera comes flying back home. Meanwhile, three treasure hunters find an ancient opal that’s actually an ancient egg. It hatches and grows into giant monster Barugon. Gamera is drawn to Barugon’s energy, and they fight it out.

Nice gams: Gamera’s motivation is the same as the first movie. He feeds off energy, and he’s hungry. The movie’s opening set piece is him destroying a dam for sustenance, and the only reason he goes after Barugon is after sensing Barugon’s power. After defeating Barugon at the end, Gamera merely flies off into the sky, like a cowboy riding into the sunset.

Turtle power: Gamera doesn’t get a lot of screen time, as the filmmakers clearly hope Barugon will be the new marquee star. After a lot of failed attempts to defeat Barugon, the humans deduce that he’s a saltwater monster, and freshwater will kill him. In the final battle, Gamera drowns Barugon in a freshwater lake. Can we assume that Gamera has some sort of connection to humanity similar to Godzilla?

Big baddie: Barugon has ice breath, which conveniently counters Gamera’s fire breath. He also has his inexplicable rainbow attack, shooting pretty lights out of his back to attack threats behind him. The rainbow looks silly, but it causes massive destruction. We’re not really told where Barugon comes from or what he wants, though the island natives where he comes from suggest Barugon is magical/supernatural in nature.

Hapless humans: The four treasure hunters are Keisuke, Onodera, Kawajiri, and Ichiro. They’re WWII vets returning to an island they once visited during the war, chasing rumors of a lost treasure. This is way more Treasure of the Sierra Madre than it is Raiders of the Lost Ark. It’s all about greed and suspicion among the four men, leading to violence and then murder among them. After a lot of back and forth, Keisuke emerges as the hero, helping the army think of ways to fight Barugon. An island native whom the English dub names “Karen” is also along for the ride, providing exposition about Barugon and a little romance with Keisuke.

Kid stuff: The Gamera movies are famous for being whimsical and kid-friendly, but this one attempts a serious drama with all the paranoia and backstabbing.

Thoughts on this viewing: While the “evil that men do” plot is interesting, it means the monster action is fleeting. And the monster action is what we’re here for. This movie was allegedly a box office bomb, causing the series to pivot in a new direction after this.

Next: Going volcanic.

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Want more? Check out my new ongoing serial, THE SUBTERKNIGHTS, on Kindle Vella. A man searches for his missing sister in a city full of far-out technology and hidden dark magic. The first three chapters are FREE, so give it a shot! Click here for a list of all my books and serials.

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Fantastic Friday: Big in Japan

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Fantastic Four/Iron Man: Big in Japan was a four-issue miniseries attempting to bring some classic kaiju action to the Marvel Universe. Zeb Wells is writing, but clearly artist Seth Fisher is the one behind the steering wheel, because this artwork is something.

The FF visit Tokyo, enjoying their celebrity status at the ribbon cutting for the Tokyo Giant Monster Museum and Expo Center. Also present is Otetsukun, a skyscraper-sized robot that has protected Japan from giant monster attacks for decades. But there haven’t been any monster attacks in a generation, so Otetsukun serves as a sort of monument these days. The FF tour the museum, where curator Dr. Yamane tells them about scientific advances Japan has made thanks to studying the remains of the giant monsters. Just as Reed questions the ethics of this, billionaire Tony Stark arrives, hoping for an economic partnership with the museum.

Then some cow-like monsters escape their pens (I guess this museum is also a zoo for monsters) and more monsters escape and run loose. The FF fight the monsters, while Tony runs off to find his “bodyguard.” Monsters of all shapes and sizes run through the city. Iron Man flies in to help the FF fight them. Johnny says he can sense a mysterious hum, and then more kaiju rise from the ocean to attack the city. (This is when the comic uses the word “kaiju” for the first time.)

Issue #2 specifies that four of the monsters from ocean, Eerok, Giganto, Droom, and Grogg, are throwbacks from classic 1950s Marvel Comics. Sue fights Eerok, a Kong-like gorilla, while Iron Man battles Droom, a big dinosaur. Droom has a vision of Iron Man turning into an Ultraman or Jet Jaguar type of giant robot, and he befriends Iron Man.

Reed and Yamane return to the museum, where Yamane describes monoliths discovered under the polar ice caps which suggest there may be an intelligence behind the kaiju’s actions. Out in the city, Sue continues to fight Eerok while telling the locals to evacuate. Ben shows up with Otetsukun, controlling the robot by yanking wires inside its chest. Eerok and Giganto manage to overpower Otetsukun. Then Johnny reveals he is hiding inside Otetsukun’s mouth, making it look like the robot is breathing fire.

After removing a trachea from one of the monster museum exhibits, Reed uses it as a horn. This somehow allows him to communicate with Grogg, the dragon. Grogg says the kaiju once ruled the world, but they were driven underground first by the atom bomb, and then by the rise of superheroes. He refers to the heroes as “vanquishers.” Grogg says the kaiju have returned not to attack, but because they are fleeing something else. Reed convinces Grogg to turn away. Grogg agrees, saying that humankind will now face a “walking apocalypse” in the kaiju’s place.

In issue #3, The FF, Iron Man, and Yamane travel to the North Pole, searching for this threat the kaiju warned them about. They discover the remains of a paleontological expedition that vanished forty years earlier. They find what appears to be a giant structure under the ice. They enter it, and here’s where the artwork gets so wild and off-the-wall that I’m not sure what’s happening exactly.

The heroes explore rooms made of massive eyes, fingers, and teeth. They are confronted by “living shadows” called Kaa, who say they are waiting for a key. Reed says reality is warping, while the Kaa break the fourth wall and talk about turning pages. The Kaa are preparing something called “the tearing.” Dr. Yamane disrobes, revealing his body covered with eyeball tattoos (or maybe they are eyeballs). He says the paleontologists were secretly a cult who worshipped kaiju as gods. He is the son of one of them, and he’s here to complete the ritual. He does some weird dance, and time and space tear apart. This is depicted by having one of the shadows appear to tear through the comic page itself. The caption tells us this is a “5-D Mega-Gourb!” Sure, why not?

Then there’s several pages of what I can only describe as random craziness:

The heroes escape the tear, back out onto the North Pole. They’re pursued by a yellow-skinned cosmic being. The Marvel Wiki identifies this creature as the Apocalypse Beast. The creature crushes Yamane under its foot, with him celebrating that he’s fulfilled his purpose. The heroes fly onto the Beast’s toe and examine its pores (that’s how big it is), and Reed deduces that it has sealed its skin because it comes from a different atmosphere from Earth’s. (Never mind that it has two faces with open mouths.) The inside of the Beast’s body is toxic, so Sue uses her force fields to create an armored suit of compressed air around herself (!), and she and Iron Man enter the creature’s pore in hopes of stopping it from the inside. Then the Mole Man shows up, announcing that the creature is on its way to Monster Island.

In issue #4, we see that the Apocalypse Beast is indeed going to Monster Island, with Reed reminding everyone that the Mole Man has a history with that island and all the giant creatures who dwell there. A Moloid meets them there, with Mole Man describing them as nameless and mindless, but then we discover that they’ve formed a doomsday cult underground. Sue and Iron Man fight their way through the Beast’s body, Fantastic Voyage-style, depicted in more trippy weirdness. Sue has a vision of the Beast in space, and she concludes that something was removed from it, and the creature wants it back. Reed and the Mole Man find ancient machinery deep under the island that has been dormant until recently, when the Moloids activated it again.

Reed then deduces that Monster Island is not merely a giant machine in disguise, but a giant syringe (!). Johnny ignites the dormant volcano under the machine, Reed mans the machine’s controls, and Ben protects them from an attack by some other random monster down there. The volcano/syringe pokes the Apocalypse Beast in the eye, and all the Moloids fly upward into it. The creature turns inside out (!) and flies back into space. The Mole Man breaks down crying, remembering that at least one Moloid had a name… Noah.

Reed concludes that the Moloids were a virus all along, bio-engineered for the purpose of driving off the Apocalypse Beast. Reed and Sue are reunited, as she and Iron Man made it out okay. Cut to the year 12,425 A.D., where two Moloids discuss how their once-great civilization is doomed, and their world’s resources are all but spent. They place their infant child into a pod and launch the baby into space, in hopes that it will find a new home on a new world. No, the baby isn’t named Kal or Clark. His name is Noah.

Unstable molecule: Upon learning that all the Moloids were really a virus all along, Reed says, “It’s just as I thought,” to which Ben replies, “You’re telling me you expected that?”

Fade out: We’ve seen Sue surround herself with a force field armor before, but this time it’s different. It looks like an Iron Man suit, and the “condensed air” part of it gives the armor a blue glow, rather than have it be purely invisible.

Clobberin’ time: When Ben is able to control the giant robot Otetsukun, that could be a reference to his great piloting skills, or just letting the reader know he’s gained some engineering skills after working with Reed in the lab for so many years.

Flame on: Johnny is incredibly powerful in this one, using his flame to ignite a long-dormant volcano. It recalls the “Messiah” storyline from the John Byrne years, when a villain trapped Johnny deep underground to use his powers in a similar way.

Trivia time: Is this story canon, or isn’t it? The origin of the Moloids in this contradicts the one in the Marvel Wiki, where the Moloids were genetically engineered by the Deviants back in ancient times. But then, the Wiki adds an “Oh, by the way” and states the Deviants added the power to drive off this story’s creature as a bonus. But then, the Wiki further says maybe it was the Deviants or maybe it some other, unknown intelligence.

Who are these other monsters with ties to Marvel’s past? Grogg first appeared in Strange Tales #83, where he woke from an ancient slumber beneath a mountain in Russia, following Russian atomic bomb tests. Droom first appeared in Tales to Astonish #9, where he was an ordinary lizard accidentally given an experimental growth serum. Fantastic Four fans recognize Giganto as Sub-Mariner’s monster of choice way back in issue #4. He’s since gone on to be one Marvel’s go-to sea beasts. Finally, there’s Eerok the giant ape. This miniseries is his first and only appearance.

It’s also the first and only appearance for antiquated giant robot Otetsukun. That’s too bad, because it’s a fun design and interesting backstory.

Fantastic or frightful? If you’re going to read this one, it’s for the over-the-top psychedelic yet cartoony artwork. It’s like nothing else we’ve seen from Marvel. The art is so outrageous, though, it makes following the story a challenge. Every other page, you have to stop and ask “Wait, now what’s happening?”

Next: Back on main.

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Want more? Check out my new ongoing serial, THE SUBTERKNIGHTS, on Kindle Vella. A man searches for his missing sister in a city full of far-out technology and hidden dark magic. The first three chapters are FREE, so give it a shot! Click here for a list of all my books and serials.

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Gamera rewatch – Gamera the Giant Monster (1965)

Rewatching the Gamera movies! Gamera the Giant Monster (1965) has a classic “creature feature” feel, only hinting at the kid-friendly action movie silliness the series would become.

Here’s what happens: An airplane carrying a nuke is shot down in the arctic, awakening an ancient prehistoric turtle, Gamera. The monster eventually goes to Japan, hungry for energy. Although he just wants to eat, he clashes with the local military. Despite a lot of talk about an ice bomb that can freeze Gamera, the humans trick him into entering a giant rocket. They save the Earth from Gamera by launching him to Mars!

What’s all this, then? Tracking the history of this movie is infuriating, in that there have been so many versions of it over the years, with multiple edits, dubs, even a bunch of different titles. I’ve given up trying to figure out which version is the definitive one, concluding that the 1965 Gamera is a living document, evolving into something new for each generation.

Nice gams: In addition to being a gigantic prehistoric turtle, an ancient tablet (!) and the writings of Plato (!!!) tell us that Gamera and other turtles like him once roamed Atlantis, and they were feared like devils. Where’s that movie?

Turtle power: We’re introduced to Gamera’s classic moves. He can breathe fire and smash things real good. Later, he draws his limbs into his shell, replacing them with rockets, that allow him to spin and fly around like a flying saucer. This is preposterous, but it’s also what sets him apart from other kaiju.

Hapless humans: Our hero is Dr. Hidaka, a scientist who was present when Gamera woke up in the arctic. He then takes a leadership role and puts himself in the center of the crisis. He’s the stock “man of science” hero seen in so many old B-movies. His sidekicks are his loyal assistant Kyoko, and thrill-seeking photographer Aoyagi.

Kid stuff: Toshio is a child whose parents force him to let his beloved turtle loose in the ocean. He believes Gamera is his pet all grown up. Later he bonds with Gamera and speaks on Gamera’s behalf. Despite all the death and mass destruction, this establishes from the start that these movies are going for a kid-friendly tone.

Thoughts on this viewing: The movie’s not even hiding the fact that it’s cashing in on the success of 1954’s Gojira (a.k.a. Godzilla), but there’s just enough here to give this series its own personality, setting up all the outrageous places it’s going to go.

Next: Treasure of the Gamera Madre.

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Want more? Check out my new ongoing serial, THE SUBTERKNIGHTS, on Kindle Vella. A man searches for his missing sister in a city full of far-out technology and hidden dark magic. The first three chapters are FREE, so give it a shot! Click here for a list of all my books and serials.

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Fantastic Friday: More foes, more problems

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. It’s the second half of the Fantastic Four: Foes miniseries from Robert Kirkman and Cliff Rathburn. We’ve got mind games, aliens, and Negative Zone action, but does it all tie together?

The first half of Foes introduced several plotlines that appear only sort of connected at this point. Fearing that the FF has made too many enemies to the point where they’ll be dead in two years, Reed begins plans on his own super-prison located inside the Negative Zone. He enlists help from Andrew Lewis, whose security firm works in the lower floors of the Baxter Building, and who worked on the Vault, Marvel’s original super-prison. After battles with Puppet Master and two clones of Annihilus, the FF are under attack by the Super-Skrull. He snuck into the Baxter Building disguised as Franklin to steal some of Reed’s tech to contact the Skrull homeworld.

Issue #4 begins with Sue defeating the Super-Skrull, demanding to know where Franklin is. Johnny says the school called during the fight, saying Franklin is still there. Sue casually goes to pick him up. Later, Reed meets with Nick Fury (actually a life-model decoy of Fury) where S.H.I.E.L.D. is keeping the recent villains in suspended animation. LMD Fury says S.H.I.E.L.D. is ready to start construction on the new jail.

Reed then comes up with a device based on all the villain DNA the Puppet Master and the Mad Thinker took in issue #1, which will allow the FF to track the villains’ movements. The team uses it to track down the Mole Man deep underground. They try to apprehend him while he’s sleeping, only for one of his subterranean monsters to defend him. After a big fight, the Mole Man surrenders when the cavern collapses. Reed has another chat with LMD Fury, admitting that he’s thinking more rational and less paranoid. We then join Andrew at home, where he’s been working overtime on the prison. And we’re reminded that he thinks his wife is normal, when she’s really a gross insect-like creature. What appears to be his actual wife’s corpse is sitting in one corner, creepily.

Issue #5 begins with Andrew taking a tour of the new prison, along with a tough guy known only as the “Warden.” Several of the FF’s enemies are already inside, and there’s several pages of the FF tracking down and apprehending their enemies, including Hydro-Man, the Grey Gargoyle, the Wizard, Klaw, the Trapster a.k.a. Paste-Pot Pete, and even the Molecule Man. We check in with Andrew, where his alien insect wife dons a necklace that makes her look human. She’s looking forward to her Andrew giving her a tour of the prison.

The villains learn what the FF is up to. When the FF move in to apprehend the Red Ghost and his Super-Apes, the Red Ghost has a trap set for them. It’s a big fight, but the FF wins and knocks out the Ghost and the apes. Back in Reed’s lab, he finds a strange transmitter hidden behind a wall. He shuts it off and can then think more clearly. When he goes to inspect the device, it dissolves in front of him.

Andrew takes his wife on a tour of the prison, despite the Warden’s objections. She reveals her true face, much to Andrew’s objections. She then whips out a gun and shoots up the place. She takes over the control room and sets all the villains free. Then the Mad Thinker shows up, saying he and the wife were working together the whole time, and all is going according to plan.

In issue #6, Reed tracks the strange device through the Baxter Building to Andrew’s office. In the prison, Maureen tells the Mad Thinker that when she returns to her homeworld, he’ll be rewarded as a hero. The escaping villains confront the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents at the sealed-up exit, when the FF teleport onto the scene alongside She-Hulk and Hercules. Sue creates a big wall with her force fields, and Ben and Hercules push it like a battering ram at the villains, which knocks out most of them. Others surrender, but a few make it to the FF’s teleporter and escape. Sue finds Andrew still alive, and he activates neural scramblers on the remaining prisoners, knocking them all out. Reed learns that Andrew’s wife was an alien, and he says he needs to get back to the lab.

Later, at another location in the Negative Zone, the Mad Thinker is hanging out romantically with Maureen, whose real name is Threska. The FF teleport onto the scene, and the Mad Thinker drops tons of exposition. He says he was getting sick of the superheroes vs. villains game. Then he encountered Threska, a powerful Negative Zone sorceress stranded on Earth searching for a way home. Taking the other villains’ DNA and the device to increase Reed’s paranoia were all in pursuit of his escaping to the Negative Zone with Threska. The FF take Mad Thinker back to Earth, with him saying he underestimated Reed, and that he has a renewed interest in destroying the Fantastic Four. Back aboard the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier, LMD Fury tells Reed that they told Andrew everything, and that he’s traumatized by it all. Reed wants to talk to Andrew, but Fury says not to, because Andrew blames Reed for the whole thing.

Unstable molecule: When Ben and Reed take a break from apprehending all the villains, Ben complains about being bruised, and Reed says with his stretching powers, he’s not able to be bruised.

Fade out: In addition to her battering ram move, Sue also uses a force field to close off the exit to the prison, keeping most everyone inside. (Klaw is the one who gets out.)

Clobberin’ time: When fighting the Mole Man’s monster, Ben boasts about being able to take on the Hulk. The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe: Deluxe Edition does state that the Hulk is stronger, but who could actually win remains an ongoing debate.

Flame on: Johnny appears to burn the Red Ghost right in the face, but the Ghost appears unharmed in the next panel. I suppose Johnny just has that much control over his flame.

Fantastic fifth wheel: She-Hulk and Crystal both make appearances in reference to them serving as babysitters for the kids. Crystal says she has a date, but we don’t see with who. Similarly, She-Hulk has some blonde guy in her bed, and it’s not clear who that is.

Four and a half: Franklin gets a subplot about being stuck at school after his parents don’t come pick him up. He tells a teacher to try calling the moon, but the teacher suggests the Baxter Building again.

Our gal Val: Valeria is only in one panel in these issues, showing Crystal babysitting her.

Trivia time: Neither Andrew nor Threska ever appear again after this series. Threska killed the guy’s wife to get back to the Negative Zone, and she just gets away with it?

Fantastic or frightful? I don’t know. You can enjoy this on a pure heroes vs. villains slugfest, but I feel this series could have been so much more. It’s supposed to be a big villain team-up, but most of the villains are background cannon fodder, like they’re nameless henchmen. That’s disappointing considering how so many of them were legit threats in the past. Reed’s paranoia is also not emphasized as much as it could have been. I would have liked to see a real battle of wits between him and Mad Thinker, but this series is packed with so much other stuff that we don’t really get it.

Next: On main.

  • * * * *

Want more? Check out my new ongoing serial, THE SUBTERKNIGHTS, on Kindle Vella. A man searches for his missing sister in a city full of far-out technology and hidden dark magic. The first three chapters are FREE, so give it a shot! Click here for a list of all my books and serials.

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DuckTales rewatch – The Golden Goose

Rewatching DuckTales! This is it, folks. The final episode of DuckTales. It all concludes with a two-parter, “The Golden Goose.” Is it truly… the end?

Here’s what happens: Scrooge and family are at a foreign marketplace, where he hopes to buy and antiques for cheap and sell them for big cash back home. He runs into Glomgold, and Scrooge suspects he’s up to no good. Dijon is also there, claiming that he’s changed his ways, only to pick Scrooge’s pocket. Glomgold and the Beale Boys are there, teamed up again, in search of the secretive Brotherhood of the Goose, which Glomgold believes can lead him to the Golden Goose of legend. Dijon impersonates one of the Brotherhood to hide from Scrooge. There, he finds his long-lost brother, Poupon. He shows Dijon where the Brotherhood has the Golden Goose hidden, explaining that it has the magical power to turn anything to gold.

The Brotherhood trust Dijon to stand guard over the goose for one night, with other guards preventing him from stealing it. The Beagle Boys sneak into he Brotherhood’s temple for a heist of their own. In the craziness of their attempt, Dijon grabs the goose and makes a run for it, with Beagles in pursuit. After a wild chase, the goose accidentally ends up on board Scrooge’s plane.

In Duckburg, there’s a lot of business as the Beagle Boys and Glomgold trying to swipe the goose from Scrooge’s department store, as Scrooge realizes the goose is something valuable. Scrooge discovers that it can turn things to gold. Scrooge goes a little crazy, turning his entire mansion into gold. Back with the Brotherhood, they say that the goose needs to be returned to its fountain within two days or else the world could be in danger. They send Dijon and Poupon to Duckburg. The Beagle Boys sneak into Scrooge’s now all-gold mansion to steal the goose. In their escape, they turn Huey, Dewey and Louie into gold statues.

That’s the cliffhanger. Part 2 begins with Webby, Duckworth, and Mrs. Beakeley discovering what’s become of the boys. Scrooge takes the boys to Gyro, who is unable to cure them. Dijon and Poupon arrive and compare notes with Scrooge. Poupon says they only have two hours left before the goose comes to life and turns the whole world into gold.

The Beagle Boys take the goose to Glomgold, and it’s his turn to go nuts, turning his entire auto factory into gold. Scrooge finds them there, and there’s a mad chase around the factory as everyone tries to grab the goose. Glomgold finally gets it, and threatens to turn everyone to gold. Then the time runs out, and the goose comes to life and goes out of control. It turns Glomgold to gold and then flies out over the city, turning entire buildings into gold.

Scrooge and company chase the goose all over the city. They catch it in a golden net. Just before Poupon can turn it back into a statue with the magic water, the Beagle Boys show up with a gun (!) and shoot the water bottle from his hand. The goose transforms again, this time with gold spreading all over the ground devouring everything, kind of like the Blob. As the gold keeps expanding, it threatens to destroy the world. Poupon says the only way to stop it is get the goose back the fountain at the Brotherhood’s temple. Scrooge and Launchpad escape in a plan, but Poupon doesn’t make it.

In a still non-gold part of Duckburg, Dijon finds the goose and goes on the run from the expanding gold. Scrooge and Launchpad fly down to rescue him. They fly across the ocean, as the gold consumes half the planet (!). With only seconds left, Scrooge gets past the brotherhood’s guards and returns the goose to the fountain. In classic fantasy style, this undoes the gold effect, and everything is returned to normal. Dijon promises to be a better person, but then he pickpockets Scrooge’s watch, and Scrooge chases him, just like at the end of the DuckTales movie.

Humbug: Scrooge going nuts over the gold would seem to call back to the series’ first story arc, which ended with Scrooge fighting off gold madness. After his nephews are healed, he says his fortune wouldn’t mean anything without them, which is pretty much all the closure he gets.

Junior woodchucks: Huey, Dewey, and Louie find their toys and sports gear aren’t as much fun when turned to gold. They tell Scrooge they’re afraid he’ll accidentally turn them into gold, and then that’s what happens.

Fasten your seatbelts: When there’s nowhere to land his plane during the finale, Scrooge orders Launchpad to crash it. When he tries to, he brings it in for a perfect landing. I guess you could say this resolves his character arc?

Di-cringe: Although Dijon continues to be a hateful, hurtful stereotype, some small attempt is made to give him some character development. He keeps trying to be a better person, but he just can’t help stealing. Kind of sad.

Foul fowls: Glomgold and the Beagle Boys don’t get any comeuppance, other than turning to gold and (presumably) back again. The Beagle Boys in this one are Burger, Baggy, and Big Time.

Down in Duckburg: All of Glomgold’s factories are run down, with boarded-up windows. Scrooge’s new department store, however, is gigantic, with a massive gold “McDuck” logo at its entrance.

Reference row: Although not referenced directly, the inspiration was clearly King Midas, who may or may not have been a real king in the ancient kingdoms of either Phrygia or Mushki. He shows up in Greek mythology in all kinds of stories, such as playing a role in the creation of the Gordian Knot, or growing donkey ears after offending the gods. But of course he’s most famous for wishing that anything he touched turned to gold, only for that wish to end up very bad for him.

Thoughts upon this viewing: I knew had to do this blog series upon learning that DuckTales concluded with a two-part final episode that conclusively ended the series. Does it? I wonder if this was an earlier script for the DuckTales movie, as they share a lot of similarities. While there are a few moments that shout out to the “mission statement” stuff from the first story arc, there’s nothing showing that the characters’ journeys have ended or if they’ve changed in some way. Maybe the animators were hoping for another season, but Disney had tons of stuff in the pipeline in 1990, and it seems DuckTales had to make way. I maintain that the series was as its best when embracing a spirit of adventure, and not so much when it tries to be a sitcom. In that spirit, the finale is as good as any.

And that’s that. What should I do next for this blog?

  • * * * *

Want more? Check out my new ongoing serial, THE SUBTERKNIGHTS, on Kindle Vella. A man searches for his missing sister in a city full of far-out technology and hidden dark magic. The first three chapters are FREE, so give it a shot! Click here for a list of all my books and serials.

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Fantastic Friday: Oops all villains

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Fantastic Four: Foes was a six-issue miniseries from comics whiz kid Robert Kirkman, who’d later go on to create The Walking Dead and Invincible, and artist Cliff Rathburn. It promises a big super-villain team-up, but does it deliver?

We begin with Andrew Lewis, who works in an office in one of the lower floors of the new Baxter Building. He tells folks that the “science fiction” only happens in the top floors, and that he’s working an ordinary job. In his office, he seems sad, as if the “ordinary job is not so fulfilling. There’s a scene of Sue and Ben getting the kids ready for school, after which we cut to the Puppet Master. He’s assembled a group of villains in a secret location, and he gives a passionate speech about them all teaming up to destroy the Fantastic Four once and for all.

This is a famously continuity-breaking scene, with tons of villains present. Some of them hadn’t been seen in a long time, some of them are cosmic beings and/or aliens, and some already have confusing continuities of their own. If you’re a fan and you’re tracking a specific character’s history, you must include that one time they met with Puppet Master. I know you want the list, so here it is:  

  • The Mad Thinker
  • Dragon Man
  • The Trapster, a.k.a. Paste-Pot Pete
  • The Wizard
  • Salamandra
  • Hydro-Man
  • A Doombot
  • The Mole Man
  • One of the Mole Man’s Moloids
  • Tyros a.k.a. Terrax
  • Klaw
  • Pharoah Rama Tut
  • Mahkizmo
  • A Skrull
  • A Kree warrior
  • The Overmind
  • Staak
  • Devos the Devastator
  • The Iconoclast
  • Dreadface
  • Psycho-Man
  • Exalt
  • Stem
  • Ba’ar

There are three others that the Marvel Wiki doesn’t name. One is man with a cybernetic eye of some kind, who I think might be Zorba. Another is a big gorilla, which I’m assuming is Miklho, one of Red Ghost’s Super-Apes. The third is a man with long black hair, a red cape, and a single red horn on the side of his head. Your guess is as good as mine. And there’s least 17 others seen only as silhouettes in the background.

All this Marvel continuity is for naught, because the villains all get up and walk out on Puppet Master, with the exception of the Mad Thinker. Turns out Puppet Master and Mad Thinker are in cahoots. The Thinker collected DNA from each of the villains, and he’s invented a device to allow Puppet Master to mind-control any one of them.

Then it’s back to Andrew, who works for a security firm. An electronic sound goes off in his office. As if hypnotized, he gets up and opens a hidden panel in the wall full of wires. He adjusts them, and then goes back to his work, not knowing what he just did.

At Alicia’s apartment, Puppet Master shows up. He boasts that he now has ultimate power, and that he wants Alicia to be at his side when he finally destroys the FF. Ben arrives, as he was already on his way for a lunch date with Alicia. Puppet Master uses his new mind control device and summons Dragon Man to fight Ben. Ben calls his teammates for backup. By the time they arrive, Ben has already knocked out Dragon Man and apprehended Puppet Master.

Reed finds Puppet Master’s two suitcases, which contain the other villains’ DNA, stored in big vials for some reason. Reed breaks down, saying he’s been mathematically calculating his and his teammates’ futures, and this revelation confirms what he’s feared. If events continue as they have been, he says, the Fantastic Four will be dead in two years.

Issue #2 begins with the Mad Thinker returning to his hideout, where the FF are already waiting for him. The Puppet Master sold him out. He surrenders, saying his calculations show he can’t win a fight against the FF on his own. Reed puts him, Puppet Master, and Dragon Man in suspended animation. Reed then elaborates on the whole death thing, saying the FF have made so many enemies over the years that the odds are now stacked against them.

After some worrying about sending Franking and Valeria off with babysitters for a few days, Reed says the villain DNA could be the key to changing the FF’s fate.  Reed says he can use the DNA to track the villains’ movements. Rather than confront the villains on the defense with innocent lives at stakes, Reed says the FF can now confront the villains on the FF’s own terms.

Reed further states that if this works, they will need a place to apprehend and imprison the villains, so they never endanger the FF again. With super-prisons the Vault, the Raft, and the Big House no longer in operation, Reed says he’ll have to build an even strong, more high-tech prison. Reed then shows up at Andrew’s office, asking for his security company’s help in building the new prison. Reed says he has the perfect location for it – the Negative Zone. Then we learn Andrew is the one who originally designed the Vault, and he’s up for the chance to get out from behind his desk and do some real satisfying work again.

The FF venture into the Negative Zone, where they find a planetoid containing only plant life, which Reed says will be perfect for the new prison. Then Annihilus attacks, having been alerted to the FF’s presence. They fight, with Annihilus ranting about how his kingdom is in shambles and his Cosmic Control Rod is missing. Reed uses a stun device to knock out Annihilus, only for a second Annihilus to show up.

Back in New York, Andrew returns to his apartment, telling his wife all about the new job offer from Reed and how excited he is. Then we get our first good look at his wife, seeing that she’s an alien insect creature.

 Issue #3 starts by continuing that scene, where Andrew acts as if nothing is unusual about his alien insect wife. Then it’s back to the Negative Zone, where the two Annihiluses (Annihili?) fight each other. They accuse each other of being an imposter, and of stealing the Cosmic Control Rod. The FF just leave them there to fight (!) and Reed says the prison will have to be cloaked.

After some more “daily life” stuff with the FF at home, we catch up with Lon Zelig, the special effects whiz who briefly worked with Johnny back when Johnny was pursuing a Hollywood acting career. You might also remember that Zelig was the Super-Skrull in disguise the whole time. He’s meeting with an unscrupulous S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, who is sneaking him some communication equipment so Zelig can contact the Skrull homeworld. Zelig says the tech is ineffective, and he needs something better.  

Later, Sue picks Franklin up from school, and he’s acting quiet and distracted. At the Baxter Building, Franklin heads straight to Reed’s lab and starts messing with things. Reed matter-of-factly states, “Franklin knows not to touch anything in here,” and this Franklin is revealed to be the Super-Skrull in disguise.

It’s another big fight. Sue is enraged, threatening to suffocate the Skrull with a force field. She demands, “Where is my son?!!” Then we cut to Franklin, sitting on a sidewalk curb in the rain, still waiting for his mom to pick him up.

With that cliffhanger, such as it is, we’ll leave the concluding three issues for next week.

Unstable molecule: There’s one page where Reed meets with Nick Fury about his plans for the Negative Zone prison, and Fury is still mistrustful of Reed following the Latveria incident.

Fade out: There’s a bit of business where Sue has a NYPD cop watch over her parking space while the Fantasticar is invisibly parked there.

Clobberin’ time: There’s a scene where Ben gets Lenny from Damage Control to oversee repairs to Alicia’s apartment, free of charge.

Flame on: Johnny’s subplot has him dating two women, Miranda and McKenzie, and he can’t remember which is which. We later meet Miranda, when she dumps him after he misses too many of their dates because of superhero business. Miranda has no entry in the Marvel Wiki, so I’m guessing she never comes back.

Fantastic fifth wheel: Now that She-Hulk has a full-time job at a law firm again, she says she’s adding babysitting to her high-priced legal fees. Reed says he doesn’t know if she’s kidding.

Crystal is mentioned as babysitting the kids on the moon, but she can only do so for a few days before a sacred Inhuman ritual. The specifics of this ritual are never revealed.

Four and a half: Running late for school, Franklin gets a ride there in the Fantasticar rather than take the bus, which he prefers. Can you blame him?

Our gal Val: Sue takes little Valeria shopping with her, when she gets the call about Dragon Man’s attack. Valeria is then with She-Hulk when she drops the kids off.

Trivia time: The Civil War crossover is the big cloud looming in the horizon over all the comics of this era (era). The idea of Reed building a super-prison in the Negative Zone will be brought back in Civil War in a big way.

What are these other super-prisons? The Vault, located in Colorado, was destroyed in a massive break-out in Heroes for Hire #1. The Raft, located in the ocean just outside Manhattan, was destroyed in a similar massive break-out in New Avengers #1. The Big House, Hank Pym’s jail located inside the Microverse, had a massive break-out in She-Hulk #21, and was shut down and under investigation at the time of this issue.

You might recall that Hellscout beheaded Annihilus during the confusing Gideon Trust storyline, after which the Trust obtained the Cosmic Control Rod. The Marvel Wiki states that two Annihiluses in this issue are insectoid larvae grown out of fragments of the rod. Their story is never concluded, and instead the original Annihilus will return in the (what else?) Annihilation crossover.

And, yes, the Nick Fury in this issue is yet another life model decoy. The original Fury went underground after the 2005 Secret Wars, and won’t return for real until much, much later.

Fantastic or frightful? The story is all over the place, whipping us around from one fight and subplot to the next. I did some reading ahead, and I can see how Kirkman will tie everything together, but it might be a bumpy road getting there.

Next: More foes, more problems.

  • * * * *

Want more? Check out my new ongoing serial, THE SUBTERKNIGHTS, on Kindle Vella. A man searches for his missing sister in a city full of far-out technology and hidden dark magic. The first three chapters are FREE, so give it a shot! Click here for a list of all my books and serials.

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DuckTales rewatch – Scrooge’s Last Adventure

Rewatching DuckTales! We’re almost at the end of the series. You’d think that “Scrooge’s Last Adventure” would be the finale, but this is the next-to-last. Also, virtual reality!

Here’s what happens: Huey, Dewey, and Louie are roughhousing inside the mansion, accidentally destroying Scrooge’s antique grandfather clock. They con a clockmaker, Dr. Clockenspeil, into fixing it. When he calls Scrooge’s mansion, Scrooge mistakes him for his actual doctor. Upon hearing “the ticker” can’t be saved, Scrooge believes he only has a few days left to live. A distraught Scrooge gives the boys a lot of money, offers Mrs. Beakeley a raise, and gives butler Duckworth a rare day off. Meanwhile, Fenton gets a call from the doctor, saying Scrooge is in good health.

Before Fenton can give Scrooge the good news, Scrooge asks about leaving his money to his nephews. But he’s concerned about protecting the money from the likes of the Beagle Boys. Fenton suggests Scrooge transfer his fortune to the bank, where it’ll be stored electronically rather than in a gigantic bin. Scrooge agrees, and trucks start emptying the bin. There’s a lot of technical gibberish as Fenton tries to invest Scrooge’s money in stocks, and loses it all in a computer glitch. Scrooge insists Fenton get the money back.

Scrooge and Fenton go to Gyro for help, and Gyro says he has new tech that can transform them into electronic impulses, putting them physically in the computer via floppy disk (!). Just like The Matrix, except not. It works, and Scrooge and Fenton enter cyberspace. They chase the money around a virtual landscape, only to encounter the glitch in the form a giant whale-like creature. In the real world, the three boys find out what Gyro is up to, and they help out as if Scrooge is in a video game. They unplug the computer, thinking it’ll save Scrooge, despite Gyro’s warnings.

In the virtual world, Scrooge and Fenton blink out and then re-form, escaping Gyro’s computers and flying around through the phone lines out into the wider internet (or something). When the glitch corners them, Fenton leaps into its mouth in an attempt to stop it. Gyro reestablishes contact and tells Scrooge to scramble the glitch with a magnet, which Scrooge happens to have built into his cane. He saves Fenton and the money. Gyro brings them out of cyberspace, which also refills the money bin with all the cash. Scrooge admits the truth about his “ticker,” only for the boys to fess up about breaking the grandfather clock. Scrooge is distraught at this, as the others warn him not get overstressed for fear of his heart health.

Humbug: Scrooge’s attitude changes upon learning he’s going to die. He wants to give his money to the boys, and becomes kinder and considerate to Duckworth and Mrs. Beakeley. The episode ends at an abrupt point, so we don’t get to see how this event changes Scrooge in the long run.

Junior Woodchucks: To get their way, Huey, Dewey and Louie do “plan B,” by pretending to cry until they get their way. When Scrooge breaks down at the end of the episode, they wonder if he’s doing “plan B.”

Pro-rata: You’d think that the Gizmoduck armor would be the instrument that gets Fenton and Scrooge into cyberspace, but Gizmoduck tech never comes up during all this.

Maid and maiden: Mrs. Beakeley and Scrooge seem to bond while she makes him lunch. Were the writers hinting at a potential romance between them?

Foul fowls: The glitch isn’t much of a monster, but more an obstacle to get in our heroes’ way. The convenient destroyed-by-magnets weakness doesn’t do it any favors.

Reference row: The late ‘80s/early ‘90s were the height of popularity for the cyberpunk genre following the whirlwind success of William Gibson’s novel Neuromancer in 1984. (Though it should be noted that Disney’s own Tron came out two years earlier, in ’82.) The big reference in this one, however, is classic arcade game Pac-Man, which is recreated in this episode as the glitch chases Scrooge and Fenton around Pac-Man’s maze.

Thoughts upon this viewing: The Scrooge-thinks-he’s-dying plot and the cyberspace plot make this feel like two episodes squashed together. But, it’s a lot of action, gags, and interesting character moments packed into one half-hour, so it’s all good.

Next: The golden end.

  • * * * *

Want more? Check out my new ongoing serial, THE SUBTERKNIGHTS, on Kindle Vella. A man searches for his missing sister in a city full of far-out technology and hidden dark magic. The first three chapters are FREE, so give it a shot! Click here for a list of all my books and serials.

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