Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Alan Moore Obscurities: Terra Obscura Book 2 (#7-12)

"I could have stayed in the jungle... but no not little old me.  I had to fall for a guy who likes adventures" - Pantha

This month I have decided to have another one devoted to comics which either have women as the main characters or playing a significant role in a mixed cast of men and women, a caveat I added so I could cover Book 2 of Terra Obscura.  A quick recap, this twelve issue series, split into two arcs spun out of a Tom Strong storyline which unfortunately due to cost issues I have not been able to get a hold of. The backstory is that Terra Obscura is an alternative Earth where the heroes ended up in suspended animation in the late sixties and were brought out of it thirty years later thanks to the combined efforts of Tom Strong and Tom Strange his Terra Obscura counterpart. The heroes are in fact public domain ones from the defunct Nedor comics stable that were in action during the forties and co-writers Alan Moore (plot) and Peter Hogan (script) have bought them into the 21st century with care and respect. In the first book they dealt with an attempt by the Egyption God Set to destroy all the technology of the world and turn the people into his slaves.  After this was sorted out using punching and diplomacy, the heroes decided to restart their old superhero team and so the "Society for Modern American Science Heroes" was reborn.   If you want to know more about the various heroes featured, their wikipedia page deals with both their Nedor and ABC era biographies and is a very interesting read.  This adventure brings a new character into the fold, Princess Pantha, who was Nedor's "Jungle Girl" character and spins a cool story of mysterious time anomolies and hi-jinks in outer space.  So let's continue with a second visit to Terra Obscura.

Tom and Pantha's first adventure.
 We start with Pantha and Tom Strange having a shared memory about having a moment back when they first teamed up in the jungle before her husband and Tom's friend found them.  In the present Pantha reflects on being asleep for thirty years and waking up to find her husband dead, she takes it in her stride while Tom seems sad.  Then she tell Tom they are supposed to be on a date, no wonder he gets maudlin living in a museum of his past exploits, "I think we should get out of here, and go for dinner somewhere French and frivolous".

They wander down through the house and Tom agrees that all the "souvenirs and trophies must be a little overwhelming" he didn't intend collecting them all they "just kind of washed up here".  Pantha says she only started aging again a couple of years ago and then strikes a pose saying she'll only admit to being "umpteen" years old.  Tom takes her down past a portrait of Tom Strong and his family, then a picture of Tom and Bob Benton - "The Terror" - when he was still human.  Tom says they were quite a team back in the day:

Tom: "We were both scientists, both idealists.  We thought we could perfect the world with a combination of grit and good old American know-how".

Pantha comments that the papers used to call them "the World's Best".  Tom says in the end they were only human and couldn't stop the alien that killed Bob and got the others out into suspended animation.  Tom said they did thanks to the Terror but now as a computer program he thinks he can still make the the world perfect and needs to be managed.

Then The Terror calls and gives Tom an update on whats happening, the most important being the something detected in space and the President wants S.M.A.S.H in the loop.  Tom tells Pantha the date has to be postponed but she says she's coming with him.  He decides he deserves a personal life so will drive there.  But his car has changed, it was a S.U.V now it is an old two seater.  "I had this monster in the late fifties...how the heck did it get here?" wonders Tom, Pantha says it's much cooler than what he usually drives, "this is to die for".  And off they go.
Diane and Carol partners in love and crime fighting.
We then cut to lesbian hero couple Diana "Ms.Masque" Adams and her girlfriend Carol "Fighting Yank" Carter battling "The Clock" in New Lancaster.   After a lot of clock puns and exploding clocks, Tim who was Bob Benton's sidekick and now works with the Terror drops down to give them a hand.  Diana and Tim lay into the henchemen Carol goes after The Clock.

With the henchmen dealt with, Tim says he'd still like to be friends with Diana even though she broke up with him. He invites her to dinner as Carol drags the unconcious body of The Clock towards them.  Tim leaves and when Diana tells Carol what he said, Carol is displeased. 

Diana: "No, he was trying to be nice but... I dunno there was something...cold about him.  Maybe he's trying to cover up how much I hurt him.  You think I should go?"

Then we return to Tom Strange and Pantha meeting with Senator Tallis. They are taken to a secret place to meet a man called The Oracle.  He's a man who can see into the fourth dimension and stay sane, at least until now.
Bryant's ship returns to the solar system.
They find an old man who says to Tom "ever since I saw that thing in space... why do I keep seeing the past?"  Then Tom is shown Hubble's photos of the object, it's like a spaceship but one twisted into a curved shape.  Undistorted it appears to be "the Thunderbolt.  This is Andrew Bryant's ship" says Tom.

Tom: "God only knows where he's been for the last forty-five years... but it looks like Captain Future has come back."

Then we get a TV news report about Captain Future's return into the solar system, in the years since he's been lost in space he was promoted to Colonel.

S.M.A.S.H are having a meeting about it.  Tom says the ship isn't responding to hails so his robots are building him a spaceship so he can fly out and meet him.  He's called the meeting to let them know he'll be off planet for a while and also time anomalies are occuring.  Carol and Peggy "The Woman in Red" discuss changing names but all the ones they have thought of are have are awful. Then the Green Ghost senses something unnatural.

Then the original S.M.A.S.H from the forties appear in the doorway, including a young Diana and Carol's dad still alive. They declare the modern S.M.A.S.H to be "Japanazi Imposters" and a punch-up commences.
Past and future meet up with fisticuffs.
Back at Diana and Carol's place, Diana picks up her messages.  The first is from Carol saying she looked dead to the world so she let her sleep in.  Then a message from Tim, who has a weird tick to his mouth saying it was nice to see her.  Diana messages back that she's coming to Invertica City in a day or so to stay with a friend and they can grab a bite and catch up. She switches the machine off and says to herself, "What are you doing, girl?"

Back at S.M.A.S.H headquarters a fullscale brawl is taking place between past and present.  Tom wants to sit down and talk, "so you can poison us with propaganda?" shouts Diana as she wrestles with him.  Carol tries to reason with her dad, but he punches her saying she can't be his daughter.  Finally The Green Ghost manages to convince his living past self that they are telling the truth, they are not enemies.  The Ghost tells everyone to stop fighting.  But then the past heroes just fade away.

Present day S.M.A.S.H nurse their wounds and wonder if this was an experiment with time travel they forgot. The Green Ghost doesn't think so, saying Captain Future never spoke during the battle, and he disappears to try and get to the bottom of it. Carol is feeling about fed up, "I just had a fight with my dad and girlfriend... and neither of them even recognised me.  It's kind of depressing".  Her jaw hurts and she just wants to go home.

Tom leaves and meets Pantha, his car has regressed again, Pantha comments "If this keeps up you'll be driving a Model T soon".  They get inside and he grins that he will soon be driving a brand new spaceship.  "Cool. When do we leave?" asks Pantha.  A short time skip and they are at the spaceship, Tom is telling Pantha "no" she can't come. 
Seduction of the Tom.
She says she knows why he doesn't want her to come, he took others into action and they died.  But she says she can look after herself, "I'm a big girl now".  Then she asks how long it has been since Tom last had sex.  He mumbles it's been a while, so he takes him by the arm and asks "where do you hide the bedrooms in this morgue?".

Carol returns home and tells Diana about the time travel fight, she tells Diana she looked cute as a teenager.  Diana says she looks cute now.  Then Carol spots Diana's bags and thinks she's leaving her.  But Diana reassures her she is only going to visit Invertica City and maybe see Tim for dinner, to make sure he's OK. 

Then we cut to Tim sitting in a chair surrounded by operating tools.  The top of his head is sawn off and reveals he's mechanical inside, and as he is operated on by the machines he orders flowers for his forthcoming dinner with Diana.
The real Tim revealed.
Over dinner with Diana, "Tim" recounts his adventures in the forties which has him slip and refer to "Tim and I".  Diana picks up on this saying doesn;t he mean "Bob and I?"  Not-Tim blames the bubbly, he also says his nervous twitch was fixed by needing a "dream" and he touches Diana's fingers.

Back with Tom he is up and very cheerful after a night of nookie with Pantha.  She finds him packing for the spaceflight and they embrace:

Tom: "I'd forgotten how good life can be... but having you here the last few days... I've remembered".

Then he hears a commotion from his dead friend Mike's old quarters.  More faces from the past are there including Mike and Tim all youthful and enthusiastic about helping Tom with this time twisting mystery, as they discuss possible causes a bad guy called "Baron Nacht" appears and fires a green ray.  Tom blocks it and punches the Baron out.  Then he and the youth fade away.  Pantha asks Tom if he is OK, but Tom is a little sad at having seen the youths, all bar Tim are dead now.

Speaking of Tim, robo-zombie Tim is sharing a drink in front of a roaring fire with Diana. They start to kiss... meanwhile we get one side of a conversation between Carol and her dead father.  She admits to being jealous and goes to phone the woman Diana is staying with.  Tipper, the woman in queston is having her own time twisting troubles, Tommy, Buzz and Pudge have appeared at different ages, she along with them was part of "The Four Comrades" back in the past.

Back with Tom and Pantha, they are ready to jet off into space, for a treat, Pantha has put on her furry leopardprint bikini, Tom doesn't object but notes, "it could be a little distracting that's all."  Pantha grins at him, "that's the general idea you big galoot."  And off they fly.
Who says space travel can't be sexy?
Diana pulls away from her kiss with a robot in a Tim suit, she says it was like the first time.  "Tim" says yes at a place where she kissed Bob Benton not Tim and the penny drops.  The AI Bob Baker has taken over Tim's body.  Diana recoils, Bob tell her Tim committed suicide after she broke up with him, so he salvaged the body and "made it mine".  So now he and Diana can be lovers again.

She smashes a wine bottle over his head and runs.   She says they were never lovers, just a one night stand.  Bob accuses her of doing it with everyone, "Lance, Lewis, and Tim, and that slut Carol... but I forgive you."  He says all he needs to make her love him is time "and we'll soon have plenty of that".  He tells the fleeing Diana that he thinks Andrew Bryants ship is causing the timeslips so he's going to steal it and learn to control time, "and then I'll be able to put things right again".

In Hawaii, Senator Challis is discussing Bryant's ship when people start running. In the sky is the "Tsunami Squad", superpowered Japanese men who "sank the fleet in 1941".  Fortunately S.M.A.S.H come to the rescue fast and get into a punch up with them before the Tsunami Squad vanish though they managed to kill quite a few people on the ground before S.M.A.S.H got to them.
The Tsunami Squad attack.
On board their spaceship, Pantha bends sultrily over Tom and asks "penny for your thoughts, handsome".  He says he was thinking about those films where brave astronauts fly out to destroy an asteroid or something threatening Earth, and "someone always dies."  He gets a message from Earth about the Tsunami Squad, and that "everyone is rooting for you". Tom frowns, "so.. no pressure then".

Pantha: "Hey, saving the Earth at the last minute is what you're good at, remember.  But afterwards you're mine.  And we're taking a vacation or else."

Tom, tempting fate, says at least they only have Bryant's ship to deal with and "there won't be any mysterious villains appearing out of nowhere to complicate things".
A somewhat incovenienced Diana.
We then cut to Bob The Terror's spaceship also on course to Bryant's ship. He has Diana chained up under guard by skull faced Terrorbots. He tells her that Bryant's ship is acting more like a "quantum particle" than a spaceship.  "It may well be a gateway to anything" he continues.  Tom Strange is the fly in the ointment but he's going to eliminate him.  Diana can't believe Bob would kill his best friend.  Bob says he will just disable his ship.  He leaves her saying "I'm doing this for us, remember?"

On Tom and Pantha's ship she wakes after a nap and Tom tells her they are now in the asteroid belt and there is a ship following them which he has identified as "The Terroriser...the Terror's old ship".  He can't raise him on radio.  Pantha says she thought he coudln't leave Invertica, but Tom thinks it might just be Tim with some help.  He reminisces about an encounter with some aliens who had modelled themselves on the Terror via TV transmissions, they were attacked by aliens modeled on one of the Terror's villians and it was left to Tom to save the day.

"You've really lived, haven't you?" grins Pantha.  Tom admits Bob saved him several times in the past so he wants to believe the best of him.  But he won't respond to hails. Then The Terrorizer fires on their ship.  They loses a stabiliserr and Tom says they are heading into the asteroids and that Pantha needs to get into a space suit fast.

Bob doesn't attack further and resumes course to Bryant's ship. Tom tells Pantha to hold the ship steady and he heads outside to start fixing the damage.  As he does so Pantha says to herself with a smile, "So now I'm going to die in space.  Well done, Pantha".  But Tom gets the ship fixed fast and they head off to Bryant's ship only at one-quarter speed.
The Terroriser attached to Bryant's ship.
They finally arrive and see The Terroriser latched onto it. With the only airlock blocked, they'll have to clamp on and burn their way through. They make a hole in Bryant's ship and Tom and Pantha venture inside, only to discover an Escher like interior of impossible stairways and strange alien looking creatures.

The US President orders a missile strike on Bryant's spaceship as they can't risk more Pearl Harbours.  The Green Ghost goes to visit Set and Thoth who are playing a chess like game and tells them he needs their help to stop the Enola Gay dropping the bomb over Hiroshima, they travel there via his cloak.
Thoth and Set to the rescue.
Tom and Pantha are in a new reality, one where they are older, married and settled down together.  They have dinner with Bob and Diana his wife while their kids go out on crime patrol.  Diana says she can't remember her wedding.  Pantha says it was after they "eliminated crime and S.M.A.S.H disbanded".  But if they did then why are the kids out on patrol?

Reality fractures and then we see Diana being pulled out of a "Dream Machine" by The Liberator.  Tom is pulled out as well as the Terror, now they have to stop Futuro who did this to them.  There is an explosion, then there is just Pantha, Diana, Tom and the Terror.  Tom says he can feel reality shifting, but Bob denies this.  Then Tom and Bob end up fighting:

Tom: "...This isn't Bob Benton.  Bob Benton is dead.  This is just some kind of robot".

And he punches it's head off. Now reality resets, with just Pantha, Diana, Tom and Tim/Bob.  Diana tells Tom that Terror Bob has taken over Tim's body.
Andrew Bryant.
Tom sends Pantha and Diana race off to find Andrew Bryant and discover him, heavily bearded and asleep in the pilot's chair. Pantha hypothesises that maybe all the timeslips on Earth were dreams of his. Unfortunately at this point the Enola Gay has dropped the bomb over Hiroshima. 

Thoth manages to grab the bomb and hold it in a bubble, he asks for Set to lend him his strength as the bomb explodes and they contain it.  They keep holding it until the explosion disappates back to where the other time anomolies went.   Meanwhile Tom is battling Bob's Terrorbots and says Tim/Bob is nothing like the Bob he knew:

Bob: "I am Benton's legacy.  I am the future... and as soon as I gain control of this ship, all of time will be mine to restructure".

Then chaos ensues as heroes and villains from the past come through the time tube.  This includes past Bob Benton and Tim.  There is a big fight and the Terrorbots are destroyed.  Tom says to Evil Bob "It's just you and me now".

Back with the two women, Pantha is fangirling over Andrew a bit, "I mean this is the guy who killed Hitler and arrested Joe McCarthy... not to mention being the first astronaut.  It's like coming face to face with a legend".  Diana says that's as maybe, he's still fast asleep.  Pantha says they could go with "the Fairytale solution".  Diana says with her reputation she should be the one to kiss him awake and lands a big smooch on Bryant's lips.
And lo, the prince awakens.
The fight elsewhere continues.  Past Bob takes on mecha Bob and smashes the top of his head off and scoops out the insides "He wasn't me" says Past Bob grimly, "I was never that dark". While a dazed Andrew wakes and remembers having a ray fired on him by Dr. X and then nothing else. Diana says they'll explain later now there is a bad guy to fight. "Isn't there always?" says Andrew.

Tom shakes past Bob's hand and says Tom needed him and he came.  As they fade he says "remember us this way... as your friends".  And then they are gone.  Diana and Pantha arrive with Andrew in tow.  Tom greets him as Colonel Bryant as he was promoted in his abscence.  Then Andrew senses the bomb fired from Earth and they all escape on Tom's ship and watch the ship explode.
Past Bob deals with his insane future self.
Tom fills Andrew in on the time displacements.  Andrew admits he had been dreaming about the past and how things could have been.  The Terror thought his ship went through a black hole. 

Tom: "Maybe that made it act like some kind of psychic amplifier, affecting events as far away as it's point of origin.  Or else everything we saw was real and the ship was really a quantum gateway to other dimensions.  I guess we'll never know".

Diana says it's blown up so good riddance.  Tom tells Pantha to call Washington, they'll have quite the reception for Andrew when he returns.

And he gets a tickertape parade.  Carol and Diana are there having a fond laugh at Andrew's face when Diana introduced Carol as her girlfriend.  Diana thought he was sweet about it.  She also apologises for being an ass over Tim and is glad Carol is still her girlfriend.  They decide to get the flypast over with so they can be alone again.
And they all live happily ever after.
Pantha and Tom are missing the celebrations.  They are cuddling together in the sea off some tropical beach.  Tom is still wondering what might come next.  Pantha just says:

Pantha: "Happiness, dummy... and nothing's going to spoil it".

And that was pretty much it for Terra Obscura.  There was a single issue of Terra Obscura & Splash Brannigan then ABC folded as an imprint as Moore decided to cut all ties with DC comics and the series he didn't directly write suffered big drops in sales which is likely what happened with Terra Obscura.  Which is a terrible shame, they are a great group of characters, a modern update of a bunch of pulp superheroes with the women being just as strong and interesting as the men.  These characters could have been fertile ground for many more adventures and it's a terrible shame we didn't get more of them fleshed out the way Diana, Carol, Tom, Pantha, Bob and Tim were. The central plot of this book, a man dreaming and his dreams becoming reality on Earth is a fantastic sci-fi idea and being solved with just a kiss while the punching is confined to the secondary plotline is something I like.  I always prefer stories where people use their brains to figure out solutions like Pantha did rather than it be solved with a punch-up (although a good punch up is fun to read undeniably so).  Still it was poetically satisfying that the real Bob Benton took down his corrupted, maddened future self.  I hope one day Tom Strong gets the rerelease treatment and I can finally cover their first appearence in the 21st century.  After two books I feel very attached to the characters, thanks to Moore and Hogan's deft scripts and the chunky, Kirbyesque artwork by Yanick Panquette and Karl Story.  Both books are availiable seperately or as one omnibus "Terra Obscura: The S.M.A.S.H of Two Worlds" which is what I've taken these images from.

Friday, 24 February 2017

Jessica Jones: Alias Book 1 (#1-9) PART TWO


"What the fuck?" - Jessica

So in part one we met Jessica Jones.  She's an ex-superhero in a bit of a tail spin.  She drinks, she smokes, she has casual sex, and as of yet we don't know why she is such a mess or why she forsook her superhero identity "Jewel".  She has super strength and can sort of fly although finds landing hard.  She now works as a private detective, her agency is called Alias Investigations and she keeps finding cases that bring her back into the superhero fold.  In the previous case she became an unwilling part of a convoluted attempt to bring down the President by pinning a murder on Captain America.  It was all sorted out thanks to S.H.I.E.L.D and Steve Rogers came to thank her personally and told her to reconnect with Carol "Ms. Marvel" Danvers which she did at the end.  So her past is still a mystery, her present a pile of self loathing, her future yet to be revealed.  So lets finish Book one with another look into the world of Jessica Jones.

The story begins with Jessica and Carol "Ms. Marvel" Danvers having a meal out together and having a good laugh about their superhero looks in the past.  Jessica says her costume was bad but her hair never went the "Farrah".  Carol says Jessica was totally "Flashdance".

Jessica: "Fuck Jennnifer Beals and what she did to my youth.  I look at some of those pictures and I say: man, was I giving off the slut signal or what?"

Carol asks her what the boy situation is these days.  Jessica says in her line of work all she meets in cheaters.  Jessica admits she has done "stupid stuff with guys lately".  Needy and pathetic like she wouldn't believe.  Carol asks if she is going out with Luke Cage.

Jessica is silent, then asks how she knew.  "Grapevine" grins Carol.  Jessica says she isn't going out with him.  Carol says good because he is "a cape chaser" and lists all the superheroes he's shagged.  Jessica is diappointed she read him so badly.  Carol asks what it was like with him, Jessica says "I was hammered, I have no fucking idea".  Carol says she's lying.  Jessica says shes in shock from the cape chasing thing.  Carol says she is going to have to find her a guy.
Luke Cage is a man-whore!
She suggests Scott Lang the current Ant-Man.  Jessica says she isn't interested, Carol says thats because she only wants to sleep with the bad boys.  Jessica says she wants to "stay out of the genetically-altered pool altogether".  Carol ignores her protests and using a little device she prints out Scott's number for her.  Then Carol gets the Avengers Assemble call and makes to leave saying she'll call her later because she didn't even tell her what she wanted too, leaving Jessica on a cliffhanger.

Later she is flirting with someone in a gay chatroom for work, she signs off ruminating that she is doing this while Carol saves the world.  She lights a fag and thinks about her current case. A woman named Nancy Moss hired her, she belives her husband has gone from cybersexing behind her back to full blown actual sex.  And while she didn't mind the cybersex (much to Jessica's digust) finding out her husband was gay when he left his computer signed on and she could witness messages from "BIGBLACKDICKFORU" and "TSSDSALAD" was too much.

Jessica's job is to initiate cybersex with him  ask to meet in real life.  "I wonder if this is the first time in the history of the internet that a guy was speaking to a girl posing as a guy?" she thinks to herself.  She has him "primed and pumped".  The next time she contacts him she'll set up a meeting.  The wife is as "mad as hell and not going to take it anymore", she is building the most damning divorce case she can.

She goes to have a pee and freshen up and bumps into a strange teenage boy with a case.   He tells her he's a big fan of hers, "all the guys at my school are into the X-Men and that tool Spider-man and shit...but I like you goin' on.  I like that you ain't into the costume shit".  He says he read up on her online, then watched a movie where De Niro plays a private eye and it reminded him of her.
Jessica's teen admirer.
She asks how old he is, he says seventeen.  She gently shuts the door on him, ignoring his offers of help. She goes to check her messages when there is a knock at the door.  She starts yelling at the teenager then opens the door to a weeping woman.  She says her name is Jane Jones, her husband has gone missing for weeks and she doesn't know what to do. Her husband's name is Rick Jones, which should be familiar to those with wider knowledge of the Marvel Universe. she also says he's related to Jessica.

Jessica sits and Jane pours out her story.   He's been gone over a month, the Avengers don't answer their door, they've been married six months and met at one of his shows, "the voice of an angel, he has, I meant it - an angel".  But he got caught up in superhero shit which stopped hm going the whole way.

Apparently he stopped the Kree-Skrull war all by himself.  He ran with the superheroes but she never met any, the Avengers have tight security, he'd always come home and tell her the stories.  She found the "perfect man" but had to share him with the world everyonce in a while.  She feels sick not knowing where he is.  He also spoke highly of Jessica.

Jessica then breaks the news that she isn't related to her husband.  She never met him.  Bewildered Jane says Rick talked about her all the time, "he really admires you".  Jane fumbles with some cash.  Jessica tells her to put it away and give her  contact details and she'll look into it.  Jane thanks her.

Sitting on the toilet Jessica does some thinking. She did her quickie check that Jane was for real and she is, married to Rick Jones. She mulls over who she could ask for help and comes up empty.  She's really confused about supposedly being related to him.
The glam life of a PI.
She first phones one of her parents to check if they have any Ricks in the  it devolves into an argument about her superhero past reflecting badly on her parents and she finishes the call.  She then goes to the bookshop and finds a book by Rick Jones in the remainder bin.  It's called "Sidekick" and is about all his exploits as sidekick to various Marvel heroes the rest of the arc includes text extracts from it.

Later she is outside reading the book when a young woman comes up and asks what powers she has.  Jessica wants to knowwhy she'd ask that.  The woman says her power is detecting who has powers, she says she's a mutant but her friends don't believe her. One of her friends comes up and sees the book she is reading and calls her "a fuckin' Jones groupie".

Jessica asks if he knows him, the young man says "fucker doesn't shut up!! Well, he shuts up when he's fucking every girl in New York City..." Jessica say so he's talked to him, the young man says Rick Jones talks at you.  He might pay for food but doesn't shut up about the Kree-Skrull war and hanging out with Hulk and Captain Marvel, yet can't write "just one decent fucking song".
Rick Jones?
Jessica queries this and they point her to a club he plays at called "Ultimate".  He usually shows up after his set at tenish, elevenish.  Then the two youngsters leave bickering with each other.   Jessica goes to the currently closed Ultimate club and sees many flyers with Rick Jone's name on. 

She then revisits the club when it is open and Rick Jones appears on stage and starts a song which he dedicates to his friend "Bruce".   Later Jessican approaches him backstage.  He grabs his guitar case and uses it as a barrier between them and aggressively asks:

Rick: "Who are you with, the Kree or the Skrull?  WHO SENT YOU TO FUCK UP MY LIFE AGAIN!?!?!"

She grabs his arm and tells her that her name is Jessica Jones and she is neither Kree nor Skrull "so.. calm.. the.. fuck... down".  She tells him that his wife hired her to find him, she's worried about him.

She wants to know why he didn't go home. He says he can't because of the Kree Skrull fucking his shit up.  She wants to know why he told his wife they were related.  Rick doesn't know why she said that, he never said he and Jessica were related.  He says his wife is so whacked she concocts "theories with no foundation".  So she made it up.

As they sneak out of the venue, he goes onto say he "married a lunatic". But he loves her. Jessica asks him to come with him to see her, but suddenly there is a boom and he ducks into an alleyway.  It was just a car backfiring.  She catches up with him and he asks her what she knows about the Kree-Skrull war.  She says she read it in his book.
Reasons to fear.
He says after winning the war, he had a book and record deal, but he couldn't be so high profile, "there's a bounty... an actual price on my head".  Powerful people from another planet are pissed off with him.  He starts to climb the fence and Jessica asks "just.. who is after you?" On the other side of the fence Rick says he's tired and at his wits end.  Because of the bounty on his head and that he's considered a war criminal he's not going to endanger his wife.

"War crimes" queries Jessica and she rips the fence apart. Rick tries to explain himself, he did nothing but:

Rick: "I just.. I got heroic for a second and I ended the thing.  So now the governments want a little under-the-table payback.  Like no little human pisher's going to fuck up their chances of dominance.  You think those kinds of heroics or whatever go unanswered? They do not.  So now my life is fucked again!"

Jessica wants to know why he still performs at the club, he says he lost everything but he needs to get on stage and strum a guitar.  She asks why he didn't ask the Avengers for help.  After some prodding from her he admits Captain America is pissed at him.  He is angry about the book and Rick doesn't want to bother him.

Jessica says they could talk to Reed Richards, so he agrees to go to the Baxter Building with her.  They arrive at reception to be greeted by a robot receptionist.  She says access to Dr. Richards is by appointment only.  When they try and tell her what the problem is the receptionist tells them she won't be making an appointment for them and to "have a nice day".
No help from the Fantastic Four.
They leave, and Jessica tries to phone the Avengers, suddenly Rick says "oh my god..." and he takes off into the crowd.  Calling after him Jessica chases him but he knocks a man down and she stops to see if he is OK.  Then Rick is lost in the crowd, "what the fuck!" she exclaims.

Jessica finally gets through to the Avengers Emergency Hotline, she leaves a rambling message saying she was hired to find Rick Jones and found him and he's in trouble with the Skrulls, he's running scared and even though he's fallen out with Captain America his life is in danger and "that's more important than whatever thing he is goibg through with you guys".

She leaves her number and asks if she can please be told what's going on.  She is back in her office and knackered, she check her internet and her gay honeytrap worked the man wants to meet her in Starbucks wearing a rollneck sweater, "how incredibly uninteresting on every level".  She checks her mail then slumps forwards asleep.

She wakes up to find her teenage admirer fielding a phonecall.   She grabs the phone off him and speaks to Jarvis the Avengers butler.  He is calling on behalf of Captain America regarding her call:

Jarvis: "Now this Rick Jones... this was here in New York City? Well ma'am, I'm sorry to tell you that the gentleman you found is not Rick Jones.  Rick Jones is safe and sound in Los Angeles".

He goes on to say they are aware of the fake Rick Jones running round the West Village.  If she has anymore trouble with him let them know and they'll have "the proper authorities deal with him".
Jessica finally gets some answers.
After she puts the phone down she yells "GOD! FUCKING...SHIT OF ALL SHIT!", her teenage admirer is still there, he asks for a job, she tells him to get lost.  She returns to the park and finds Rick Jones playing guitar and his wife is with him.  She rushes over and hugs Jessica in thanks for finding her husband.  Jesica says he worked it all out, and he says he did she was a huge help and he has his Janey back. What about the "trouble" he was in? "Not in front of the civilians" Rick says.

She goes and sits in a Starbucks.  A bearded man sits next to her.  She asks him what he does and he says he a psychotherapist. She asks him about meeting a man who has everyone convinced he's another famous guy.  There are huge holes in his story and the more you look at it the less convincing he is, yet "everyone buys it".

"Pseudologica Fantastica" says the psychotherapist. A person starts out with small lies and the ie gets "bigger and grander and more outrageous".  The interesting twist is the bigger and more fantastical the lie the more innocent peple believe.   Why do they believe asks Jessica.  "They just want to.  People...they're desperate for excitement.  They want to know famous people".

Psychotherapist: "This is the world we live in... movie stars, rock stars, the Fantastic Four, mutant envy..."

"Mutant Envy?" says an incredulous Jessica.  "It's just not enough for some people just to be...people" says the Psychotherapist.
Putting it in persepctive.
He tells her some stories about what some people have done for a touch of fame.  Jessica thanks him for answering her questions.  He says no problem, the person he is meeting is late anyway.  She looks him in the eye and then says to him:

Jessica: "Go home to your wife, and come out of the closet.  She loves you and you're hurting her.  She deserves better than what you're doing to her".

He looks at her with terrified alarm, gathers his coat and flees the shop.  She then flashes back to her night waiting with Rick for the Baxter building to open.  She told him his book really got to her.  She especially identified with him talking about having physical reaction to people in costumes, she realised her body was screaming at her not to be around the costumed people, "...my body would freak out and say 'don't be here. This isn't where regular people should be'"

Rick says she has powers though but she says it was one of the main reasons she shouldn't be wearing a costume.  Because Rick feels the same it's nice to meet somene in the same boat, "it was nice to know I'm not nuts".  Rick is silent.  Then he gets up to go to the bathroom and says it was nice what she said.  We end with her back in Starbucks,

Jessica: "'The peasants want the kings to come down and play...' fuck."

This is a interesting story, it's basically a series of conversations about truth, lies, reality and fantasy.  Opening the story with a several page meal and chat between Carol and Jessica was a great way to set that stall out from the start.  It was also nice to see the somewhat troubled Jessica smiling and having a good time.  What's fascinating is how we're getting a look at the sort of class system the hero class has bought to America, even more untouchable and unreachable than celebrities, for a street level hero like Jessica getting any kind of respect seems difficult despite her having connections within the Avengers.  The rest of the story is a dissection of the cult of celebrity and how people will cling to a scrap of it.  Even Jessica is fooled as her final flashback shows.  The story structure is also strong with the luring out of the gay husband paying of brilliantly at the end.  Some people will bemoan the lack of action in this story but I'm more interested in it as a character and world building exercise.  I like Bendis's dialogue and I like Gaydos's art and how well they mesh.  Look out for volume 2 next month.

Monday, 20 February 2017

Jessica Jones: Alias Book 1 (#1-9) PART ONE

"How long you gonna kick me for?" - Jessica Jones

It's fair to say that amongst the Marvel faithful, writer Brian Michael Bendis is somewhat of a contentious figure.  Because I don't follow the Marvel Universe as doggedly as I do the DCU I have a pretty positive opinion of the guy mainly due to his amazingly good run on Daredevil in the early noughties and this series which kicked off the Marvel MAX line aimed at adult readers roundabout the same time.  This is the story of Jessica Jones, ex-superhero who has super strength and can fly but quit superheroing for reasons that veiwers of the Jessica Jones TV series will know about but which isn't revealed in this series until the final volume so I won't be giving the game away for anyone who hasn't yet seen the TV show.  She now runs Alias Investigations, a private investigations firm and somehow cases keep bringing her back in contact with the superhero world she never found her niche in.  Interestingly unlike Deadpool MAX and Garth Ennis's Punisher and Fury MAX series these stories are still very much set in the mainstream Marvel Universe, it's just here people have anal sex and say "fuck" which makes for some weird mental readjustments sometimes especially as only a few years earlier people in the Marvel Universe couldn't even say "hell" or "damn".  This first volume contains the first nine issues, and I've split it into two parts each covering an arc.  So time to enter the somewhat screwed up world of Jessica Jones by creator and writer Brian Michael Bendis and with art by co-creator Michael Gaydos.

We begin in the office of Alias Investigations. A man is sat in a chair, "God fucking dammit!" he expostulates.   Jessica tells him that when he hired her, "these things rarely end well".  She asks if he wants a moment alone, but the man is freaking out about the fact he's been cheated on.  He turns on Jessica saying she enjoyed snooping round their lives and laughing at him.  He lunges at her and she throws him through her office door.
Jessica and a photo of her as "Jewel".
Later she is talking with police officer who admonishes her for tossing the man through her door.  She explains the guy didn't like what she had to say.  Then the cop notices a photo of her in a superhero costume with The Avengers.  He sees one of her with the original Ms. Marvel and asks what her superhero name was:

Jessica:  "It...it doesn't matter".

Cop: "Come on, maybe I've heard of you".

Jessica: "You haven't.  I don't do that anymore...I outgrew it."

The cop says she's not above the law.  He doesn't want to get another call like this one.  Her current job is something of a comedown from superheroing.  Jessica says it could be worse, she could be them.  The other cop pull the first cop away and leave Jessica alone.  She lights a cigarette and slumps forwards on her desk.

We then cut to her in the same position in a bar, she is somewhat drunk. The owner of the bar is Luke Cage, Powerman, who has unbreakable skin.  He starts chatting her up and she says to him:

Jessica:  "I just...I just want to feel something.... different."

Luke: "How about I just take you home..."

We then jump to them in bed together.   It's obvious that he is sodomising her,  She looks pained and reflects that Luke  will feel both bad and secretly good about what they did together that night. But she doesn't care, she just wanted to feel something, "pain...humility...anger. I just want to feel something different".
Thank goodness she wasn't on a date with Iron Fist!
Next day she is back in her office collecting her post when another potential client appears. She is a wealthy looking woman whose sister has gone missing and Jesscia came highly recommended.  Jessica agrees to hear her out.  Her sister is called Miranda who is the total opposite of her and who drifted through trouble her entire life.  But lately seemed to have her act together and had met a decent man who she described as "the one".  But when she told her not to be so gung ho and rush into something, her sister got really mad and now has cut of all communication between herself and her sister including moving house.  Her sister is worried about her and just wants to know if she is OK.

Jessica warns her finding her sister and confronting her "might make things worse".  The woman repeats that she wants to know she's OK.  Jessican takes some info from her and arranged a price then once alone gets to work.  She narrates in his head that she often spends more time checking if "the client is legit than I do finding the person".

Now thanks to the internet she can do a lot of the grunt work that used to involve going to the Hall of Records or bribing people at the police station. This research leads her to staking out a flat at night.  She sees the woman open the door to someone:

Jessica: "Wow.  That's one big piece of beefcake you got yourself there."

As she keeps watching she sees the man get paged, which makes her think he's a doctor or a "big fat married cheating liar." But then something strange happens, the man leaves via the roof and removes his civilian clothes to reveal Captain America.  Jessica, is taping the whole thing and is dumbstruck at what she now has on film.
And suddenly shit gets real.
She later returns to her flat, stands outside paranoidly staring at it for forty-two minutes, "It's not like I don't have a reason... I am holding a videotape that people would kill for".  She decides staring at her own curtains is a "surreal fucking experience". She ventures inside, but no one is in there.  She watches the tape back and confirms she has taped Captain America and his girlfriend..

She ejects the tape and decides to destroy it.   She puts it in the microwave but pauses as various thoughts asail her.  She caught Captain America changing from his civilian to superself.  The man is a "living American legend,  A man of political infuence,  A man with huge enemies".  She starts to wonder if this was a set up, and begins to panic that "they" will harm her and her family to get the tape. 

Jessica: "I have been so fucking set up.  I am so screwed... come on, first instinct's always right.  It's a setup"

She calls the contact number the lady who first contacted her with this job, but the phonecall gives her the message that the number she has dialled has been disconncted.

She then hails a taxi to go back to the address she was given, but it's a baby clothes shop so she goes back to the woman she founds address and gets out when she sees a crowd has gathered round the place she was surveilling earlier.   Apparently the woman has been murdered, strangled by someone's bare hands. Called in by an anonymous source.
And now there's been a murder.
Jessica goes to Luke Cage's flat seeking comfort, but he peeks through the door saying now is not a good time. Then another woman's face pokes through demanding to know who she is.  Feeling stressed and sad Jessica sits on the stairs and weeps.  Next day she travel to Avengers Mansion.  She tells the gate communicator she needs to talk to Captain America.  It coldly tells her he is away, and she has fifteen seconds to back away from the gate.
`
She returns to her office and find two detectives waiting for her. She lets them into the office while one asks if she still has her powers and are all her detective licences in order. Then they get down to business, Jessica was hired to tail Miranda Pratchett. Jessica admits she only saw her once last night.  She pretends to be surprised when she is told Miranda is dead.  Unfortunately for her, the police take extensive pictures of the crowds and Jessica is in them.  For that lie they are going to arrest her and take her downtown.
A classic page of Bendis and Gaydos working together.
Jessica is sat patiently waiting in the interrogation room.  The cop, Paul Hall, says he heard "you used to hop around the city under the name Jewl".  She says she has no aliases now. He asks her some more about her powers, she says she is strong, strong enough to walk out if she wanted to.  Paul asks if she wants to do that now,  Jessica says she'd just end up in more trouble.  She also admits to being able to fly, but "I can't land real well"  She says flying is not all it's cracked up up be.

Paul holds up a photo of her as Jewel and asks why she doesn't do that anymore, "a symbol can mean a lot to people".Jessica says that't just not her way anymore.  Finally after more suprehero talk she asks what this has to do with why she has been arrested.   She asks for a phonecall, Paul says only "guilty people" ask for them.

He says she can wait a sec while he question her some more.  How did her powers work for her as a private dick?  "Up until today... pretty good".  She tell him she found the girl, then went to tell her sister but the number was disconnected and her address was a baby clothes store, so she went back to the sister's house to find a murder scene. She regrets lying to the police about being at the woman's house a second time.   She panicked:

Jessica: "I mean obviously someone is fucking with me and I didn't know what to do".

She thinks she was set up so she'd wind up being questioned by the police.  But she knows w
one thing, she didn't kill the girl and they are wasting time talking to her.  Paul asks when did she get home.  "One A.M." says Jessica.  And that was when she phoned the sister, Paul thinks that's an inapprpriate time to call.
Taken downtown.
Jessica says the woman was distraught when she gave her the job so she thought shes be happy to know her sister was safe and healthy.  At least she was when she left her. Paul changes tack and asks why officers were called to her office that morning.  Jessica says she has "an incident with an out of control client".  Who you threw through a plate glass window says Paul.

Paul: "I hear you got a temper on ya...one day you're throwing one through a plate glass window...the next day maybe you're strangling a woman to death".

Jessica is offended by this but Paul goes onto say maybe she has multiple personalities in there doing stuff.  This makes Jessica furious at this and starts cursing him out, "this is bullshit. I didn't do anything. So I want to make a living in this shithole of a city. So what?  Now I'm a murderer? Fuck you! And fuck..."
Matt Murdock to the rescue.
She is cutoff by Matt Murdock aka Daredevil arriving as his lawyer persona. He tells the cop they have no right to hold her and takes her away saying next time they want to talk to her it will be through his office.  As they walk outside Matt says a friend sent him, that friend being Luke Cage.  He asks her flat out "Did you kill that girl?"  Jessica replies "of course not" and this is all the proof Matt needs. He give her his card and says of the cops, "ten bucks says you never hear from them again" and walks off.

Later Jessica visits Carol Danvers who is mad at her for treating her like utter crap in the past.  But Jessica needs a favour from her, she wants her to check the number the "sister" gave her.  Carol agrees and Jessica goes home to wait her email.  It finally arrives, the number was part of a "bank" numbers with the main number being "202-555-0812".  She also apologies for being cold towards Jessica and offers her help in the future to. Jessica wonders what area "202" is.  She dials the number and gets a big surprise, it's one for the for the commitee to elect the "Democratic Presidentail candidate Steven Keaton".

The next chapter begins with a jaunty party political broadcast for Steven Keaton that accuses the unnamed Republican President for spending too much time hanging out with superheroes, for being "someone whose ear is bent by people hiding behind masks and shadows".  Some political pundits then chew the strategy over.  One says it's a "poorly thought out strategy" his opposer says the President has done nothing but "gallivant and socialise with these costumed men masked men of... questionable backgrounds".  Steven Keaton has been getting his hands dirty with "real people" in contrast rather than getting "his ear bent by aliens, mutants and God knows what else?"
Daydrinking!
This was on in a bar and while it was on Jessica ruminates on finally seeing something that was in front of your face all the time. As the men on TV debate further with the pro-Keaton one saying that "fearing large men wearing masks is still good advice where I come from."  As he says that Jessica crushes the glass she is drinking from.  The barman grabs a baseball bat and tells her to get out, "I don't want your mutant shit in my place".  She staggers out mumbling that heroes fight for the likes of him.

She walks out into the cold light of day ruminating on her "make it up as I go along scheme".  First she is going to find the woman who hired her in the first place. She goes inside a "Keaton for President" campaign office and the woman who hired her spots her and tries to slip out the back, calling on her mobile as she does so to a "Mr. Lawson".  Like a vengeful angel, Jessica drops down from the rooftop.  The woman faints, Jessica takes her phone from her and sees she is calling a "Lawson. Daviano".
You cannot escape Jessica.
It turns out to be a firm of lawyers called "Lawson, Daviano and Silver".  Jessica walks into Lawson's office and asks him why she was hired via a third party by him to find a woman who was murdered.   Lawson blusters that he has never heard of her, doesn't know who she is talking about and he doesn't appreciate being accused of something.  When she refuses to leave he threatens to have the police come and arrest her, but she calls his bluff saying she'll know what she'll tell them.  Satisfied by his silent response, she leaves.

She then narrates to herself that the point of that confrontation was to discover that the lawyer knew who she was but not that their was a dead person involved.  Now she is going to wait outside staking out his car and follow him when he comes rushing out.  As she waits Matt Murdock calls her and says she is off the hook for the murder.  Also the lead deective was pulled from the case entirely.   The evidence that helped exonerate her was the fact that the woman had indentations of fingers from a very large man round her neck.

As he tells her this, a very large man with very large hands rips open Jessica's car door and drags her out. He wraps his hands round her neck and starts choking her.  Jessica gasps out "wh... what do you want from me?" as he throttles her.  "Nothing" grins the man in response.
Marko gets his just beatdown.
As he squeezes he says the best thing about work-for-hire gigs is that once he has killed her he can take her somewhere remote and do whatever he wants with her, "then you'll find out why they call me 'Man Mountain Marko'". Ewwwww. This give Jessica her second wind, she claps her hands either side of his head and he drops her, clasping his ears in pain.   Then she grabs his balls and squeezes, grounding him while she thinks about how she dislikes fighting.  She kneels on Marko's chest and keeps punching him until he tells her who he is working for.

Then we cut to a rich asshole called Mr. Zoumas playing golf.  Jessica comes walking across the green towards him.  His bodygaurds point guns at her but she bluffs them into thinking she is bulletproof.  Zoumas tells them to stand down.  He tells her to sell the tape she made, to make money or save herself from a murder rap. "You murdered the girl because you wanted me to give the tape away..?" Jessica is incredulous at this.

Zoumas wants to know what she wants from him.  She wants him to confess. He says, to what? Tricking her to making a tape of Captain America's secret identity? Confess to a murder?  If he was to, the authorities would need to see the tape.

Zoumas: "All I want you to do is give up flag boy to the press.  And it seems this is something you have no interest in doing... But now you've got me where you want me - caught red-handed.  But to do anythng about it you have to give uo flag boy.  They call it a stalemate girl".

Jessica wants to know why him.  Zoumas says it's because he's the "President's little buddy".  The President has debts and hasn't paid them.  Services have been rendered and not been attended to.  Zoumas is so mad at the President he gave himself an anal fissure.
Mr Zoumas tells Jessica the facts of life.
So the plan is to put someone into office who does understand who and what they are.  So they have manufactured a scandal "involving an asshole who dresses up in our flag".  Scandals involving the President are egineered by big money and leaked via third, fourth and fifth parties, "so it seems like an accident.  A slip.  A coinkydink.... we make it look like... like it just sort of happened".

He then tells Jessica to release the tape, because if she destroys it or comes at him again, he'll come at her and "I'll paint a picture of you to the world so ugly even you won't fuck you."  Then a year later he'll have her killed in her sleep.  He walks off to play the next hole.

Then her mobile goes off and she takes a call from a Clay Quarterman.  He tells her to turn around quickly and walk away the direction she came from.  As she goes and hides in the treeline, Clay says they have had a bug on her since the crime scene in Manhattan.  Suddenly helicopters descend over Zoumas's group and opens fire, then agents drop down to arrest them.

Clay: "Jessica you have to go right now, or I can't protect you from my superiors. Oh, and by the way, if yu had taken the job with us at S.H.E.I.L.D none of this would ever have happened to you.  But you never listened to me, not once".

Later Jessica is relaxing at home watching a news report on Keaton wihdrawing from the Presidential race to "spend more time with my family."
Steve Rogers thanks her in person.
There is a knock at the door and Steve Rogers is there.  Jessica hands him the tape and he says it's out of both of their hands now - S.H.E.I.L.D stuff.  Steve notes she didn't release the tape, she says "it didn't even occur to me to do that until he told me that was what they were counting on."  She then tells him she is sorry about his lover. Steve starts blaming himself but she tells him not to do that to himself.

He then asks her why she doesn't do "it" anymore.  She admits it's because she realised she didn't have "that thing".

Jessica: "That thing that inspires people...to be.  I dunno, better than they are."

Steve says he has met a million people in his life and "can't think of three who would have done this for me."  She protected him when he needed it most. She jokes he's not going to salute her is he?  He smiles and leaves saying if she wants to try again, she should at least call Carol, "she's a good friend to you".  After he is gone we finish this arc with her on the phone to Carol.
A happy ending? For now.
This is a fantastic introduction to a character that would go on to become a big part of the Marvel Universe.  Jessica Jones is a mass of neuroses and secrets that will slowly unravel as this maxi-series continues.  She gets drunk, has bad sex and lurches from one situation to another without much of a plan but with a brain shrewd enough to put the clues together and figure out a modernday polictical conspiracy to disgrace Captain America and bring down the Presidency.  Bendis's characteristic dialogue with lots of pauses, and repeats is matched beuatifully by Gaydos's artwork which has a very Warhol-like quality of using pages of the same image over and over.  His thick lined art gives the it a heft it might otherwise lack and the combination of the naturalistic speech and almost cartoonlike artwork reminds me very much of peak Cerebus the Aardvark which is a huge compliment as far as I am concerned. It's interesting seeing how the MAX philosophy can work with the mainstream Marvel Universe though it helps they are on the peripheries as the book concentrates on the rackety lifestyle of Jessica Jones. Book One contains two arcs, this was the first, the second I'll look at in a few days.

Friday, 17 February 2017

30 Days Of Night: Beyond Barrow (#1-3)

"Poor stupid bastards.  I almost feel sorry for them"  - John Ikos.

This is going to be the last visit to the world of 30 Days of Night (I have sadly had to skip the Eben and Stella mini due to the art making it impossible to tell who was who half the time) at least those collected in the two omnibuses.  In case you've missed any of my other looks at the various 30 Days of Night miniseries, the titular "30 Days of Night" are those experienced by the Alaskan town of Barrow when there is no sun for a month in winter.  Some enterprising vampires took it upon themselves to go and feed off the townsfolk and many of the inhabitants were killed.  The town sheriff Eben Olemaun injected himself with vampire blood and kept his sanity long enough to kill the head vampire and frighten the rest off.  He died sitting with his wife Stella when the sun finally came up.  Stella wrote a book about the incident called 30 Days of Night and became a veteran vampire hunter.  But she missed Eben too much and through a blood ritual bought him back and he promptly turned her into a vampire. However both kept their humanity and when vampires tried to attack Barrow again, they wiped the vampires out and promised to watch over the town for the foreseeable future.  We have also seen vampires in Mexico, on the Eastern Front in World War 2 and witnessed the crazed experiments of a vampire fetishist.  This final mini of omnibus two returns to Barrow many years after the last attack and is written by series co-creator Steve Niles with art by the legendary Bill Sienkiewicz.

It begins... with tiny red lettering on black backgrounds which I need a flippin' torch to read, dammit!  But anyway, start again.  It begins.. with a potted history of Barrow. That the three things the town is used to are below zero temperatures, living in darkness and vampire attacks.

Narrator: "For creatures who fear the light and thirst for blood, Barrow and the entire Artic circle are heaven on Earth.  Hell on Earth if you are human."

We a small group of vampires walking through the snow towards the town.   The woman says they should not be here, that the townspeople are prepared and the vampire elders have forbade attacks on the town.  The leader says they will "invade, feed and then leave. Nobody, not even our own will be the wiser".
Something worse than vampires appears.
One of the others points to a plane coming in to land, the leader says "more blood for us".  They start moving again when suddenly they all sense something ahead of them that alarms them.  Then suddenly they are surrounded by something that rips them apart leaving nothing behind but a stripped skeleton.

In Barrow Bob Huey, the man who has run the Barrow airport for years has let in a plane he shouldn't have, it should be closed to air traffic during the dark month.  But he needed the cash and the offer was too good to pass up.  The passengers are Richard Denning, a billioniare and self-proclaimed adventurer who has read that vampires live near Barrow. His wife Kelly who showed him Stella Olemaun's book and got him bitten by the vampire hunting bug. Keri their daughter who "would rather be anywhere else in the world."

Chris Miller and his latest girlfriend Tina who are along for the adventure are also part of the expediion. So is Nat Gilmore who works for Richard and has no choice and finally Scott Powell, Richard's friend who likes guns and photography and wants to be the first human to take a photo of a vampire - dead or alive.
Every man has his price.
Richard hands over the bribe to Bob for letting him land.  Bob asks if he needs any transportation while he is in town.  Richard says he doesn't plan on spending much time in Barrow and he brought his own transport.  The plane unloads a jeep with caterpiller tracks instead of wheels, he bought it from the manufacturers who make them for the Alaskan National Guard and has upgraded it with stereo, video decks and a full bar. 

Bob: "Folks around here are lucky if we can get chains on our tyres or run-down snowcat."

Richard: "Well folks round here should invest their money better".

Bob says he'll hide the plane but if anyone asks he'll tell them they landed without permission and he turned the runway lights on so "you wouldn't splatter yourself all over Barrow".  Richards says he'll back him up if they meet anyone in town.

Bob panics, he thought they weren't going into town. Richard casually says they'll tell his lie for him and his party depart leaving Bob with a handful of cash wondering if it was worth it, "even he knows deep down, if these jackasses go anywhere but Barrow they'll probably wind up dead."

Richard says to his party that he doesn't care if they do go into Barrow, it's too well defended, the real action will be outside its walls. His wife says she and Keri want to photograph Eben's grave and the remains of the Ikos diner.  Keri sulkily says she doesn't want to take any pictures.   Her mum wants to see all the sights because if they find a vampire she and Richard are going to write a book.

They drive to the town gate and are stopped by armed men.  Richard says they just want to see the sights then they'll be on their way.  To come into Barrow they have to show identification, and their teeth.  Once inside they find the graveyard and Richard, Kelly and an unenthused Keri pose in front of Eben's grave for a photo. 
A tacky photo.
Then "out of nowhere" Marcus Kitka now seventeen, who was a kid when the last major attack happened, punches Richard saying "Get out of my town you goulish sons of bitches!" John Ikos who survived the first ever Barrow attack pulls Marcus away saying the visitors better take care of themselves, "this ain't Disneyland."  Richard mumbles they read the book, "don't worry old man.  We can handle ourselves". They drive off.

Marcus Kitka's father Brian is the sheriff of Barrow.  He and Marcus get along but they weren't as close as they were before the first attack the lived through that Marcus still has nighmares about. Defending Barrow has become Brian's year round job and it takes him away from Marcus who goes to see John Ikos about something bothering him about the newcomers.

He tells John he can't stop thinking about them, "that daughter or the jackass you punched?" queries John.  Marcus wants to know why they let them go out there.  John says it isn't their business and they wouldn't listen anyway.  Marcus says they get killed:

John: "If the cold don't, somethin' else is bound to come along.  It's called thinning the herd or natural selection".

Marcus says that's cynical and John says you get that way when you've fought to live as many times as he has.  Marcus says he's the perfect person to help them then, but John refuses saying he can't help people who don't want help.  But he gives in and says they'll check as far as "Tartok Ridge" but if they aren't in sight from there they are as good as dead.  They pick up some flash grenades and head on out.
The party camp out.
The vampire hunting party have made camp, a tent extended from the end of the jeep.  Inside they are all chatting, apart from Keri who has stayed up in the jeep portion of camp. Her mother says she is such a curmudgeon and cackles that she was just like that at her age. Keri ignores her and fiddles with her phone which has no signal.  So she decides to watch a horror movie called "Suicide Stripper 2" to cheer herself up. She lights up a cigarette and rolls the windown down a little and suddenly notices the campsite is surrounded by what looks like rocks.

Meanwhile John and Marcus are walking through the snow.  John is telling him about a man called John Franklin who tried mapping the Artic, he never returned from an expedition and his body was found frozen and stripped of flesh.  They could tell by the scratches on the bones themselves. Even his brain had been cleaned out. Marcus asks what the point of this gory story about people disappearing from where they are currently walking.  John just asks him how good he is with a gun these days.

Marcus: "One,  Yes I can still shoot. Two.  You are seriously freaking me out!"

Back at the camp, everyone is getting a bit tipsy.  Keri demands they take and look outside, so Chris peeks through the tent flaps and sees the same strange "rocks" surrounding them.  "They weren't there when we drove in and set up" says Richard suddenly serious.
Spooky story time.
Kelly says it must me some eskimo curse.  Keri tells her they don't call themselves Eskimos anymore, it was a collective term for the various peoples who live above the Artic like the Inuit and Yupik.  So Eskimo is out like Indian is for Native Amercians. Kelly says "we don't call them Indians because General Custard killed them all, thank God".  Keri says it's "Custer" and actually the Native Americans killed him, "rightfully so, I might add."

"Well look who's paying attention in class" says Richard. "Idiots" mutters Keri.  Then Chris looks out again and says the stones have gone.  Then suddenly he's wrenched out in a flurry of blood.  Richard, Kelly and Keri manage to get into the jeep as the tent is attacked and the others sliced to pieces.  The jeep drives through the black bodied beings who assaulted them and gets free.  "Richard,  I don't think these are the vampires from the book" says Kelly. 
The party are attacked.
As they drive, Kelly asks if Richard thinks the others are still alive.  Richard says he hopes not.  We cut to the ruined camp.  One of the men is still alive, though badly wounded.  He pleads with the figure standing over him to not hurt him.  His screams are heard by Marcus and John.  John tells Marcus that the party have fallen prey to the "unnuar amarok", all the disappearances round these parts are down to them. "Just keep them in front of you" instructs John "and remember one thing - nothing lives without a head."

Richard's panicked driving has got them lost.  The GPS system isn't responding and neither are the radio or satellite phone.  They are flying blind.  Richard says if they keep driving they should hit something soon. He and Keri bicker as she accuses him of being the idiot who wanted to go vampire hunting in Alaska.  Richard ungallantly says it was her mother's idea. Then they see a cave and they drive into it to hide.

Keri doesn't think they should be stopping. Richard says they'll conserve fuel, build a fire and maybe someone will find them in the daylight.  But Keri points out it won't be daylight for thirteen more days.  Then they notice the cave has a funny smell and is warm. Richard says it's probably an underground spring. They have supplies, they can hold out for a while. 
The "vampires" torture their prey.
Then they hear Chris screaming.  They look to where it is coming from and see him being held down and having his skin and flesh ripped off while still alive by black humanoids with almost lamprey mouths and no eyes or noses.  "We walked right into their lair" whispers Keri, "well mom, you got your vampires".  They rip and tear Chris who finally dies as they completely rip the meat from his bones and consume it.

"That noise is horrible!" exclaims Kelly stupidly loudly and the vampires turn and realise they have company.  Richard fires a flare gun at them as they approach. The vampires grab all three of them but Keri manages to struggle free though her clothes are ripped off in the process.  Her parents are killed and she stands frozen in a pond of blood.  One of them comes close and sniffs her.  Things look bad for her, then John shoots it in the head.
John Ikos to the rescue.
Then he blasts the others closest to her. He tells Marcus to get her out of there then tosses his belt of flash grenades at the advancing group of vampires and ignites it from a distance with a shot from his pistol, there is an almighty Fooom. Marcus drapes his coat round Keri and apologises for punching her dad.  When she asks for them he has to tell her they didn't make it out.

He takes her back to John's cabin where he is waiting for them.   Keri asks him what those things really were.  John says that some folks believe they are vampires who came and settled here a long time ago.  Their bodies adapted to the extreme weather conditions and over the centuries became a different species altogether.  Keri thanks him for killing them.

John: "Dead? I doubt they're all dead. They're survivors like us."

The story then comes to a close with the narrator saying that long ago, over many years, many braved the journey to search for new lands. And only a few ever returned. "And as the legend goes, some of the weary travellers stayed behind and became part of the land.  And part of the terror".  The end.
Only Keri survives.
This is a worthy note to end my looks at the 30 Days of Night series.  Human's can fight vampires and even win small victories, but vampires both ancient and modern still plague the world and Barrow will probably never be totally safe despite the ban the modern vampires are under from going there and the protection of Eben and Stella. The ancient vampires depicted here are horrifying blank faced monsters.  Acting on sadistic instinct there is no reasoning with them just death by dismemberment while you are still alive. Despite the generally unpleasant nature of the doomed hunting party (apart from Keri), and their monumental stupidity they didn't deserve to die the way they did.  John Ikos once again shows what a badass he is at killing vampires and the most likeable "Final Girl" escapes thanks to his efforts.  Bill Sienkiewicz's art is superb.  From frosty portraiture to the feeding of the vampires degenerating into thick black chaotic line work he depicts the freezing cold horror expertly.  His layouts especially capture the frenzy of the ancient vampire attacks.  I believe recently Steve Niles has started the 30 Days of Night's franchise up again after a break of some years and I may be seeking them out at some point in the future.  But for now this is the capstone on what has been a very high quality run of miniseries. Both omnibuses are well worth your expenditure if you enjoy tales of real, non-sparkling vampires.