Jun 21, 2012

Who Watches the Nightwatch Part 5: I Left My Plot In San Francisco

"I am vengeance.  I am the night...watch...listen, I'm still working on this."
(Web of Spider-Man Annual #10, art by Mark Tenney and Keith Williams)
I was gonna go all amateur-hour David Brothers on y'all and talk about how Nightwatch was Marvel's first headlining character from the then-kinda-new black middle class, but then I remembered Deathlok who a) came first, and b) was in a way better book.  So...yeah, let's just talk about Nightwatch.

Nightwatch #4: Gauntlet

Not pictured: the Loot.
We've got some creative changes this issue - Kavanagh just plots this issue, with Joey Cavalieri now scripting the book.  Cavalieri spent much of his career at DC before and since Nightwatch, but in 1994 he was at Marvel overseeing their nascent 2099 line.  With the addition of Cavalieri, the dialogue stops being cringe-inducingly awful and becomes okay.  The art team also changes; while Lim and Milgrom stuck around to do the cover, Mark Tenney takes over the penciling duties, with Thomas Florimonte and Tim Tuohy on inks.  I'm not really familiar with Tenney, but he's very Ron Lim-esque.

Anyway.  We pick up where we left off; the Mechamorph attacks Riker's Island - and Nightwatch, who is not particularly dead, pops out of it, destroying it.  Apparently there was enough empty space in this thing for a grown man to crawl into, and once he was in there it couldn't detect him, and thus concluded that he was dead.  What a crappy robot.  Who built this thing?  Well, read on.

"Yeah, the stripper couldn't make it.  Now who's the birthday boy?"
Nightwatch takes down most of the escaping prisoners, but Alfredo and his probably-not-allowed-in-prison ponytail escape, hightails it to a police boat, and makes it to the mainland.  Meanwhile, an entirely different ponytailed man (what can I say, it was 1994) is awoken by his aide, Renard, who tells him that there's a bounty on Gauntlet's head.  This man is the implausibly-named Grey Garrison, and he'll be our guest star for the evening.  He's Warrant, a high-tech government-sponsored bounty hunter who the cover proclaims to be 1994's hottest new character!  Unsurprisingly, he's another Kavanagh creation, first appearing in the pages of Web of Spider-Man.  He's also Spider-Man's 186th-best villain although, to be honest, I was feeling generous that day.

Elsewhere, Morelli slips into the sophisticated lair of Vandal, who is apparently the juvenile-hall version of the Tinkerer.  He built the Mechamorph, and he's also built a new power glove for Morelli to replace the one Nightwatch took back.  He's not going to give him the latter, because a) Morelli lied and said he was the Kingpin when he ordered it, and b) he hasn't been paid.  Morelli counters that he shouldn't have to pay because the Mechamorph sucked, which is kind of a good point.  Vandal is used to people trying to rip him off, so he's electrified the glove.  This doesn't stop Morelli.

"Would you believe I've lost a lot of weight?  And regained it in the form of hair?"
While Trench tries to call his sole surviving relative, his uncle Drake, Morelli discovers that the glove has fused to his hand...somehow.  He doesn't even try to take it off.  It's just the only logical conclusion, I guess. He doesn't get much time to ponder it before Warrant makes an explosive entrance - explosive enough to attract the attention of Kevin Trench, who is conveniently right next to the abandoned warehouse above Vandal's base.  Warrant and Vandal are old enemies, apparently, and Warrant tries to collect the bounty on him, but he's just a hologram, and the real Vandal is in his "new crib".  Ugh.  Warrant's distracted enough by this that he lets Gauntlet punch him in his stupid face and run away.

"Buddy boy"?  Is Gauntlet secretly Fred Flintstone?
Nightwatch shows up; Gauntlet proceeds to put up a pretty good fight, considering that he's one guy with a super-glove fighting two guys wearing entire super-suits.  It helps that Nightwatch is worried that the fight's gonna bring down the whole building, especially after they find some homeless squatters in there, and Warrant could not give a f***.  Nightwatch turns out to be right, and the building falls down right after he glides the squatters to safety.  Both our other combatants are unharmed, and crawl out of the rubble, but before Gauntlet can take out Warrant, Nightwatch realizes that Gauntlet absorbed Warrant's electrical charges (which at no point did we see during the fight), and so force-feeds him too much power (how?  Nightwatch doesn't have any energy powers).  There's a huge explosion, and Gauntlet's beaten.  Nightwatch leaves, and Warrant takes all the credit.  Dick.

"Vibranium-mesh armor and giant shoulderpads.  You?"

Elsewhere, Killian Fox places a call to Eli Wirtham, checking out Trench's reference.  Wirtham (who is just straight chillin' in his Cardiac costume) confirms that he knows Trench - and that Trench has been dead for ten years.  Our hero, meanwhile, is stowing away in an airliner's baggage compartment to go to - San Francisco!

Kind of an incoherent issue; the Mechamorph cliffhanger is resolved in an unexciting fashion, and then Nightwatch randomly stumbles into a fight between a boring antihero and a boring villain.  The dialogue was better, though, and Tenney's art is okay.

Nightwatch #5: Whispers in the Dark

First they fight...
Kavanagh resumes full writing duties with this issue, Tenney's still on pencils, and this month's (and next month's) cover is from Steven Butler, who was just coming off a run on future Spider-Man Spinoff Showcase subject Silver Sable and the Wild Pack, and about to start on Web of Spider-Man.  Anyway, it's San Francisco in the '90s, so there's one guy all Marvel characters have to run into...and no, it's not Joe Montana.  After making his controversial truce with Spider-Man, Venom hightailed it out to San Fran, where he starred in his own series of miniseries and guest-starred in any book made a side-trip to the West Coast.  Seriously, it's like how if a '90s TV show went to Baltimore, they had a guest appearance from Homicide's John Munch.

But we don't open with Venom or Nightwatch - instead, there's a woman with a nasty case of jaundice, who is facing down some rather hostile police officers.  As the captions helpfully explain, this is Dr. Jenny Burke, a solar research scientist who suffered a nasty lab accident, transforming her into the luminous Sunstreak; her employers blamed her for the accident, and have labelled her an eco-terrorist, hence the cops.  But let's begin, as we often do at this blog, with a simple question: what the hell is she wearing?  There's a leotard with asymmetrical sleeves and a somewhat puzzling neckline, what appear to be Psylocke's boots, and a truly bizarre piece of shoulder armor.   The captions make it clear that she's only been Sunstreak for a couple days.  Was she wearing this in the lab?  Did she make this afterwards?  Is she a research scientist by day, gladiator by night, like the version of Flashdance I watched after drinking expired V8?

Don't even try the "golden apples of the sun" line.  She's heard it.

(Continuity note: readers of Avengers: The Initiative may be thinking this is the Sunstreak from that book.  They would be wrong.  The Sunstreak in that book was a minor '90 Iron Man villain with fire powers...who was also created by Terry Kavanagh.  I guess he liked the name and didn't keep very good notes.)

Anyway.  The cops open fire, but she's now bulletproof (so why is she wearing shoulder armor?), and she blasts them with light.  Then Venom steps in.  He thinks Sunstreak is a bad guy, so he's here to do a little lethal protecting, and in fact he lethal protects her right out a window.  Luckily for her, Nightwatch is there to catch her.  Unlike Venom, he just wants to hand her over top the cops, but Sunstreak isn't thrilled with either option.  Eventually, Sunstreak encases Venom's head in an airtight light-bubble, just as he starts strangling her with his tendrils.

Also: no sane research scientist would have ankle-length hair.  You're not going to go a week without setting it on fire.

Nightwatch slashes both tendrils and light-bubble with one stroke of his cloak, freeing both - but Sunstreak's already out cold.  As the cops arrive, Venom decides that discretion is the better part of valour and runs away.  Later, Trench drops in on his uncle Drake, who gives him a somewhat unfriendly welcome, because "a true Trench doesn't desert his family"...even though, uh, Drake, you just punched out your only living family member and left him on your doorstep.

"What was that for?"  "I've been reading Nightwatch."

Cut to Eddie Brock researching the Sunstreak case - and hey, it looks like her sinister employer is none other than Morelle Pharmaceuticals!  Meanwhile, back in New York, Killian Fox is meeting with Eli Wirtham, who has wisely changed out of his Cardiac suit.  They have a little chat about how Kevin Trench is totally dead, and Fox makes a connection between Ashley Croix' suddenly not-dead boyfriend and the Spawn cosplayer who showed up looking for Ashley.  Wirtham, meanwhile, decides that:

This is what happens when you're too cheap to dry-clean your Vibranium mesh/wool blends. 

...to which I say it is about damn time.

Nightwatch busts into the Morelle compound Kool-Aid Man style, and sure enough finds a Nightwatch costume being "grown", which I will admit is kind of a cool concept.  Unfortunately, he also finds the Silent Shadows!  God, Kavanagh books are just rife with these generic squads of crappy high-tech mercenaries.  The Silent Shadows, the Silencers, the Cyber-Hunters...

"We're here to kick ass and be generic, and we're all out of ass."

So...ugh.  Sunstreak is pointless, the Silent Shadows are forgettable, and Venom doesn't even demonstrate his customary mid-'90s wit.  Seriously, I'd even be okay if he just yelled "hoo-ha!" all the time.  At least the plot is moving along a little.

Nightwatch #6: Sins of the Future

...then they team up!

Kavanagh's still writing, but Mark Tenney only pencils the first half of the book - and it's a rushed-looking half, which may explain why the back half of the book is pencilled by Roy Burdine, and also why it took three inkers to finish this thing.

Venom busts in to save Nightwatch from the Silent Shadows, and Ashley confers with a man named Damon, who apparently owns the company.  This is our "big bad", Damon Morelle.  We'll be finding out more about him later.  Right now, we're finding out that he's a dick, because he's set the lab to self-destruct while the Silent Shadows are still in there - but hey, they're high-tech mercenaries in a '90s comic.  Getting caught in a self-destructing lab is part of the job description.

As the battle rages, Nightwatch gets his arm broken by a Silent Shadow's para-laser (eagle-eyed readers will recall that the future-Kevin Trench, who died on that airport tarmac, also had a recently-fractured arm), and tries to at least destroy the costume - but the dome containing it sinks into the ground.  Meanwhile, Venom kills most of the Silent Shadows, and Nightwatch saves Ashley.  They chat a little, but she's clearly spooked, given Nightwatch's scary costume - plus, you know, the whole thing where he talks to her like he knows her despite not unmasking or anything.  Venom shows up, having retrieved a disc with the Project Sharkskin data, and also restrains Nightwatch while Ashley runs away.

When Venom is lecturing you about scaring people too much, your life has taken a terrible turn.
Nightwatch's adrenal system is so worn out from his constant Nightwatching that all he can do is glide over to Drake's house, crash through the kitchen window, and pass out.  He wakes up on the couch; Drake's gone to the trouble of taking off his Nightwatch costume, redressing him (complete with shoes - who puts shoes on a sleeping man?), and decoding the Sharkskin disc.  He can do the latter because he is conveniently a retired spy.  And what's on the disc?  Action Master Power Plans!

No joke here.  I love B-grade Eliot R. Brown crap like this.

Unfortunately, before they can get a good look, Drake's modem-line activates, because he triggered a "hidden down-link in the disc's under-program", resulting in "omega trace-signals"...whatever, his computer blows up.  And who's behind it?  None other than Damon Morelle!  He's hanging out in his high-tech penthouse with his wife - Ashley Croix!  Dun-dun-dun.  She's gazing wistfully at her son's picture, but he tells her that he needs their help, not their pity.  Whatever could be the matter?  Anyway, there's some truly wretched dialogue on this page, so I'm going to reproduce it here, without comment, for your viewing displeasure.

Meanwhile, the Trenches have burned down Drake's house and are fleeing via private plane back to New York City.  Back there, in Eli Wirtham's office, Killian Fox has come back to finish their conversation.  She could have sworn she saw someone in there, but it turns out that someone isn't Wirtham, or even his costumed alter-ego Cardiac.  It's...

Now, before we take a look at this last page, remember that one of the biggest trends in '90s comics was the introduction of characters who were not necessarily evil versions of main characters, but were more badass.  One of the earliest (and certainly the best) examples of this was War Machine, who was like Iron Man, but with monochrome armor, a badder attitude, and a huge-ass minigun on his shoulder.  War Machine was a hit, and soon everyone had their own War Machine.  Ghost Rider had Vengeance, who was like Ghost Rider except he had a crazy spiky monster skull and wore chains made of bones.  Spider-Man had Kaine, who had Spider-Man's powers to the nth degree - like, his wall-crawling powers were so strong he could (and did) burn his handprint into dude's faces.  And Cardiac had...wait for it...

So not a great issue, and the art is highly-inconsistent (the Venom/Nightwatch/Silent Shadows fight in particular is rather incoherent), but Cardiaxe is so colossally stupid he crosses the line and becomes awesome.

Next: Cardiac is to Cardiaxe as Nightwatch is to...?

No comments:

Post a Comment