This Week at Comics Comics Comics week of June 9th

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Did I read the new issue of Doomsday Clock? No.
Did I read the new DC / Hanna Barbera one shots? No.
Did I read BlackMoor yet? No.
But I did read a big ol’ pile of X-men Comics

Astonishing X-men #10 – 12

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Creators

Writer – Charles Soule
Artist – Aco #10 (Pencils), Ron Garney #11, Gerardo Sandoval #12
Inks – David Lorenzo #10
Color Artist – Rachelle Rosenberg #10, Matt Milla #11, Erick Arciniega #12
Letter – VC’s Clayton Cowles

These are the last three issues of the ‘A Man Called X’ story, and they complete the second half of the Charles Xavier / Shadow King story-line. It is also the end of the arc with writer Charles Soule and this line up of X-men. I have enjoyed everything about this series except for how it ended.

After the X-men defeated the Shadow King in the first half of the run Xavier had traded places with Fantomex in the Astral Plane and had returned to the real world. Then a green “sun” appeared over London that turned out to be Proteus. Proteus takes over a small town in Scotland and the X-men, still lead by Psylocke, head off with Xavier, now just calling himself X, to try and stop him.

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The team is set upon by dragons and archers created by Proteus’s reality warping powers. They go toe to toe with him for awhile. Mystique seems to be close to getting the better of him by disguising herself as Moira McTaggert, Proteus’s mother, but he eventually sees through the ruse. Rogue, Gambit, and Bishop finally stop him together. Well at least I think that is the case. In one panel Bishop calls down a massive bolt of energy. In the next panel the Shadow King is escaping from X’s mind.

In the last issue all the X-men try to defeat the Shadow King, now in this plane of existence and not the Astral plane. There is a lot of back and forth but eventually Psylocke and X really do defeat him, turning him into a tiny spider that X casually flicks into a puddle. The story wraps up with a grand speech and the team moving on. Proteus is not mentioned again. The town he destroyed is not mentioned. All that happens is X convinces everyone that the Shadow King is gone and X is not the man they knew as Professor Charles Xavier, he’s different. In the final panel X is striking quite a power pose and proclaims he has a new dream.

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The end of this run seemingly came out of left field. After dealing with Proteus for five issues, likely defeating him, and then fighting the Shadow King again it just did not make much sense to me and was rather unsatisfying. There was no closure to the Proteus story-line and to send in the Shadow King again for the last issue was jarring. I liked how they got to there, but the caper issue was disappointing.

X-men Blue #27 – 28

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Creators

Writer – Cullen Bunn
Artist – Marcus To
Color Artist – Rain Beredo
Letter – VC’s Joe Caramagna

These issues cover the Cry Havoc story, parts 5 and 6. Issue 27 starts off with a flashback to Magneto and Polaris in their civilian duds wrapping a nice evening. Magneto asks for Polaris help with Havok. She’s obviously agreed to help because when the story cuts back to the present she and the rest of her group are being attacked by the seemingly real illusions created by Wildside. They eventually stop him and head off to stop Havok and Ms. Sinister.

Havok, the White Queen, Ms. Sinister and Bastion are still having arguments about Mothervine. Things are getting worse it seems between Emma and Ms Sinister. Polaris, Jimmy Hudson, Bloodstorm and the rest of the group are making short work of the Sentinels guarding Ms Sinister base of operations.

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Suddenly the teamed is downed by a more powerful attacker, Havok. Polaris tries to talk to Havok but he’s not hearing that and sends her off to be locked up with the other prisoners. Ms. Sinister is torturing Jimmy Hudson, the source of the Mothervine mutation. After she delivers a monologue detailing how we got to this point Emma Frost has had enough. She takes control of several of Ms Sinister’s acolytes and attacks her. Ms Sinister easily stops them but it’s too late, the White Queen used their powers to free Jimmy Hudson. He attacks Ms. Sinister like a crazy animal, like a wolverine one might say. In their cell Polaris, Daken, Xorn and the others power inhibitors stop working. As Polaris blows their cells door off they are greeted by Jimmy, Emma Frost and Bloodstorm.

Finally we get the confrontation between Emma Frost, Polaris and Havok. In his mind Polaris and the White Queen try to convince Havok that he needs to let the old Havok out, the one they both remember. Emma Frost uses her mental powers to invert Alex as she describes it and bingo bango the real, good, Havok is back, fully aware of his evil counterpart. The story ends with a nice epilogue between Emma Frost and Magneto, who has been trying to undo the effects of Mothervine in the real world.  She tells Magneto that she helped stop Sinister, Havok and Mothervine. Magneto says that she pitted him against other mutants and he cannot forgive that, that there is no peace between them.

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I thought this was a good story that at first seemed like it was going to be about Ms. Sinister and Mothervine but it morphed nicely into a story about Polaris and the White Queen rescuing Havok from his darkside. In the upcoming issues the original young team finally returns from their adventure with Venom. This has been a good, consistent series and I’m looking forward to see what happens next.

X-men Gold #25 – 29

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Creators

Writer – Marc Guggenheim
Pencillers –  Paulo Siqueira, Jose Luis #25
Artist – MIchele Bandini 26, 28 Geraldo Borges 27, 29
Inker – Cam Smith, Victor Olazaba #25
Colorist  – Arif Prianto 25 – 29 – , Java Tartagil 25, Juan Fernandez #25
Letter – VC’s Cory Petit
Flashback Artist – David Marquez
Flashback Colorist – Matthew Wilson 26 – 29

Issue 25 starts with Kitty Pryde, Storm, Nightcrawler, Colossus and Rachel (Prestige) all in jail. This doesn’t last long as Storm decides they are leaving prison after she’s locked up in solitary confinement and her claustrophobia gets to her. Meanwhile other X-men teams, including the New Mutants, are off in Paris trying to stop a giant, Scythian Algurus, from destroying everything in his path. Meggan and Captain Britain are there. So are Rogue, Iceman, and a bunch of others who I don’t know who they are right away. Also for some reason the Asgardian Weapon Stormbringer flies to aid Storm, transforming her into an Asgardian Goddess(?).

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Together they defeat the giant sending him to limbo. The issue ends with Lydia Nance and the nanite-Sentinel from all the way back to the beginning of this series plotting to capture Colossus because he carries a gene that can kill all mutants (hint, it’s the legacy virus).

The next couple of issues, ‘Til Death do us Part 1 – 4, all start with of a flashback to when Kitty and Piotr were young and falling in love. In the present day the wedding is drawing closer but as usual the X-men have other duties. First on the list is to recapture Mesmero. That’s followed up with Piotr’s bachelor party where he is captured by the nanite Sentinel.

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The next couple of issues take the team to the Savage land and finally to space as they try to rescue Colossus. With some help from Gambit, Puck, and Wendigo from Alpha Flight they succeed. These issues were good and wrap up a story that has been present through the whole series. The flashbacks at the beginning are a nice lead up to the wedding story. I really liked issue 25 and thought it was a lot of fun when Meggan and Captain Britain from Excalibur showed up to help. The series over all has been fun and enjoyable.

I’ll wrap up saying that when Blue and Gold were first kicked off the praise was that these were a return to X-men stories that felt like the popular stories from the eighties and nineties and I have to agree. While other characters creep in occasionally the stories feature characters I am very familiar with and they are written well. There has generally been some good mutant drama and plenty of action. I’m not someone who is super invested in the X-men and I don’t read into every little thing. I enjoy these comics as simply good, fun comics that are not filled with entire line crossovers or page after page of Wolverine stories.

 

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This week at comics comics comics week of June 2nd

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It is Saturday night, I’ve got Led Zeppelin on shuffle, and a pile of read comics next to me. This week I ended up reading mostly new stuff, catching up on a couple titles. I just picked up my new books today so I have not gotten to the new Doomsday clock, the DC Super Hero / Hanna Barbera one shots, or Blackwood yet. They are at the top of the pile for this coming week though. Let’s take a look at what was the best of week this week.

Daredevil #602 and #603

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Creators

Writer – Charles Soule
Artist – Mike Henderson
Color Artist – Matt Milla
Letterer – VC’s Clayton Cowles

In the aftermath of the events of #600 the Hand still plagues the city and Matt Murdock is serving as acting Mayor while Wilson Fisk lays in a hospital bed. Issue 602 starts out with Matt doing what he always does when he needs to get himself out of what he’s doing and change into the red tights, he calls Foggy. When Foggy arrives Matt immediately names him chief of staff, having fired Fisk’s toadie Wesley in the previous issue.

Of course that is closely followed by Matt clearing the room except for Foggy, so that he can explain what he needs. He’s got to go deal with the Hand as Daredevil and he needs Foggy to handle the city. This is suddenly interrupted by Blindspot crashing into through the window. The mayor’s security rushes into the room and are just as quickly dismissed. Blindspot starts to explain that he thinks everything that is happening might be his fault. He made a second deal with the Beast (the first was in Daredevil 26-28) to kill Muse. He reneged on the deal and didn’t kill Muse. Muse might still be dead, he may have killed himself, Blindspot is not sure. Then Matt picks up a police radio call saying the One Police Plaza is being overrun by ninjas.

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Matt leaves Foggy in charge and he and Blindspot head off to One Police Plaza to deal with some undead Ninjas. They have to battle their way into the building and along the way Blindspot gets hit with a throwing star. Once they are actually inside Daredevil tells Blindspot that something is wrong, everyone that was in the building are no longer there. The police and the Hand are both all gone. In the last panel we see a giant hole in every floor of the building with a black hole going into the earth.

The next issue starts off with Daredevil giving a monologue about how quiet the streets are at night since the Hand showed up while watching a woman on a motorcycle trying to get somewhere quick. The rider has a helmet with a dark visor on, but her identity is quickly revealed. A throwing star thrashes the front tire of the motorcycle. As the rider is thrown from the wreck they quickly toss of their helmet and draw two Sai. Elektra. We’ve not seen her since issue 6 and 7 of this volume. The Hand attacks and Daredevil joins the fray. After they defeat a couple of ninjas the rest suddenly take off. Daredevil explains to Elektra that he needs her help to save the city from the Hand and the Beast and after a little back and forth she agrees to stay and help. It helps that Daredevil can also tell her who was messing with her mind in those earlier issues.

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Daredevil calls Foggy to tell him is he going to put the next phase of his plan into effect and that he needs to be patched through to Rikers Island. Over a conference call acting Mayor Murdock explains to Hammerhead, Blackcat, The Owl, and Diamondback that he’s going to let them all out of jail if they agree to use their criminal organizations to help protect the city and their individual turf. They all agree to this get out of jail free plan.

Back at city hall Murdock goes over everything he’s done so far with Foggy and then gives the ol’ New Yorkers are tough pep talk. Meanwhile we finally see the Beast surrounded by his acolytes. The head lackey tells the Beast that it is time for what comes next. The Beast then starts to exhale a green gas cloud that starts to spread throughout the city. Matt is on the city hall rooftop with Foggy and Blindspot. As the gas is rising up to them Matt is the first to notice it, super sense of smell and all that, and he goes down. Foggy, Blindspot and security get the collapsed acting Mayor back into the building. As the EMTs examine Matt we get a nice bit of explanation as to why inside city hall is not impacted by the gas cloud. After 9/11 the building was environmentally sealed against a chemical attack, so everyone will be okay as long as they remain in the building.

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The issue closes out with a man in black armored suit complete with gas mask coming to city hall’s doors requesting to be let in. He claims he can help the mayor and the city and gives a demonstration dispensing the green gas cloud right in front of the doors. Foggy demands to know who the masked man in. He removes the helmet, says his name is Father Jordan and that he is Matt Murdock’s priest, see issue #15.

I enjoyed these issues and have liked this story line. I’ve liked the things Soule has done in this volume with Blindspot, Muse, and the whole Mayor Fisk story. He has certainly been walking a very fine line with writing a good political / comic adventure story and has not gone overboard with real political commentary. I hope he keeps it up, I’m really not reading Daredevil for political satire.

New Age of Heroes

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New Challengers #1
Sideways #4
The Immortal Men #2
The Terrifics #4
The Curse of Brimstone #2

Since I buy around two thirds of what DC puts out each month I feel compelled to read the new stuff they release. It is really a mix of being really interested in trying new things as well as feeling a sense of duty to put my money where my mouth is when something new is introduced. I very often think to myself that I wish DC would bring back more of their older characters or write new ones, instead of having everything be Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman all the time. With this line I get both of those things, with mixed success.

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The Terrifics has been my favorite from the line. It’s got some really great classic characters put together as a quirky team, and who doesn’t love a quirky team? It’s got Jeff Lemire writing. While the first three issues had an art team of Ivan Reis and Joe Prado, who did a fantastic job, with this issue we get the great Evan “Doc” Shaner. The story in this issue really had it all, a giant alien octopus, some great dialog between Metamorpho and Plastic Man, planet Bgztl, and some great T-sphere jokes.

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New Challengers was simply an introductory issue. Four strangers are teleported to and unknown location, hint it’s Challenger mountain. The “Prof” meets them after the third and fourth members of the team arrive. While our soon to be heroes have all kinds of questions they are told that they have all died, that they have been selected to join a team of adventurers called the Challengers of the Unknown, and that they are to “uncover, confront and solve the mysteries of our universe”. No biggie. The Prof further explains that while they are dead, they are also also alive existing in both states at the same time. While they are inside the mountain they will be fine. When they leave they will exist on borrowed time and that the hourglass tattoo on their forearms will track this. When time expires, so do they.

One of the new challengers, Brink, isn’t having it. The Prof opens a portal and tries to explain that his not being held against his will but if he leaves…He doesn’t get a chance to finish the sentence. Brink steps through the portal and immediately starts to dissolve. As soon as he is gone a new challengers appears through another portal. Shortly after that the reluctant team is sent on their first mission. The issue ends with things not looking good for the new heroes and the Prof monitoring the situation talking to a small flying robot(?) telling it that he thinks this team might work out.

I thought this was a good introduction and am interested to see where the story goes and if this book can survive. DC has not had a successful Challengers series since the sixties and early seventies. There have been a couple of attempts and some decent mini-series but not much else. It’s got Scott Synder and Andy Kubert on it and maybe have some big names behind it will help it last.

I’m still enjoying Sideways but the whole superhero wants to be a Youtube star thing could get old real quick. I’m going to see how the initial story wraps up and get into the second arc before making the final decision if I keep ordering this one.

Immortal Men is easily the worst of the bunch. Like the main character in the story, I have no idea what is going on. This issue we get some backstory on Timber, Ghost Fist, Stray and Reload. There is not much to say about this one other than that.

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Finally there is The Curse of Brimstone. I really enjoyed the heck out of the second issue. Our “hero” Joe wakes up after an awful nightmare where as Brimstone he dreamt that he has destroyed the small town he wants to escape from so badly. It turns out it wasn’t a dream and that as Brimstone he apparently may have done considerable damage. The town is not completely wiped out but the people who granted him his wish in the previous want him to finish the job.

This book feels more like a horror comic than a superhero comic, or even a reluctant superhero. Joe and his sister find that whatever is going in York Hills has happened other places, but none of it has ever made the major news. It feels like something out of Stephen King’s “IT” almost. Philip Tan’s art really goes well with the story. It is a little reminiscent of Jae Lee and really adds to the sinister nature of the story.

All in all I am pretty happy with the New Age books and feel good about supporting DC’s effort to do something that isn’t Batman, Superman, and Wonder woman.

Wrapping it up

I’ve got plenty of other books to write about like, the beginning of the Flash War story (awesome), the final issue of the Green Lanterns story Ghosts of the Past (good ending), Black Hammer Age of Doom #2 (Lucy Weber vs the Devil), or Gideon Falls #3 (one freaky book). These issues along with about half a dozen other comics all deserve some praise but it is late and I don’t want to freak my editor out with another really long post.

I’ll close it out with this, if you want to read about Flash #47 head over to Chris is on Infinite Earths and read his excellent recap and review. You can also check out Weird Science DC Comics for their extensive reviews of DC titles as well as other things like Black Hammer and Gideon Falls.

 

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The Tomb of Dracula #30

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“Hidden in the shadows where legend and reality merge, there are tales of being who has lived more than five hundred years, they say he is a creature born not on earth, but in the deepest bowels of Hell itself. They say he thrives upon the blood of innocents, that he his the king of darkness…the prince of evil and that even the bravest man quakes in fear at the merest mention of his name..Stan Lee presents TOMB OF DRACULA”

Last autumn at the Baltimore comic-con I attended a panel where Mark Evanier and Marv Wolfman interviewed each other. One of the questions that Mark asked was what comic was Marv most proud of, other than the Teen Titans. Marv’s answer was Tomb of Dracula. I was floored, because I didn’t know that he had worked on this title, or that he wrote it for as long as he did. I was also more than a little curious. I knew the title was one of Marvel’s seventies horror comics, but other than that I knew very little about it. As he went further into more detail about why he was so proud of the work I became more and more interested. He talked about how great Gene Colon’s art was. He talked about how much he enjoyed working with Len Wein, editor issues 30-37. I’ve been working on putting together a complete run of Marv Wolfman’s Teen Titans, and I decided at that panel that I’d also have to look into Tomb of Dracula.

Tomb of Dracula is highly collectable comic, not something found in dollar bins. Issue #10 is the first appearance of Blade. On mycomicshop.com VF issues sell for $300-500 and high graded copies go for upwards of $1200. It also ranks pretty high on top Bronze age comics lists. Of course the first issue is also pretty expensive for a casual fan. I’ve been able to pick up a few issues here and there at conventions, mostly in the five to ten dollar range. Marv Wolfman was right to be proud of the comic, it is excellent. The drama in each issue is compelling. He was also right about Gene Colan’s art. It is perfect for the story. It is incredible how well he sets the mood in each issue. His Dracula is imposing but at the same time he draws you in, just like the Lord of Vampire’s is supposed to. Tom Palmer’s inks and coloring really supports Colon and all of it put together makes for an great horror comic. Let’s examine one of the issues I picked up recently.

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Creators

Writer – Marv Wolfman
Artists –  Gene Colan and Tom Palmer
Letterer – John Costanza
Colors – Tom Palmer
Editor  – Len Wein

The issue starts with Dracula in a cemetery addressing the tombstone of Sheila Whittier. He’s sorry that Sheila is dead and that they could not be together. He never says the word love but whoever Sheila was, he sure does miss her. Once I find a couple issues before this one I’ll be happy to find out who Sheila was and why Dracula cared for her so much. As he wishes her farewell he starts to transform into a bat and flies off to Castle Dracula.

He is in a reflective mood after his visit to the cemetery and decides that instead of seeking out new victims he will spend the evening writing in his journal and laments that his diary is the only thing that comforts him. What follows are three short stories, sort of a clip show, detailing his previous suffering and pain.

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In the first episode Dracula remembers being summoned by Lyza Strang who has asked him to visit her in Germany. She tries to seduce him in order to convince him to kill her husband. She tells him that her husband, Archibald Strang, has aspirations to become Minister President of the German states and that he will declare war on Dracula’s Romania. Lyza tells Dracula that if he kills her husband, Otto Von Bismark will become minister, and that he is a peace loving man. She explains that if Bismark were in charge she and Dracula could be pretty well off.

Dracula decides, hey, why not kill him. Dracula does not need anyone invading his native land. He flies off to find Archibald. He comes across him and dispatches him quickly. As he is finishing him off, preventing him from becoming a vampire, Dracula is set upon by guards brandishing wooden spears. They are being lead by none other than Lyza. Dracula is staked, but not destroyed. Lyza tells the men to dump his body in the river. Dracula realizes he had been tricked, that Lyza was the real winner. Her husband was dead and his murderer, the only one who could tell the truth about Lyza, was floating away in the river. He also notes that not making sure he was completely “dead” was a great mistake.

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What happens next is rather shocking. Lyza had gone to Bismark as planned, but what occurs is not at all what she expected. Otto kicks her out of the house, with some seriously strong language for a comic, see the above panel. He tells her that the King had already named him Minister, there was no need to kill her husband Archibald. Otto tells Lyza that he has always loved his wife, and that he could never love her. He banishes her. As she runs through the woods she is set upon by Dracula who notes that she really had lost everything.

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The next tale is even more shocking. Set in the modern era we see a young girl playing with her dolls in the yard. Her parents are inside arguing about money. The man of the house, visibly stressed, is telling his wife that they cannot afford to send their blind daughter to a special school because he has lost his job. They might not even be able to keep the house that they live in. Dracula approaches the young girl and she says that she heard him coming. She invites him to play with her and her dolls. Think Frankenstein’s monster and the little girl by the lake. Meanwhile the argument inside the house escalates when finally there is a loud BAM. Dracula rushes in to investigate only to find that the husband has shot and killed his wife. He explains it was an accident, that she would not stop slapping him, pushing him. Enraged Dracula flings the man from the house, furious about what he has done to the young girl’s mother.

As Dracula dispatches the father, the young girl questions who is screaming. Dracula explains to her that her father had killed her mother and that he had killed her father. To Dracula’s dismay the young girl shouts that she loved her daddy, that she cannot believe Dracula killed him and that she hated him. Dracula writes in his journal that he did not understand the girl’s reaction to him exacting revenge on the father and how that was the right thing to do. He also notes that he left the girl crying over her father’s corpse.

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The final journal entry is apparently Dracula’s “greatest” defeat. In China, circa 1968, Dracula is approached by none other than Blade. This is apparently their first meeting because Dracula does not know who Blade is. Blade is there to talk to Dracula about a plan he has. Blade says that he and some others believe that vampires will rule the world in a few years. He wants in on the action. Blade explains that vampires need protection during the day and that he and his friends would like to remain human and provide that protection. Blade gets Dracula to follow him on his motorcycle to go and meet Blade’s friends.

When Blade and Dracula arrive at Blade’s hideout he and Dracula go into the main entrance together. As they enter the cave a wooden stake is thrust into Dracula. Blade’s men attack Dracula. They rush him and also stab him with a knife. Thinking Dracula is dead the men leave the cave to dig a grave. As the story comes to an end Dracula explains that he waited for the men to return, and in what must have been a dramatic fight, he ended up killing two of them. He also tells us that Blade got away that night and that he eventually killed a third member of the group.

The issue ends with Dracula in one of the castle’s towers, in the rain, giving himself a pep talk. He exclaims that he is Dracula, that even after all these attempts to destroy him that he will always live, that he is LORD OF THE DAMNED!

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This was a horrific and thrilling comic. Marv Wolfman does some fantastic world building. I don’t know if the events that Dracula is remembering are events that actually appeared in previous issues or if they are just memories meant to give the reader a look into Dracula’s life. The opening speech at the grave makes me want to go back and find out who Sheila Whittier is and what happened to her. Colan and Palmer’s art is stunning. There is a real sense of dread throughout the story. It is also very cinematic and flows incredibly well. If it weren’t for the ads you’d almost forget you were reading a comic. All in all this was a great read and I look forward to finding more issues of the series at the next convention I go to.

I want to close this out with pictures of some of the ads from the issue. Along with the Charles Atlas and Learn Kung Fu ads, there are several advertisements for books that the reader could send away for to learn how to get a better job. I guess the advertisers figured that if an adult was reading this comic they must so bad off that they would surely be interested in opportunities in electronics careers or how to become a “cool” motorcycle mechanic.  

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This week at Comics Comics Comics week of May 26th 2018

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I’m going to try something different for my weekly column. Top of the pile was not working for me because of how late in the week I get my new comics. Instead of writing about what I am looking forward to reading I thought I would try writing about what I read during the week. I’ll typically have a mix of new and old comics and will do a mini review, synopsis, or just discuss the title itself. Let’s get started with one of the current books I was able to get caught up on.

Green Lanterns #38 – 41, 43-46 (DC)

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Creators

Writer – Tim Seeley
Artists – German Peralta (38), Ronan Cliquet (39, 44-45), Barnaby Bagenda (40-41), V Ken Marion (43)
Inker – Mick Gray (40-41), Sandu Florea (43)
Colorists – Ulises Arreola (38,40-41), Hi-Fi (39, 44-45), Dinei Ribeiro (43)
Letterer – Dave Sharpe
Assistant Editor –  Andrew Marino
Editor – Mike Cotton (38-43), Brian Cunningham (44-46)

These issues cover the story-lines; A World of Our Own parts 3 & 4, Super Human Trafficking parts 1,2 & 4, and Ghosts of the Past parts 1-3. Since I have gotten behind, I decided to plow through a whole bunch of them this week, despite the fact that I cannot find issue 42. Having an issue missing in the middle of series is the kind of thing that makes my brain itch and would typically prevent me from wanting to catch up on it. In this case itchy brain be damned I powered through.

Simon Baz and Jessica Cruz are probably characters that were thought up by an editor who one day decided “Hey, we need a Muslim character, make it a dude who comes from a troubled past. And maybe someone with some emotional problems. While we’re at it have it be a woman, you know to make it seems like our comics are inclusive!”. It is true, there needs to be more diversity in comics, but often it does just feel like a token gesture. Several comics I have read in the last few years have handled this idea really well I thought. Miss Marvel was really excellent. Sam Humphries, the first writer on the series, and now Tim Seely have really done a good job with Cruz and Baz. They have really written them in a sensitive manner with a deft tone that does not feel like pandering to me.

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Across the entire arc of the series both Baz and Cruz have really grown. When the series started they were both new to the Corps without much training and now 46, bi weekly (cheaper my ass), issues later Cruz can make real constructs, Baz has ditched the gun he was carrying since the new 52 issues, and the both have quite a bit more confidence in themselves. Humphries and Seely have mixed up the stories between Earth and Outer Space. They have done quiet stories where both Cruz and Baz try to get jobs to pay the rent, to big outer space political stories (see the A World of of own Arc).

Similar to what Peter Tomasi was doing over in the Superman books, Seely puts plot points in some issues that end up showing up in later story lines. The dating app that Baz is using at the beginning of the World of Our Own story becomes the major story-line in the next arc, Super Human Trafficking. I really enjoy this method of storytelling because it makes the series feel very cohesive. It is not writing six issue arcs that are meant to end up in a trade paperback.

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I really enjoyed the Super Human Trafficking story and it had some awesome cameos from the Bulletter (the one from the Grant Morrison Seven Soldiers Story), Blue Beetle, and Firestorm. The Ghost of the Past story has been really good so far and features Singularity Jain returning after the Oh Bolphunga, Where Art Thou two part story in issues 35 & 36. Maybe by the conclusion of this story we will get to the bottom of the tragic events of Jessica’s past that she has been trying to bury for so long.

I would recommend this comic and enjoyed getting caught up on it. Now if I can just find that pesky #42…

The HIghest House #1 (IDW)

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Creators

Writer – Mike Carey
Art & letters – Peter Gross
Colorist – Fabien Alquier
Editor – Denton J. Tipton

This magazine sized comic is something my brother recommended and says it is the best book he is reading right now. I picked up the first four issues and since finishing the first issue I pre-ordered #6 and will buy #5 on-line. The first issue was that good. The writing is engaging and the art is beautiful. It is high fantasy that is compelling and fun. I had the same feeling when I finished the first issue of this that I did when I read Seven to Eternity #1 for the first time.

The story features an unusual boy named Moth who is sold into slavery to the Magister. Moth is taken from his family and brought to the Highest House, where he is told he will spend the rest of his life. There is a lot of world building going on and plenty of interesting characters introduced. There’s a big guy who is pretty rough but seem to want to help little Moth. There is a pretty woman who has to train Moth and doesn’t necessarily treat him like the slave that he is. It is a really good introduction to the story.

I’m not familiar with Mike Carey or Peter Gross but if this story ends up being as good as the first issue I’ll have to look them up, see what else they have done.

Sad Sack Comics (Harvey)

sadsackcover

Creator

Everything (?) –  George Baker

Over the last weekend I was at an annual local flea market and picked up a small pile of Sad Sack comics. The comics are beat to hell but still have the covers and are readable. I like picking up old Harvey comics if the price is right, especially Sad Sack.

I have fond memory of going on a trip to South Carolina with my father and brother to visit some friends when I was probably between 9 and 11 years old. The final destination of the trip was a condo on the Carolina coast but before we got there we spent the night at the people’s house that we were visiting. They had a couple of kids that were older than us, but I can only remember spending time with one of the boys who had a SWEET 12 inch GI Joe collection and piles of comics to read. I can remember reading Sad Sack in his room and thinking it was pretty funny. After that I don’t remember ever seeing a Sad Sack comic again until I was an adult.

sadsack gag

These comics are gag comics that poke fun at some of the absurdities of military life. The comic is very similar in nature to the newspaper strip Beetle Bailey. Each issue is mostly one page gags, intermixed with two or three stories that last a couple of pages. The strip features several other regular characters The Sarge, The General, Slob Slobinski, and my favorite Hi-Fi Tweeter. Hi-Fi is the slick character who wears sunglasses and always has an angle. His name just cracks me up.

The series was created by Sgt George Baker and as far as I can tell he did all the work on the comics as well. His signature is on the cover of all the issues that I picked up and in the indicia he is listed as partial copyright owner with Harvey Comics. The comics also have some great advertisements to sell greeting cards for prizes, frontier cabins for kids, and a Revolutionary war toy soldier offer with an actual photo of the toys. In the ad you can clearly see that they are solid colored “flats” instead of plastic three dimensional toys. I still enjoy comic strips and really dig being able to pick up an old comic once and while filled with silly gags.

soldiers

Ambush Bug Nothing Special #1 (DC)

ambushbugcover

Creators

Plot and Pencils – Keith Giffen
Script  – Robert Loren Fleming
Inks – Al Gordon, Bob Oksner
Letterer – John Costanza
Colorist – Anthony Tollin
Editor – Michael Eury
Goodwill Ambassador – Julius Schwartz

This and High House were the highlights of the week. Ambush Bug is a satirical comic that does not hesitate to poke fun at anything it seems. This special from 1992 features an out of work Ambush Bug hopping around the DC universe trying to find a job. Eventually he decides that he wants Julius Schwartz’s good will ambassador job, and he’s told it’s his as soon as Schwartz meets his demise. Of course for the rest of the comic Ambush Bug time travels to try and find a point in which Julius Schwartz is no longer alive. He never gets there.

Giffen and Fleming spend the entire comic making fun of other DC characters like Swamp Thing and Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, the DC summer Ecilpso event that was running at the time, Julius Schwartz, themselves and the other creators, and the comic industry in general. Since this comic came out in 1992 there are several biting jokes about the young Image comics and the creators who started the company. Cheeks the teddy bear that was featured in previous Ambush Bug comics even makes a brief appearance.

ambushbugimage

I dig the dark humor of Ambush Bug and am always glad to come across one in the dollar bins. I was able to appreciate this issue even more having listened to Chris and Reggie’s Cosmic Treadmill episodes #81, Ambush Bug stocking stuffer, and #8, Sugar and Spike. There is a great Sugar and Spike at the end of this comic that I would not have understood had I not listened to that podcast.

I read some really good books this week. I am really looking forward to see what happens in the next issues of Green Lanterns and The Highest House. We’ll see what’s in store for the coming week.

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All-Star Squadron #1

first cover

A long time ago, when my brother and I were young our church had a Christmas fair. It was usually a good time; one of the parishioners dressed up as Santa Claus, there were gingerbread cookies, and games. Since there were games, there were prizes. One year, one of the prizes that my brother or I received was a comic book. Not just any comic book, but a early issue of All-Star Squadron.

I do not remember exactly which issue it was, but I do remember loving it. I know that my brother and I read it multiple times. The earliest comics I can remember reading are the Whitman Disney comics and Shogun Warriors. This was probably one of the earliest superhero comics that we ever read and it opened a whole new world to us. My brother reminds me that this was the first comic we collected. This was back before we had a local comic shop, we were still buying everything off the spinner racks or at the local stationary store.

All-Star Squadron has special place in the pantheon of comics that I love. This and Who’s Who in the DC Universe easily make the top ten of all time favorite comic series for me. All-Star Squadron was something my brother and I shared. We had a mutual love for the characters and the stories. We would take turns reading the issues. We both loved Dr. Fate, Amazing Man, Hawkman, Johnny Quick, and Liberty Belle and their adventures battling Per Degaton, Baron Blitzkrieg, and Tsunami. We got to meet the Seven Soldiers of Victory, the Freedom Fighters, and loads of other Golden age heroes.

Even after All-Star Squadron ended we continued to follow the characters as much as we could. My brother collected Infinity Inc, and there was also The Young All-Stars, JSA, Starman, JSA Classified, Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E, and even Earth-2 in the new 52 to name just a few. To this day I would pick the JSA / All-Star Squadron over the Justice League.

last days jsa

(I don’t have a copy of Justice League of America 193 so here’s a cover from a great JSA comic I do have)

All-Star Squadron premiered as an insert story in Justice League of America #193, one of many DC previews done this way, see Captain Carrot and the Amazing Zoo Crew and the New Teen Titans. These previews were released in DC’s most popular books and were a great way to introduce new comics to their readers.

On the final page of the first issue of All-Star Squadron is an open letter from Roy Thomas to the readers in which he explains how the comic came to be. DC Comics was looking to get the JSA characters back into publication. Their previous comic, All-Star Comics was cancelled in 1979.

Thomas describes his love for these characters from when he was a kid reading their adventures. He goes on to say that he didn’t just want to revive the JSA in a new comic, he wanted to do more. The JSA were not the only superhero game in town during the golden age. They were not the only ones to fight Nazi’s during World War II, there was also Superman, Wonder Woman, Captain Marvel and Plastic Man. Many other heroes debuted in this era and Thomas wanted to use them.

He wanted to bring in the Quality characters, like Plastic Man and the Freedom Fighters. Quality comics was a competing comic publisher in the golden age that had a great stable of characters (Blackhawk, The Spirit) and creators (Jack Cole, Will Eisner). When Quality went out of business in 1956 their characters and trademarks were acquired by National Periodical Publications (now DC). DC has used many of the Quality properties over the years with quite a few of them showing up in All-Star Squadron.

DC continuity at this time was still very important and very complicated. In order for the book not to become a mob scene, as Thomas describes, they would downplay the use of Earth 2 characters who had Earth 1 counterparts (Superman, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman) and would instead use lesser known characters or new ones like Robotman, Johnny Quick, and Liberty Belle.

team

Roy Thomas is well known for writing dense, historical stories and the All-Star Squadron would be no exception. In the letter he details how footnotes would be as brief as possible as to not overwhelm the page and that while obviously superheroes did not bail our grandparents out of the war it would try to be historically accurate whenever possible. Finally, he asks the readers to write in and let them know what they think of the comic. He ask the reader to tell them what they like and don’t like, if they want more woman characters or minority characters.

Reading this letter it is quite clear how important this comic was to Thomas and that it was a real labor of love. Now let’s take a look at the first issue.

All-Star Squadron #1 – The World on Fire

opening splash

Creators:

Writer – Roy Thomas (co-creator)
Penciller – Rich Buckler (co-creator)
Inkter, Embellisher – Jeremiah (Jerry) Ordway
Letterer – John Costanza
Colorist  – Carl Gafford
Editor – Len Wein

The story begins by informing the reader that they are on Earth-2, almost two years after the Justice Society of America was formed. Hawkman, with his awesome double beaked helmet, thinks that something is wrong. He enters the JSA headquarters and is quickly grabbed around the ankle. He strikes his assailant with a swift left hook. After turning on the lights he finds that he has decked Plastic-Man. Plastic-Man explains that he’s there on official FBI business looking for the JSA.

A radio broadcast explains that most of the members of the JSA have been attacked and captured by mysterious villains. When Plastic Man asks why Hawkman wasn’t captured he replies that Doctor Midnight, The Atom and he were indeed attacked by a villain called The Monster, but when they defeated him the monster disappeared and changed back into a normal man and spoke a single word, Degaton. Yes, that’s some good ol’ fashioned foreshadowing.

hawkman fight

Hawkman and Plastic-Man decide to head to DC and meet up with Doc Midnight and the Atom. On their way they are attacked by flying men, led by the King Bee. As Hawkman and Plastic man take out each flying man they disappear similar to the way The Monster did. When Hawkman punches out the King bee, he explodes, knocking Hawkman unconscious. Plastic Man saves him and we segue to a couple of men in suits, inside the White House, discussing the disappearance of the JSA.

We segue again to The Shining Knight riding his flying horse Winged Victory. The reader gets a brief origin recap of the Shining Knight and his membership in the Law’s Legionnaires (precursor to the seven soldiers of victory). He is somewhere over the Pacific when he comes across a smoldering volcano that he decides to investigate. When he lands on the volcanic island he meets Danette Reilly, a geologist studying the location. She explains that she is investigating the weird tremors of the volcano. The Knight decides to assist and strikes the side of the volcano revealing a man made tunnel.

Shinning knight

Upon entering the tunnel Shining Knight and Danette are attached by Solomon Grundy, born on Monday, and Professor Zodiak. Grundy and the Professor make short work of our heroes and bind them. Another villain, Wotan, joins the others and helps bring the heroes before the main antagonist of the story Per Degaton. Per Degaton starts to explain his plans for World Domination as the scene shifts to a couple of navy men, at the U.S. Pearl Harbor naval base.

During the course of the conversation between the two sailors we learn that one of the men, Rod Reilly (hmm, that’s the same last name as our geologist heroine), is the alter ego of the masked hero, Firebrand. He has recently joined the navy in order to defend the country. We also learn that it is the morning of December 7th, 1941, and Pearl Harbor is under attack from Japanese Zeros. As the naval base is attacked Rod Reilly is gunned down.

Meanwhile back in Washington Doctor Midnight and the Atom are at a Washington pro football game. Midnight tells Atom that in the past few minutes an army general, Navy admiral and other top military brass have been paged over the PA and that they ought to check it out. They join a three way call with the military leaders, J. Edgar Hoover, and a radio man in Hawaii where they all learn that the Japanese are attacking their base.

robotman

In what is a very odd situation, the fastest way out of the stadium appears to be through a steel door that no one can open. No one that is except the stranger in the room, who reveals himself to be none other than Robotman. He breaks down the door, that is never explained as to why it is locked, and carries the Doctor and Atom as fast as he can to the White House to see the President. They are spotted by reporters Johnny Chambers and Libby Lawrence who follow them.

As Chambers and Lawrence arrive Hawkman and Plastic Man are landing on the other side of the White House fence. Robotman and the other heroes leap over the fence. Belle and Chambers try to get in but are denied entrance. They both dash of to hiding spots and pull a quick change revealing themselves to be the masked heroes Liberty Belle and Johnny Quick. Since they are not known members of the JSA they are again denied access to the White House. Quick isn’t having it and he picks up Belle and races past the guards to catch up to the Atom and the others.

After a couple of introductions Plastic Man vouches for the pair and they all head into the oval office to speak to the one and only President Roosevelt. The President explains that he’s asked the JSA to mobilize as many of the nation’s costumed heroes as they can to form a new group, a “sort of All-Star Squadron” reporting directly to him. He wants them to be ready in the coming days to deal with the struggle against the Nazi’s.

closing pic

Their first order of business now though is to get to the west coast and prevent any further attacks. Before the group rushes off Liberty Belle makes a quick phone call to Philadelphia and asks her friend Tom Revere to ring the liberty bell. As this happens her belt buckle vibrates and she says she is fully charged. They all then head off  ready to defend the nation.

The final page of the comic shows Per Degaton and his prisoners, the Shining Knight and Danette Reilly aboard a large submarine in San Francisco bay getting ready to launch and attack. Next issue “The Battle of San Francisco”.

All-Star Squadron #1 is a fantastic launch to the new series. The writing and art are excellent. There is a lot of great action, but there is also some wonderful story telling. There are a couple of memorable ads for Bubble Yum, Life-Savers, Hostess Fruit Pies, and the Icee Bear Club. All in all it is a wonderful comic that is a lot of fun.

I’ll close with a quick story about meeting Jerry Ordway last year at the Baltimore Comic Con. I got in line when it was pretty short, there were only three people ahead of me. The line did not move very quickly though. Each of the people in front of me had small stacks of comics to get signed but that was not made it slow, it was the time the he took with each fan. He actually signed the comics pretty quickly, but he took the time to talk to everyone. He was really glad that they were there and he genuinely engaged with everyone, answering questions and telling stories. When I finally got my chance I told him him the story from the beginning of this post and what All-Star Squadron meant to me. Since I only had one comic I asked if he would personalize it and sign it “To Jeremiah”. He was happy to oblige and even signed it Jeremiah Ordway, instead of Jerry. He was a real gentleman and I was very glad to meet him and have him sign such an important comic to me.

autograph cover

 

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