Monday, December 30, 2013


Writer/Plot: David Michelinie | Finished Art/Plot: Bob Layton
Pencil Art: John Romita, Jr. | Letters: John Costanza | Colors: Bob Sharen
Editor: Roger Stern | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Following a well-meaning drunken escapade in which, as Iron Man, he makes a bad situation worse for the local authorities, Tony Stark finally acknowledges his drinking problem. With the help of Bethany, Tony goes through several days of detoxification. Eventually feeling himself again, Tony apologizes to Jarvis, but learns in the process that the butler has used his two shares of Stark International stock as collateral for a loan, which now puts the majority share of the company up for grabs.

Iron Man intimidates Jarvis's sleazy loan shark in an attempt to get the stock back, but learns that SHIELD has already acquired them. His company now lost to him, Tony nearly turns to the bottle once more, but ultimately forsakes it, choosing to remain sober and face this new challenge head-on.

Sunday, December 29, 2013


Those reading my IRON MAN reviews lately may have noticed a sudden flood of lovely digital images to accompany the text. The reason, as I'm sure it's not that hard to discern, is that on Cyber Monday, I joined Marvel's Digital Unlimited service. In addition to giving me the ability to grab panels and pages without needing to scan everything, this also provides access to tons of comics I've never read before, and would otherwise probably not have purchased.

(Or in a few cases, comics I would gladly purchase in book form if Marvel would get with the program and collect them -- I was downright flabbergasted to see that Mark Gruenwald's entire hundred-plus-issue CAPTAIN AMERICA run is available in the Unlimited library!)

So, fair warning: while my main focus here will continue to be on reviewing classic comics in collected edition formats, I may write about digital issues as well. Sometimes it might even be modern things that interest me, but that I've never really wanted to purchase.

Now, if only DC would get on the ball and start a similar program...!

Friday, December 27, 2013

WRATH OF THE SPECTRE: ADVENTURE COMICS #431, 432, 433, 434, 435, 436

The Spectre, created in 1940 by Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel, was revived in 1974 to headline DC's ADVENTURE COMICS anthology series. The Spectre's alter ego, NYPD homicide detective Jim Corrigan, was murdered by gangsters and returned to Earth by God's hand as an avenging ghost, on a mission to rid the world of all evil.

Legend has it that DC editor Joe Orlando was mugged, and decided afterward that he wanted a superhero who could operate outside the law and bring brutal vengeance down on criminals who had otherwise escaped justice. The dormant character of the Spectre was re-tooled to become the vehicle for Orlando's revenge fantasies, in a series written by Michael Fleisher and illustrated masterfully by Jim Aparo.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013


My fiancée is amazing. That is all. Happy Holidays, everyone!


Writer/Plot: David Michelinie | Finished Art/Plot: Bob Layton
Pencil Art: John Romita, Jr. | Letters: Jim Novak | Colors: Ben Sean
Editor: Roger Stern | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Iron Man fights off Justin Hammer's super-powered henchmen and eventually gains the upper hand when Rhodey arrives with several Monaco police helicopters. Hammer orders a retreat, and his floating complex transforms into a hovercraft. But Iron Man destroys the vehicle before it can get away. Hammer disappears in the confusion, but his forces are arrested.

With Phillip Barnett -- the man responsible for the device that had remote-controlled Iron Man's armor -- in custody, Iron Man's name is cleared and his impounded armor returned to him. However public opinion has turned against our hero in the wake of the Carnelian ambassador's assassination, driving Tony to his worst drinking binge yet, which culminates with the retirement of long-time Avengers' butler, Edwin Jarvis.

Monday, December 23, 2013


Writer: David Michelinie | Finished Art/Conceptual Assist: Bob Layton
Pencil Art: John Romita, Jr. | Letters: John Costanza | Colors: Ben Sean
Editor: Roger Stern | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Rhodey comes around on the Monaco beach and is arrested for disturbing the peace. Meanwhile, Tony Stark is brought before Justin Hammer. Hammer gives Tony a tour of his lab complex, including a look at the computer which has taken control of Iron Man's systems so many times in recent days. During the tour, Tony attempts to escape, only to find that he is aboard a massive floating estate with water on all sides.

Later, Tony is locked up but soon escapes his cell after electrocuting a guard. While sneaking around Hammer's estate, he sees Blizzard, Melter, and Whiplash arrive on the island and get berated by Hammer. As Hammer lectures the villains, Tony sneaks into the lab, dispatches the guards, and blows up the Iron Man controlling machine, then turns his attention to the briefcase housing his spare armor, which Hammer's men had been analyzing.

In response to the explosion, Hammer sounds the alarm, and a small army of supervillains come to his aid from nearby barracks. They burst into the lab to find Iron Man waiting for them.

Sunday, December 22, 2013


Art: Jim Aparo
"In the world of mortal men he is Jim Corrigan, had-boiled police detective -- but to the vermin of the underworld he is the Spectre, awesome avenger of evil, an earthbound ghost who punishes evil with a fearsome vengeance from beyond the grave."

A couple years ago, I watched the DC SHOWCASE DVD, which highlighted three short films from the Warner Bros. animation department. Among those cartoons was WRATH OF THE SPECTRE, and I instantly fell in love with it. The short starred Gary Cole as Jim Corrigan/the Spectre, and the story was crafted to resemble a hard-boiled seventies exploitation film -- a genre I happen to love, even if don't go out of my way to seek such movies out. There was a great funky score, and the plot featured the Spectre tracking down a group of criminals one by one, and killing them in gruesome fashion.

Friday, December 20, 2013


Writer: Mike W. Barr | Pencilers: Alan Davis, Terry Beatty, Carmine Infantino
Inkers: Paul Neary, Dick Giordano, Al Vey | Colorists: Adrienne Roy, Carl Gafford
Letterers: John Workman, Todd Klein, Romeo Francisco | Editor: Denny O'Neil

Writer: Mike W. Barr | Penciler: Alan Davis | Inker: Paul Neary
Colorist: Adrienne Roy | Letterer: Richard Starkings
Editor: Denny O'Neil

Art by Mike Kaluta
DETECTIVE COMICS #572 is a "jam" issue, celebrating the title's fiftieth anniversary, and starring three of the book's regular featured characters of decades past: Batman (of course), the Elongated Man, and Slam Bradley, who I had never heard of before. Upon looking him up, I've learned that he starred in DETECTIVE #1, and has appeared sporadically in the DC Universe since.

Beyond the above group, the story also stars Sherlock Holmes, who, it seems, is a real person in the DC world. Watson's chronicles of Holmes' cases are treated here as works of non-fiction, and everyone views Holmes as a well-known historical figure. It's a conceit I enjoyed, and it fits just fine into a shared universe like this one. However, Barr goes overboard with the idea here, revealing in the story's finale that Holmes is still alive and fairly spry at well over a hundred years of age, due essentially to nothing more than clean living.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013


Writer/Plot: David Michelinie | Finished Art/Plot: Bob Layton
Pencil Art: John Romita, Jr. | Letters: Joe Rosen | Colors: Ben Sean
Editor: Roger Stern | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: The police make a token attempt to arrest Iron Man before letting him go on the merit of his past service as a superhero. Later, Tony Stark delivers Iron Man's armor to the authorities. Then, after an all-night bender, he sobers up and sets about clearing his alter ego's name.

First, Tony pays a visit to the Avengers and takes a hand-to-hand combat lesson from Captain America. Then, remembering the name "Hammer" from his battle with Whiplash, Melter, and Blizzard, Tony sends Scott "Ant Man" Lang to infiltrate Ryker's Island prison and interrogate Whiplash.

Ant Man reports back with word that Hammer has a headquarters near Monaco, so Tony flies there with Rhodey. Their investigation draws attention from Hammer's agents, and the duo soon find themselves on the run. After escaping from one group of thugs, they are confronted by a second, much larger enemy force.

Monday, December 16, 2013


Writer/Plot: David Michelinie | Co-Plotter: Bob Layton | Pencil Art: John Romita, Jr.
Finished Art: Layton & Friends | Letters: Jim Novak | Colors: Bob Sharen
Editor: Roger Stern | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: With aid from Bethany, Iron Man manages to escape from and defeat Blizzard, Melter, and Whiplash. After the villains are arrested and Iron Man has changed back to Tony Stark, Bethany suggests that the pair spend the night together at the hotel.

The next day, Tony struggles all day with inventor's block before changing to Iron Man to blow off some steam. He later flies to the United Nations, where Iron Man has been requested at a diplomatic function for the Carnelian ambassador. But as Iron Man poses for photos with Ambassador Kotznin, Justin Hammer once again seizes control of our hero's armor, using his repulsor rays to assassinate the ambassador.

Friday, December 13, 2013


Writer: Mike W. Barr | Penciler: Alan Davis | Inker: Paul Neary
Colorist: Adrienne Roy | Letterer: John Workman | Editor: Denny O'Neil

Mike W. Barr and Alan Davis have a slightly peculiar run on DETECTIVE COMICS. Their issues begin after CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS, in the rebooted world of "Batman: Year One" and other such stories. They are telling tales featuring the Batman teamed with post-Crisis Jason Todd, the angry brat who would eventually perish by the Joker's hand.

And yet, no one seemed to tell them this. These stories might as well be set in the pre-Crisis universe. Indeed, they draw upon pre-Crisis continuity, such as the fact that Catwoman is reformed and aware of Batman's secret identity. Robin here has not become the unlikable character who would eventually be killed off -- he is very much like the classic Dick Grayson Robin, in fact.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013


Writer/Plot: David Michelinie | Finished Art/Plot: Bob Layton
Pencil Art: John Romita, Jr. Letters: Irv Watanabe | Colors: Bob Sharen
Editor: Roger Stern | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: As he approaches Stark International on Long Island, Iron Man's boot jets malfunction. He manages to save himself, and heads for his lab, where he spends hours examining and testing his armor, only to find nothing wrong with it. Afterward, Bethany drops in and Tony invites her to Atlantic City for a date.

As Tony and Bethany gamble after dinner, the casino is attacked by three of Iron Man's old foes, Whiplash, Melter, and Blizzard. Tony ditches Bethany and changes into Iron Man. He initially has the upper hand on the villains, but when they join forces they turn the tables. Against the others' wishes, Whiplash prepares to finish Iron Man off.

Monday, December 9, 2013


Writer: David Michelinie | Pencils: Carmine Infantino | Inks: Bob Layton
Letters: John Costanza | Colors: Ben Sean | Editor: Roger Stern
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter
Based on the original story by Stan Lee, Larry Leiber and Don Heck

The Plot: Iron Man and Namor part ways with the U.S. Naval forces that came to their aid last issue. As Iron Man flies home, he reflects on his origin, back in Vietnam: he was there as Tony Stark to demonstrate and perfect new weaponry for the army when he was mortally injured and kidnapped by the warlord Wong Chu. Wong Chu ordered Stark to spend the final week of his life constructing weaponry with the aid of another prisoner, a physicist named Professor Yinsen.

But instead of following Wong Chu's orders, Stark and Yinsen constructed a suit of armor that would keep Stark alive and allow him to overthrow Wong Chu. Yinsen sacrificed himself to allow Stark's escape, and later that night Stark, now as Iron Man, defeated and killed Wong Chu.

Back in the present, Iron Man finishes his reminiscence as he passes over Montauk Point, New York. Justin Hammer is informed of Iron Man's whereabouts, and orders a third test of his ability to remotely control our hero's armor.

Sunday, December 8, 2013


Hardcover, 2013
Winter is upon us, and in my mind there's no better superhero to read about on a nice chilly night than the Batman. As a kid I didn't read many DC comics. I was all about Marvel, preferring to get my DC fix from their other media: the Christopher Reeve SUPERMAN films, the Adam West BATMAN series (still in syndication when I grew up in the eighties), and SUPER FRIENDS. Later on, of course, came the Bruce Timm cartoons, starting with BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES. In fact, the comic book spin-off of B:TAS, BATMAN ADVENTURES, was -- and remains -- the only DC comic I ever read regularly on a monthly basis.

I did manage to read the occasional limited series as I got older, but regular monthly DC comics remained a sizable blind spot in my comic book knowledge. Finally, in recent years, I've begun plugging some holes in my DC collection through various collected editions. Among the collections out there are two series of hardcovers from DC, which inexplicably have different titles even though they're essentially the same line: LEGENDS OF THE DARK KNIGHT and TALES OF THE BATMAN. The books themselves are beautiful, with great design work, slick dustjackets, and top-notch production.

Friday, December 6, 2013


Since I just finished the first half of TRANSFORMERS: REGENERATION ONE, I figured I'd keep going with another Hasbro property, G.I. Joe -- here teamed with J. Scott Campbell's Danger Girl characters. This is a review of the DANGER GIRL/G.I. JOE collected edition, released in 2013 and collecting the 2012 limited series of the same name. This review assumes some familiarity with both Danger Girl and G.I. Joe.

Written by Andy Hartnell | Penciled by John Royle | Inked by Philip Moy
Layout Assist by Jeff Moy | Colored by Romulo Fajardo, Jr.
Lettered by Neil Uyetake | Edited by John Barber & Scott Dunbier
Danger Girl created by J. Scott Campbell & Andy Hartnell

Art by J. Scott Campbell
Danger Girl has been a bit of a guilty pleasure for me since it first appeared, back when I was in college. It was the only series from the Cliffhanger imprint that I picked up, and I guess I made the right choice because I seem to recall it was the only Cliffhanger series to reach its conclusion (even if it did take something like two years to get those seven issues). The series is not high art, though it has never pretended to be. It's simply the comic book equivalent of a big, dumb summer popcorn blockbuster, which is something you just want to read once in a while.

On the other hand, I've been a G.I. Joe fan since I was a kid, and I've followed their comic book adventures through the decades from Marvel to Devil's Due (for a while), and now to IDW (eventually dropping their relaunch in favor of Larry Hama's continuation series). But while the comics are my preferred G.I. Joe continuity, the 80s cartoon series features the characterizations I like best -- and this story seems to feature just those Joes. It's a little more "grown-up" than the cartoon (there is some blood and characters die as in the original comics), but it's clearly made with a cartoon sensibility, fitting perfectly with the Danger Girl universe.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013


Plot/Writer: David Michelinie | Plot/Finished Art: Bob Layton
Pencil Art: John Romita Jr. | Letters: John Costanza | Colors: Carl Gafford
Editor: Roger Stern | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: As Iron Man sinks into the sea, Rhodey and Bethany arrive in the area aboard a Stark International jet-copter. When they refuse to leave restricted airspace, they are shot down and taken prisoner.

Elsewhere, Namor rescues Iron Man and explains that he was protecting the island because its inhabitant, Hiram Dobbs, had nursed him back to health after he swam too close to the government waste stockpile and contracted radiation poisoning. Dobbs goes on to reveal that he has lived on the island for twenty years, and, despite the special forces' captain's claims that the U.S. has been dumping waste there for years, he had never seen any soldiers until the area until that very morning. Iron Man and Namor depart to investigate the soldiers' camp.

Rhodey and Bethany, meanwhile, have been taken aboard the soldiers' ship and escaped their captors. Roaming the vessel, they encounter the captain, who reveals that he and his men are not U.S. military after all, but agents of the Roxxon Oil Corporation. It turns out Roxxon has been trying to acquire the nearby island due to a deposit of vibranium within.

Namor and Iron Man arrive and swiftly rout the soldiers, leading the captain to activate a self-destruct mechanism back at his base camp. The soldiers surrender and Iron Man and Namor get everyone safely out of the blast radius, but the island is destroyed.

Monday, December 2, 2013


Words/Plot: David Michelinie | Finished Art/Plot: Bob Layton
Pencil Art: John Romita Jr. | Letters: John Costanza | Colors: Ben Sean
Editor: Roger Stern | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Tony Stark orders his fourth martini on the flight home from Paris, but the drink is interrupted when a flying tank strikes the plane, ripping a wing off. Stark changes to Iron Man and guides the aircraft safely to a water landing.

After the passengers are rescued by a U.S. special forces unit which was in the area for maneuvers, Iron Man speaks with the unit's commanding officer and learns that the tank was hurled by Namor, the Sub-Mariner. According to the special forces captain, the U.S. has been dumping radioactive waste on a nearby island for years, but recently an elderly hermit named Hiram Dobbs has taken up residence there. Namor hates Dobbs and will not allow the U.S. forces to remove him from the island, leading to the conflict which resulted in the chucked tank.

Iron Man goes to confront Namor and, still belligerent after his four drinks, starts a fight. The U.S. officers discuss some ulterior motive for their presence in the area, and hope that Iron Man and Namor will finish each other off. Meanwhile, the battle moves underwater, where Iron Man manages to blast Namor away from him. As he regroups, however, our hero's armor malfunctions, his eye and mouth slits opening, and he begins to drown.

Sunday, December 1, 2013


Concluding the list:
  1. Thunderbolts by Kurt Busiek, Fabian Nicieza, & Mark Bagley
    (THUNDERBOLTS #1 - 50, plus assorted related issues)
    Nostalgia Rating: 5 | Story Quality: 4 | Overall: 4.5
    Art: Mark Bagley
    Reason: When this series launched, the first issue revelation secured it immediately as the book I waited most for every month. About a year later, it was supplanted by the next item on this list, but even then Kurt Busiek and subsequent writer Fabian Nicieza maintained the twists, turns and momentum that had gripped me from the outset. I capped this run at THUNDERBOLTS #50 because I believe that's the apex of the series. I like the stories for about another ten issues, but 50 is the peak. And if we were to include the final 15 issues, the "Story Quality" grade would drop a point or two, as Nicieza became hampered by the Bill Jemas/Joe Quesada mandates of minimal continuity and "writing for the trade", and the series became aimless and boring. But the first fifty or so issues of THUNDERBOLTS were some of the finest comics coming out of Marvel at the time.