Wednesday, April 30, 2014


Beginning: An all-new excursion into the life and times of America's Living Legend, as chronicled by:
Writer: Roger Stern | Penciler: John Byrne | Inker: Josef Rubinstein
Letterer: Jim Novak | Colorist: Bob Sharen | Flag-Waver: Jim Salicrup
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: After spending a little time reflecting on his life, Cap returns to his apartment to work on some storyboards. Meanwhile, Mr. Hyde is broken out of prison by Batroc the Leaper. Hyde convinces Batroc to work with him on a scheme to make millions of dollars, and the next day the duo, along with Batroc's men, hijack a Roxxon Oil super tanker. Hyde threatens to ram the tanker into Manhattan unless Roxxon can raise a billion dollars' ransom, plus deliver Captain America to him.

Cap travels out to the tanker but springs a trap on the villains; however Hyde is too much for him to handle and he is captured. Tied to the tanker's bow, Cap has a front row seat as Hyde sets course for Manhattan at ramming speed.

Continuity Notes: At the story's outset, Cap recalls getting his memories in order in issue #247, then spends the first few pages of the issue recapping his life in the present day, since the Avengers thawed him out of suspended animation in AVENGERS #3. Among his recollections are his battles with the Red Skull, his partnership with the Falcon, and his love of SHIELD's deceased Agent 13, Sharon Carter.

Monday, April 28, 2014


Story on Page Three By Roger Stern
Photography by John Byrne and Josef Rubinstein
Typography by James Novak | Special Color Section Inside by George Roussos
Commentary on Page 31 by Donald Perlin and Roger McKenzie
Plus "Our Back Pages" by E.J. Hannigan
City Editor: James Salicrup | Managing Editor: James Shooter

The Plot: After Captain America saves the headquarters of the New Populist political party from a terrorist takeover, the head of the party, Samuel T. Underwood, tries to convince Cap to run for president, even going so far as to plant a story in the Daily Globe to further influence the Sentinel of Liberty.

Cap then wanders New York, searching for his answer. He ultimately decides that he cannot serve both the American Dream and the office of the presidency at the same time, and declines the candidacy.

Continuity Notes: At the NPP headquarters, Cap is introduced to several World War II veterans. Even in 1980, it was not impossible for middle aged men to have served in the war. Sadly, this sort of scene, with relatively youngish men encountering Cap, is no longer possible. Someday soon, scenes where he encounters any living WWII veterans will be outside the realm of reality.

Sunday, April 27, 2014


I don't usually provide stories about my personal life here, except in the form of anecdotes as they relate to whatever else I'm talking about at the time -- but this feels worthy of its own post: If all went according to plan (this was written in advance), I got married yesterday.

I've dropped a couple facts about my lovely fiancée here in the past, namely that she was absolutely thrilled when CBS began releasing STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION on Blu-Ray and that she went above and beyond the call of gift-giving duty to track down a Bowen Designs Thor statue for my Christmas present. But there's plenty more to her than that. I'm sure further factoids will pop up from time to time, but all anyone really needs to know is that she makes me happier than I've ever been in my life. She accepts my geekdom, though she doesn't always understand it, and even while the professional accountant in her has issues with my monthly book and collectible purhases, she puts up with them.

I'm off for a honeymoon now, though pre-scheduled CAPTAIN AMERICA and HERCULES posts will continue to pop up in my absence. See you in two weeks!

Friday, April 25, 2014


Story and Art: Bob Layton
Letters: John Workman | Colors: George Roussos | Design: Ed Magalong
Editor: Gregory Wright | Executive Editor: Mark Gruenwald
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Layton's graphic novel picks up a thread from his first limited series, years before. Thirty years after his trip to the planet Wilamean in HERCULES (vol. 1) #2, Hercules is drawn back to that world when its emperor, Arimathes, demands audience with him. It turns out Arimathes is Hercules's son by Layana Sweetwater, the young con-artist our hero had encountered on that world three decades before. Layana, angry at Hercules for spoiling her plans and abandoning her, has poisoned Arimathes against his father, and turned him into an arrogant, unjust leader. Hercules eventually duels with his son, teaching him humility in the process, and Armathes finally sides with Hercules against Layana.

Hercules is joined as always by his loyal Recorder robot, and by Skyppi the Skrull. He also befriends a member of Arimathes's armed forces, Fortnite, and a beautiful starship thief named Lucynda Thrust. Hercules is surprisingly chaste throughout the story, which leaves little time for romance, but a mutual attraction between him and Lucynda is teased.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014


Writer/Co-Plotters/Penciler: Roger Stern & John Byrne
Inker: Josef Rubinstein | Letterer: Jim Novak | Colorist: Bob Sharen
Editor: Jim Salicrup | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Captain America escapes Dragon Man and destroys Machinesmith's airborne pod, which returns the dragon to its normal, docile state. It departs to find Machinesmith, and Cap tags along. Dragon Man leads Cap to a country barn, where Machinesmith has a secret underground complex. Machinesmith subdues Dragon Man before it can attack him, then battles Captain America. Cap realizes that Machinesmith's mind exists in his mainframe computer and destroys it -- but this action kills Machinesmith as well, which was the villain's ultimate goal.

Continuity Notes: Cap references his fight with the Strucker robot "this morning" -- which a footnote informs us was in issue #247. Following the fight between Dragon Man and Cap in Brooklyn last issue, Steve Rogers's neighbors wonder where he disappeared to, and Bernie Rosenthal wonders if she could be falling for a man she just met.

Monday, April 21, 2014


Writer/Co-Plotters/Penciler: Roger Stern & John Byrne
Inker: Josef Rubinstein | Letterer: Jim Novak | Colorist: Bob Sharen
Editor: Jim Salicrup | Big Guy: Jim Shooter

The Plot: As Captain America and SHIELD examine the Strucker robot's body at Ft. Dix, the robot explodes, releasing an airborne data pod that returns to Machinesmith with telemetry on Cap. Machinesmith then activates his recent acquisition -- the robotic organism called Dragon Man -- and sends it, along with the data pod, to find and kill Captain America.

Cap, as Steve Rogers, has just finished dinner with his neighbors when he spies Dragon Man approaching their building. He leaves and changes into costume, battling Dragon Man on the roof. The monster proves too much for Cap to handle and soon has the star-spangled sentinel in its clutches, about to deal the death blow.

Continuity Notes: The issue begins shortly after last issue's events, and chronicles the remainder of that same day. As he examines the Strucker robot, SHIELD's armorer, Sydney "The Gaffer" Levine, declares it the most advanced artificial being he's ever encountered.

Sunday, April 20, 2014


If last month was one of my smaller months, with only two books total -- both from DC, no less -- this shipment more than makes up for it, with a mostly Marvel line-up. First and foremost is the long-awaited SPIDER-MAN BY ROGER STERN OMNIBUS. I wrote a post about this volume over seven months ago when it first popped up as a ghost listing on Amazon. Now the book is finally in my hands, and I'm thrilled beyond words. I will be reading this one immediately, and I have big plans for it as relates to the blog. More on that within the next month or so.

Also on hand from Marvel are three thick trade paperbacks. And it must be Roger Stern Month hereabouts, because in addition to the Spider-Man book, two of these trades collect Stern's work as well. AVENGERS: ABSOLUTE VISION, BOOK TWO brings us a large chunk of Stern's classic AVENGERS run from the eighties, while the CAPTAIN AMERICA EPIC COLLECTION: DAWN'S EARLY LIGHT (delayed from last month) collects the full Stern/John Byrne run on Cap, which I already own in a separate trade, as well as the beginning of the long J.M. DeMatties/Mike Zeck run, which bridged the gap between Stern/Byrne and the great Mark Gruenwald.

Friday, April 18, 2014


Writer/Artist: Bob Layton
Letterer: Rick Parker | Colorist: Christie Scheele | Editor: Bob Budiansky
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

Something became clear to me as I began reading Bob Layton's second HERCULES mini-series. This is all one big "What If" story. I recall that Volume One began with narration stating that Hercules was returning to Olympus following his adventures with the Avengers. I simply took this to mean that he had recently left the Avengers in the continuity of the time, but apparently not. It actually meant that the story was starting after all of Hercules's adventures on Earth, at some undisclosed time in the future. Layton did not do a good job of explaining this.

However, Volume Two clears things up right off the bat as we join Hercules, 400 years later and still on his exile to learn humility. Narration indicates that Hercules spent some time on the brewery planet we last left him on, before returning to his travels across the universe with the Recorder.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014


Writer/Co-Plotters/Penciler: Roger Stern • John Byrne
Inker: Josef Rubinstein | Letterer: Jim Novak | Colorist: George Roussos
Editor: Jim Salicrup | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Plagued by the recent revelation that several of his own memories are in conflict with each other, Captain America travels to SHIELD headquarters for answers. Dum Dum Dugan takes Cap to Ft. Dix, where Cap finds his old footlocker from World War II. His journal is inside, and reading it, Cap realizes that he had a false set of memories implanted on top of his true life history, to trigger in the event of enemy interrogation. The journal allows Cap's true memories to fall into place, supplanting the false ones.

Meanwhile, Nick Fury has paid a visit to his incarcerated enemy, Baron Wolfgang von Strucker -- leader of HYRDA -- to inform the baron that he is being deported. But Strucker uses this opportunity to escape, kidnapping Fury in the process. Strucker goes straight to Captain America and attacks him, but with aid from Fury and Dum Dum, Cap defeats the Baron, who promptly explodes, revealing that he was a robot all along.

Monday, April 14, 2014


Perhaps you've noticed that Captain America is "guest-starring" among the corner boxes up top, to acknowledge this month's theatrical release of CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER here in the United States. And in a rare moment of blogging synergy, I've got some free weeks open on my schedule -- so I figured this would be a good time for a mini review series on a classic run which was sadly cut short back in 1981.
At the same time he was writing PETER PARKER, THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN, Roger Stern took on the assignment of writing CAPTAIN AMERICA. At the same time he was illustrating UNCANNY X-MEN -- in the midst of the "Dark Phoenix Saga", no less -- John Byrne joined his friend Stern on CAPTAIN AMERICA as well.

Sunday, April 13, 2014


Having completed my reviews of the David Michelinie/Bob Layton IRON MAN run the other day, I thought I'd take a bit of time to write about the actual book itself. As I noted some time back, this book is officially the IRON MAN BY DAVID MICHELINIE, BOB LAYTON, & JOHN ROMITA, JR. OMNIBUS. It is a large, sturdy tome, weighing in -- according to -- at five-and-a-half pounds, and totaling 944 pages.

The dustjacket is slick and shiny, showcasing an image of Iron Man, in his classic armor, illustrated by John Romita, Jr. in 2012. As with most Omnibus volumes, there were two cover options: the standard edition, which I went with, or the Direct Market edition, available only through comic shops, featuring an unaltered image of the cover to issue #144. I usually tend to go with the Direct Market covers for these things, as they typically feature covers from the original series' run, as is the case here.

Friday, April 11, 2014


Conceived and Executed by Bob Layton, Writer/Artist
Art Assist: Luke McDonnell | Embellishing Assist: Sam De La Rosa
Letterer: Rick Parker | Colorists: Christie Scheele with Bob Sharen
Editor: Mark Gruenwald | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

Before reading this story, I was only familiar with Bob Layton's writing via a couple of his early X-FACTOR issues. And those issues were, to put it mildly... not good. So I was prepared to encounter something ranging from anywhere between bad and mediocre when I opened up HERCULES: PRINCE OF POWER. Imagine my surprise, then, to find this a very fun, highly enjoyable little adventure!

The story begins with Hercules returning to Olympus following his recent years on Earth. But upon his arrival, Hercules immediately begins partying too hard for the liking of his father, Zeus. Zeus exiles Hercules from Olympus, but rather than sending his son back to Earth, where he is a god among men, Zeus orders Hercules to travel the wider universe, among beings who are closer to his equals, to teach him some humility.

Hercules begins his travels aboard a magical chariot, and soon meets the Colonizers of Rigel, a race of aliens who explore the galaxies in search of knowledge and habitable worlds. The Colonizers befriend Hercules and ask him to bring one of their recorder robots along on his journeys, to get a record of his adventures. Hercules gladly agrees.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014


Plot/Pencils: Alan Kupperberg | Script: David Michelinie | Inks: Dan Green
Letters: Joe Rosen | Colors: Bob Sharen | Editor: Jim Salicrup
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Tony is working late at night on his armor when the power to his lab goes out. Changing to Iron Man, he finds that a Stark employee named Sylvia Karnowsky has drawn energy to her experiment through his lab. Before he can reprimand her, Iron Man is beamed to a sentient spaceship in orbit, where he helps the ship fight off some alien spores. Following the skirmish, Iron Man is beamed back to Earth.

Continuity Notes: This has to be an inventory issue. It's a done-in-one adventure, with absolutely no references to ongoing continuity. Presumably, with Michelinie leaving the series, Jim Salicrup ran this story while looking for a new writer.

My Thoughts: So this is how the David Michelinie/Bob Layton run ends -- not with a bang, as they say, but with a whimper. Though to be fair, I suppose last issue was really the end of Michelinie's term as writer. This is just a lackluster coda. Still, though, it's always a little depressing to get to the end of a classic comic book run and watch it fade slowly and limply to its conclusion. Much like watching the final season of a formerly favorite TV show right before its cancellation.

Monday, April 7, 2014


Writer: David Michelinie
Breakdown Art: John Romita, Jr. | Finished Art: Pablo Marcos
Letters: Joe Rosen | Colors: Don Warfield | Editor: Jim Salicrup
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Scott Lang is taking inventory at Stark International's newly acquired subsidiary, the Cord conglomerate, when he discovers the Mauler battlesuit. Before he can act on his discovery, Scott is knocked out by a mercenary named Brendan Doyle, who takes the armor and attacks Stark International. Doyle is driven away by Iron Man, with some help from Rhodey, who the mercenary recognizes from their time in the same mercenary troupe.

Doyle later breaks into Rhodey's apartment and coerces him into getting them both past Stark security so he can carry put his mission to destroy all records of the development of the Mauler suit. But Iron Man again arrives to confront Doyle, and Rhodey again a aids our hero. Finally, given a choice between killing Rhodey or abandoning his mission, Doyle retreats, thus canceling a years-old debt between the two.

Sunday, April 6, 2014


I know everyone is distrought over the end of my IRON MAN by David Michelinie and Bob Layton reviews. But I have something on the schedule to soothe that sting ever so slightly -- more Bob Layton, working on the Marvel character he is probably identified with most after Iron Man.

In 1982, Layton wrote and drew one of Marvel's very first limited series, HERCULES: PRINCE OF POWER. This began a years-long association between Layton and the Olympian demi-god. A second Layton-produced HERCULES mini-series appeared in 1984, followed in 1988 by an original graphic novel entitled HERCULES: FULL CIRCLE. Layton also contributed some Hercules stories to the anthology series MARVEL COMICS PRESENTS and MARVEL TALES around the same time. Then, after more than two decades, Layton returned to the character in 2010 for one final saga, titled TWILIGHT OF A GOD.

I had known about these stories for years, but never had an opportunity to read them until recently. Marvel released two hardcover editions collecting all of Layton's vintage Hercules material in 2009, and I picked them both up a few years later at a very nice discount. TWILIGHT OF A GOD can also be found, in trade paperback format, for bargain basement prices as well (it's also available on Marvel's Digital Unlimited service, for those who subscribe).

So -- are the low aftermarket rates any signifier of the quality of Layton's stories? Or did Marvel overprint them because they knew they were classics deserving of a ubiquitous bookstore presence? We will soon find out, as I'm about to spend the next four Fridays on Layton's Hercules material.

Saturday, April 5, 2014


This isn't intended as a full-fledged movie review. I'm not sure if I'll ever get into that line of posting. But I just have to gush, at least a little bit, about CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER. Yesterday was the film's opening day here in the United States, and I attended a screening last night. This movie is amazing. It sets a new bar for the solo (non-AVENGERS) Marvel Films movies.

Marvel has said that their goal with WINTER SOLDIER was to produce a political thriller that just happens to be a superhero movie, and they succeeded in spades. This movie has that sort of gritty, paranoid feeling that you get from the very best such thrillers, and features a "trust no one" atmosphere that was especially prevalent in some of the great movies of the seventies. The level of suspense is just about perfect, the action scenes are wonderful and well-placed, and it's all accomplished without betraying Captain America's character to make him fit the story.

Friday, April 4, 2014


Writer & Artist: Frank Cho | Colorist: Jason Keith | Letterer: VC's Cory Petit
Assistant Editor: Jennifer M. Smith | Editor: Jeanine Schaefer
Group Editor: Nick Lowe | Editor-in-Chief: Axel Alonso
Chief Creative Officer: Joe Quesada
Publisher: Dan Buckley | Executive Producer: Alan Fine

Yes, I titled the post "Kill Island" but I listed the story's title as "Savage". Don't ask me to explain it. The story is clearly titled "Savage" within each of Cho's five issues of SAVAGE WOLVERINE, but Marvel's hardcover and trade paperback editions were both published under the title "Kill Island" -- which is a blurb on the cover of issue #3. I agree that "Kill Island" is a much cooler name, but the confusion over the story's actual title seems odd.

Anyway, moving on. I was shocked and pleased to find that there's an actual story here! The adventure begins with Shanna (the real Marvel Universe version of the character) guiding a group of SHIELD agents on a mapping expedition in the Savage Land. Their aircraft crashes on a mysterious island. Eight months later, Wolverine is teleported to the island and teams up with Shanna, the last survivor of the expedition, in an attempt to get off the island. Amadeus Cho, a supporting character in the Hulk's comics from recent years, arrives as well, and then eventually the Hulk himself shows up.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014


Writer: David Michelinie | Pencils: John Romita, Jr. | Inks: Dan Green
Letters: Joe Rosen | Colors: Bob Sharen | Editor: Jim Salicrup
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Gerrard, the son of Stark International's P.R. director, Artemus Pithins, is beaten after hours at his high school. The next day Mr. Pithins confides in Tony that a number of students have recently been hospitalized at the school, including a group who took some bad drugs and a young man who was run over by a car. Pithins asks if Iron Man might attend the upcoming career fair, and Tony agrees.

At career day, Gerrard is cornered again by a group of students, but his father comes to his aid. The students inform Pithins that Gerrard distributed the bad drugs on behalf of the student who had been run over, and these students want revenge. Pithins convinces them to forego violence and talk their problems out instead.

Meanwhile, outside, Iron Man stops a runaway tank, present for career day, which has been activated by a clumsy student, from demolishing the school.