Friday, May 29, 2015

IRON FIST (2004)

Writer: James Mullaney
Pencilers: Kevin Lau (#1-4, 6) & Rick Mays (#5) | Inker: Udon's Alan Tam
Colorists: Udon's Omar Dogan (#1-4, 6) & Jamie Noguchi (#5) | Udon Chief: Eric Ko
Letterers: Virtual Calligraphy's Dave Sharpe (#1-4, 6) & Cory Petit (#5)
Assistant Editors: Nicole Wiley (#1-2) & Andy Schmidt (#1-6)
Editors: Tom Brevoort (#1-2, Consulting Editor #3-6) & Nicole Wiley (#4-6)
Editor-in-Chief: Joe Quesada

I'm a fan of Iron Fist and I was still reading Marvel comics back in 2004, but somehow this mini-series flew under my radar. Having finally read it now, eleven years later, I can comfortably state that missing it was probably fortunate for me. It is, to put this charitably, not good.

The story finds Danny Rand, a.k.a. Iron Fist, retiring from superheroics after a woman is inadvertently killed when he stops a street gang from accosting some kids. Danny moves to Colorado to settle down in a cabin. But a Native American teenager named Mary Blue Cloud, who has precognitive dreams, realizes that only Iron Fist can keep her safe from a gang of ghostly beings called the Shadow Thieves. After much cajoling and a couple attacks from these creatures, Danny agrees to protect Mary and they set out on a journey to learn the Thieves' origins. Eventually the path leads to a medical investigator in South Dakota, and from there to the Himalayas, where the Thieves' leader, Chi -- an exiled warlord from Danny's mystical home of K'un L'un, is revealed.

There are several problems with the story, but I feel I should touch on the good points first. Chief among these is that James Mullaney seems to know his Iron Fist history, peppering the issues with bits of backstory on Danny Rand and his company, Rand Meachum. Mullaney also uses third person narration, something that had gone all but extinct at Marvel in 2004, and even briefly introduces Iron Fist with second person narration, in the style of his original series from the seventies. And of course we get cameo appearances by the character's classic supporting cast, including Misty Knight, Luke Cage, and even NYPD detective Rafael Scarfe.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015


Writer-Editor-Co-Plot: Marv Wolfman | Co-Plot: George Pérez | Layouts: Daniel Jurgens
Embellisher: Romeo Tanghal | Letterer: John Costanza | Colorist: Adrienne Roy

The Plot: New York honors the Titans with a parade and a presentation of the Key to the City. Wally West and his family, with Frances Kane, watch the parade on TV while elsewhere, the winged alien pines for Lilith and Jericho recovers in the hospital after the Titans' encounter with Trigon. Later, the Titans assess damage to their tower and then attempt to adjust to life as celebrities, while Arella heads out to search for Raven. Eventually, when he realizes that something is troubling Donna, Terry suggests a Titans' holiday in the Grand Canyon. There, the group discusses their experiences with their dark sides and eventually reaffirms their status as a team.

My Thoughts: I just had to give it one more issue, didn't I? Based on the cover and then the splash page, I figured this would be a feel good "quiet" issue in the aftermath of the Trigon saga. Well, it's definitely the latter, but in no way is it the former. It seems the Titans' fame has made them all suddenly realize how laughably careless they've been with their secret identities since the series began, as they suddenly can't get a moment's peace with the press and fans hounding them. Besides that, they're all disturbed by the visions Trigon showed them, in which their dark sides did terrible things to their loved ones, which led to the Titans giving in to the darkness and killing those evil versions of themselves.

So, to cope with this trauma, the group spends the final nine pages of the issue moping about their feelings to each other. The entire Grand Canyon scene is a slog, as the Titans pour out all their emotions in a way that just doesn't feel real to me. I like my super heroes to keep their angst bottled up, to soliloquize about their feelings through thought balloons, and to express their emotions by screaming and punching teammates who say the wrong thing at the wrong time. Seeing this group sit around and yak about what's eating them rubs me the wrong way.

Monday, May 25, 2015


Co-Creators: Marv Wolfman & George Pérez | Co-Artist: Romeo Tanghal
Letterers: Bob Lappan (#3), Todd Klein (#4), John Costanza (#5)
Colorist: Adrienne Roy

The Plot: (issue 3) The Titans and Arella return from Azarath to Earth, to find Manhattan being remade in Trigon's image. Raven confronts the group and sends them separately into struggles against their own dark sides and their deepest fears. One by one, the Titans are overcome or give in to their anger.

(issue 4) One at a time, the Titans kill their dark sides, thus losing their souls to Trigon. But when Raven summons them back to Earth to serve her father, Lilith reveals that the Titans actually serve her. She then sets them against Raven, and the dark Titans kill their former teammate. Then, their task complete, the Titans return to normal just as Trigon appears to avenge his daughter.

(issue 5) The Titans assault Trigon but are easily defeated. Then, as Trigon prepares to destroy Earth and return to his dimension, Lilith reveals to Arella that she has been possessed by Azar, Raven's mentor, this entire time. Azar directs the Titans to attack Trigon again, while she and Arella restore Raven's body to life. Raven acts as a conduit for all the deceased souls of Azarath, which unite to destroy Trigon once and for all.

With Trigon's death, Raven's soul moves on to another plane and the world is restord to normal -- with the exception of Titans' Tower, which was destroyed by Trigon during his fight with the Titans.

Friday, May 22, 2015


Story: Scott Gray | Coloring: Val Staples | Lettering: Blambot's Nate Piekos
Production: Paul Acerios, Damien Lucchese & Taylor Esposito
Assistant Editor: Michael Horwitz | Editor: Jordan D. White
Supervising Editor: Nathan Cosby | Editor-in-Chief: Joe Quesada
Publisher: Dan Buckley | Executive Producer: Alan Fine

Art by Nelson DeCastro & Scott Koblish

Art: Roger Cruz
Wow! I mean, wow! I have no idea what happened here. As covered last week, the first four issues of this series were decent at best. We had inappropriate artwork from Roger Cruz and lackluster stories, albeit with decent characterization, from Scott Gray. But now, suddenly, things have changed. First, Gray ups his game in the writing department as the Knights of Hykon arrive on Earth. These creatures are alien gladiators who travel from world to world engaging in duels which ultimately leave their battlegrounds completely destroyed. Of course when they arrive on Earth they meet up with the X-Men, and it falls to the merry mutants to save the entire planet.

Gray nails everything here. Characterization for everyone is spot-on. Thought balloons abound, giving us insight into what all the various characters are thinking with regards to the Knights, the battle, and even their own interpersonal relationships. Professor X has something to do, heading into space in his astral form and then traveling to the Knights' home dimension. Phoenix showcases her power by saving the SHIELD Helicarrier from a crash. Wolverine cryptically hints at his healing factor, which wasn't yet public knowledge at the time these issues take place.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015


Co-Creators/Co-Editors: Marv Wolfman & George Pérez
Letterer: Todd Klein | Colorist: Adrienne Roy

The Plot: The Titans conduct "war games" but are interrupted when a troubled Raven returns. Jericho briefly touches her mind and realizes she needs help. That night, as Raven sleeps, Jericho enters her body and finds himself in the nether-realm inhabited by Trigon and Raven's mother, Arella. Trigon briefly tortures Jericho before Raven awakens, forcing him from her body. She departs, leaving Jericho to tell the Titans that Raven needs their help.

My Thoughts: First and foremost -- and I know I said this before the last time Pérez inked himself, but -- this is, without a doubt, the best the Titans have ever looked. George Pérez has, for my money, at last completed his evolution into the George Pérez, legend among comic book artists. Working here on a series with higher production values, Pérez is free to experiment and really up the dynamism of his work. The issue is filled with breathtaking full-bleed art and exciting panel layouts, and, thanks to Pérez's own inks, it looks absolutely magnificent -- better than even the best of Pérez's previous collaborators could've made it.

Monday, May 18, 2015


Writer/Editor: Marv Wolfman | Penciler: Chuck Patton
Inkers: Mike DeCarlo (#56) & Romeo Tanghal (#57-58)
Letterers: Albert De Guzman (#56-57) & Bob Lappan (#58) | Colorist: Adrienne Roy
* Issue 57 features "multiple choice titles".

The Plot: (issue 56) A more-vicious-than-normal Raven attempts to stop a kidnapping from S.T.A.R. Labs, but fails. Meanwhile, Jericho and his mother return to the United States to be greeted by an apologetic Changeling. Elsewhere, the Fearsome Five (less Doctor Light), employers of the men who raided S.T.A.R., arrive at Tri-State Prison to liberate a prisoner named Jinx. The Titans (Nightwing, Starfire, and Wonder Girl) attempt to stop them but are defeated and the villains escape with their prize. Meanwhile, Cyborg undergoes surgery at S.T.A.R. to replace his metal parts with human-looking plastics.

(issue 57) Cyborg's operation is a success and he begins physical rehabilitation. Meanwhile, Changeling and Jericho are reunited with the the other Titans at Titans' Tower. Elsewhere, the Fearsome Five awaken Jinx but are unable to free their other new ally, Tryon, from S.T.A.R.'s pod. Days pass, during which the Titans train, and then the Five attack S.T.A.R. once more, kidnapping the facility's chief, Dr. Klyburn, along with Cyborg, posing as her assistant. The Titans spend two days searching for the kidnappers while the pair works to open the pod for the Five. They succeed, but Cyborg rigs the pod to explode as it opens. As he and Klyburn run for safety, Cyborg's new plastic parts begin to melt.

(issue 58) Tryon, a.k.a. Neutron, an enemy of Superman's, emerges from his pod and joins the Fearsome Five. They proceed to Manhattan to wreak havoc, but the Titans show up to challenge them. Meanwhile, Cyborg is rushed to S.T.A.R. Labs with Dr. Klyburn, who begins the process of restoring his cybernetic parts. During the battle, Psimon is abducted into outer space by the mysterious Monitor, who announces that the Crisis on Infinite Earths will begin in three months. On Earth, the Titans defeat the Fearsome Five thanks mainly to Jericho's aid. The group later visits the restored Cyborg at S.T.A.R., and then, back at Titans' Tower, inducts Jericho formally into their ranks.

Sunday, May 17, 2015


Four books comprise my haul this month, beginning with AVENGERS: ULTRON UNBOUND, a trade from Marvel which collects a few issues of the Roy Thomas AVENGERS WEST COAST run featuring Ultron, star of this month's summer blockbuster, AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON.

Also from Marvel is the pulp-influenced SKULL THE SLAYER, a series which lasted eight issues in the seventies but somehow had three writers across that span. I've always wanted to read this short-lived series, given its influences from the likes of Doc Savage and Conan the Barbarian.

Friday, May 15, 2015


Story: Scott Gray | Coloring: Val Staples | Lettering: Blambot's Nate Piekos
Production: Joe Sabino, Anthony Dial, & Paul Acerios
Assistant Editors: Jordan D. White (#1 - 3) & Michael Horwitz (#4) | Editor: Nathan Cosby
Editor-in-Chief: Joe Quesada | Publisher: Dan Buckley | Executive Producer: Alan Fine
Dedicated with respect and admiration to Len Wein, Chris Claremont,
John Byrne, and the late, great, Dave Cockrum

In 2009, Marvel published this series featuring a handful of adventures set during the early days of the "All-New, All-Different" X-Men and starring the team lineup from that era: Cyclops, Storm, Banshee, Wolverine, Colossus, Nightcrawler, and Phoenix. I'm unsure if this was always intended to be a limited series or if it was cancelled with #8 due to low sales, but in any case, eight issues are all that were published. Given that the Claremont/Cockrum/Byrne days are my all-time favorite period for the X-Men, this series was on my radar for years, but I never read it... until now. Thanks to Marvel Unlimited, I've finally given it a try. Here are my thoughts.

A Note For the Continuity-Anal Fan (like myself): As best I can tell, all eight issues of this series must take place during the time gap between UNCANNY X-MEN #110 and 111. My reasoning is simple: Lilandra is hanging out with the X-Men in FIRST CLASS, and she returned to Earth with the group in issue 109. Also, Jean Grey became Phoenix in issue 101, but the X-Men immediately set out on a series of adventures, without her, which also ran all the way up to issue 109. Following 109, 110 is a stand-alone story, and then 111 kicks off an extended story arc which doesn't end until the opening chapters of the "Dark Phoenix Saga", after Lilandra has returned to the Shi'ar Empire. And since it's an unstated amount of time which passes between issues 110 and 111, it seems obvious these stories are meant to fit there.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015


Writer: Marv Wolfman | Penciler: Rich Buckler
Finishers: Dick Giordano & Mike DeCarlo
Letterer: John Costanza | Colorist: Adrienne Roy

The Plot: Slade Wilson's trial plays out over the course of a few days. Changeling attacks him in the courtroom and is kicked out, but this seems to be part of his plan. Later, the Titans question Deathstroke's ally, Wintergreen, about the false Terminator who attacked Lilith, and are attacked by that same imposter, who escapes.

Meanwhile, Cyborg prepares to undergo a procedure which will replace his metallic parts with plastic replicating the appearance of human flesh. Lilith berates the Titans for scaring away the winged alien and reveals that she's developed new powers which turn her skin red hot. And Wilson is ultimately acquitted due to insufficient evidence, though Judge Chase rules that he will be bound over for trial regarding the illegal firearms found in his apartment by authorities.

At the Dayton Estate, Changeling reveals that he's been using Steve Dayton's Mento helmet to impersonate Deathstroke in hopes of getting Wilson off completely so he can kill the Terminator himself.

Monday, May 11, 2015


Writer: Marv Wolfman | Penciler: Rich Buckler | Finisher: Mike DeCarlo
Letterer: Phil Felix | Colorist: Adrienne Roy

The Plot: Lilith is attacked outside Titans' Tower by Deathstroke, who then promptly disappears. The Titans head to S.T.A.R. Labs because Lilith senses a bond with the winged alien who was defrosted during their last trip there. Lilith radiates heat and frees the alien, who escapes.

Meanwhile, Slade "Deathstroke" Wilson is on trial as Changeling sits in the gallery watch. The Titans show up to testify against the villain, whose defense counsel's strategy is to suggest anyone could be under Deathstroke's mask and Slade Wilson is not actually the man the Titans have fought. When Samuel Abrams, the banker who Deathstroke kidnapped months earlier, takes the stand, he admits that Wilson might not be the man who abducted him.

My Thoughts: This story is basically one long chase scene with a few other bits and pieces thrown in -- the tennis game advertised on the cover, a mixed doubles match between Robin & Starfire and Wonder Girl & Terry, makes up the first few pages -- and along the way we learn that Lilith is developing a new, involuntary heat-generation power which the other Titans misattribute to the alien; and that Changeling has some sort of plan in place to make sure Deathstroke pays for his crimes if the law goes too lightly on him. Oh, and Cyborg has fixed up Titans' Tower with a holodeck.

Friday, May 8, 2015


Writer: Doug Moench | Artist: Bill Sienkiewicz | Inkers: Bill S. & Frank Springer
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski | Colorist: Bob Sharen | Editor: Denny O’Neil
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: The diabolical mercenary Bushman raids an archeological site in Egypt along with his second-in-command, Marc Spector. The lead archeologist is killed by Bushman, but Spector lets his daughter, Marlene, escape. Bushman exiles Spector into the desert as punishment and he apparently dies beneath a statue of Khonshu, the Egyptian God of Vengeance. But he awakens later that night as Marlene looks on, and adopts Khonshu’s visage to hunt Bushman. Bushman is beaten, but escapes.

In the following years, Spector amasses a fortune and assumes the identity of Steven Grant and then Jake Lockley, as well as that of Moon Knight. Then, in the present day, Bushman arrives in New York to work his way into organized crime. Moon Knight tracks him down with the intent to kill him, but Marlene convinces him to spare the villain and leave him for the police.

Continuity Notes: Issue 1 retroactively introduces the Egyptian backstory and the concept of Khonshu to Moon Knight. Going forward, these elements will be revisited and developed by Moench and succeeding writers.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015


Co-Creators/Co-Editors: Marv Wolfman & George Pérez
Pencils: Rich Buckler | Finishes: Bob Smith (#51) & Mike DeCarlo (#52)
Letterers: Ben Oda (#51) & John Costanza (#52) | Colorist: Adrienne Roy

The Plot: (issue 51) The Titans bust up an international gunrunning operation and make the front page news. When this publicity reveals to the world that Jericho is with the group, a Middle Eastern president named Marlo uses him to find his mother, and hires Cheshire to kidnap her.

Later, Cheshire attacks Adeline Wilson in her home, killing her elderly aide in the process. Cheshire defeats Adeline but Jericho arrives to challenge her. She takes him out as well and escapes with Adeline. Meanwhile, Nightwing visits the Pentagon and learns that Jericho and Adeline may be involved in the weapon smuggling ring. He calls Changeling, the only Titan near Manhattan, to investigate. Changeling heads for Adeline's apartment and finds Jericho, who refuses to go with him to turn himself in. Jericho defeats Changeling and goes into hiding.

Later, the Titans debate what to do about Jericho while Cheshire questions his mother. Meanwhile, in Alaska, a group of S.T.A.R. Labs scientists find an alien starship which crashed centuries earlier.

Monday, May 4, 2015


A DC Comics Production
Marv Wolfman: Writer/Co-Plotter | George Pérez: Penciler/Co-Plotter
Dick Giordano: Embellisher (Special Thanks to Mike DeCarlo)
Lettered by John Costanza | Colored by Adrienne Roy
Edited by Marv Wolfman & George Pérez

The Plot: Surrounded by their family and friends, Donna Troy and Terry Long are married.

My Thoughts: Usually the double-sized anniversary issue of a comic features a big fight or a shake-up to the status quo or the culmination of a long-running plotline. TALES #50 doesn't really contain any of those things. There's no fight whatsoever, and Wonder Girl getting married is more of a change to the "window dressing" than an actual modification of any status quo. I suppose the nuptials are the culmination of her engagement, which dates back to issue 30, but that's really just the end to a minor sub-plot, rather than the conclusion of some big, ongoing story.

All that said, this is mostly a very nice little issue. Things like this would become commonplace within a decade or so, but at this point in time, dedicating a full issue of a superhero comic to a wedding is extremely unusual, and something of a bold move. Fortunately, Wolfman and Pérez have spent so much time getting us to care about the Titans as people that the idea doesn't backfire.

I do find it odd that the story goes through every single stage of the wedding day, however. We start with Changeling overseeing final preparations, then we see hair being done and guests arriving, followed by the ceremony and even the introduction of the bridal party to the reception, the first dance, the cutting of the cake, etc. as I read through all these things, I kept thinking, "Yup... this is what happens at a wedding." I'm not sure why the decision was made to commit all of it to paper, however.

Sunday, May 3, 2015


As I understand it, in 1985, DC launched a second Teen Titans series. As we've seen, THE NEW TEEN TITANS was renamed to TALES OF TEEN TITANS around issue 45. Subsequently, DC created a second volume of THE NEW TEEN TITANS. The idea was that volume 2, available exclusively through comic shops and telling all-new stories with higher production values, would run alongside TALES OF THE TEEN TITANS, still for sale on the newsstand. These stories would then be reprinted a few months later for general consumption in TALES.

But first THE NEW TEEN TITANS would need to accumulate a backlog of material for the reprint series. So, for eight issues, TALES OF THE TEEN TITANS would feature ongoing original stories by Marv Wolfman and a handful of fill-in artists while the first six issues of THE NEW TEEN TITANS, by Wolfman and Pérez, would be distributed to comic shops concurrently, but take place subsequently to issue 58 of TALES OF THE TEEN TITANS.

I've seen varying opinions on these eight issues. Some seem to think they're inconsequential filler while others believe that some of them, at least, are pretty important (apparently there's a trial for Deathstroke taking up part of the run). But, at any rate, they were left out of the NEW TEEN TITANS OMNIBUS volume 3, since George Pérez didn't work on them.

Friday, May 1, 2015


Script: Doug Moench | Art: Bill Sienkiewicz & Tom Palmer
Additional Inking: Bill Sienkiewicz & Dan Green | Colors: Steve Oliff*
Editor: Lynn Graeme

The Plot: (part 1) At Steven Grant’s mansion, Marc Spector receives a box containing a corpse. Moments later, the mansion is firebombed by a mystery assailant. Having recognized the corpse as that of an old CIA ally named Amos Lardner, Moon Knight travels to a CIA facility in Montreal where Spector and Lardner had spent some time together. There, Moon Knight tussles with the same bomber, who escapes.

The next day, Spector meets with the facility’s director, who informs him that Project Cobra, the CIA mind control initiative which had led to Spector’s resignation, was shut down and its overseer, Charles LeBlanc, quit as well and returned to Paris. Spector orders Marlene to book a flight to France for Frenchie and himself.

(part 2) In Paris, Moon Knight confronts LeBlanc but their conversation is interrupted by Amos Lardner’s brother, James. Moon Knight stops the younger Lardner from killing LeBlanc and chases him out of the building. With Marlene driving his car, Moon Knight pursues Lardner until both vehicles crash. Moon Knight, Marlene, and Lardner are taken away by LeBlanc’s men.