Friday, April 29, 2016


Script by: Gail Simone & Jim Zub | Pencils by: Dan Panosian (#1-2) & Randy Green (#3-4)
Inks by: Dan Panosian (#1-2) & Rick Ketcham (#3-4) | Colors by: Dave Stewart
Letters by: Jimmy Betancourt at Comicraft
Conan was created by Robert E. Howard
Red Sonja is based on a character created by Robert E. Howard

At some point in the nineties, the rights to Red Sonja and Conan split apart. Sonja had been created by Roy Thomas and Barry Windsor-Smith for Marvel's CONAN THE BARBARIAN comic series, but somehow her intellectual property was deemed separate from Conan's but also separate from Marvel's. Both IPs were allowed to make use of Robert E. Howard's Hyborean Age settings and concepts, but neither could use the other's title character. Thus, for close to two decades, Conan has been published by Dark Horse Comics while Sonja has had a home at Dynamite for about the past ten years. And for a while, rumor had it that Dark Horse and Dynamite were not willing to play nice for any sort of crossover.

So it was kind of a big deal in 2013 when the two publishers jointly announced a CONAN/RED SONJA mini-series to be written by the characters' respective ongoing writers, Brian Wood and Gail Simone, and published by Dark Horse. The series eventually saw print in 2015 with Wood replaced by Jim Zub, and a collected edition was released later in the year -- which brings us here.

The story by Simone and Zub follows Conan and Red Sonja across a handful of meetings spanning several years of their lives. The first encounter each other in their youth, a pair of brigands hired separately to steal a precious box from a corrupt prince. The container's contents are eventually revealed as deadly "bloodroot seeds", and the man after them is a servant of the evil wizard Thoth-Amon. Conan and Sonja are unimpressed, burning the seeds before they can be turned into a weapon of mass destruction, then killing their employer and going their separate ways.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016


Story and Art: John Byrne | Letters: Jim Novak | Colors: Glynis Wein
Editor: Michael Higgins | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: John Byrne and assistant editor Mike Higgins discuss the next issue of FANTASTIC FOUR over the phone. Following their call, Byrne is abducted by the Watcher and taken to observe the trial of Reed Richards. Lilandra of the Shi’ar conducts the trial with the Watcher serving as Reed’s defense counsel.

A Skrull warrior testifies for the prosecution, condemning Reed for his indirect role in the destruction of his home planet. The Watcher then calls Odin of Asgard as his first witness, and Odin explains that Galactus is a force of nature, a test all planets in the universe must face sooner or later. Next Galactus appears and together he and the Watcher summon Eternity, living embodiment of the universe. Eternity allows all present to see through Galactus’s eyes, and they realize that he has no free will; he is indeed a force of nature which the universe needs.

Later, Byrne prepares to write and draw the scene he just witnessed and the Watcher urges him to do it quickly, as knowledge of the trial’s specifics will soon fade from the minds of all involved.

Monday, April 25, 2016


Story & Art: John Byrne | Colors: Glynis Wein | Letters: Jim Novak
Editing: Bob Budiansky | Searching: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Namor and Marrina drop Sue off at the Baxter Building and depart. After calling Avengers Mansion and learning Reed had been there, Sue and the Silver Surfer travel to the mansion as well. The Avengers are out, save the Scarlet Witch, who informs them of Reed’s kidnapping. The Surfer uses the Power Cosmic to divine that Reed has been taken out into deep space.

Sue summons Ben and Johnny and together they head for the Moon to enlist the aid of the Watcher. He guides the Fantastic three to a ragtag alien fleet comprised of the survivors of numerous worlds destroyed by Galactus. These aliens plan to execute Reed, but the Watcher convinces them otherwise. As the aliens begin to deliberate over Reed’s ultimate fate, Empress Lilandra of the Shi’ar Empire arrives and declares that Reed must die.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: Namor lays a big wet smooch on Sue before leaving, as a reminder of what she might have had if she had accepted his advances many years ago. A footnote tells us that Sue’s return to New York takes place a few hours following the conclusion of ALPHA FLIGHT #4.

Sunday, April 24, 2016


Hardcover, 2012. Collects UNCANNY X-MEN #273 - 280, X-FACTOR #63 - 70, X-MEN #1 - 11, and GHOST RIDER #26 & 27.

Following from the X-MEN BY CHRIS CLAREMONT & JIM LEE OMNIBUS volume 1 and the X-TINCTION AGENDA hardcover, both released in 2011, 2012 saw Marvel issue the second book in their Claremont/Lee duology. And where the first volume was extremely light on contributions from Lee, volume 2 more than makes up for it -- of the 27 issues collected herein, more than half are illustrated by Lee.

The book opens with a recap page stretching all the way back to the "All-New, All-Different" era, giving broad strokes of the entire Chris Claremont X-MEN canon -- appropriate, since this book collects the twilight of his long, long run. From there we head into X-FACTOR 63 and 64 by Louise Simonson and Whilce Portacio, pitting the original five X-Men against a group of cyber-ninjas for the life of Iceman's girlfriend. Honestly, I'm not sure exactly why these issues appear here, since they really serve no purpose in the volume's overall narrative; however the issues are notable for being long-time writer Simonson's final X-FACTOR story.

Next are UNCANNY X-MEN 273 through 277 by Chris Claremont and Jim Lee, featuring the X-Men in space against the Shi'ar while Rogue, Magneto, and Nick Fury battle Zaladane in the Savage Land on Earth. After this epic comes the final saga of the original X-Factor in X-FACTOR 65 through 68 by Claremont and Portacio (the former presumably on board to better set up the X-books' impending linewide realignment while the latter turns in the near-final issues of his brief X-FACTOR run before assuming penciling duties on UNCANNY X-MEN).

Friday, April 22, 2016


Writer: Michael Avon Oeming | Artist: Mel Rubi
Colorist: Brian Buccellato | Letterer: Simon Bowland
Assistant Editors: Alejandro Arbona & Lauren Sankovitch | Editor: Bill Rosemann
Consulting Editor: Joe Rybrandt | Editor in Chief: Joe Quesada | Publisher: Dan Buckley
Special Thanks to: Tom Brevoort, Josh Johnson, Juan Collado, Nick Barrucci, Jason Ullmeyer, Arther Lieberman, and Luke Lieberman
Red Sonja is based on the Heroine Created by Robert E. Howard

In 1979, Marvel, then holder of the license which (at the time) included both Conan and Red Sonja, published a MARVEL TEAM-UP issue pairing the She-Devil with a Sword and Spider-Man in a fight against the evil wizard, Kulan Gath. in 2008, Marvel and current Red Sonja rights-holder, Dynamite Entertainment, teamed up for a sequel to that tale by the then-current RED SONJA creative team of Michael Avon Oeming and Mel Rubi.

It's worth noting that in the interim -- only a few years after the original team-up -- the scripter of that MTU issue, Chris Claremont, penned a sequel story sans Sonja in the pages of UNCANNY X-MEN, in which Kulan Gath transformed New York into a replica of his native Hyborean era and set various mind-controlled superheroes against Spider-Man for revenge. But by that story's conclusion nearly everyone involved, including Spider-Man, had all memory of the incident wiped from their minds.

For this story, Oeming borrows a cue from Claremont as Gath's sinister necklace turns up in New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, where a visiting senator is drawn to it and puts it on. This transforms him into the embodiment of Kulan Gath, who promptly turns Manhattan once more into a Hyborean world, and plants a sword for Mary Jane Watson (Parker?) to discover, even while placing a suggestion in her head that Spider-Man is her enemy. Thus MJ finds the sword, turns into Red Sonja as she did years earlier in MARVEL TEAM-UP 79, and goes out to kill the web-slinger.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016


Writer-Artist: John Byrne | Letterer: Rick Parker | Colorist: Andy Yanchus
Editor: Denny O'Neil | Resolved: Jim Shooter

The Plot: The Invisible Girl and Namor, the Sub-Mariner, explore the North Pole in search of a mysterious force which weakened Namor. They locate a complex hidden beneath the sea, but it lashes out, destroying Sue’s Fantasticar.

Inside the complex, the members of Canada’s resident super-team, Alpha Flight, are embroiled in a quest for their missing teammate, Marrina. But Sue and Namor find her first, having snuck inside after being saved from the explosion by one of Sue’s force fields. They watch as the complex’s Master explains Marrina’s origins to her, then they leap into action against him.

Soon, Alpha Flight meets up with Sue, Namor, and Marrina, having damaged the complex to the point that it is near exploding. The heroes escape in one of Sue’s force fields, then go their separate ways.

Monday, April 18, 2016


Story and Art: John Byrne | Letters: Jim Novak | Colors: Glynis Wein
Editor: Bob Budiansky | Titan: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Prince Namor of Atlantis flies over the sea near Northern Canada, but some force drains his strength and he plummets into the water. Meanwhile, in New York, the Human Torch and the Thing battle Tyros the Terrible. The Invisible Girl soon joins the conflict as well, but Tyros’s enhanced stamina proves a match for the full trio.

Doctor Doom observes the fight from his airship overhead and eventually realizes Mister Fantastic is not coming to his teammates’ aid. Doom descends to the battlesite below and orders Tyros to halt his assault -- but Tyros attacks Doom instead, fusing his armor and rendering him immobile. As Doom struggles to figure a way out of this predicament, the Silver Surfer descends from the sky and engages Tyros. Using his full power against the Surfer burns Tyros out, disintegrating him. Even as that happens, Tyros and the Surfer collide with Doom, apparently killing him.

Later, Sue returns to the Baxter Building with the Silver Surfer and leaves him in the medical room while she searches the FF’s headquarters for Reed. She finds no sign of him, but before she can continue her investigation, Namor arrives, pleading for her aid.

Sunday, April 17, 2016


Four trade paperbacks this month, though one was delayed from March, as noted last time. From Marvel, we have a pair of Epic Collections: AMAZING SPIDER-MAN: RETURN OF THE SINISTER SIX and IRON MAN: DUEL OF IRON. The former fits snugly between the AMAZING SPIDER-MAN EPIC COLLECTION: COSMIC ADVENTURES and AMAZING SPIDER-MAN EPIC COLLECTION: ROUND ROBIN books (I'm really happy with the amount of love David Michelinie's long Spider-run is receiving, as it's the Spider-Man I grew up with), while the latter follows directly from the very first Epic Collection, 2013's IRON MAN: THE ENEMY WITHIN (and for the record, it will only take one more IRON MAN Epic to bridge the gap between this volume and the previously released STARK WARS).

DC brings BATMAN ADVENTURES volume 4, closing out the original 36-issue run based on BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES. Hopefully these four books have sold well enough to warrant a couple follow-ups for the 25-issue BATMAN AND ROBIN ADVENTURES and perhaps even the subsequent 60-issue BATMAN: GOTHAM ADVENTURES -- though as of now I don't believe there's any word on whether that might happen.

And lastly, from IDW, it's the latest installment in the DANGER GIRL saga, DANGER GIRL: RENEGADE. I looked at every DG series to date a couple summers ago, and I plan to follow up with this volume in the near future.

Friday, April 15, 2016

RED SONJA #0 - 6

Writers: Michael Avon Oeming w/Mike Carey | Art: Mel Rubi
Colors: Caesar Rodriguez w/Richard Isanove (#1-4), Brian Buccellato (#5), & Blond (#6)
Color Assists: Imaginary Friends Studios (#3), Michael Kelleher (#4)
Letters: Richard Starkings & Comicraft w/Josh Johnson and Rich Wenzke
Editorial Consultant: Luke Lieberman | Based on the Heroine Created by Robert E. Howard
Special Thanks to Arthur Lieberman at Red Sonja Corporation

There are two tropes I particularly enjoy in the world of sword & sorcery fantasy: the "lone warrior wandering the world", righting wrongs and getting involved in local struggles against hell-born demons, evil wizards, or corrupt kings, and the "she-devil with a sword" wearing impractical "armor" and killing everything in her path. Obviously the latter was pioneered by Red Sonja herself, and the former is on full display as well in this inaugural outing from Red Sonja's 2005 series (a series which would go on to run 80 issues plus numerous mini-series and one-shots before being rebooted in 2013).

There were several occasions when I considered reading the Dynamite series, but one thing above others kept turning me off: I just didn't like the art. Something about Mel Rubi's work didn't appeal to me, and because of that, I never gave this series a chance. But last year Dynamite partnered with Humble Bundle and put several digital comics up for sale in a "pay what you want" deal. I dropped a few dollars for the chance to finally check out this series.

Issue 0 begins with Sonja entering a small town, where she's attacked by (and kills) a number of men looking to rob her. Following this brief introduction, issues 1 through 6 of the series feature Sonja defending a messenger from the city of Gathia who is ultimately killed while in her care. She relays his message to the city and winds up getting abducted by a priest to help his resistance in overthrowing Gathia's sinister ruler, the Celestial. The coup is successful with the aid of Gathia's savage neighbors, the Zedda, but the priest is murdered and the city's inhabitants -- men, women, and children alike -- are slaughtered by the Zedda as Sonja proceeds on her way.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016


Story & Art: John Byrne | Colorist: Glynis Wein | Letterer: Jim Novak
Editor: Bob Budiansky | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: In disguise as “Susan Benjamin”, Sue visits an open house in Belle Port, Connecticut, and puts in a purchase offer on behalf of her family. Meanwhile, the Thing lands at La Guardia Airport and takes a cab toward the Baxter Building, but he’s assaulted en route by Tyros the Terrible. Ben sends up a flare to summon help, and Johnny arrives on the scene.

Elsewhere, as Sue flies home from Connecticut in a Fantasticar, she is pulled aboard an airship commanded by Doctor Doom. Doom taunts her with a robot duplicate, then reveals to her the battle between Ben, Johnny, and Tyros. Sue exits the ship to go help them.

In space, the Sliver Surfer spots a transporter beam directed at New York, and heads toward Earth to investigate.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: Following the Annual and last issue’s “Interlude”, this installment picks up exactly where FF #257 ended, as Sue walks into the house in Belle Port.

As noted above, Sue and Reed have assumed the last name of Benjamin for their secret identities, and they plan to move their family to Connecticut. While checking out the house, Sue meets a local girl named Katie Dwyer, who offers to babysit. A little internet research reveals that this seems to be the sister of comics artist Kieron Dwyer, who was John Byrne’s stepson in the eighties.

Monday, April 11, 2016


Story and Art: John Byrne | Lettering: Jim Novak | Coloring: Glynis Wein
Editor: Carl Potts | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Doctor Doom oversees the restoration of Latervia following his return to power. Eventually he concocts a plan to artificially recreate the power he once stole from the Silver Surfer and imbue it into someone else. Doom chooses Tyros, the one-time herald Terrax, for this task. Tyros is liberated from a hospital in New York and brought to Latveria, where Doom empowers him and sends him to battle the Fantastic Four. Following Tyros’s departure, Doom reveals to his robots that the alien warlord will perish due to power burnout in five hours.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: The main point of timeline reference in this issue comes on the first page, when we’re told that the Fantastic Four’s encounter with Gladiator and the Skrulls in issue 250 occurred “several months ago”. Some may recall that within the pages of issue 244, directly following the fight with Terrax, “several months” passed there as well. I’m not sure why Byrne keeps advancing the timeline in such large leaps, but I don’t really like it. One of my favorite things about serialized fiction is how one story bleeds into the next with little passage of time unless absolutely necessary.

But at any rate, we can safely declare that well over a year has probably elapsed in “Marvel Time” since Byrne took over this series with issue 232.

Sunday, April 10, 2016


Art by Alex Ross
Though by no means a hardcore fan, I do enjoy dabbling now and then in the sword-and-sorcery genre, and for me, no world better represents my ideal version of that concept than Robert E. Howard's "Hyborean Age" featuring Conan the Cimmerian and Red Sonja, she-devil of the Hyrkanian steppes.

A while back I covered MARVEL TEAM-UP #79, which featured a pairing of Spider-Man and Sonja, and noted at the time that my review copy of the issue was included as part of Marvel's printing of the 2009 SPIDER-MAN/RED SONJA mini-series. Since then, a couple of "Unboxings" have shown that I picked up the CONAN/RED SONJA and RED SONJA/CONAN crossovers from Dark Horse and Dynamite, respectively. And on top of all that, last year I pitched in a few dollars to a Dynamite-sponsored Humble Bundle which netted me a digital version of the opening story arc to Dynamite's 2005 RED SONJA ongoing series.

Now, each Friday for the next few weeks, I'm going to cover all those bits and pieces of Hyborean lore. We'll lead off with RED SONJA #1 - 6, followed a week later by SPIDER-MAN/RED SONJA, then it'll be on to CONAN/RED SONJA before closing things out with RED SONJA/CONAN. So this past Friday's MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE installment was merely a prelude to a month of brawny barbarians, buxom she-warriors, and more decapitations than you can handle. I'm looking forward to this.

Friday, April 8, 2016


Written by: Roger McKenzie
Illustrated by: Adrian Gonzalez & Fred Carrillo | Cover by: Earl Norem

Read along at!

As a child, this was probably my favorite of all my MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE comics and storybooks. As an adult who recently unearthed it at his parents' house, there's still a lot to appreciate about it. Published in 1983, the second year of the MASTERS toyline's existence and the same year the classic Filmation cartoon series debuted, THE SUNBIRD LEGACY is an odd hybrid of the pre- and post-cartoon continuity. It's also an oddity in the realm of MASTERS storybooks, being a hardcover comic book rather than a traditional storybook with blocks of text and a single illustration per page. To my knowledge, this is the only book of its kind created for the MASTERS line out of the many books produced by Western Publishing, a division of Golden Books.

The story, set on planet Eternia as were all iterations of MASTERS, follows He-Man and his allies, Man-at-Arms, Teela, and Stratos, as they attempt to stop the evil Skeletor and his henchmen, Evil-Lyn, Beast Man, and Mer-Man, from assembling an ancient missile called the Sunbird, created in a long lost era by an Eternian warlord named Dyr. Our heroes split up, each traveling to a different corner of Eternia, where they then each battle an enemy counterpart. But the villains are successful, capture the heroes, and launch the missile. He-Man and company break free and defeat Skeletor and his cronies, and He-Man hops aboard the Sunbird as it takes off, defusing it before it can destroy Eternia's royal palace.

Though not exactly sophisticated, the story straddles a line between the simplicity of a children's book and the slightly more advanced nature of a comic. The story is very straightforward, good versus evil, and follows the common kids' show trope of splitting up the "team" to fight their enemies one-on-one, but this also allows for some exploration of various parts of Eternia and gives us a look at each character's strengths, both good and evil.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016


Words and Pictures: John Byrne | Letterer: Jim Novak | Colorist: Glynis Wein
Editor: Carl Potts | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter
With thanks to Jim Salicrup, Tom DeFalco, and Al Milgrom

The Plot: In upstate New York, Sharon Selleck has car troubles and walks to the nearest town. She finds the citizens inhospitable, but manages to get a hotel room and a meal at the local diner, followed by a promise from the town mechanic to get her car fixed. But the next day the garage is closed, and Sharon finds herself stranded in an increasingly frightening town.

Sharon calls Julie Angel in New York but is cut off, then sneaks out of the hotel and leaves town, followed by a throng of citizens. She manages to hide from them and call the Fantastic Four from a phone booth, but the FF are unavailable and Sharon is grabbed before she can relay her plea for help to Roberta the robot receptionst.

The next day, Johnny visits Julie and learns Sharon could be in trouble. They return to the Baxter Building, where Reed plays the recording of Sharon’s panicked call from the night before. Reed pinpoints the call’s origin as King’s Crossing, New York, where the FF first encountered the Skrulls.

The team infiltrates King’s Crossing using subterfuge and Johnny rescues Sharon. Realizing the townspeople are infected with a Skrull virus, Reed restores them to normal with a counteragent. After making amends with the local sheriff, the Fantastic Four and Sharon head home.

Monday, April 4, 2016


Writing, Drawing, Inking: John Byrne | Coloring: Glynis Wein | Lettering: Jim Novak
Editing: Al Milgrom | Earthling: Jim Shooter

The Plot: In deep space, Galactus philosophizes and is visited by the living embodiment of death, then he devours the Skrull homeworld.

On Earth, Johnny Storm looks into renting a loft apartment. Meanwhile, Reed and Sue announce to Ben that the Baxter Building is unsafe for Franklin, and they plan to move to the suburbs and adopt secret identities even as they continue their careers as Mister Fantastic and the Invisible Girl.

Two days later, Sue goes house-hunting in Connecticut while Reed pays a visit to Avengers Mansion to check on the injured Vision. The Scarlet Witch leaves him alone with Vision and an intruder alarm sounds. When the Witch returns to the lab, there is a hole in the wall and Reed is gone.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: Galactus has grown a conscience since Reed Richards saved his life, and has spent the past few months only devouring lifeless worlds or gathering nutrients from stars. But a visit with Death reaffirms his mission as a force of nature and, despite a desire not to, he follows Nova to the Skrull homeworld.

Sunday, April 3, 2016


Hardcover, 2011. Collects 1988's UNCANNY X-MEN #235 - 238 and 1990's UNCANNY X-MEN #270 - 272, NEW MUTANTS #95 - 97, & X-FACTOR #60 - 62.

Following from "Mutant Massacre", "Fall of the Mutants", and "Inferno", "X-Tinction Agenda" marks the fourth X-universe crossover, and has the notoriety of being the first such event of the nineties. But unlike the majority of those nineties events, this one comes from the pens of Chris Claremont and Louise Simonson -- both with one foot out the door of the X-franchise at this point, whether they realize it or not.

But before the crossover proper, the X-TINCTION AGENDA hardcover begins with UNCANNY X-MEN issues 235 - 238. Written by Claremont and illustrated by Marc Silvestri and Rick Leonardi, this storyline introduces the X-Men to the small island nation of Genosha, a technologically advanced paradise built on the backs of enslaved mutates. Claremont uses this 1988 tale as a metaphor for Apartheid, hitting on some heavy themes while never forgetting that X-MEN is, first and foremost, an action-adventure serial. It's generally regarded as one of the high points of his long run on the series, and its presence here, as a thematic companion to the main crossover, is appreciated -- though for the completionists out there, its inclusion was rendered moot in late 2014 with the publication of the X-MEN: INFERNO PROLOGUE collection.

Friday, April 1, 2016


Story and Art by Walter Simonson
Colors by Laura Martin | Letters by John Workman

... Or, "The Adventures of Zombie Thor".

I feel bad about this one. I was ready to like it. I wanted to like it. But, perhaps because of the expectations I placed upon it, it really didn't do much for me.

Walter Simonson's THOR run at Marvel was something I missed out on the first time around. I finally checked it out two decades after the fact, in the THOR VISIONARIES: WALTER SIMONSON trade paperback series, and I found that it completely lived up to the praise I'd seen heaped upon it over the previous twenty years. So the idea of Simonson returning to the Norse pantheon for more sword-and-sorcery tales of heroism, epic high adventure, and occasional mirth sounded great to me.

Thing is, I came into this one blind. I really didn't read any advertising hype or interviews about it. All I knew was that it featured Simonson working on the Norse gods once more, and that premise alone was good enough to guarantee I'd check it out. Heck, I thought the character depicted on the cover of the collected edition (above) was some evil dark elf or something who had stolen Thor's hammer! (Spoiler: It's not. That's Thor as he appears in this story.)