Monday, October 16, 2017

SPIDER-MAN NEWSPAPER STRIP PART 4

DECEMBER 18th, 1977 – FEBRUARY 11th, 1978
FEBRUARY 12th, 1978 – APRIL 9th, 1978
By Stan Lee & John Romita

Per an ad reprinted in the IDW AMAZING SPIDER-MAN NEWSPAPER STRIPS Volume 1 collection, Spider-Man’s next storyline is titled “The Time of the Terrorist” and it features a bit of a departure in style, ultimately heralding something of a new direction (at least temporarily), for the ongoing serial. We begin with a brief Christmas interlude as Peter does some shopping and reflects on his supporting cast, then wonders why Mary Jane hasn’t called since her return from Miami. This is followed by MJ announcing to Peter that she’s taken a new job as an assistant to Kraven, and will be leaving immediately to tour with him!

As noted last time, the comic strip’s version of Kraven is less a super-villain and more a showman who happens to enjoy hunting Spider-Men on the side, so while Peter is troubled by MJ’s choice, there’s not much he can do about it. Thus, Lee and Romita write Mary Jane – who had already been a minor player for the past few storylines – completely out of the ongoing strip for the foreseeable future.

This allows them to change up their formula, and the strip’s concept along with it. Suddenly that MARY WORTH/soap opera style that Lee had wanted from the start begins to take shape. While there are some costumed Spider-action scenes to be found throughout this arc, it focuses primarily on Peter Parker and his love life. It also takes place over a longer period of time than most of the other arcs to date, which typically seemed to cover only a day or a few days at most.

Friday, October 13, 2017

G.I. JOE VS. THE TRANSFORMERS #6

Written by Josh Blaylock
Pencils by Mike S. Miller | Inks by Cory Hamscher & Armando Durruthy
Letters by Dreamer Design | Colors by Lynx Studio with HI FI Colour Design
Edits by Mark Powers

The Plot: With Cobra and the Decepticons mostly routed, Hawk informs the Joes and Autobots of the incoming nuclear missiles. Wheeljack proposes a plan to stop them and teams up with Mainframe and Sci-Fi to commandeer the energy satellite in orbit. After fighting off a group of Cobras including Storm Shadow and Firefly, Wheeljack accomplishes his goal and the missles are destroyed before reaching Cobra Island. However the satellite goes wild, suddenly beaming random energy blasts down at Cobra Island.

Cobra Commander hooks up with Starscream and the duo flees the island together. Megatron attempts to retreat, but is stopped by G.I. Joe and then defeated by Optimus Prime. Prime grabs Megatron's fusion cannon and uses it to destroy the satellite.

Later, the Autobots leave Earth in a newly-constructed spacecraft, having gifted G.I. Joe with Cybertronian technology. Meanwhile, Megatron and Starscream hide out on Earth, and a cabal of U.S. scientists examine the fallen Decepticons recovered from Cobra Island.

Continuity Notes: Trailbreaker, who was decapitated last issue, is glimpsed fighting alongside his fellow Autobots. This would seem to be an art mistake.

G1 References: Megatron wields the energy morning star which made a single appearance in the G1 animation but somehow became one of his iconic weapons in the ensuing decades.

Monday, October 9, 2017

SPIDER-MAN NEWSPAPER STRIP PART 3

OCTOBER 3rd, 1977 – OCTOBER 29th, 1977
OCTOBER 30th, 1977 – DECEMBER 17th, 1977
By Stan Lee & John Romita

As he mopes over his role in getting the Kingpin’s wife shot, Spider-Man recaps his origin. In this shorter-than-normal arc (known as “Along Came a Spider-Man” in the BEST OF SPIDER-MAN book from the eighties) Stan Lee and John Romita hit all the classic beats of the original Lee/Steve Ditko story from AMAZING FANTASY #15 – Peter is bitten by a radioactive spider and gains spider-powers, attempts to use his new abilities for profit, lets a crook run free, and later finds that the crook has murdered his uncle – but they also put their own 1977 twist on a lot of it.

It’s never outright stated here, but Peter seems to be in college, rather than high school, when he’s bitten. He and a lab partner are the ones running the experiment which irradiates the fateful spider, and he’s drawn by Romita to resemble his handsome, college-age self rather than the awkward bespectacled teenager originated by Ditko. The story also forgoes the idea that Peter is a wallflower or a loner. He’s clearly friends with his lab partner, and while we don’t see any of his other classmates in this flashback, he seems perfectly socially adept with everyone else he meets.


Otherwise, it’s pretty much business as expected in this retelling. It’s an interesting choice by Lee and Romita to wait nine months into their serial before explaining the hero’s origin, and one wonders if they had ever intended to cover it at all. But in any case, it’s done and, while essential, it’s not exactly remarkable.

Friday, October 6, 2017

G.I. JOE VS. THE TRANSFORMERS #5

Written by Josh Blaylock
Pencils by Mike S. Miller | Inks by Cory Hamscher & Armando Durruthy
Letters by Dreamer Design | Colors by Lynx Studio with HI FI Colour Design
Edits by Mark Powers

The Plot: G.I. Joe attacks Cobra Island while Autobots and Decepticons do battle there as well. Meanwhile, the president approves use of nuclear weapons on the island. Megatron coerces Doctor Mindbender into using the energy satellite to create a near-limitless supply of Energon for his forces. Devastator reinforces Cobra against the Autobots' attempt to break into Megatron's commandeered hideout, while Snake-Eyes battles Starscream.

Eventually Optimus Prime smashes through Megatron's defenses, takes out his troops, and begins a duel with the Decepticon leader. Meanwhile, the Joes, Wheeljack, and Bumblebee take out Devastator while Hawk receives word of the imminent nuclear attack.

Out at sea, a U.S. submarine prepares to launch missiles.

Continuity Notes: The U.S. president here appears to be drawn to resemble George W. Bush, who was, of course, president when this mini-series was originally published.

G1 References: Energon is stored in cube format, as per the original G1 cartoon series.

Body Count: Hound is blasted in half by Devastator, and Trailbreaker (not Optimus Prime, as the cover suggests) is decapitated by Storm Shadow. However later in the issue, Optimus Prime punches a hole through Soundwave's chest while declaring that he will avoid his "vital circuits", leaving him alive. So who's to say which -- if any -- of these Transformers are actually dead?

Oh, Prime also "crunches" Ravage in his fist, which looks positively quaint when one remembers his live-action movie incarnation ripping out the Decepticon feline's spine in the first Michael Bay movie.

Monday, October 2, 2017

SPIDER-MAN NEWSPAPER STRIP PART 2

MAY 8th, 1977 – JULY 3rd, 1977
JULY 4th, 1977 – OCTOBER 2nd, 1977
By Stan Lee & John Romita

And now a few notable items I didn’t have time to get into last week: As we’ve seen, these strips take place in a separate continuity from the ongoing Spider-Man comics, but a continuity with a similar backstory. Notable tidbits include:
  • Peter resides in an apartment in Chelsea, which was his status quo in the comics at this time (and would remain so for much of the eighties) -- in fact, the apartment is even illustrated by John Romita with the same layout and furnishings as in the comics.
  • Aunt May lives in an apartment, rather than a house, in Forest Hills. This development dates back to the original Lee/Romita run on AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, where May and Anna Watson shared an apartment together after Peter moved out of May’s house to room with Harry Osborn. Interestingly, the first story arc had May and Anna living together, but the very next one saw May living alone.
  • There’s no sign of Gwen Stacy in any of these strips; she had been killed off a few years earlier in the main continuity but it’s unclear whether she ever existed at all in this one. Mary Jane Watson is Peter’s primary love interest in these stories as in the comics of the era.
  • And, as mentioned last time, Spider-Man seems to be New York’s only superhero at this early stage in the strip’s history.

Our third story arc introduces the strip’s first original villain, and features the newspaper debuts of two stalwart supporting cast members from the Lee/Romita comic book run. It’s also the most soap opera-ish of all the storylines so far, insomuch as it features more Peter Parker out of costume than we’ve yet seen.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

AVENGERS BY BUSIEK & PÉREZ - REMINISCENCES

This is a post I'd hoped to have up much earlier this year, to coincide with the release date of AVENGERS vol. 3 #1 back in February, but I just wasn't able to pull it together in time. Though at this point the post is already years in the making*, so being eight months late isn't too bad when you look at it that way.

Let's start at the beginning, a year or so prior to that late 1997 release date: It was in the aftermath of "Onslaught" that Marvel launched a slew of new #1 issues. You had DEADPOOL, HEROES FOR HIRE, KA-ZAR, MAN-THING, MAVERICK, MARVEL TEAM-UP, and more. Among this group was THUNDERBOLTS, written by Kurt Busiek and drawn by Mark Bagley. I'd never heard of Busiek at the time, but Bagley was familiar to me from his days on AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, and I generally liked his artwork. Nonetheless, I nearly didn't grab THUNDERBOLTS because: what's a Thunderbolt? I was a senior in high school at the time and I had a tight budget; why read some random series about a bunch of new characters I'd never heard of?

Thank goodness for internet spoilers, then! I learned the twist ending to THUNDERBOLTS #1 via an America Online message board within a few days of its release, and promptly went straight out to pick it up. It quickly became one of my most eagerly awaited titles every month. And, eventually, when I learned that its writer would be picking up AVENGERS and IRON MAN when those two returned to the mainstream Marvel Universe after the year-long "Heroes Reborn" event wrapped up, I made sure to put those on my monthly reading list as well.**

Friday, September 29, 2017

G.I. JOE VS. THE TRANSFORMERS #4

Written by Josh Blaylock
Pencils by Mike S. Miller | Inks by Cory Hamscher & Armando Durruthy
Letters by Dreamer Design | Colors by Lynx Studio with HI FI Colour Design
Edits by Mark Powers

The Plot: The reactivated Autobots and Decepticons resume their civil war on Cobra Island. Cobra Commander frees Megatron from his gun mode, and the Decepticon leader challenges Optimus Prime.

Meanwhile, G.I. Joe, Wheeljack, and Bumblebee prepare to head for the island to join the fight, but Hawk is stopped by a pair of generals who order him to stand down so the U.S. can drop a nuclear bomb instead. Hawk is ordered to deactivate Bumblebee and Wheeljack and fly them Area 51 rather than Cobra Island. Hawk initially carries out his orders, shocking the two Transformers with a device provided by his superiors, but Wheeljack remains barely conscious and warns that the nuke would blow up all the energon Cobra has accumulated and plunge Earth into a nuclear winter.

Back on Cobra Island, Storm Shadow rescues Cobra Commander from Autobots Gears and Brawn, while the Baroness saves Destro and Zartan from Rumble. Meanwhile, at Megatron's command, Soundwave orders the Consructicons to spare Doctor Mindbender, and then tells them to protect the energy satellite control module.

At the Pentagon, a group of mysterious generals confers and learns that Hawk has defied orders and is flying G.I. Joe, Wheeljack, and Bumblebee to Cobra Island.

Monday, September 25, 2017

SPIDER-MAN NEWSPAPER STRIP PART 1

JANUARY 3rd, 1977 – FEBRUARY 27th, 1977
FEBRUARY 28th, 1977 – MAY 7th, 1977
By Stan Lee & John Romita

I read an interview some years ago with John Romita where he discussed the genesis of the SPIDER-MAN newspaper strip. It’s been a long time, but I seem to recall that Romita wanted the thing to be purely an adventure strip. He had grown up on the works of Milton Caniff and Hal Foster and imagined Spider-Man headlining a nonstop series of high adventure and cliffhangers. Stan Lee, on the other hand — at least per my recollection of Romita’s comments — wanted the series to read more like a soap opera strip in the vein of MARY WORTH.

Personally, I think either concept could fit Spider-Man. The character is, after all, the star of a monthly action-adventure comic book — but at the same time, the soap opera qualities of Peter Parker’s personal life were a major component of the series from the very beginning. And personally, at least as an adult, I’d be very happy with a Spider-Man comic strip that mostly revolved around Peter rather than his alter ego.


But in any case, the strip’s first story arc seems to go more in Romita’s direction over Lee’s. It’s more or less wall-to-wall action as our web-slinging wonder finds himself up against Doctor Doom. The idea to kick this strip off with Doom rather than an established Spider-foe is an interesting one, but it makes sense. More than, say, Doctor Octopus or the Green Goblin, Doom is (or at least was at this point) Marvel’s most recognizable villain.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

SPIDER-MAN: THE NEWSPAPER STRIPS

I bet you thought that with FLASH GORDON coming to an end last month, we were done with newspaper strips around here, didn't you? Well think again, true believers! As noted last September, I have the first two volumes of IDW's "Library of American Comics" reprints of the AMAZING SPIDER-MAN newspaper strip, covering strips from 1977 - 1981 by the all-star team of Stan Lee and John Romita, and the time has come to crack them open.


(This is the point where I go into a quick sidebar to note that, as I've probably mentioned before, Lee & Romita are the definitive Spider-Man team as far as I'm concerned. Others have done great work on the web-slinger, and I technically consider Roger Stern's AMAZING SPIDER-MAN run to be more of a favorite than the Lee/Romita stuff due to nostalgia, but if we're talking the most iconic version of the character, his supporting cast, and his status quo, then it's Lee/Romita all the way for me.)

When I was a youngster -- say, maybe seven or eight years old -- I had a book called THE BEST OF SPIDER-MAN, which reprinted a handful of story arcs from the earlier years of the Spidey strip. I very nearly read the cover off that thing, to the point that it became one of the most battered, dog-eared books I owned. In a way, it was more formative of my understanding of Spider-Man than the monthly comics, since I had never really been a regular ongoing reader at that point. So while I've read some of the stuff we're about to embark upon, it's been over thirty years now -- and really, the material covered by that beloved old paperback is only a fraction of what appears in the IDW collection.

Note that while there are a total of four volumes available at the moment, I'm only covering the first two -- the Lee/Romita stuff -- for now. Someday I'll probably check out the post-Romita material as well, but for the time being, all I'm interested in are the first four years. Like most strips, this one is broken into story arcs, and my plan is to look at two arcs per week. Unfortunately, unlike FLASH GORDON, I can't find a nice list of arc titles for the Spidey stuff, so I'll just use the strip dates as identifiers instead.

So get ready, because I expect this will take us through the end of the year.

Available on Amazon: Volume 1 | Volume 2
Also available: Volume 3 | Volume 4

Friday, September 22, 2017

G.I. JOE VS. THE TRANSFORMERS #3

Written by Josh Blaylock
Pencils by Mike S. Miller | Inks by Cory Hamscher & Armando Durruthy
Letters by Dreamer Design | Colors by Lynx Studio with HI FI Colour Design
Edits by Mark Powers

The Plot: Destro inspects Cobra's Transformers and prepares to take them out for a mission. Meanwhile, G.I. Joe makes plans to defend the control center for a prototype energy satellite from an attack Mercer has told them is imminent.

Soon, Destro, Zartan, and Firefly lead an assault with several Transformers as their weapons. The Joes surprise the invading Cobras and fight back, with Wheeljack and Bumblebee soon coming to their aid. But Zartan and Firefly manage to steal the stallite's control module and blow up the building. Cobra escapes, but G.I. Joe makes peace with Wheeljack and Bumblebee.

Wheeljack inspects a bizarre e-mail sent out to hundreds of accounts a few days earlier and realizes that it's Optimus Prime fighting back against Cobra's conditioning. Using Prime's code, Wheeljack sends a signal to Cobra Island which releases the Transformers from their enslaved states. As the Constructicons make trouble for Doctor Mindbender, Optimus Prime confronts Cobra Commander.

Continuity Notes: For some reason Flint and Lady Jaye still don't have their codenames like the rest of the Joes. Maybe they're still informal observers...?

Mutt and Quick Kick (and presumably Mutt's dog, Junkyard) are severely injured when Cobra destroys the satellite control center.

Duke receives some lines this issue in his capacity as G.I. Joe's field leader.

Monday, September 18, 2017

MARVEL FANFARE #13

”THE WIDOW… ALONE”
Script: Ralph Macchio | Pencils: George Pérez | Inks: John Beatty & Brett Breeding
Letters: Diana Albers | Colors: Ben Sean | Editing: Allen Milgrom
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: An unconscious Black Widow is taken to a mysterious island complex, where Snap Dragon brings her before her master, Damon Dran. Dran explains that he has replaced the Widow with a lookalike who Jimmy Woo is bringing back to the S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier. The false Widow will lead the helicarrier to Dran’s island and then assassinate Nick Fury on the bridge, escaping just before Dran’s cannons blow the ship out of the sky.

Widow is thrown into a dungeon but manages to escape. She bumps into her guardian, Ivan, brainwashed by Dran, and knocks him out. As she explores Dran’s complex, the Widow is attacked by Snap Dragon, but this time she defeats the assassin. Ivan regains some of his old memory and joins Widow in her mission.

The Widow calls the helicarrier and convinces those aboard that the Black Widow with them in an imposter. Fury shoots the false Widow and orders all weapons to open fire on Dran’s island. The island, filled with munitions, explodes, and the Black Widow and Ivan are found drifting in the sea by a S.H.I.E.L.D. aircraft.

Friday, September 15, 2017

G.I. JOE VS. THE TRANSFORMERS #2

Written by Josh Blaylock
Pencils by Mike S. Miller | Inks by Cory Hamscher & Armando Durruthy
Letters by Dreamer Design | Colors by Lynx Studio with HI FI Colour Design
Edits by Mark Powers

The Plot: While Cobra conducts tests on their Transformers, the newly formed G.I. Joe team discusses strategy. Elsewhere, two Autobots, Wheeljack and Bumblebee, have remained free of Cobra's control, and Wheeljack determines where the terrorist organization will likely strike next.

On Cobra Island, Doctor Mindbender has difficulty controlling Optimus Prime. Meanwhile, at NSA headquarters, an analyst named Mainframe is handed some important files. At G.I. Joe headquarters, Snake-Eyes demonstrates his skills to his teammates, but the sparring match is interrupted when Hawk, General Flagg, and Lady Jaye arrive with a Cobra defector named Mercer, who reveals that Cobra's "Battle Android Troopers" are actually sentient alien robots.

Destro arrives on Cobra Island and Mindbender demonstrates the Transformers' abilities to him, then reveals his newest accomplishment: Soundwave.

Continuity Notes: We learn this issue that Cobra needs energon to power their Transformers, and that Megatron, trapped in gun mode by Cobra Commander but allowed to retain his free will, has been helping them gather the ingredients.

The Joe team's ranks have swelled this issue, and they have a bunch of cool-looking vehicles in their headquarters. Among the more notable Joes seen are Scarlett, Doc, Roadblock, Rock N' Roll, Shipwreck, and Quick Kick. Duke is also name-checked (Sergeant Conrad Hauser) and glimpsed late in the issue with no dialogue.

Monday, September 11, 2017

MARVEL FANFARE #12

”THE WEB TIGHTENS!”
Scripter: Ralph Macchio | Penciler/Co-Plotter: George Pérez | Inker: Al Milgrom
Letterer: Jim Novak | Colorist: Bob Sharen | Editor: Al Milgrom
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Black Widow defeats all of the assassins except Iron Maiden, who escapes when S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Jimmy Woo bursts into the store. But Widow placed a tracking device on Iron Maiden, allowing her and Woo to follow the armored woman into the sewers. There, Black Widow and Woo defeat Iron Maiden, but both are quickly subdued by yet another assassin — the deadly Snap Dragon.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: Kono the Sumo Warrior, one of the assassins, is shot… in the face. By an automatic pistol. Mark Gruenwald would later use him as a villain in the pages of CAPTAIN AMERICA with no explanation as to how he survived being shot… in the face. With an automatic pistol. The kicker: this story’s writer, Ralph Macchio, was editor on those CAP issues!

(There will be more of this next issue, which I’ll cover when we get there.)

Friday, September 8, 2017

G.I. JOE VS. THE TRANSFORMERS #1

Written by Josh Blaylock
Pencils by Mike S. Miller | Inks by Cory Hamscher & Armando Durruthy
Letters by Dreamer Design | Colors by Lynx Studio with HI FI Colour Design
Edits by Mark Powers

The Plot: A clandestine terrorist army called Cobra discovers a crashed spaceship on Earth filled with giant deactivated robots. Some time later, a group of American commandos is dispatched to guard a peace conference when Cobra attacks. Their vehicles are revealed as shapeshifting robots, and while the attack results in minimal casualties, a commando nicknamed Snake-Eyes is maimed. Cobra departs, having delivered a message to the world.

Later, one General Flagg meets with the commandos' leader, Colonel Clayton Abernathy, and with two advisors, Alison Hart-Burnett and Dashiell Faireborn. Together, the quartet makes plans to create an elite military anti-Cobra unit named G.I. Joe under Abernathy's command.

Continuity Notes: We're told that Snake-Eyes is a real chatterbox, but he gets blown up before he has a chance to speak.

G1 References: A number of Transformers from the first two years of the original toyline are glimpsed, deactivated, aboard the spaceship in the opening pages, including (but not limited to) Cosmos, Cliffjumper, Starscream, Jazz, and Megatron. The fact that all these character are aboard ship together seems to indicate that this continuity follows the established G1 backstory, at least up to this point.

Unlike most of his contemporaries (described below), Megatron's alternate mode on Earth is the same as it was in Generation One: a pistol.

Monday, September 4, 2017

MARVEL FANFARE #11

”BACK IN THE U.S.S.R.”
Scripter/Co-Plotters/Penciler: Ralph Macchio & George Pérez
Inkers: Joe Sinnott & Jack Abel (credited as “J.J. Sinabel”)
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski | Colorist: Ben Sean | Editor: Al Milgrom
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Black Widow eludes security forces on the grounds of a Russian mansion, then after making her escape, recalls the chain of events that led to that situation: She arrived in Russia weeks earlier undercover as a defecting American scientist in order to help with the project Ivan was working on for the Soviets. But, unknown to her, the KGB was aware of her identity and fed her information until she made her move to free Ivan, at which point they sprang their trap.

Following the lead of a distinctive dagger used by one of the KGB agents she fought, the Widow travels to Hong Kong — but as she investigates the dagger’s origin, she is attacked by six assassins who take her out quickly and prepare to finish her off.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: A note on the first page tells that this story takes place before the Widow cut her hair and got a new costume in the pages of DAREDEVIL. As a matter of fact, her new look debuted over a year prior to this issue (but one month less than a year before the prior installment) in DAREDEVIL #187 from October of 1982.

S.H.I.E.L.D. is identified per its usual nomenclature of this era, the Supreme Headquarters, International Espionage Law-Enforcement Division.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

TRANSFORMERS BY DEVIL'S DUE

The past few years beginning in September, I've looked at various smaller/shorter Transformers comic book runs from a couple of publishers. In 2013 and 2014 I covered IDW's TRANSFORMERS: REGENERATION ONE, and in 2015 and 2016 it was Dreamwave's brief time with the Transformers license. This year, my time with the Transformers comes to an end as we look at one last publisher's finite take on the Robots in Disguise.

In 2001, the tip of the spear in eighties nostalgia hit the comic book industry as Devil's Due Press, then an imprint of Image comics, acquired the license to G.I. Joe and launched a new comic book series starring the Real American Hero. Two years later, riding the success of their ongoing JOE comic, Devil's Due negotiated a limited license to team up the Joes with the Transformers. The series was successful enough to spawn three sequels in 2004, 2006, and 2007. I own all of these series, and I seem to recall mostly liking them at the time, so here we go again: for the rest of the year, I'll be looking at Devil's Due's G.I. JOE/TRANSFORMERS comics an issue at a time.

A couple notes: at some point over the past decade, I misplaced my copies of these issues, but since I really wanted to cover this stuff, I went ahead and purchased the digital collected editions in an IDW sale last year (IDW now having the reprint rights since they picked up the full G.I. Joe license several years ago). But the IDW reprints naturally omit the Devil's Due logo and trade dress from the issues' covers -- and since I like to use covers here which fairly closely resemble what was originally published, I've had to furiously Google in search of the original versions. What I've wound up with are scans of varying quality, some quite nice and others of extremely low resolution and/or quality. But know that any substandard covers you see over the next several weeks are the best I could locate!

Also, speaking of those IDW digital collections, the publisher should be pretty embarrassed by what they've put out. Maybe Devil's Due still owns the original digital files or something, but IDW could've invested a bit more in clean-up of what they're distributing. These look like scans of the original issues. Were I so inclined, I could've just pirated this stuff and gotten the same quality. I'm curious whether the physical trades look this bad too.

Lastly, as noted above, this is likely my last autumn go-round with the Transformers. Between REGENERATION ONE, Dreamwave, and now Devil's Due, I will have covered pretty much all the "micro" continuities that interest me. So next fall, whatever I cover will not be related to my favorite Robots in Diguise (though I may try to keep it somewhat sci-fi and/or toy related if I can). Don't say you weren't warned!

Friday, September 1, 2017

RED ONE, VOLUME 2

"UNDERCOVER"
Created by Xavier Dorison & Terry Dodson
Script: Xavier Dorison with the collaboration of Antoine Cristau
Pencils & Colors: Terry Dodson | Inks: Rachel Dodson | Letters: Clayton Cowles

Here we go again. I wrote about RED ONE volume 1 last March, and despite Terry Dodson's beautiful artwork, I wasn't terribly impressed with the story. But these volumes are so cheap that I decided to give the series one more chance to impress me. Did it? Let's find out...

When last we left our Soviet heroine, Vera Yelnikov, she was in battle with the Carpenter, a masked agent of a sinister American fundamentalist named Jacky Core, in Los Angeles. Vera rescues the Carpenter's target, a pregnant lesbian named Judith, and even apparently kills the Carpenter by running his truck off the road and into the water.

From there we begin to learn a few things that -- at least to my year-plus-old recollection -- were either unclear or glossed over in the prior volume: namely, gubernatorial candidate Jacky is a pastor who entertains her flock by showing them a post-World War II fundamentalist film called THE FARM, and that Vera's American employer, porn producer Lew Garner, is working on a salacious remake of THE FARM, called SEX FARM, which he believes will (somehow) ruin Jacky's reputation and cost her the election.

This is a weird book. It's really kind of obvious that it's written by someone born and raised overseas, because his grasp of how things work in the United States is tenuous. Early on, when Vera rushes Judith into a hospital, she's told bluntly that it's a private institution and the doctors will do nothing for the beaten and dying woman. Yeah, we have privatized healthcare in the U.S., and yeah, the bills for the sort of treatment Judith needs would probably sink her into crippling debt... but find me a hospital anywhere in this country that would simply and coldly turn away a mortally injured pregnant woman. You can't. Neither now, nor in 1977, and especially not in Los Angeles, has such a place ever existed.

Monday, August 28, 2017

MARVEL FANFARE #10

”WIDOW”
Wealthy Writer: Ralph Macchio | Co-Plottin’ Penciler: George Pérez
Invincible Inker: Brett Breeding | Additional Pencils: Bob Layton & Luke McDonnell
Laid-Back Letterer: Tom Orzechowski | Careful Colorist: Petra Scotese
Amiable Editor: Al Milgrom | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Nick Fury attends a S.H.I.E.L.D. meeting while the Black Widow is assaulted in her Waldorf Towers penthouse. As Fury recaps the Widow’s origin, she fights off her attackers. Eventually she barges into the meeting and demands to know why S.H.I.E.L.D. agents attacked her. Fury reluctantly informs her that S.H.I.E.L.D. has picked her for a mission to travel to Russia and bring back her one-time ally, Ivan Petrovich.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: The S.H.I.E.L.D. meeting is presided over by Sam Sawyer, Fury’s former C.O. during World War II. Fury notes that, although he is the director of S.H.I.E.L.D., Sawyer has final say on the Petrovich operation, and has chosen Black Widow for it against Fury’s wishes.

The Black Widow’s S.H.I.E.L.D. serial number is 27684-R, she stands 5’9”, and has auburn hair and green eyes, per a display during the meeting. All other information is obscured.

Before she’s aware of who sent her attackers, the Widow sure appears to kill one of them (an assessment Ralph Macchio agrees with in the introduction to the WEB OF INTRIGUE hardcover collection of this story). Considering they’re S.H.I.E.L.D. agents sent to test her by Sawyer, I wonder what Colonel Fury has to say about this?

Sunday, August 27, 2017

BLACK WIDOW: WEB OF INTRIGUE

Remember when we were reading those Frank Miller DAREDEVIL issues and Black Widow ducked out of the storyline pretty early on? And then she returned some time later with a haircut, working for SHIELD? Have you been wondering what she was up to in the meantime? No? Well, we're about to find out anyway.

In 1983, after Miller's DAREDEVIL came to an end with Black Widow in her new look, Marvel published a four-part serial in MARVEL FANFARE showcasing her in a solo adventure set prior to those Miller stories. (We'll get into how and why this might have happened in the ensuing weeks.) I believe I first encountered this story when Marvel published it in a comic book one-shot to coincide with the initial Marvel Knights BLACK WIDOW mini-series circa 1999. Written by Ralph Macchio and drawn by George Pérez, it featured the Widow cast in more of a superspy, rather than a superhero, role, and I really liked it.

More recently, Marvel collected the mini-series, along with a graphic novel from some years later by Gerry Conway and George Freeman, in a hardcover called WEB OF INTRIGUE (conveniently reprinted this past January in paperback format as well). We won't look at the graphic novel, but for the next four weeks, I'll be using my copy of WEB OF INTRIGUE to examine the Macchio/Pérez story issue by issue. I recall liking it back when I was in college; will those positive recollections hold up? Let's find out, beginning tomorrow!

Available on Amazon: Hardcover | Paperback | Digital

Friday, August 25, 2017

BARBARELLA

Writer & Artist: Jean-Claude Forest
English Language Adaptation: Kelly Sue Deconnick | U.S. Edition Editor: Alex Donoghue

I'm not sure what I just read.

I mean, I understand in general, but...

Okay, let's see. I had known of BARBARELLA for years as some kind of campy sci-fi movie from the sixties starring Jane Fonda in a fur bikini. I think I later learned it was based on the work of a French cartoonist. I never saw the movie, but I always thought the comic might be fun to check out someday. Eventually, last year around the time I began to get into digital comics with that big IDW sale I mentioned a while back, I saw a bargain-priced digital edition of BARBARELLA and picked it up. I just read it over the past couple days, and like I said...

I'm not sure what I just read.

BARBARELLA is indeed a sci-fi story, about young woman who keeps getting into all sorts of random predicaments. We begin the story en media res as her spaceship crashes on a planet called Lythion. Barbarella gets involved in a war between the locals and eventually brings about peace between the two warring factions.

Soon after, she hitches a ride on a cargo ship with a captain named (seriously) Dildano and encounters the legendary Medusa under the sea on another planet. This segues into a new adventure as Barbarella and Dildano continue to explore their strange new world. Barbarella finds herself once more drawn into a conflict between two local powers. She infiltrates the home of a sinister hunter named Strickno, dons her famous fur bikini, and gets him killed by one of his own animals.

Monday, August 21, 2017

DAREDEVIL #191

"ROULETTE”
Writer/Penciler : Frank Miller | Inker : Terry Austin
Colorist: Lynn Varley | Letterer: Joe Rosen | Editor: Denny O’Neil

The Plot: Daredevil visits Bullseye in the hospital and plays a round of Russian Roulette with him while his inner monolgooue reflects on a boy who recently shot a schoolmate after seeing DD beat up his father, and on his own father as well.

In the end, DD reveals that there are no bullets in the gun.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: For the most part there are none. This is the final issue of Frank Miller’s DAREDEVIL run and is a stand-alone installment. However we do learn that Matt’s dad once hit him after he got into a fight with some classmates.

However, way back when I covered issue 169, Miller's second issue as writer, I noted that he had provided a nice monologue from Daredevil on why, no matter how bad things got, he could never actually kill Bullseye. This issue gives us a very nice bookend to that speech as we see that, sure enough, even at his darkest, Daredevil will hew to his beliefs and Bullseye will live.

My Thoughts: So Matt’s dad once hit him while in a drunken stupor. Because heaven forbid our hero’s idolization of his father be completely earnest. There just has to be some kind of darkness under the surface, doesn’t there? Miller tries to sell this as the moment Matt decided he would become a lawyer, when he recognized that his father had lost control and that laws exist to punish people for doing such things — but why? Isn’t it just possible that a guy could become an attorney and a superhero simply because he was instilled with good values by a father he looked up to? Isn’t that enough?

Apparently not.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

FOUR YEARS

It's that time again: four years and four days ago I made my very first post here, and it's time to acknowledge that anniversary with a quick summary of where things stand at the moment.

My schedule isn't quite what it normally is at this time of year, unfortunately. Way back in December, when I took the month off to spend time with our new baby, I managed to read Frank Miller's entire DAREDEVIL run and compose posts for all of it! It was the biggest cushion for Monday posts that I've ever managed to give myself. Tomorrow the final post goes up, and I've barely even started work on what comes next. This baby has sapped a lot of my quiet evening reading time, and it took me about six months just to read three FLASH GORDON collections! But I'm not too concerned; I think I'll be back on track soon enough. At the very least, I still have Fridays lined up for a while. We just finished Flash's adventures on Friday, and after dallying for the next two weeks on smaller "one-shot" posts, we'll head into this fall's TRANSFORMERS stuff, which is coming along nicely.

And that's a nice segue into a "behind the scenes" sidebar, providing a look at how and where I find time for all these posts. I have two prime reading times during my day: my lunch break at work and in the evening after the baby is asleep. I don't usually bring books to work with me, so that's when I read a lot of the digital stuff I post about. I'll whip out the iPad, read an issue or two, then compose a quick post all in the span of my lunch hour. Then the post gets refined whenever I can find time, usually at night or in the morning.

The evenings are when I read the actual physical books: the Omnibuses, comic strip collections, etc. I try to find an hour, during which I'll read an issue (or a segment of the book or whatever), then type up a post. The only catch there is, as noted, our baby is not very good at sleeping yet, so for several months, my evening hour was often interrupted or never happened at all. Only recently have we finally hit on a routine that seems to work, and things are shaping up so I may soon be able to get comfortably ahead of schedule again.

Lastly, the stats: The X-MEN COLLECTED EDITIONS chart still has the most all-time hits by a mile; I don't think that's ever likely to change. Behind it with about a third as many hits is still my review of the INFINITY GAUNTLET OMNIBUS. That'll probably only increase as next year's INFINITY WAR movie gets closer. And more or less tied for third place are some newcomers to these standings: the CAPTAIN BRITAIN reviews and the IRON MAN by Michelinie & Layton reviews.

And those who dare to come here via Google use variations on the blog's name as the most popular search term, followed still by searches for information on the INFINITY GAUNTLET OMNIBUS, and, unexpectedly, searches for NEW TEEN TITANS reviews.

So to sum up: Mondays are kind of by the seat of my pants right now, but Fridays are looking good. And of course Sundays will continue to see The Unboxing once a month. I have much less time for the other sorts of posts I used to squeeze in on weekends, but I'm sure some will pop up now and then.

Friday, August 18, 2017

FLASH GORDON PART 10

“TRIUMPH IN TROPICA”
by Alex Raymond & Don Moore

And now we reach the finale of Alex Raymond’s ten-year run on FLASH GORDON. When last we left our heroes, Flash and Dale had made their way into Tropica’s capitol with the assistance of an elderly woman named Tartara and her perennially shell-shocked son, Timor.

Timor quickly turns coward and tries to hand Flash and Dale over to King Brazor’s secret police, but our heroes escape with the assistance of a criminal named Trico. Trico introduces Flash to the Underground, a resistance group working against Brazor. Flash quickly assumes command of the Underground. Meanwhile, Brazor plots Desira’s execution. Flash and Trico work to rescue her, even as news from the front lines comes in: the army of Gundar, which had lain siege to the capitol, has been wiped out.


Amid all this, a female member of the Underground, Gypsa — a beautiful dancer — has made clear her lust for Flash. But, in a surprising twist, there’s no zany misunderstanding on anyone’s part. Flash shuts Gypsa down, Dale retains control of her emotions, and Gypsa — after a brief flash of anger — takes it all in stride, continuing to assist Flash in his mission. It’s all quite refreshing.

Monday, August 14, 2017

DAREDEVIL #190

"RESURRECTION”
Writer/Storyteller: Frank Miller | Penciler/Inker/Colorist: Klaus Janson
Letters: Joe Rosen | Editor: Denny O’Neil | Supervisor : Jim Shooter

The Plot: Daredevil, Black Widow, and Stone fight the Hand at a cemetery, but are unable to stop the ninjas from stealing Elektra’s corpse. Meanwhile, the Kingpin fends off an assassin sent by one of his underlings, Injun Joe. Daredevil visits the Kingpin for help in finding the Hand, and Kingpin asks DD to take out Injun Joe instead. Daredevil does so and is rewarded with the Hand’s location.

Daredevil, Black Widow, and Stone confront the Hand in an abandoned church as they attempt to resurrect Elektra. DD senses a heartbeat and attempts to use mystical arts to resurrect her, as he saw Stone do to Black Widow, but he fails. The Kingpin’s men burst into the burning church and finish off the Hand. Daredevil and Black Widow go outside, leaving Stone to finish Elektra. But before he can do the deed, he senses DD managed to purify her with his attempt to bring her back to life.

Daredevil and Black Widow enter the church once more to find Stone and Elektra’s body gone, with only Stone’s gi left behind. Later, Elektra scales a cliff in the snow, reborn thanks to Daredevil and Stone.

Friday, August 11, 2017

FLASH GORDON PART 9

“JUNGLES OF MONGO” | “FIERY DESERT OF MONGO” | “BATTLE FOR TROPICA”
by Alex Raymond & Don Moore

“Jungles of Mongo” is a relatively short arc compared with Flash’s other recent adventures. It picks up, naturally, directly where “Queen Desira” left off, with Flash, Dale, Zarkov, and Desira having escaped Prince Brazor’s castle into the jungle of Desira’s kingdom. They fight off wild animals and make their way through a bizarre underground cavern where gravity is flipped in reverse, before finding an outpost of Desira’s army. There, they’re nearly turned over to Brazor, who has convinced Desira’s subjects that she died and that anyone claiming to be her is an imposter, but manage an escape into the “Fiery Desert of Mongo”.

This story arc opens with Flash and company fighting against nature in Mongo’s harshest locale yet. The desert presents a dragon, a lava river, and even a “waterfall” of fire as obstacles for the group. Eventually, low on water and supplies, their mounts dead from heat and exhaustion, things look bad for our heroes — until they’re found by a bandit king named Gundar.


This leads into yet another pastiche for Raymond to explore. It’s not quite as overt as some of the previous ones, but the castle inhabited by Gundar and his men carries a sort of “Arabian Knights” vibe. Gundar proves to be an honorable villain as, even while openly planning to turn Flash and Desira over to Brazor, he has the prisoners looked after by his personal physician, fed, and quartered in some very nice guest rooms.

Monday, August 7, 2017

DAREDEVIL #189

"SIEGE”
Writer/Storyteller: Frank Miller | Penciler/Inker/Colorist: Klaus Janson
Letters: Joe Rosen | Editor: Denny O’Neil | Supervisor : Jim Shooter

The Plot: Stone uses his ninja abilities to restore Black Widow’s health. The Hand attack Matt’s brownstone, outmatching the combined forces of Daredevil, Black Widow, Stick, Stone, Claw, and Shaft. Claw is killed during the fight, then Stick and Shaft sacrifice their lives to drain the Hand’s life forces, defeating them.

Stone meditates to determine the Hand’s next move, while Daredevil and Black Widow split up to search for the ninjas. Eventually they return to Matt’s home empty-handed, and Stone reveals that he believes the Hand will attempt to resurrect Elektra to replace the late Kirigi as their ultimate warrior.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: It's revealed that, rather than being his peers as the previous issue made it seem, Claw, Stone, and Shaft are Stick’s protégés.

Heather shows up at Matt's apartment, drunk and submissive. Later, Black Widow visits Foggy (clarifying that apparently the superheroine/superspy publicly dated Matt Murdock while she was Daredevil’s partner) and a Foggy tells her what Matt did to force Heather into marrying him. The pair decide that breaking up Matt and Heather would be best for both, so the Widow forges notes from one to the other facilitating this.

Friday, August 4, 2017

FLASH GORDON PART 8

“RETURN TO EARTH” | “QUEEN DESIRA”
by Alex Raymond & Don Moore

At the end of “The Fall of Ming”, Zarkov picked up signals from Earth and learned that the planet was in the throes of a new World War (though it’s not the World War II that was raging when Alex Raymond crafted these stories; rather it’s a fictionalized war against something called the Red Sword). Seeing his homeworld in danger, Flash had Zarkov and the scientists of Mongo build a ship to take him home, and he, Dale, and Zarkov boarded the craft with advanced Mongo weaponry to aid in the good fight.


“Return to Earth” opens as our heroes splash down in the Atlantic Ocean, where they’re picked up by an American ship and brought back to Washington. Though the government has doubts about their stories of Mongo, our heroes are turned over to an old colleague of Doctor Zarkov, named Grubich, for care.

For the first time, a fairly large plot hole emerges in the otherwise mostly cohesive FLASH GORDON narrative. Though there have been minor hiccups here and there, nothing has been as overt as this: when the strip debuted in 1934, Earth was in a panic because the planet Mongo was hurtling toward it. Zarkov was a world-renowned scientist who developed a rocket he believed could move the incoming planet off course. As we know, Zarkov was successful -- but the rocket crash-landed on Mongo instead, marooning Zarkov, Flash, and Dale there for quite some time.

Now, as we return to Earth, it seems the world has forgotten Mongo ever existed. Besides that, the government appears to have no idea who Zarkov is despite his earlier fame. Plus, as we’ll soon learn in the subsequent story arc, Mongo is apparently nowhere near Earth, and it’s quite a long journey to get back there!

Monday, July 31, 2017

DAREDEVIL #188

"THE WIDOW’S BITE”
Writer/Storyteller: Frank Miller | Penciler/Inker/Colorist: Klaus Janson
Letters: Joe Rosen | Editor: Denny O’Neil | Supervisor : Jim Shooter

The Plot: Black Widow fights her way out of S.H.I.E.L.D. medical custody and goes in search of Daredevil, but doesn't find him at either his brownstone or Heather’s apartment. Meanwhile, Stick speaks with Matt, who is in a sensory deprivation tank hidden in his basement, while Kirigi is given an assignment to kill Stick.

Widow is also unable to locate Matt at his office and continues her search. As Matt and Stick continue their conversation, Black Widow enters the Kingpin’s office but he, too, is unaware of where Daredevil could be. As the Widow fights Kingpin’s goons, he notices that she appears to be dissolving somehow.

Meanwhile, Kirigi enters Matt’s basement but he is defeated by Stick and his associates, Shaft, Claw, and Stone. As Matt emerges from the sensory deprivation tank, Black Widow arrives and collapses.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: Black Widow visits with her friend and father figure, Ivan, before setting out on her quest. She notes that “…he's been through a lot lately,” but there's no footnote explaining the comment.

(However, stay tuned to this very site and we'll find out what she means in another month or so!)

Sunday, July 30, 2017

THE UNBOXING - JULY 2017

The Spider-Man party continues this month with AMAZING SPIDER-MAN EPIC COLLECTION: KRAVEN'S LAST HUNT from Marvel. This book includes a notable chunk of Spidey stuff from the eighties, from the unmasking of the Hobgoblin to the SPIDER-MAN VS. WOLVERINE one-shot to wedding of Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson to the eponymous storyline featuring Kraven the Hunter. I have mixed feelings about this era. Partly it's due to a lot of substandard artwork, but more than that, the stories often feel too dark for Spider-Man -- especially SPIDER-MAN/WOLVERINE and "Kraven's Last Hunt". But still, if I collect every installment of no other Epic Collection line, I will collect all of Spider-Man because -- it's Spider-Man!

In addition, this month Marvel also brings the DEADLY HANDS OF KUNG FU OMNIBUS volume 2, a black-and-white volume completing Marvel's collection of the magazine series that starred, among others, Shang-Chi, Iron Fist, and the Sons of the Tiger. As I mentioned when volume 1 was released, I've had a weird love of the Sons for many years without having read any of their actual adventures, and I'm pleased to finally rectify that. (That is to say, I'm rectifying my not having read the issues, not my love of the characters! That will endure even if I don't enjoy the stories.)


Lastly, I would be remiss if I didn't mention that Amazon has a "ghost" listing up for the 2018 release of the MASTER OF KUNG FU EPIC COLLECTION volume 1. I had previously speculated, based on statements from Marvel collected edition editors, that the Omnibuses might be the only way to get this material. I'm glad to see that's not the case; in addition to the fancy hardcovers, MASTER OF KUNG FU will also be available in a nice paperback format as well.

Friday, July 28, 2017

FLASH GORDON PART 7

“POWER MEN OF MONGO” | “FALL OF MING”
by Alex Raymond & Don Moore

Following a year’s worth of strips set in Mongo’s frozen northlands, Alex Raymond returns Flash and Doctor Zarkov to more familiar surroundings as they join up with the surviving members of Flash’s Freemen (a group which hadn’t been seen in well over a year at this point!) and head into Mingo City with plans to rescue Dale.


Interestingly, Frigia was left in sort of a state of flux by these developments. A love triangle had popped up between Flash, Dale, and Queen Fria, but Dale was soon kidnapped and Flash set out immediately to rescue her. Typically when Raymond has moved Flash from one locale to another, he’s wrapped up loose ends before doing so. Running things this way, leaving us uncertain as to whatever happened with Fria following Flash’s departure, is an unusual way to go, but is also probably more realistic than Flash tying everything up with a bow everywhere he stops.

At any rate, Flash has moved on from Frigia’s politics and so will we. Following a botched attempt to rescue Dale, Flash and Zarkov meet up with the “Power Men” who operate Mingo’s electrical systems and who promptly join up with Flash in his rebellion. Operating out of the Power Men’s underground electrical works, Flash and Zarkov succeed at their second attempt to save Dale from Ming, and we even get to see Zarkov join in the action as he rescues Flash and Dale, unconscious, from Ming’s forces at one point.

Monday, July 24, 2017

DAREDEVIL #187

"OVERKILL”
Writer/Storyteller: Frank Miller | Penciler/Inker/Colorist: Klaus Janson
Letters: Joe Rosen | Editor: Denny O’Neil | Supervisor : Jim Shooter

The Plot: While Daredevil deals with his increasingly erratic hypersenses, the Black Widow fights a contingent of Hand ninjas in the New York City Morgue, but they escape with a corpse. Meanwhile, Daredevil begins a search for Stick in order to get help managing his senses. But the Hand find Stick first and attack him, though he manages to fight them off.

Daredevil is assaulted by a group of thugs looking to take advantage of his weakened state, but a cab driver rescues him and chauffeurs him to Josie’s. There, he learns Stick failed to show up for a pool game. Finally, DD staggers home to find Stick and three shadowy men conferring inside his brownstone.

Elsewhere, the Hand ninjas return to their lair with the corpse they recovered, and perform a ceremony to bring it back to life. The process is a success and Kirigi lives once more.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: After two issues featuring a new corner box (which seems to show Daredevil stumbling like he just tripped over the ottoman), this issue returns to the old one. The stumbly corner box will be back next month.

Friday, July 21, 2017

FLASH GORDON PART 6

“THE TYRANT OF MONGO” | “ICE KINGDOM OF MONGO”
by Alex Raymond & Don Moore

“The Tyrant of Mongo” is less a single story arc than a bundle of smaller plots joined together by the overarching theme of Ming as Flash’s main antagonist. Though Ming has obviously always been involved in the ongoing saga, and even encountered Flash face-to-face multiple times, and although he has waged war against Flash’s kingdom, of Kira, deposing our hero and sending him into hiding, this may be the first time Ming brings his full hatred to bear on our hero in a nonstop series of conflicts.

Having been expelled from their underground catacombs by Ming’s floodwaters, Flash, Dale, Zarkov, Sonja, and a few of the freemen wander ashore on an island which houses the tombs of Mongo’s nobility. They befriend the cryptkeeper and soon begin waging a guerilla war against Mingo City from their new secret base. Flash leads a raid to sink several of Ming’s “rocket submarines” while they’re sitting in port, but hijacks one such craft for himself after winning its crew over to the cause of the freemen.


Subsequently, Ming makes a trip to the island to inter his uncle (who Ming himself has had executed for plotting against him). The Freemen attack, leading to one of the most iconic scenes in all of FLASH GORDON lore (so iconic that even I, who knew essentially nothing about Flash coming into this series, was aware of it): Flash faces Ming in a saber duel. Ming is ultimately captured and his forces driven off, and Raymond and Moore continue to deepen their characterization of Mongo and its people, as we meet an honorable commander in Ming’s army, Lin-Chu, who parlays with Flash and even considers him a worthy foe.

Monday, July 17, 2017

DAREDEVIL #186

"STILTS”
Scripter/Storyteller: Frank Miller | Penciler/Inker/Colorist: Klaus Janson
Letters: Joe Rosen | Editor: Denny O’Neil | Supervisor : Jim Shooter

The Plot: Daredevil shows up at Glenn Industries during a board meeting to inform Heather and the board that evidence is en route to the assistant district attorney which will shut the company down. But after he and Heather have both departed, the board’s chairman, Mr. Spindle, reveals that he's hired Stilt Man to deal with the ADA. However Stilt Man loses one of his gloves while counting Spindle’s payment, and goes to Melvin Potter’s costume shop for a new one, where he's noticed by Turk, who tails him home.

Meanwhile, Matt Murdock prepares evidence of Glenn Industries’ wrongdoings, then, as Daredevil, drops it off with ADA Maxine Lavender. Elsewhere, Turk knocks out Stilt Man and take his battlesuit, then offers his services to the Kingpin. When Kingpin turns him away, Turk decides to fulfill Stilt Man’s mission and kidnap the ADA.

While dropping off further evidence with the police, Daredevil finds Stilt Man’s alter ego, Wilbur Day, reporting the theft of his armor. Soon, when Turk kidnaps Lavender, DD shows up to save her and easily defeat the new Stilt Man.

In the aftermath of Matt's legal assault on Glenn Industries, he tells Heather that they will need to prepare her defense. Believing this has all been a ploy to leave her with no choice but to marry him, Heather accepts Matt’s proposal.

Friday, July 14, 2017

FLASH GORDON PART 5

“OUTLAWS OF MONGO”
by Alex Raymond & Don Moore

When last we left Flash Gordon and friends, the villainous Grombo had escaped from Barin’s forest kingdom despite our heroes’ best efforts. As the “Outlaws of Mongo” story arc opens, Grombo is found in the neighboring desert land by some of Ming’s people — and Alex Raymond continues to play with various pastiches by presented Ming’s desert warriors as, essentially, Foreign Legionnaires.


Grombo brings word that Flash, missing in action since Ming conquered his cave kingdom, is still alive and living in Barin’s castle. When Ming gets wind of this, he demands Barin turn Flash and Dale over to him, but Barin refuses. Flash, realizing Ming won’t rest until he’s captured, leaves Barin’s kingdom under cover of night, and when Ming calls Barin again, the prince declares that he honestly does not know where Flash is.

But Flash’s mistake was in leaving Dale behind. Ming quickly changes gears and demands her instead, planning to use her as bait to capture Flash. When Barin refuses this request as well, Ming declares war on the treetop kingdom. Flash, in the desert, sees Ming’s forces marching on Barin and does his best to stop them, but in the end he’s captured. Ming calls off his invasion of Barin’s realm as Flash is brought before him and sentenced to death.

Monday, July 10, 2017

DAREDEVIL #185

"GUTS”
Scripter/Storyteller: Frank Miller | Penciler/Inker/Colorist: Klaus Janson
Letters: Joe Rosen | Editor: Denny O’Neil | Supervisor : Jim Shooter

The Plot: Heather comes to Foggy for help in getting to the bottom of her company’s apparent illicit dealings. They go together to Glenn Industries but are informed that Heather’s signature is already on all the paperwork, so if anything untoward is going on, she’s complicit. Foggy sends Heather home so he can pursue further action, unaware he's being followed by Daredevil.

Eventually Foggy’s path leads him to the Kingpin, who has purchased explosives from Glenn Industries to use in a waterfront heist. While Foggy verbally spars with the Kingpin, Daredevil thwarts the Kingpin’s operation and then warns the crime boss not to mess with “Guts” Nelson.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: “Guts” was apparently Foggy’s fraternity nickname, which he has adopted as a street name for the duration of this tale.

During his adventures, Foggy crosses paths with Eric Slaughter and Turk, with the latter accompanying him for the remainder of the story until Foggy ditches him by putting him on a plane to Chicago. The Kingpin’s right-hand man, Flint, also pops up.

Friday, July 7, 2017

FLASH GORDON PART 4

“FOREST KINGDOM OF MONGO” | “TUSK-MEN OF MONGO” | “BEAST MEN OF MONGO”
by Alex Raymond & Don Moore

One of the things I like about these FLASH GORDON strips — and I’m certain something Alex Raymond probably enjoyed as well — is that the setting of Mongo allows Raymond to send our heroes off into all manner of different locales and environments. We’ve seen Ming’s city, a tribute to the splendor of ancient Rome, while Ming and his people clearly draw inspiration from “the mysterious Orient”. There was the futuristic city of Hawkmen as well, not to mention the caverns of Flash’s short-lived kingdom of Kira. Now we move into King Barin’s forest kingdom, which actually comes across more like a jungle and allows Raymond to cast Flash as a Tarzan stand-in for several weeks.

I suppose some could call this a cheat — Raymond has decided his strip will feature the best of all worlds and so, rather than doing something in the vein of PRINCE VALIANT and being stuck forever in the middle ages, he can venture into that genre for a while, then within a couple weeks dip his toe into science fiction instead. Personally, I just think it’s a canny move on Raymond’s part: by setting his story on a world where all these genres exist side-by-side in a huge mash-up, he’s ensured that he’ll never get bored with his premise since his premise can be literally whatever he wants it to be from story arc to story arc!

So: following their escape from Ming in the previous arc, Flash, Dale, and Zarkov are shot down by the warlord’s air force while en route to Barin’s kingdom. They brave the wilds, but Zarkov is set upon by a group of rabid squirlons and descends into madness even as Ming’s forces firebomb the area where our heroes’ ship crashed. The end result is that Zarkov staggers away, rambling, under the impression that Flash and Dale are dead. Eventually he runs across a group of Barin’s men, out searching for the group, and tells them exactly that.

Monday, July 3, 2017

DAREDEVIL #184

"GOOD GUYS WEAR RED!”
Story & Art : Frank Miller | Finished Art & Colors: Klaus Janson
Letters: Joe Rosen | Editor: Denny O’Neil | Supervisor : Jim Shooter

The Plot: Daredevil stops the Punisher from assassinating Hogman, then, the next day while defending Hogman in court as Matt Murdock, he runs a bluff which leads to a phone call from Coach Donahue of the local high school. The coach requests a meeting in the school gym, but when Matt shows up, Donahue is high on angel dust and attacks him. Matt subdues Donahue and considers that, although he is Hogman’s dealer to the school’s students, he doesn't seem like a user.

Meanwhile, Hogman kills a witness who saw him shoot his partner, Flapper. The next day, Hogman is acquitted of Flapper’s murder and he subsequently gloats over his guilt to Matt. Soon, Daredevil confronts Hogman and learns he has a pacemaker which kept his heartbeat even when he initially proclaimed his innocence, thus fooling DD's hypersenses.

That night, young Billy calls Hogman and requests a meeting. The boy prepares to shoot Hogman, but the Punisher intervenes. He takes out Hogman’s bodyguard and wings Hogman, but Daredevil arrives and stops him from killing the drug lord. DD shoots the Punisher with Billy’s gun and convinces Billy to let Hogman live. Soon, Hogman is indicted for the other murders on his hands, but Billy remains unconvinced justice will prevail.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: The Glenn Industries board of directors continues to manipulate Heather — or so they believe. But she investigates some of their activities and learns her company is in business with a manufacturer of plastic explosives for some unknown reason.

Friday, June 30, 2017

FLASH GORDON PART 3

“AT WAR WITH MING” | “UNDERSEA KINGDOM OF MONGO”
by Alex Raymond & Don Moore

Following from the prior story arc, which saw Flash finally installed as King of the cavern land of Kira, Flash receives a note from Ming in which the emperor says he doesn’t believe Flash won over Queen Azura, and the despot will not recognize Flash as ruler of Kira until he executes her. Flash, being a careful, level-headed ruler, immediately declares war on Ming for this outrage.

…Look, I know this is an action/adventure serial, and as such, there should be some form of action and/or adventure every week, but Flash seems way out of line here. And we’ve seen this impetuous, impulsive side of oour hero before, but it’s usually in the heat of the moment as he’s forced to come up with a game plan on the fly or something. But here he’s won his freedom from Ming, he’s tamed his kingdom, and he’s more or less dropped off the merciless warlord’s radar. You’d think he might want to lay low for a while and build up his strength before racing into a foolhardy war against the emperor of the world!

But such prudence is not the way of Flash Gordon, so a war begins. Ming marshals the various kingdoms of Mongo loyal to his banner, while Flash receives aid from King Vultan and the Hawkmen, plus Prince Barin (now wearing a spiffy Robin Hood getup since becoming ruler of Mongo’s tree kingsom) and his forces. Unfortunately none of these are enough to save Flash from the treachery of Aura, who — though she has apparently settled into her role as Barin’s bride — still harbors loyalty to her father. Aura gives away Flash’s battle plans to Ming, who wipes out his army and takes him captive.

Monday, June 26, 2017

DAREDEVIL #183

"CHILD’S PLAY”
Writers: Roger McKenzie & Frank Miller | Artists: Frank Miller & Klaus Janson
Colors: Klaus Janson | Letters: Joe Rosen
Editor: Denny O’Neil | Supervisor : Jim Shooter

The Plot: As Matt Murdock gives a talk at a local high school, a girl named Mary O’Koran goes into a drug-induced panic and leaps out the classroom’s second story window. Matt changes to Daredevil and rushes the girl to the hospital, but she dies. Her brother, Billy, swears vengeance on the drug pushers, “Hogman” and “Flapper”.

That night, Daredevil locates Flapper but during a skirmish with the Punisher, is unable to save him from being gunned down by someone on a nearby rooftop. DD ascends and finds Billy holding a gun, but the boy swears he shot high and missed. The next day, Matt volunteers to handle Billy’s defense.

While searching for evidence of Billy’s innocence, Daredevil runs afoul of the Punisher again. He then confronts Hogman, who he believes killed Flapper for skimming profits. Two weeks later, Matt gets Billy exonerated, but when Hogman protests that he didn't fire the gun either, his heartbeat remains even. Matt next declares he will defend Hogman.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: A doctor at the hospital fills Daredevil in on angel dust, the drug found in Mary’s system.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

THE UNBOXING - JUNE 2017

Two books, both from Marvel, and both starring Spider-Man, comprise this month's Unboxing. You'd think the guy has a movie coming out in a couple weeks or something!

First is a trade paperback collecting SPIDER-MAN BY TODD DEZAGO AND MIKE WIERINGO. Some sources have labeled this as "volume 1" while others have not. It collects SENSATIONAL SPIDER-MAN #7 - 24, which is the bulk of the two creators' work on the web-slinger. A second installment would be very significantly shorter, as their run concluded with SENSANTIONAL #31. It'll be interesting to see how Marvel collects those remaining issues.

(Though it should be noted that SENSATIONAL #25 - 28 were collected in the SPIDER-MAN: SPIDER-HUNT and SPIDER-MAN: IDENTITY CRISIS trade paperbacks from a few years back, along with issues of the other ongoing Spider-titles of the time.)

(And it should be doubly noted that the Wieringo-free SENSATIONAL 32 and 33 can be found in the SPIDER-MAN: THE GATHERING OF FIVE trade, while the earlier Dan Jurgens-created SENSATIONAL #1 - 6 are avaialable in the various trades and Omnibuses containing the "Clone Saga" -- meaning that the SENSATIONAL entire series is currently collected aside from issues 29 - 31!)

Friday, June 23, 2017

FLASH GORDON PART 2

“TOURNAMENTS OF MONGO”
“THE CAVERNS OF MONGO” | “WITCH QUEEN OF MONGO”
by Alex Raymond & Don Moore

In the climax of the previous story arc, Doctor Zarkov’s scientific acumen saved the city of Hawk Men from plummeting to the surface of Mongo, thus winning Flash and company the eternal gratitude and friendship of King Vultan, ruler of the Hawk Men. As the “Tournaments of Mongo” arc opens, Ming arrives in the floating city to take back his bride, Dale — but Vultan declares Dale under his protection and proposes a contest to determine the freedom of both her and Flash. Ming agrees and begins the “Tournament of Death”.

Though it’s not exactly spelled out in narration, it seems that the tournament is intended for those people of Mongo with nothing to lose in life: convicts, the poor, etc. The rules are simple: any number of contestants enter, and following a series of challenges, there can be only one living victor. The champion may then select a woman of his choice as his bride, and will be awarded one of Mongo’s kingdoms to rule.

In addition to Flash, the rebel Prince Barin also enters the tournament, disguised with a mask. We learn over the course of the challenges that Barin is in love with Ming’s daughter, Princess Aura, and that he is the rightful ruler of Mongo, a position Ming somehow usurped from him. In the end, it’s down to Flash and Barin, and when the prince is unmasked, the people of Mongo cheer for both of them to win the tournament. Backed into a corner by this overwhelmingly popular support, Ming allows both men to live. Flash chooses Dale as his bride, while Barin picks Aura. Ming awards the men their kingdoms, two of the planet’s most untamed: Barin will rule the Forests while Flash will have the Caverns.

Monday, June 19, 2017

DAREDEVIL #182

"SHE’S ALIVE”
Story & Art : Frank Miller | Finished Art & Colors: Klaus Janson
Letters: Joe Rosen | Editor: Denny O’Neil | Supervisor : Jim Shooter

The Plot: Matt awakes in the middle of the night, convinced Elektra is still alive, and goes out in search of her. Meanwhile, in prison, the Punisher kills three of his fellow inmates and is soon approached by a government agent who will arrange to break him out so he can intercept a drug shipment entering the country via Long Island.

After learning that the Kingpin has a big underworld summit upcoming, Matt spends the day at Nelson & Murdock obsessing over the coroner’s report on Elektra. That night, the Punisher escapes from Ryker’s Island Penitentiary while Daredevil questions the Kingpin about Elektra. After the hero leaves, Kingpin assures the other mob bosses that DD will be busy chasing Elektra's ghost and will not interfere with their drug shipment.

Late at night, after learning Matt attempted to get Elektra's remains exhumed, Foggy goes searching for his partner. Meanwhile, the Punisher thwarts the drug-running operation and KOs his government benefactor before the man can re-arrest him. At the cemetary, Matt digs up Elektra's coffin and is horrified to realize that it actually is her body that was buried and that she is truly dead. Foggy arrives to take him home.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: Glenn Industries’ board of directors, who we haven't seen since way back in issue 165, is still plotting to steal the company from Heather. I guess they work very deliberately.

Friday, June 16, 2017

FLASH GORDON PART 1

“ON THE PLANET MONGO” | “MONSTERS OF MONGO”
by Alex Raymond & Don Moore

These initial FLASH GORDON strips, comprising nearly the entire year of 1934 — January 7th through November 18th — introduce us in very quick order to our hero and his situation. And I mean very quick order. The first strip presents us with the news that a newly discovered planet is hurtling toward Earth, and the world’s preeminent scientific mind, Doctor Hans Zarkov, is working to knock it off course. We then meet renowned Yale polo star Flash Gordon and his girlfriend, Dale Arden, aboard an airplane which is struck by a meteor presaging the larger planet’s impact. They bail out, conveniently landing near Zarkov’s lab, and the addled scientist forces them aboard his rocket at gunpoint, then takes off on a collision course with the mystery planet.


I'll repeat: that's all one strip — thirteen panels! Fortunately, subsequent installments are a bit more reasonably paced, and really, it's easy to realize why the story needs to begin in such a seemingly rushed fashion. This isn't a twenty-some page comic book or a novel or a half-hour TV show or a two hour movie. It's half a page in the local newspaper, and it's the very first installment of a new feature. Once the strip is established, it can afford to be more leisurely with its storytelling, but in order to get that far, it needs to hook new readers immediately, and so we wind up with the above.

So — Zarkov’s plan is a success and the other planet, Mongo, is diverted from its crash-course with Earth. But Zarkov himself perishes when his rocket crashes, and Flash and Dale find themselves marooned on Mongo. What follows is a long and winding serial which sees the pair captured, separated, recaptured, escaped, and more, in a series of non-stop, genuinely exciting cliffhangers which introduce them to the varied species which call Mongo home.

Monday, June 12, 2017

DAREDEVIL #181

"LAST HAND”
Story & Art : Frank Miller | Finished Art & Colors: Klaus Janson
Letters: Joe Rosen | Editor: Denny O’Neil | Supervisor : Jim Shooter

The Plot: In prison, Bullseye fantasizes about revenge on Daredevil. Upon learning that Elektra has replaced him as the Kingpin’s assassin, Bullseye accepts an offer for a TV interview and uses the event to stage a daring escape. He learns from Eric Slaughter that Elektra has been assigned the task of killing Foggy Nelson, so Bullseye tails Nelson the next day until Elektra makes her move. When she ultimately lets Foggy go, Bullseye attacks and kills her.

As he spies on Nelson & Murdock identifying Elektra's body in the morgue, Bullseye suspects Matt Murdock is actually his arch-enemy. He goes to Matt’s brownstone and attacks, but Daredevil appears to fight him off. Ultimately DD wins, and this time, rather than saving Bullseye’s life, he lets the assassin drop several stories, crippling him.

Later, as Bullseye lays in traction, unable to move or speak, he fantasizes about revenge on Daredevil.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: Bullseye is incarcerated under the name Benjamin Pondexter, which dates back to the Roger McKenzie days, though here he identifies it as one of many aliases he's used and refuses to disclose his true name.

Bullseye recalls Daredevil saving his life in issue 172, though there is no footnote. Also, even though his tumor was removed in issue 169, he still suffers agonizing headaches as a side effect. He feigns one of these headaches to facilitate his escape.