Monday, August 28, 2017


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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!