Friday, July 03, 2015

I asked you for one thing on my deathbed. ONE thing.

I know I read a good pile of DC's Elseworlds annuals from back in 1994, and I might even have some of them; but I picked this one up again the other day: Robin Annual #3, "The Narrow Path" Story by Chuck Dixon, art by Enrique Villagran.

The mighty samurai wearing the mark of the Bat is dead, slain by warriors of the clan of the serpent rose. Before dying, the Bat tells his young protege (with the mark of the Robin...) not to avenge him, but to only defend their master, the daiymo Lord Hideyori; against the forces of the shogun.

The Bat had protected the daimyo for years, and the Robin loved him as a father, although he never told him about his ancestors...almost making a point not to. But as the Robin attempts to unravel the conspiracy against the daimyo, running into a familiar looking Cat-garbed ninja, but it may already be too late...

I crammed as much of this one into the scanner as would fit, but had to cut off Villagran's signature off a bit! I don't remember this one being my favorite of that run of annuals, but still not too shabby.
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Thursday, July 02, 2015

This page is great; the rest of this comic can go straight to hell...

So, the other day I was able to use my blog to remember which issue of Livewires I was missing, which seems like the sort of vaguely constructive thing I should be doing all the time but actually don't. And then I stumbled across my tag for "terrible comics," which I've somehow only used three times in almost a decade's worth of posts? Really? I didn't even trot that one out for Starblast, I didn't hit Genesis with it, so obviously my standards are mighty low.

The books tagged with it I hate like they keyed my car, because laziness, bad writing, and characters acting uncharacteristically can turn what should be a sure-thing into an also-ran: a bargain-priced 80-page mystery with the Blue Beetle clawing his way back to respectability that ends badly, an X-Men team-up that wastes my favorite character and John Cassaday art, and a Warlord comic that I own a good chunk of the print run of, in order to keep it out of the wrong hands. As in, anyone's. Seriously, I have like six of it; per the Beat Warlord #10 sold 10,539 copies.

Today, we hit another terrible comic, that's basically an issue of Warlord, except not really. Or good. From 2015, Convergence #5, "Liberty?" Written by Jeff King, pencils by Andy Kubert, inks by Sandra Hope.

If you managed to miss didn't miss much. With DC Comics moving their editorial offices from New York to California, the 'event' was basically filler to cover until they got their main staff up and running again; and featured characters and creators not seen in the New 52 relaunch, in a scenario involving stolen cities and heroes from different continuities forced to fight to the death. (Just on the orders of an unseen voice, so if you have a megaphone you can probably get your average DC character to punch the person next to him if you yell from out of sight.) Kinda fan-servicey, then; but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Lazy fan-servicey, on the other hand...

The big-bad of the series was Brainiac--no, Brainiac's flunky, Telos? No, by this issue, long-time Warlord villain Deimos was in the driver's seat, with most of the Earth-2 heroes standing around gaping as he reveals to Telos his true nature, and how Brainiac had enslaved him. Machiste makes a go at Deimos, and gets his heart torn out for his trouble; the other heroes are even less effective, even as the Dick Grayson of Earth-2 narrates maybe three pages of this issue, like he wasn't paying attention the rest of the time.

Meanwhile, the Warlord, Travis Morgan--wait, didn't he die? Killed by his own son, who replaced him for like three issues? Nope, it's Travis, fighting his way to his arch-enemy, although his beloved wife Tara is killed on the way. Travis should be full-on berserker rage here, but instead, calmly rides a dinosaur through Deimos's wall.

Cool, huh? Unfortunately, inside of a page, despite Travis leaping from atop the dinosaur onto Deimos; Deimos still is able to age Travis Morgan into an old man, then dust. Mariah, who loved Travis for about 150 total issues, is looking the other way and worried about tremors as this happens; and the Earth-2 heroes bravely run like hell. As Dick finds a Batarang, and the heroes try to get other, possibly better heroes to help, Deimos chats up former Wildcat and Crisis veteran Yolanda, and proclaims to all the cities crammed together that he will protect them...for a price.

I kinda blame the Hurting's Tim O'Neil for telling me about this issue basically being an issue of Warlord. Not a good one, but still. And I was likewise looking forward to Deimos being the big-bad: at one point, the guy was down to pieces of an animated corpse, his head on top of a hand, and he managed to come back from that! To get jobbed by Parallax in the first few pages of the last issue of this crapfest, I understand. Using Deimos like this doesn't make a lot of sense to me; you could just as easily sub in Skeletor or the Warlock of Ys or Blackbriar Thorn since there's absolutely no characterization to get in the way.

By the way, Andy Kubert drew a couple issues of Warlord, back in the 80's. It's early work, rough, but still this seems like a bit of a slap in the face...
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Wednesday, July 01, 2015


Thanos is ludicrously chatty this episode, but let's be honest, the guy probably doesn't have a lot of people to talk to. Given the opportunity to speechify, it would probably be a good idea to take it. When he had the Infinity Gauntlet, Thanos had Mephisto kissing his ass and trying not to get infini-murdered; and I reckon that guy has some stories. Probably can't believe a word of 'em, but probably mighty entertaining.

Even though he's a super-genius with mind-swapping powers learned from aliens, and magic powers learned from gypsies and crazy monks, I still think Dr. Doom's real super-power is that ego. I'm not sure Thanos ever encounters Doom directly--Kang and Doom's plotty-plot is kind of the B-plot to Infinity War--but I could Thanos being entertained by Doom even from afar; like watching a kid's show or a particularly talented monkey.

Meanwhile, Kurt and Pool are so far out of their league here; although Pool does get in a good jab. That he pays for, but still.
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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

"Emerald Lust" sounds dirtier than it is...

Some years back, we checked out what I thought was the last issue of Savage Sword of Conan that I bought on the newsstands; but the other day I picked up a half-dozen issues from around then. And yet ended up blogging this issue I already have. From 1990, Savage Sword of Conan #170, "Emerald Lust" Written by Chuck Dixon, art by Gary Kwapisz. Joe Jusko cover, but SSOC covers were frequently disconnected from the interior stories, so there wasn't a hint there.

This issue, seemingly unrelated events lead to disaster: a shipwrecked, frozen Kothian is hit then picked up by the longboat of Captain Varnigern. After sleeping with a chieftain's daughter, Conan is forced to make a hasty retreat, with Aerik Blackeye swearing vengeance and giving chase with his men. And later, the pirate Valeria invites herself in to hear the Kothian's dying words...

...about an emerald the size of a mountain. Varnigern, described later as "loving gems more than a woman does," is sold; figuring that to be "too big a lie not to be true!" and joins forces with Valeria. Meanwhile, Aerik's looking for warriors to join his manhunt for the "big oafish Cimmerian" who sullied his daughter, and gets a ringer: Red Sonja! (Referred to as Sonja of Hyrkania at first, possibly because this is a black-and-white comic!) Aerik either doesn't remember Conan's name or doesn't care, but Sonja does think that pig sounds familiar...

Seeking new climes, Conan offers his services to Varnigern, who as much as tells him to piss off, before Valeria sees him and jumps him. She's thrilled and pissed to see him, since after he cut out last time they were together, Valeria's crew turned on her. Conan does not take a lot of her guff, though, throwing her over his shoulder. Varnigern's ship sets sail, mere moments before Aerik's band arrives! Sonja offers not to charge for this one, but Aerik's not giving up that easy.

Meanwhile, Conan is once again enjoying Valeria's company, even if she is a bit crazy for him, and he thinks this emerald hunt is probably a bad idea. Sailing further and further north, the ice continues to pile up around their ship, until at last they see it: a veritable mountain of emerald!

As the giddy crew hack pieces off it, Conan and Valeria both realize real emerald is harder than that; when Conan picks up a melts in his hand. The emerald is nothing but oddly colored ice! Varnigern is understandably a bit perturbed, but Valeria protests she couldn't have known, and Conan has things about settled down when Aerik's ship arrives, hellbent on Conan's head! I don't think they even noticed the "emerald" as they ram Varnigern's ship; but after sailing to the unchartered roof of the world, surrounded by ice and danger, they probably were pretty enthusiastic about finally getting to murder Conan.

Worse, Sonja recognizes Conan, and Valeria sees her eyeballing her man, and the two of them are soon at it like mad dogs. Valeria accuses Sonja of wanting Conan for herself, and when Sonja protests she invokes her "oath of chastity," which just makes Valeria certain Sonja wants Conan to beat her. Wait, not like that...suffice to say, they hate each other immediately.

Both crews battle, unmindful of their surroundings, so when a chunk of iceberg falls on Aerik's ship, just about everyone is killed. Valeria and Sonja pull themselves out of the freezing water, but think themselves doomed until Conan does likewise. Conan tells Sonja "we should draw a line across the belly of the world and stay on either side of it, Sonja." Pretty great line, there. He forces them to fall in line, since their only chance of survival was together. Facing a week's hike to the outskirts of Vanaheim, the trio face giant seals and a blizzard before getting back to forests vaguely in the neighborhood of home, and Conan laments the deaths of five score men, on a dying man's word, for a handful of ice. Completely ignoring that Conan probably got Varnigern's crew killed more than the emerald, but even so.

I really, really want to read Gail Simone's Conan/Red Sonja miniseries; but this issue is the bar it would have to beat for me.

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Monday, June 29, 2015

Yay, finally got Livewires #2! Now, where are those other issues...

From 2005, Livewires #2, "Clockwork Thugs, Yo" Story and layouts by Adam Warren, pencils by Rick Mays, inks by Jason Martin. Recently activated team member Stem Cell is still freaking out about being a robot, on a team of robots, on a secret program to exterminate other top-secret super-science R&D programs, like other robots. Although robot is still the r-word to them, as they illustrate with Cornfed's helpful virtual tour of their "technological ancestors," from the Mannites (of late 90's X-Men titles) to the LMD's most famously used by Nick Fury. OK, pretty much those two, but still.

Poor Stem Cell is also mortified to be told that she's been transmitting her thoughts to the rest of the team all day on their intranet comlinks; until Gothic Lolita finally tells her. G-L also explains how their artificial intelligences are "'factory-installed' with exact software recreations of human neurochemistry," which would translate out to Meat Brain Emulator. They can all feel fear, anxiety, even panic...but those reactions are hackable, which is why Gothic isn't afraid to go down with a crashing jet!

A lot of world-building this issue, but it's engaging and cheery and fun. Glad to finally have it!
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Friday, June 26, 2015

So, so close; but I'm pretty sure at least some of this would be retconned later:

From 1971, Hulk #141, reprinted in Marvel Super-Heroes #92, "His Name is...Samson!" Written by Roy Thomas, art by Herb Trimpe and John Severin.

Recently returned from Jarella's micro-world, the Hulk is mostly just wandering about confused; as Major Talbot and General Ross seek help for Ross's daughter Betty, who had been transformed into a crystal statue after a blood transfusion with the Sandman in Hulk #138. Should they seek the help of a biochemist like Henry Pym or Hank McCoy, or go all-out and get Reed Richards? No, let's go with a psychiatrist, Leonard Samson...really? Well, he does have a big plan, to cure Betty and Bruce Banner!

Samson's machinery drains the Hulk's "libidinal energy--his psychic force" and shoots it at Betty, curing her and Banner immediately! Still, curing Betty didn't take that much juice, so a notion occurs to Samson, to use the leftover power on himself, transforming him into a super-strong, green-haired he-man! Now feeling like the full package, Samson asks Betty out, before she can be reunited with Bruce, who feels like a 98-pound weakling again. It doesn't take long for the jealous Bruce to do the only thing he thinks he can, namely step up and tell Betty how he really feels about her re-dose himself with gamma rays and become the Hulk again! (Pfft, talk about your feelings? Lame!)

Samson actually had wanted to face the Hulk, who feels like he had "been away--locked in some deep, dark place." Samson thinks between his strength and intellect, he should be able to mop the floor with the Hulk, but forgets the Hulk gets stronger as he gets madder, and the Hulk floors him. Betty runs to his aid, though; and the Hulk only knows that he feels like he may have won the fight, but lost something else...

Again, I think it's been retconned later that even if the gamma energy is drained from the Hulk, it just builds back up in him again. Maybe? Still, Doc Samson is a good foil for the Hulk, and would be punched in the face many, many times over the years to come.
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Thursday, June 25, 2015

80-Page Thursdays: Superman Family #187!

We have a couple of these Superman Family 80-pagers to go, and my favorite thing about them is probably the covers, which often feature the secondary characters watching the action like they can't believe that business. From 1978, The Superman Family #187, featuring stories by Tom DeFalco, Gerry Conway, Bob Toomey, and more; with art by Curt Swan, Don Heck, Win Mortimer, and more.

In the opener, when Daily Planet columnist Dave Stevens (no, not that one) is nearly killed by a cowboy assassin, Jimmy Olsen fields the case. Even though Olsen was often, and is often, relegated to rookie status; he was an old pro by this point, and even takes the precaution of using his Elastic Lad formula. (That would be the same one Elongated Man used, although I think E-M's powers stuck.) Meanwhile, two other reporters try to follow Jimmy and scoop him, because why research your own stories when you can steal them?

Meanwhile, on Earth-2, the older Jimmy Olsen-2 (who would actually be the first one, except the naming convention favored the then-modern DC universe as Earth-1...) was dying and needed an experimental organ transplant, except he was an orphan with no living relatives--except himself, on Earth-1! Superman-2, racing to Earth-1 to get Jimmy-1...this is exactly why DC had Crisis on Infinite Earths, yeah...accidentally frees an extra-dimensional alien warrior named Krogg, who beats the living snot out of both Supermen! Rather than try to fight Krogg together (an idea Supes-1 as much as scoffs at) Professor Potter uses an ever-popular experimental machine to merge the two Supermen into one, Super-Superman! Sure, it may be psychologically damaging, and possibly blow up the earth, but they give it a shot and collectively beat Krogg by heat-visioning him until his power overloads and he explodes...I thought both Supes were pretty dead set against killing, but they don't seem too broken up about this one. As Supes-2 takes Jimmy-1 to have his organ duplicated or whatever, Supes-1 muses that a man's identity should be his own, and seems to resolve to avoid his counterpart for a while, possibly until Crisis.

Next, another assassin, this time with a mask and rocket-cycle, takes a shot at Dave Stevens in the hospital, but is stopped by volunteer nurse Lois Lane! As she works the story, the assassin takes a shot at her, nearly killing Lois with hidden rockets attached to her car, that launch her off a bridge and into Metropolis Bay! Airbags and "standard driving rules" save Lois, since Supes was out at the time.

Also this issue: a Krypto story, where the Dog of Steel jettisons some of the sillier plotlines he had to accompany a detective friend searching for his lost nephew. Then a Nightwing and Flamebird story that reveals Kandor may run on...cassette tape computers. That are vulnerable to Bizarroification...let's move on. Finally, Supergirl fights a villain with a sled made out of an old Superboy robot...I'm just going to stop here.
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