Friday, March 24, 2017

I've had the collections for Dark Empire and Dark Empire II for years: I didn't buy them new, but from a pawn shop in Missoula probably fairly close to when they were released. But I never found the collection for Empire's End, so the two singles for that stay on my bookshelf with the trades. From 1995, Star Wars: Empire's End #1-2, written by Tom Veitch, art by Jim Baikie.

I always thought it was weird that Marvel's adaptation of Return of the Jedi was only four issues, after Star Wars and Empire had both been six; and likewise I've always wondered why Empire's End was only given two issues to wrap it up, since both Dark Empires were six. It's a slightly bare-bones plot, though, even continuing from the previous series: the reborn Emperor Palpatine was struggling to stay reborn. He was down to his last clone body, and it was starting to disentegrate, and he needed Jedi genetic material for a new one. Moreover, with his new Galaxy Weapon capable of firing hyperspace missiles at any target, he should have the Rebels on the ropes; if not for shoddy workmanship: one missile hits within 50 yards of Han, Leia, and their kids, and doesn't explode! (At the very least, it probably should've caused explosive decompression.)

Several of the Jedis discovered during the first two series are killed off here, although Kam Solusar makes it; possibly because he was named after Dark Empire artist Cam Kennedy. Kind of wish Kennedy had drawn this, just for consistency.
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Thursday, March 23, 2017

It's an "Everything you know is wrong" story, but this was the time to do it.

We've seen a number of Demon appearances here over the years, and in them his level of badness has varied from Chaotic Good to eat-a-baby, full-on Belichick evil. Today the knobs go up to 11. From 1994, the Demon #0, "Zero Hour" Written by Garth Ennis, art by John McCrea. Despite the title and the tie-in, this didn't have much else to do with the crossover...

Jason Blood has just drank an elixir prepared by himself and Merlin, removing the mental blocks Etrigan had placed on Blood. Having eleven centuries of memories suddenly return would probably be bad enough, but eleven centuries of his crimes and sins may be more than his sanity can bear. In the year 560, Jason was a family man, with no interest in the possible fall of Camelot; but Merlin hears his grousing as treason. Likewise, Merlin's half-brother Etrigan has not been a great deal of help against Morgaine Le Fey, and Merlin knows he'll soon be unable to control the ambitious Demon. So, Merlin kills two birds with one stone, trapping Etrigan in Jason; driving both of them completely insane. Jason kills his family, then the Demon murders his entire village; earning them the name Jason-of-the-Blood.

Since Jason had been a good, if cynical, man; Etrigan has work on him to make a good host. He alters Jason's thoughts and memories to make him more amenable; making Jason a willing partner. Using Etrigan's power, Jason quickly amasses a massive fortune; but Etrigan's also making moves to keep advancing in the hierarchy of hell. After the brutal murder of a cardinal, Jason confronts Etrigan, and tells him no more; Etrigan alters his mind again. After more centuries of atrocities, Etrigan and Blood are invited to Hell to see Lucifer. (Described here as "a million miles away from the flake who will eventually quit his post.") Blood asks Lucifer where to go for new experiences and opportunities, and is told simply "west." Blood and Etrigan go to America, and commit about every horrible thing ever done in this country; until in July 1917, at a party Jason almost literally says "hold my beer" and leaves to wrap up the first World War. (Partly because he could, mostly for a million gold sovereigns.)

On August 1, 1917; Jason Blood is moved to save "a regiment of virgins," sad, doomed soldiers; and unleashes the Demon against the Germans. And the Demon even brings back-up, partly because he has advanced in rank to rhymer, partly because he felt Jason's deal didn't really do anything for him. After slaughtering the Germans, he does the same to the English; leaving ten thousand dead in the trenches. Jason loses his mind again, and the Demon is forced to erase his memory, but goes too far: everything from when Merlin joined them is forgotten. Jason believed himself to be a good man, struggling to get separated from Etrigan; piecing together clues over almost eight decades. Now, with Etrigan planning to unleash his son on Glenda and her unborn child, Jason has forced Merlin to show him the truth. (And in truth, Merlin was responsible for much of it!) All that saves Merlin, is that Jason needs Merlin's help to kill Etrigan...!

There was less than a year left of this book, before Ennis and McCrea moved on to Hitman, but I don't think the Jason vs. Etrigan plot ran the whole distance. Still, not unlike Marvel's Ghost Rider, every so often the Demon is portrayed as evil who happens to occasionally take out other evil, but not necessarily good...
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Wednesday, March 22, 2017


I've drawn those halfassed musical notes before, and they're always terrible. For terrible notes possibly, but still.

That Yondu's a nice figure; but would've been improved just a bit with an additional arrow to go in his holster. Still, pretty sweet.
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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Although I loved Ennis and Dillon's first limited series, I almost stopped reading Punisher: MAX after the first story arc, when (spoiler alert!) Frank kills his old partner Microchip for turning on him. I foolishly thought after all their time working together, Frank might give him a pass; but he's not exactly the type to do that, is he? And even if Ennis wasn't strictly bound by continuity, Frank may have still been pissed about this one: from 1995, Punisher #100, "The Cage" Written by Chuck Dixon, pencils by Rod Whigham, inks by Rudy Nebres, Elman Brown, Mike Higgins, Scott Elmer, Mick Gray, Tim Tuohy, and Phil Sheehy.

Feeling Frank was out of control, Microship not only was working with a replacement Punisher, but goes a step further and traps Frank in the basement of an abandoned factory. (Micro had bought it years prior, presumably for use as a hideout or safehouse.) He's also reconstructed, as best he could from old photos, Frank's old house, where he lived with his wife and children before they were murdered. Micro left videotaped messages for Frank, in several locations, since Frank keeps blowing out the screens; but he wants Frank to see his old home movies and remember his family. (I am not positive what Micro thought this was going to do for Frank, but it's pretty apparent he thinks Frank was pretty far gone.)

Meanwhile, Microchip was running support for new, and helmeted, Punisher Carlos "C.C." Cruz; as they made multiple attempts on a surprisingly persistent Punisher foe, mob princess boss Rosalie Carbone. She had been introduced early in the Punisher: War Zone run, and had survived multiple encounters with Frank. Here, even though other mob bosses intended to take her out, she still manages to get out again; while C.C. is pushed off a cruise ship by one of Rosalie's bodyguards. Microchip calls Frank for help, but hears a shotgun blast on the other end...!

Rosalie Carbone was a Frank Dixon creation, with John Romita Jr, and would survive this run of Punisher titles; but would be killed off early in the next series by a guy who knew a little something about taking out characters, former Suicide Squad writer John Ostrander. She had terrible fashion sense, we've seen before, but Rosalie was pretty good about not taking any crap from the other mob bosses, you had to give her that. And along with a really shiny cover, this issue also had the Statement of Ownership, Management, and Circulation: Paid circulation, actual number of copies of single issue published nearest to filing date; 75,300.
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Monday, March 20, 2017

Shiny covers, unexpected guest-stars, and fridging.

I know I had at least one other shiny Avengers cover from this time, but not sure about this one. I also don't usually scan the covers, but I wanted to see how the shiny came out. From 1993, Avengers #366, "The First Rule!" Written by Bob Harras, pencils by Steve Epting, inks by Tom Palmer.

The lead story continues the plot thread from Operation: Galactic Storm and Avengers #350: seeking vengeance for the death of the Supreme Intelligence, the alien Kree have captured several Avengers, and plan on using a Nega-Bomb to destroy earth. The team's lineup had changed somewhat since #350, with the addition of Deathcry and guest Magdalene, and returning members Giant-Man and Captain America. The back cover wonders, though, if Cap's old-school, non-fatal moral code wasn't outdated. Also, Cap wears an earpiece-mike set-up that seems to be glued to his cowl. Still, he'd be wearing a leather jacket later in the run...

Also this issue: "Swordplay 3" (Or rather, cubed.) Written by Glenn Herdling, pencils by Mike Gustovich, inks and colors by Ariane Lenshoek. Previously, the Black Knight's former squire, Sean Dolan, has taken the cursed Ebony Blade, and become the murdering Blood Wraith. After killing some criminals involved in Tolliver's scavenger hunt, Blood Wraith is crossed by Deadpool, who was also on the hunt. (From the first Deadpool limited series, "The Circle Chase.") The Black Knight gets in there too, for a three-way duel; which ends with former Dr. Strange supporting character Victoria Bentley stabbed and her soul taken by the Ebony Blade. Pool steals the sword, but the Blood Wraith recovers it, yet finds his bloodlust has momentarily been sated by Bentley's death; which keeps him from killing Pool. I know the Blood Wraith would go bad again--with a pretty hefty body count--so Bentley's sacrifice was pretty pointless; except that she may earlier have been positioned as a love interest for the Knight, who was at this point was involved in a love triangle with Sersi and Crystal.
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Friday, March 17, 2017

Admittedly, I do seem to be trying to "Accumulate Them All!"

"Ocean Powers Collection" ad by Gregg Schigiel, from the most recent issue of SpongeBob Comics, #66. May have to upload that cover later...

I never had any Super Powers figures as a kid: I had Superman, Batman, and Robin Mego figures, as well as Star Trek, then Star Wars figures through Empire; then nothing for a few years. Still making up for lost time here...I do remember seeing a Super Powers Green Lantern for sooooo cheap in a Kay-Bee Toys a couple decades back, and stupidly didn't buy one, even if the squirting power ring probably wouldn't have fit even my dainty fingers. And I do have a Super Powers Batmobile, now that I think of it...

Still, DC Universe Classics and the Four Horsemen paid a long tribute to Super Powers, revamping them all. Which is why you got the occasional oddball like Golden Pharaoh or Cyclotron. I've been missing my DCUC figures lately, though; even if I'd need another detolf to display them properly. Something to keep in mind, then; but have a good weekend!
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Thursday, March 16, 2017

As I pick up random comics, a lot of times I note here to pick up the next issue or the conclusion. This time, meh; even if I've got part seven of eight today. From 2006, Detective Comics #820, "Face the Ecaf, part 7 of 8" (I'm pretty sure that's supposed to be "Face the Face," right?) Written by James Robinson, layouts by Leonard Kirk, finishes by Andy Clarke.

We're coming to this one mid-stream, but I do remember this was the big storyline after Infinite Crisis, with Batman returning to action "One Year Later" after leaving Gotham to the care of former Two-Face Harvey Dent. Who has since been framed for murder (including that of the original Ventriloquist and the KGBeast, both jobbed out here) but Bats is working the case, even while he and Robin fight the Scarecrow, and hallucinations of the Thomas Wayne Bat-Man, the pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths Earth 2 Robin, and the Earth-Prime Superboy. Batman defeats the Scarecrow, as you might expect; but then trash-talks him, which surprised me.

Batman downplays that as "part of the game," to throw Scarecrow off next time; but it still doesn't sit well with me. He does praise Robin, Tim Drake, for getting past the fear gas and his nightmares so quickly; but Tim shrugs that off: he had lost so much, what was left? Batman does hint at an idea for what Tim could do next; but back at police headquarters, after explaining to Gordon how Dent was framed; Bats takes a moment to speak with a uniformed officer. Explaining he was trying to "undo past wrongs, not make new ones," he tells Officer Harper he knew something about her:

Despite his seeming desire to not make old mistakes, Bats gives her a slightly-nicer version of the "thou shalt have no vigilantes before me/Stay outta Gotham" speech he's given multiple times before. And he almost has a point: just because your grand-uncle was the Guardian or your third cousin was the Red Bee, doesn't mean you're a legacy and should join the Justice Society. It does feel a bit condescending, though.

Then, a Jack Ryder appearance! But only as a talking head on TV, breaking the news of Two-Face's return! Which was a foregone conclusion, wasn't it? Between that and Batman seemingly insuring the Scarecrow would come after him again by rubbing his nose in it, we're finally adding that tag for recidivism! Still, in-story Bats could be justified here: he, and we, know full well Scarecrow is going to get out someday, and Batman may want to make sure Scarecrow comes after him rather than someone that couldn't protect themselves. But overall, this issue didn't sit well with me.
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Wednesday, March 15, 2017


For science! Or, well, for "science." Either way. Pity there's yet to be a High Evolutionary figure; although he'd probably try to show up Jackal and Sinister by making a goat-person or something.

We tried using the Ultimate Batcave for the backgrounds today. It came with a pretty good set of stickers, that would've been easier to put on before putting that thing together. And Jackal is holding an accessory from a lot I bought on eBay, of Star Trek accessories--but a lot of them were over-sized for six-inch figures.
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Tuesday, March 14, 2017

That long pause, is as much as saying "Yes, there totally are."

Oddly enough, this chat with Reagan isn't setting up a plot point, in today's book: from 1987, Adventures of Superman Annual #1, "The Union" Written by Jim Starlin, pencils by Dan Jurgens, inks by Steve Montano.

Although Reagan isn't keen on calling in Superman, Sarge Steel doesn't see another option: the small town of Trudeau, South Dakota, seems to be completely uninhabited now. A chemical/biological warfare squad and a team of Marines had gone in, but never came back. Superman goes in, and finds the town completely devoid of life. Except for the monster from the sewers.

Superman burns the monster with his heat vision, then trails it into the sewers; where he finds the fillings and pocket change that are all that remain of Trudeau's residents. Playing possum, he's brought to the cause of their deaths, the evangelistic alien Hfuhruhurr the Wordbringer. (Who is absolutely a Jim Starlin design, even with Jurgens drawing: he resembles Monalo from Dreadstar.) And his word is bodilessness is closer to godliness, and harvested the brains of all of Trudeau! This gave him telekinetic powers strong enough to stop Superman's heart!

The bodies of the townspeople were conglomerated into Hfuhruhurr's blob-monster, his "Manifestation." Superman is able to destroy it, but the Wordbringer escapes, and I'm not sure was seen again. He's then left with almost three thousand disembodied brains, who don't want to live like that, and ask Superman to end their suffering. Superman is unwilling to kill, even in such an extreme situation, so the brains force the issue by overpowering Superman's mind, and using him to shut off their oxygen supply. When Superman comes to, he stands victorious, but it's not a clean win...

I didn't have this or 1988's Superman Annual #2 when they came out, but just got both out of the quarter bin last week. The Superman Annual featured the return of Guardian and the Newsboy Legion, so there was a pretty jarring shift in tone between the two!

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Monday, March 13, 2017

I honestly expected a "guerrilla vs. gorilla" joke somewhere.

Well, they were setting up something else instead: from 1981, Flash #294, "The Fiend the World Forgot!" Written by Cary Bates, art by Don Heck.

By this point, pre-Crisis, the Flash had fought Gorilla Grodd approximately four hundred times, and the existence of Gorilla City was known to the public. They even had an embassy and representatives in the United Nations, and as head gorilla Solovar explains to the Flash, that's the problem. The super-gorillas achieved that lofty state by devoting themselves completely to the improvement of their species, leaving no time for the insidious cancer of..."leisure time." It's implied, yet not specified, that this is causing serious problems for the gorillas, more than just introducing slacking and goofing off. The situation is then exacerbated by guerrilla terrorists taking the Gorilla embassy, intent on using their hostages to get advanced weaponry. (The peaceful apes didn't have any, and are told they'd better get cracking, then!)

Flash disarms the terrorists in a blink, but their leader had an ace yet to play: a hidden bomb, with a five second fuse! Now, what TV Tropes refers to as "Talking is a Free Action" comes into play here, since this next explanation takes well more than five seconds. The terrorist leader explains, while the goody-goody Flash has to save him and his men, he couldn't save the gorillas, since they would be too heavy to carry! Instead, Flash just splits, leaving the terrorist and his men time to panic: with a second to work with, Flash has plenty of time to search everywhere until he finds the bomb, then ditch it with six-hundredths of a second to go.

This settles it for Solovar and the gorillas: they're going to put "Operation: Worldwash" into action, and erase the knowledge of Gorilla City from everyone on the planet, except the Flash. (It would still be in newspapers and possibly videotape, guys! Unless the erasure also put in a mental block against noticing that.) It's getting set up according to plan, and the Flash is going to call it a day; but back in Gorilla City, in Grodd's jail cell we find...a human, William Dawson! Grodd's mental power was strong enough to focus on a human's brain pattern, then teleport by sheer force of what the gorillas assume. Solovar isn't there to tell them it's a trick, but I think Grodd was so far above the average gorilla they would've believed he could do anything. Grodd had simply turned his mental power inward, to evolve himself into a human form for a bit. Simple. (An editorial footnote explains he had done something like that before.)

Step two of Grodd's plan: sabotage the Operation: Worldwash transmitter. Grodd was fine with the human world forgetting the gorillas, but took it a step further: wiping the memory of Grodd from the other gorillas, and the Flash! Flash and the gorillas are left wondering who was interfering, while Grodd muses they'll never be able to "defend themselves against a fatal attack from a foe who 'doesn't exist and never did'!"

Why do I keep finding random issues of Flash? I don't think I have two in a row of the old series yet...Also this issue, a Firestorm back-up, "The Typhoon is a Storm of the Soul" Written by Gerry Conway, art by Jim Starlin and Bob Wiacek. Starting with Firestorm vs. lady muggers, but the team was breaking up: at this point in the series, Professor Stein couldn't recall any of their adventures. Ronnie would fill him in afterwards, since to Stein his time as Firestorm was just a blackout, which might explain why he seems like he's trying to be supportive, but isn't super-invested in it. As such, Stein takes a job on a research vessel in the South Pacific, which would be problematic for them as Firestorm: although either could trigger the transformation, in effect summoning the other, when they changed back they would be wherever they were!
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Friday, March 10, 2017

The current Transformers books are far deeper and more nuanced than anyone would've expected for stories based on toys. Riverdale has taken the wholesome Archie mythos straight into David Lynch's turf. And a comic based on a decades-old cartoon uses the stone age to comment on today, and is dark as all get out: from last week, the Flintstones #9, "A Basket of Disposables" Written by Mark Russell, art by Steve Pugh.

When Mr. Slate tries the new church of the snake Vorp, which encourages ruthless go-getting and reveling in success, he opts to cut costs at the quarry by hiring scabs he can pay less, and firing his regular guys, like Fred Flintstone. With Fred depressed, Wilma tries to cheer him up, with the purchase of a new, personalized bowling ball. The old ball goes into the recycling, but it wasn't just a ball, it was a friend: like the rest of the Flintstones' appliances, Bowling Ball was an animal, an armadillo. His friend, Vacuum Cleaner, rallies the other "appliances" to rescue him.

Although Bowling Bowl is happy to be saved from being turned into cat food, he's not exactly thrilled to go back to his old job...

Bleeding Cool had a pretty big preview of this issue, which absolutely sold me on it. I may have to give the next few issues a go...
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Thursday, March 09, 2017

Very nearly, the perfect comic.

We checked out the classic 100th issue over a decade ago (!) and part of the second sequel about five and a half years back, but hadn't yet scanned any of this tattered beauty: from 1981, Iron Man #150, "Knightmare" Plot and story by David Michelinie, pencils by John Romita Jr, plot and inks by Bob Layton.

Time travel back to King Arthur's time wasn't exactly a new idea (in fact, I had just watched the Legends of Tomorrow episode where they visit Camelot!) but it's executed well here. Thrown back in time by a time machine explosion, Dr. Doom and Iron Man are mid-fight when they realize when they are, and are shortly brought before King Arthur himself. But Doom isn't interested in Arthur, but in Morgana le Fey: Doom had been fighting the forces of hell every year, in the hopes of freeing his mother's soul, and wanted Morgana's training to help him finally do so. Morgana is willing to, if Doom will do her a favor: lead her army of the undead against King Arthur.

Mid-battle, Iron Man realizes Doom doesn't have the power to raise the dead (that we know of...) and seemingly turns tail; to get to Morgana. Unable to counter IM's technology, Morgana flees, and her army collapses, leaving a furious Doom without her training. Still, stuck in the past, Doom knows his only chance of getting back to 1981 lies in working with Iron Man, and the two are forced to declare a truce. Together, they are able to use parts from their armors to build a makeshift time machine, and return to neutral ground, with their truce to last 24 hours, and they go their own ways...

This isn't Maus or Watchmen, but for me it's page for page one of the best single issues you can get. There's action, comedy (that feels unforced, especially compared to the sequel #250, which we'll look at someday) and even some pathos: you almost feel for Doom when he knows he's not getting help for his mom. And for an over-sized issue the art holds together all the way through. (#250 falls apart a bit towards the end.) It's a classic that's been reprinted more than once, so dig up a copy yourself.

I've been going through some boxes, since I've been wanting to read the old Hercules mini-series, which was also from Bob Layton. I don't know if I can defend that one as a "classic," but those are definitely comics I love to death. Sooner or later...
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Wednesday, March 08, 2017


Man, Michael Rooker has a distinctive voice, and now a distinctive figure, even if super-blue! I didn't buy Yondu right away, but then couldn't pass on him hassling Pool here. There is maybe one little thing the figure could use, but we'll have to save that note for later...

As I write this, I've got three pieces of the Build-a-Figure Titus; and Guardians figures are on sale at both Walgreens and Toys R Us this week; we'll see if we end up with him!
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