Thursday, February 28, 2013

80-Page Thursday: Justice League Quarterly #12!

We may be coming up on the end of 80-Page Thursdays, I'm afraid. Partially because I'm just about out...and moreover, I'm pretty much out of the good ones. Even allowing for recent pickups, I mean. From 1993, Justice League Quarterly #12, featuring stories from Mark Waid, Kim Fryer, and Michael Jan Friedman; and art from Dan Rodriguez, Mike Wieringo, and Mike Mayhew. (I know, you see Waid and Wieringo and think it'll be great, but they aren't together on this one!)

JLQ had been trying and trying to make the corporate mercenary JLA-alternative the Conglomerate happen since its first issue. This may have been the book's last go at it, and could Mark Waid make a silk purse out of that sow's ear? Oh, no...nooooo. But, he had to work with Templar, Reverb (Vibe's brother, not dead up to the reboot!) and Nuklon; so you can't really hold that against him. Jesse Quick's there too, a character I've always sort've liked even though she never broke big. Waid even threw in the 90's revamped Amazo, another valiant attempt that would not stick at all.

There's early Mike Wieringo art for "On the Road," a slight team-up with Ice and the heroic Dr. Light on vacation; then another chapter of that Praxis serial that I still haven't finished.

This isn't the last 80-Page Thursday yet...but I feel like I'm going to be scrambling next week.
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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

"Kang vs. Doom."

This one is primarily from my own faulty recollections, and since Dale mentioned getting the Infinity Gauntlet trade. Which got me thinking about Kang and Dr. Doom...and their bit was from Infinity War, which I kinda love more than the first one. Kang and Doom partner up to get the mysterious power-objects for themselves, but also plot to kill each other the entire time.

The first panel's dialog is directly swiped from Jim Starlin.

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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Geez, it's not like steroids killed the Punisher's family...

Like me, you probably never thought you would hear the Punisher talk about "flexing in his underpants." Thankfully, he's against it.

One of books I picked up in the pile the other day was the second of the three Punisher Back to School specials, with the lead story "No Pain" Written by Mike Lackey, pencils by Ernie Stiner, inks by Frank Percy.

As you can guess from the title of the story (or the post!) the Punisher's investigating "a chain of illegal steroids" being run out of a ratty gym. Frank wasn't sure if steroid abuse fell under the purview of crimes the Punisher would shoot you in the face for; but he feels like the situation is escalating, with high school athletes "freaking out on the playing field." After stopping an admittedly convenient steroid freakout, Frank moves into Razor Emmanuel's gym-slash-steroid emporium, where dirty cops, wrestler wannabes, and skinny kids alike are stocking up.

Sleazy, but a relatively straight-forward Punisher story so far. Frank goes after the doctor supplying the steroids, but since the doctor is a blubbering crybaby, he (somewhat surprisingly) takes pity and tells him to treat steroid abuse cases. Then he goes back to the gym, where he easily kills two of Razor's thugs, but then things start to go south: a young girl named Tisa proves more than just a wannabe, but surprisingly well-trained, and begins pummeling the tar out of Frank. Working on Frank's injured knee, Tisa actually has Frank on the ropes for a bit; until Frank manages to knock them both into a pool. Underwater, Frank gets her with a thumb in the eye to distract her, then ties her hair to a ladder, leaving her to drown! A surprisingly brutal kill, from out of nowhere.

In bad shape (and sopping wet) Frank then has to face Razor, who uses straight razors because of course he does. It reminds me a bit of something they used to say on Deadliest Warrior, though: Razor can hurt Frank, but Frank can kill Razor. Slicing Razor's throat, he's probably done for, but Frank holds him down, staring in his eyes until he bleeds out. OK, that seems a little psycho.

Frank checks back on the doctor, who's still good and scared and making good. But the Punisher wonders if he's doing the right thing. The kills were a little harsh in this one: more like a Saw movie than the traditional action movie deaths. But not unentertaining, for fifty cents!
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Monday, February 25, 2013

Just what the doctor ordered!

Ah, it felt like it had been a while since a decent pile of comics, but Time Bomb had boxes of fifty-cent comics! A lot of my picks were longer issues, like specials or annuals, so it made for more pages for the dollar! Some of the haul:

Punisher Armory #3
Punisher: Die Hard in the Big Easy
Punisher: No Escape
Punisher: Back to School Special #1-2
Batman Annual #16
Action Comics Annual #1
Giant-Size Creatures #1
Ambush Bug Nothing Special #1
Kamandi #51
Marshal Law: Super Babylon
History of the DC Universe #2
Micronauts Special Edition #5
Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters #2-3 (#2 appears to be signed by Mike Grell!)
Deadly Hands of Kung Fu #12
Marvel Premiere #44 (featuring Jack of Hearts!)
Thor #303, Annual #12, #13
Marvel Two-in-One #53, #63, #67, #73, #77, and Annual #3
Mystery in Space #112 (Somehow, I think I got two of that one...)
Dreadstar Annual #1
Moon Knight #11
Conan Saga #78

And even a couple more! It'll take me a while to plow through this lot, but we'll take a look at one of them tomorrow!

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Friday, February 22, 2013

I'd trade my spleen for wisdom; dumb thing never did me a bit of good...

Out of office today, sorry; so just a quick bit I liked from one of my favorite books of the moment: Mike Mignola's Hellboy in Hell #3. This issue, Hellboy learns some more about his birth and his family tree; although as usual he doesn't especially care for any of the answers.

I'm reading more Mignola books lately than Marvel and DC combined. Nothing wrong with that! Have a good weekend!
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Thursday, February 21, 2013

80-Page Thursday: Dark Horse Presents #17!

Another quick look at one you might still be able to find at your comic shop: Dark Horse Presents #17, with stories and art from Richard Corben, Carla Speed McNeil, Michael Avon Oeming, David Chelsea, and more.

McNeil's Finder is an odd chapter this time, with a reference to quadrotriticale that surprised me. Corben adapts Edgar Allan Poe's "The Sleeper," and Layman and Kieth's Aliens serial wraps up in probably the way you'd expect. Chelsea's "The Girl with the Keyhole Eyes" finishes as well, and while I still think it's a shaggy dog story, it's entertaining.

There are a couple done-in-one stories this issue as well: Oeming and Santos' "The Sacrifice" and another Mr. Monster story from Michael T. Gilbert. By the time I post this, some of these stories may have be solicited in single issues--I'm positive the Aliens one will be collected, for one.
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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

"Watching the Defectives."

Does Clark Kent get to do a lot of investigative journalism anymore? The Question and the Creeper get to on occasion, anyway.

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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

That may be an unwise boast...

From 1984, Batman Special #1, "The Player on the Other Side" Written by Mike Barr, pencils by Michael Golden, inks by Mike DeCarlo. I was thinking of this one yesterday, and found it odd Batman only got one special, while Superman got three...

Batman faces a twisted reflection of himself, the Wrath; who has a surprisingly similar origin to Bats. On the same night Bruce Wayne's parents were killed in Crime Alley, a young beat cop named Jim Gordon is forced to shoot and kill a young boy's parents in front of him. The boy would go into the system, but was driven to master crime and get revenge--why he waited until Gordon was commissioner of Gotham City seems like bad planning. After Batman stops another attempt on Gordon, the Wrath does a little homework on his foe and figures out Batman's secret identity in short order.

The Wrath vandalizes the Wayne family's graves and beats up Alfred; while the Wrath's girlfriend tries to mobilize the city's criminals to find Jim Gordon. As Batman tracks her down, the Wrath kidnaps Leslie Thompkins to use as a hostage; forcing Batman and Gordon into a showdown. That doesn't go especially well for the Wrath, but it's weird how a lot of things from this issue would show up in later issues...of JLA. Much of the Wrath's origin is interchangeable with Prometheus, and the Waynes' corpses would be stolen in Tower of Babel.

This issue was reprinted in The Best of DC #62, digest-sized. Like this:

Tiny, but still looks great. I know the Wrath would return, in some form, in Batman Confidential, but I haven't read that one yet; and the Wrath has yet to work his way up his way up the ranks of Batman villains. Yet...

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Monday, February 18, 2013

Superman being inspiring! Remember that? Then you're old.

This issue actually made me go look for another issue, but we'll look at it first: from 1983, Superman Special #1, "Behold! The Ultimate Man!" Story and art by Gil Kane.

After fighting an alien warp-beast in deep space, Superman returns to earth to find a traitorous presidential advisor has attempted a coup, and now threatens nuclear annihilation. As you might expect, Supes puts the kibosh on that right quick; but the incident inspires a scientist's attempt to create "a race of supermen!" with an evolutionary accelerator.

Although his intentions had been good, the super-evolved Ultimate Man quickly loses interest in saving everyone: if some people die while he improves the world for everyone else, so what? And if humanity doesn't understand what's good for them, he'll make them understand. Creating a series of natural disasters to keep Superman busy, the Ultimate Man evolves himself even further, into a huge-brained yet hoverchair-bound monster. (Almost like MODOK!) Using Kryptonite blasts, U-M defeats Supes, casting him adrift in deep space; but Superman returns. Stymied, the Ultimate Man plans to evolve himself even further, but Superman has a plan for that...

This is a fun little one-shot, with some pretty nice art. I kind of wish maybe DC would've thought to do something like this for their new 52 series: get A-list talent to do a single issue story or two with the character's new looks. I know DC has that Adventures of Superman thing coming, but that's with his pre-52 look, and it's going off the rails with the controversy over Orson Scott Card, noted writer and homophobic jackass. Card is of course entitled to his own opinion, even if he is a legitimately terrible person; but it honestly makes me sad that DC Comics apparently couldn't find anyone closer to the values of Superman--you know, nice?--to write the character. And I thought Ender's Game sucked.

As usual, I have no idea what DC editorial was thinking: putting aside the vast and frankly well-deserved bad publicity hiring Card has got them, it's not like DC's getting him to reinvent Superman or anything. So, they're getting a few out-of-continuity stories for the cost of pissing off a ton of readers. I thought Warner Brothers had bean-counters to prevent this kind of thing... Read more!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Furious happenstance, that.

I haven't had time to read it all yet, but I found Fury of S.H.I.E.L.D. #1 and #4 Wednesday. Oddly, I already had #2 and #3! So I'll probably see if I can sit down and finish it. This was the limited series right before Nick was killed off by the Punisher, and it was written by Howard Chaykin. I can't quite remember why he was having Fury quit smoking: might've been editorial fiat, or Chaykin may have been quitting himself at the time. If any of it jumps out at me, we'll check it out later!

Panels from Fury of S.H.I.E.L.D. #1, "Hell Hath No Fury" Written by Howard Chaykin, pencils by Corky C. Lehmkuhl, inks by Mark McKenna.
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Thursday, February 14, 2013

80-Page Thursday: X-Men Universe #7!

Happy Valentine's Day! What would be a good 80-pager for such a holiday? Probably not X-Men Universe #7, featuring stories by Joe Pruett, Alan Davis and Terry Kavanagh, and art by Adam Kubert, Graham Nolan, Alan Davis, and Bernard Chang. Although it does have one good thing going for it...

Like the Spider-Man Universe issue we checked out a while back, this was a collection of X-Men reprints. In this case, it was Uncanny X-Men #378, Cable #77, and X-Men #98. All three were part of the "Ages of Apocalypse" crossover. No, not the "Age of Apocalypse," that was the good one. This was completely fake; a series of alternate pasts and futures generated by Apocalypse, who had just taken over (and presumably killed!) Cyclops and was trying to get the mutants of "the Twelve" to use their powers to recharge him.
In the end, Jean Grey prevents Cable from killing Apocalypse/Cyclops; but Professor X tells her he couldn't sense Cyclops' mind at all. While the other X-Men seem to be doing just fine, Jean leaves the school, while the Professor plans on going into space with mutant Skrulls.
So, not a great one, even if Cyclops dies. Or "dies," since that didn't seem like it was going to stick at all. Unfortunately...
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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

(Another one-twelfth of) a Review: DCUC Matter-Eater Lad!

Apparently, I'm buying my Legion of Super-Heroes on the installment plan: last year we saw Timber Wolf from the Legion twelve-pack. Today, Matter-Eater Lad!

M-E Lad--real name, Tenzil Kem--is a native of the planet Bismoll, where the natives evolved the ability to eat anything. (Yeah, "evolved" should probably be in quotes there.) Matter-Eater Lad can bite through and eat even seemingly indestructible material, like it says on the label. (Mostly: eating the so-called Miracle Machine, and in the animated series, a bite of the Emerald Empress's Eye of Ekron; damaged his sanity.) He was written out of the comic at one point: his homeworld's political system wasn't based on voting, but a draft, and Tenzil was forced to return home and become a Senator.

Keith Giffen would play with that idea in the Substitute Legion special and the Five Years Later LOSH stories: with his frankly silly powers and irrelevant attitude, Tenzil seemed to be a harmless buffoon, but that may have been an least in allay suspicion and downplay expectations. That and his powers are surprisingly effective; and in different versions he's had acid spit or the ability to eat incredibly fast.
Oh, and the figure? Well, he's pretty standard; with the DCUC smaller, "teen" body. Most of the Legion box set figures had closed fists, one with the Legion Flight Ring, and M-E Lad follows suit. He really could've used an open hand to hold snacks. The head sculpt, though, is one of DCUC's finest, or at least funnest, as he has a bulging cheek like he's got a chaw full going. (Maybe he should've come with a spitoon...) My figure does have a slight stray mark by his hairline, but not bad.
My hodgepodge Legion of Super-Heroes continues to grow! Getting this figure made me wonder if maybe should've offered a subscription for the LOSH, but then they might not have got the case and ring...but they might've got more figures than twelve. Maybe? Actually, looking at sales figures at the Beat, Legion of Super-Heroes sales are the lowest they've been in ten years! So maybe I should be happy to have the figures I do...

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Tuesday, February 12, 2013

A "short" post today...

Bit of a dry spell lately for comics, so why not take a quick look at a favorite: from 2002, Punisher #17, "Aim Low" Written by Garth Ennis, art by Darick Robertson.

Unaware that the other is also on the case, both the Punisher and Wolverine are investigating a series of mysterious disappearances: mobsters, seemingly kidnapped, with their legs amputated just above the knees! After running into each other, Wolvie cuts Frank a few times, and Frank unloads a shotgun in Wolvie's face; before the culprits arrive: a gang of really angry midgets, led by the son of a mob boss out for revenge on the brother and mobsters that belittled him his entire life.

Frank and Wolvie get swamped by midgets--Frank has to admit, "If I weren't me--I'd be screaming like a girl right now." Still, despite the leader's appeal to his two "inspirations," neither hero is about to put up with a mob boss, short, tall, or otherwise. Frank goads Wolverine into getting them loose, then needs a distraction:

Frank shows the midgets that he won't put up with any criminals, and that Uzis aren't terribly reliable weapons if you're aren't big enough to handle them. In the end, Frank is left with the question of what to do with a very pissed off Wolverine; and his solution clearly shows neither Frank nor Ennis are probably fans of the "Canucklehead," who had just ludicrous monologues the whole time. Lots of Ennis's Punisher stories, particularly the MAX ones, are brutal; but this one is hilarious.

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Monday, February 11, 2013

I guess $3.95 in 1994 is like fifty cents today...

There's a dollar store by my house, where I often get cleaning supplies and grated cheese product stuff; and they occasionally have two-pack bags of comics. For some reason, along with old Crossgen comics or in this case, an issue of Robotech Masters; there have been multiple copies of 1994's Spawn-Batman. Written by Frank Miller, art by Todd McFarlane, and letters by Tom Orzechowski. (So many letters he deserves a bigger credit!)

This was so hyped up at the time; that it would've had a hard time living up regardless. The inside cover proclaims "Spawn vs. Batman is a companion piece to DC Comic's The Dark Knight Returns. It does not represent current DC continuity." That's a bold statement. The GCD synopsis simply reads "Spawn and Batman fight." That's pretty much it.

The art is undeniably dynamic, though: that still holds up, even if there's the occasional stylistic tic of Todd's here and there like the disposable villain or the overly gaunt Alfred or Batman's occasional underbite. He also nails Batman's scary grin, something not always done well on the rare occasions it's used. Orzechowski's letters are a master class in the art; but Miller's story...ugh. Even putting aside the plot, involving Soviet cyborgs and a persuasive humanitarian out for the peace of the grave; most of the issue is a "Marvel misunderstanding" type fight then team-up with Spawn and Batman. Except Batman is a total dick, referring to Spawn and just about everyone else as either a "punk" or a "twit." The dialogue and narration wants to be more hard-boiled than Miller's Sin City, but just goes over the top and keeps going.

Spawn comes off OK here, but this book seems like a bad example that was followed for years to come: Batman as a controlling, overly driven, overly grim bully who often puts down his friends and allies for not being as obsessive as he is. Batman lost his parents, and that trauma drove him to become what he is so no one else would have to suffer as he did. Miller's Batman uses heroism as the thinnest of justification because he just wants to beat people up until he feels better, which he never will.

Bats also threatens to come back and take down Spawn someday--since he does himself witness Spawn kill at least three people--but he never does. Still, the last page is so petulant and dickish that even Spawn seems unable to do anything except laugh. A pity McFarlane Toys never got to put out a "Batarang-Face" Spawn variant. And in our annual Christmas strip, Deadpool references it to Spawn!

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Friday, February 08, 2013

The best "leg" plans of mice and men...

A timeline:

10-30-2008 I bought the Target exclusive Marvel Legends Union Jack. Part of the Red Hulk Build-a-figure wave, UJ runs me $9.99 plus tax. He comes with the torso piece, but I have no intention of building the Red Hulk.

12-28-2008 Marked down to clearance, I pick up Adam Warlock and Spiral for $6.98 each. That gets me a leg and a head.

12-30-2008 Possibly from the same Target location, I get Black Costume Spider-Man and Black Costume Wolverine. Also $6.98 each. Why didn't I pick them up two days ago? I could not say. Why didn't I pick up Silver Savage, the last figure I needed to complete the Red Hulk? I don't recall--it may not have been in stock, or I may have thought it would be there later. I put together the pieces of the Red Hulk that I had, minus the last leg. You can just see it, under the bumper of the Mach 5, on the third annual Year in Toys post.

05-2010 The Red Hulk's identity and origin is finally revealed in Hulk #22-23. Spoiler alert: he's General Thaddeus "Thunderbolt" Ross!

06-24-12 The Red Hulk appears on the 35th episode of Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes, "Nightmare in Red."

09-23-12 Red Hulk returns in "Code Red," ironically, as a pawn of the Red Skull.

10-07-12 "The Deadliest Man Alive" culminates the Red Hulk's A:EMH appearances; as he attempts to replace the Hulk on the Avengers. His plot and identity are revealed, and the disgraced General Ross is arrested.

02-02-13 I finally get the final Red Hulk piece, the right leg that came with the Silver Savage, finally completing the Build-a-Figure.

Today: I realize, to the best of my knowledge, I have to date never actually read a comic with Red Hulk in it.

About 51 months from the first figure to completion, which I think is the slowest Build-a-Figure completion yet! For comparison, the first series DCUC Metamorpho and the recent Hasbro Marvel Legends Terrax took me 20 days start to finish. Trigon took me about a year and a month, Grodd and Ronan the Accuser over two years.

Recently, I sold some Ares BAF pieces--the head, torso, and a leg--from the Walmart exclusive wave of 2008, right about the same time as the Target exclusive Red Hulk wave. Initially, the Red Hulk figures were $15 each, but they were "corrected" to $9.99 pretty quickly, and I think clearanced out before 2009. The completed Ares figure, however, is crazy expensive. Part of that may be because it was more figures, and stronger characters: Crossbones, Kang, Guardian, Vision, Ultimate War Machine, Heroes Reborn Iron Man, Scarlet Spider, and the Human Torch. Kang was a reissue of an impossible to find Fantastic Four figure, and he and Crossbones were both pretty great.

I may consider looking at more Build-a-Figure, Collect-and-Connect figures later. None of which took this long...
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