Friday, August 29, 2014

That seems like unfortunate ad placement there...

Civics lesson vs. Gladiator lesson, from 1976's Warlord #2, "Arena of Death" Written and illustrated by Mike Grell.

The old public service "Justice for all includes children" page features Neal Adams art, and I can't remember the last time I saw a public service spot in a comic. Man, maybe DC should bring those back. Batman says, "Try not to be a dick!"

Meanwhile, I blog an issue or two of Warlord a year, so I could be done by 2089 at this rate. This issue reads like a a bit of a throwback, since so much happens in 18 pages; but I'm not sure if Grell (or DC) realized the book was going to be a hit, so he may have just been trying to get in what he could. Left tied up to a tree in the previous issue, crucified and left for dead, Travis Morgan manages to avoid getting eaten by saber-tooth tigers, only to be captured by slave traders and sold as a galley slave! There, Morgan meets Machiste, who doesn't believe any of his nonsense stories about a "surface world," that doesn't have eternal sunlight. Causing trouble for their captors, they nearly face being hung when pirates attack! Although Morgan and Machiste put up a good fight and the pirates are defeated, they're still prisoners, but now face being sold as gladiators! They take to their training, but then have to face each other for the pleasure of a wastrel prince. (And I used 'face' entirely too much in that recap, but it's late and I'm tired.)

Machiste advises Morgan to kill him, "or I will surely kill you!" Morgan does manage to get the upper hand, but when the prince gives Machiste the thumb's down, he sees the prince is wearing his watch! Enraged, Morgan goes berserker, tearing into the guards and freeing the gladiators. He had given the watch to Tara, and the prince says he sold Deimos! Thinking quickly, Morgan rallies the gladiators into his army to attack Deimos, with the promise of freedom!...and crossbows, siege towers, catapults, and other "modern" weapons of war. Really, he seems like he's about to teach them to chant "USA! USA! USA!"

Gladiator school is a quick way for Grell to level Morgan up in terms of sword-fighting, but has that ever ended well in fiction? "Let's train these guys into unstoppable killers and make 'em fight! No way that can go south on us!"
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Thursday, August 28, 2014

80-Page Thursdays: Marvel Super-Heroes Spring Special!

This is our third straight week for the return of 80-Page Thursdays, but it's a little slight. Like this issue! From 1991, Marvel Super-Heroes #5 (Spring Special), featuring stories by Sue Flaxman, David Michelinie, Mary Jo Duffy, Dan Mishkin, and Dwight Jon Zimmerman; with art by Jim Valentino, Ron Wilson, Steve Ditko, Vince Mielcarek, Mike Clark, and more.

As was often the case for this series, this issue was burning off old inventory: a Thor story with his half-brother Vidar, an "untold tale" of the Thing dating back to his eighties series, and shorter tales of Speedball, Dr. Strange, and She-Hulk.

Mishkin's Strange story is light, but kind of fun; my favorite of the lot. Not one to run out for, but if you see it cheap.
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Wednesday, August 27, 2014


I have an Uncle Rich, but it was years and years before I realized "Dick" was supposed to be short for "Richard." To this day, I have no idea how that works. "Rick" or "Richie" would make sense, but Dick? I remember Toyfare being surprised that Marvel had a character named "Dick Rider," but we'll let that go.

Xandar, home of the Nova Corps, which somehow appeared in a major movie before Wonder Woman; has been destroyed. Three times, according to Wikipedia. Hey, that page breaks down the Nova Corps rank structure! Clip and save!
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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Of course, immediately after ending my Marvel Unlimited sub, there's still a ton of books I'd love to read. Mostly because as I randomly pick up books, it's often difficult to get the next issue right away. In some cases, it would be easy enough to get some of them, but the cost could be prohibitive, or I might need to get an Essential reprint.

To begin, I haven't read much of the Crossroads storyline that ran from about the Incredible Hulk #300 to #313, with an Alpha Flight crossover for good measure. After Nightmare re-awakens the "Monster Hulk" persona, the Bruce Banner side is believed dead, and Dr. Strange casts the rampaging Hulk into the other-dimensional Crossroads, a nexus to different worlds. Strange's spells intended that the Hulk find a home somewhere, a place where he could be happy and safe and not hurt anyone; and there was an escape clause: should the Hulk be unhappy somewhere, he would be brought back to the Crossroads to try again. Almost mindless, the Hulk's mind created Goblin, Guardian, and Glow; manifestations of id, ego, super-ego that guided him. Until this issue, The Incredible Hulk #310, "Banner Redux" Story by Bill Mantlo, pencils by Bret Blevins, inks by Al Williamson. After attempting to stop a cult from sacrificing a girl, the Hulk is brought down and reverts to Bruce Banner for the first time in over a year! Just in time for him to wake up on the sacrificial altar, about to be gutted by the girl he tried to save! (Hey, that seems familiar...)

(Shoot, #311 had Mike Mignola art! As does #312, with a Sienkiewicz cover and Nightcrawler cameo! Putting those on the list...)

This next issue is from a stretch where I seem to have read maybe every third issue, maybe enough to get the gist if not every little detail: from 1976, Fantastic Four #169, "Five Characters in Search of a Madman!" I kind of hate that title. Written and edited by Roy Thomas, art by Rich Buckler, inks by Joe Sinnott. Ben Grimm is human again, and as usual completely mopey about it. Crabbily drinking in a dive bar, Ben gets into a barroom brawl that starts badly when Ben thinks he has to restrain his super-strength, but then gets his groove back. Power Man has taken Ben's place on the team, but then turns on them, controlled by an outside force. Finally, Ben discovers Reed always intended Power Man just be a temp, and his mysterious plan for Ben's replacement...

I'm pretty sure someone quitting the FF was already a trope by this point, but I think the powerless Ben plotline would only go about another half a year. Ben always wants the opposite of what he has.
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Monday, August 25, 2014

Marvel (Sorta) Unlimited:

Last month, around SDCC, Marvel had a sale on it's Marvel Unlimited subscription: $.99 for a month of all the digital comics you can read. For that price, I was willing to give it a shot.

And I'm pretty sure I got my ninety-nine cents worth. I read all of the 2008-2010 Abnett/Lanning Guardians of the Galaxy series; two Moon Knight series, as much of the new Thunderbolts and Uncanny Avengers as was available. Some oddballs like Deadpool Kills Deadpool or the Marvel Knights Deathlok or the Power Pack limiteds. I even read some old Spider-Man and Thor comics I hadn't seen in years.

The downsides? Well, sometimes the selection isn't as deep as you'd expect. Some books that were formerly licensed by Marvel are not available now, no matter how much you may associate them with Marvel; like Micronauts or Conan the Barbarian or ROM. Likewise, I'm not sure how much MAX stuff is available--I had looked for the recent Dominic Fortune series, and that wasn't in there. Nor did I find a lot of 80's Punisher.

The other problem may just be me, but sometimes the load would stall. Or the book wouldn't be found. More than a couple of times, a book would load, but then the word balloons wouldn't! (That is a great way to check out the art, if you like, but not a great way to read!) So sometimes I'd click a book, wait for it to open, try again, reload...I had a pretty low success rate for a while there. Oddly, Marvel offers Bonus Digital Editions with a number of their titles, but I never had that sort of load trouble with them.

Still, for the price, I quite enjoyed the trial. I definitely got my money's worth, and read a number of books I might not have otherwise had the chance to. There were some annoying bugs, but they weren't a complete dealbreaker--I just don't have the time right now to read enough books to make the regular price worthwhile. The next time Marvel offers a subscription deal with an action figure as a sweetener, it's going to be a lot more tempting.

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Friday, August 22, 2014

So Spider-Man has three hands now? Man, Spider-Verse sounds weird.

No, that's not from the upcoming Spider-Verse crossover, or from Lego. It's from eBay and China, a "Hot 1Pc Super Hero Spider Man Motorcycle Mini Figures Building Toys Blocks." Miss any keywords there? No? Still pretty findable if you like.

$3.27 shipped, with a Spider-bike! I don't know if the spare hand was intentional, or a lucky accident. It is odd to see a mini-figure completely in pieces, though: the Lego ones usually have the arms and legs attached, right? Of course, I haven't put him together yet; I'll save him for the Youngest. He's big on Star Wars Lego, but the video games are bringing him around to other characters. He does refer to offbrands as "Lego impostors," so his brand loyalty is pretty strong; but he'll probably build this one for me.
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Thursday, August 21, 2014

80-Page Thursdays: DC Special Series #11!

Two weeks in a row! Yay! Today, a book that brings back a character that I didn't think appeared again, a couple plot points I'm not sure were readdressed, and proof that capital punishment isn't a deterrent, in DC Special Series #11, "Beyond the Super-Speed Barrier!" Written by Cary Bates, and art by Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, Irv Novick, Kurt Schaffenberger, Alex Saviuk, and more.

In the heart of deepest Africa (as they said in an old Batman Power Records story!) there lies a hidden city. Gorilla City, home of super-advanced simians, and longtime Flash villain Gorilla Grodd. Fed up with his years of super-crimes both there and in the human world, the city's High Council has voted 6-to-1 to execute Grodd. (Even though his crimes to this point are probably pretty tame compared to anything he's probably done in the last ten years or so.) Only the gorilla's leader Solovar voted to let Grodd live--Solovar's kind of like Commissioner Gordon in these stories: although he's the authority figure, he's usually not given a ton to do.

After Grodd's molecules are dispersed and spread into another dimension, Kid Flash has a harrowing encounter after a date goes badly and his girlfriend takes off on his motorcycle--at super-speed, to the point where she burns up! Luckily, it's an illusion, created by an unseen gorilla intruder...Kid Flash's segment ends with him about to graduate high school, and revealing his secret identity to his parents. (Who were utterly horrible in the 90's Flash comic: his dad was a Manhunter plant, and his mom was merely passive-aggressively guilt-mongering, if I recall.)

The current Flash, Barry Allen, visits Solovar in Gorilla City and gets the scoop on Grodd's execution. He then races back to Central City, to get to work before his assistant, Patty, as seen in Five-Star Super-Hero Spectacular as the imaginary Lady Flash. Then Flash has to face the bad guy from Showcase #4, the Turtle! The Turtle zaps the Flash with his "slow laser," affecting the Flash's super-speed vision. Luckily, a quick couple of laps around the world until the Flash hits the same frequency as the laser fixes his vision. But the slow laser had also been adjusted by the unseen gorilla...

Later, on Earth-2, Jay Garrick has revealed his secret identity to the world! Which makes it easy for the gorilla to track him down, at a press conference attended by the other super-speed hero, Johnny Quick. The gorilla affects Johnny's super-speed formula, making him a super-fast menace. Jay has to accelerate to another dimension to snap Johnny out of it, all part of the gorilla's plan.

That night, Barry and Iris push their beds together; when Flash's costume explodes out of his ring without warning! That...that never happens...

But it happens to Wally at the dinner table, too! All three Flashes are then summoned (Jay all the way from Earth-2) to face the gorilla. Grodd? No, Grodd's assistant. Or the animated corpse of Grodd's unwilling assistant, controlled by Grodd's mental powers: his execution was all part of his master plan, to harvest speed from the Flashes when they hit the right frequency. Grodd's reformed and has super-speed to boot, but the Flashes manage to beat him by merging their atoms for a triple-powered punch.

The issue ends with Wally's graduation (and a bunch of heroes show up) but a troubling conversation with Barry: Wally plans on being Kid Flash only for the next four years while he's in college, then retiring as a superhero. Of course that's not what ends up happening, since I think Wally was sick, possibly on the verge of dying before Crisis on Infinite Earths. I don't know if Jay's reveal would come up again or not, nor do I know if Patty appeared again. And this is so close to introducing the Speed Force--but not quite.
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Wednesday, August 20, 2014


I'm 90% sure Marvel's Boomerang is American, as opposed to DC's Captain Boomerang, who's Australian. Of course, while Boomerang is sleazy and amoral and manipulative; he wishes he was as sleazy and amoral and manipulative as the Captain.

Sadly, it looks like Superior Foes of Spider-Man is ending with issue #17. That cover looks familiar somehow...
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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Nothing worse than a chronic complainer with a legit grievance...except maybe two chronic complainers.

Although I try not to pick up books I already have (usually, just because I can't find them...) I know this issue was at my parents' house: from 1991, Avengers West Coast #69, "Grudge Match!" Written by Roy and Dann Thomas, pencils by Paul Ryan, inks by Danny Bulanadi.

Now, I did get some of the issues before and after this, and they're not super: rather bog-standard fare featuring Ultron teaming-up with another villain (which is weird, but we'll come back to that) and Dr. Demonicus and not-Godzilla. But I love this one, with the long-awaited match between Hawkeye and USAgent!

The heroes had been butting heads over top-dog status for the West Coast Avengers for quite some time, while Wasp and Dr. Pym had been forced into the mom-and-dad role for the team. But they were hoping to get out of that, in team elections. The east coast team already had theirs, and had settled on Cap, Thor, Sersi, Vision, Black Widow, She-Hulk, and Quasar. (It may a coloring error, but Quasar is colored as Nomad; which is sad since Paul Ryan was the original artist on Quasar's book! He had a costume change since, though.)

Hawkeye mockingly asks USAgent "How many votes you figure you'll get from a team you elbowed your way into, Agent?" The Agent had been a government appointee, and figured he couldn't be voted out. Unfortunately for him, the Avengers were now U.N. supported, so the government wasn't going to maintain a representative, and the Avengers would decide their own roster. The Agent throws a bit of a tantrum, but Wonder Man tells him he'll either make the team or not on his own merits.

By team bylaws--and they had a ton of them--everyone got five votes, with the top seven becoming regular team members, the next seven alternates or reserve members. After the count, Dr. Pym, Wasp, Iron Man, Scarlet Witch, Wonder Man, Tigra, and Hawkeye are members; with the (android) Human Torch, Quicksilver, Mockingbird, Machine Man, and USAgent as reserves. (I'm not positive Quicksilver was even looking to be on the team again: he had showed up a few issues back to help out when Wanda went bad...)

Pym and Wasp have an announcement, though: they were going to resign as active members, at least for now. They'd stay on until the team settled, then switch to alternate. Hawkeye delivers yet another burn on the Agent: "Now, if only Pietro, the Torch, Bobbi, and some robot up north all buy the farm, you might get to be a real Avenger yet!"

After the meeting, Hawkeye and USAgent make plans to settle their grudge after school--I mean, later. In other subplots, Mockingbird thanks Hawkeye for voting for her, and he didn't. Scarlet Witch doesn't think she and Wonder Man should date anymore, while Wasp and Dr. Pym deny being a couple themselves right now.

Hawkeye was wearing his "battle armor" at the time, which USAgent quite rightly gets a chuckle out of. But the Agent realizes he could really hurt Hawkeye: he could bench about ten tons, while Hawkeye's a normal man. Still, Hawkeye won't back down: his own past had been shady at first, but he didn't feel the Agent had made amends or even apologies for his, and that he wasn't worthy of following in Captain America's footsteps.

Hawkeye removes his helmet, sets aside his bow, and commences punching the Agent. Which probably hurts, but the Agent still holds back...accidentally knocking Hawkeye off a cliff. Hawkeye uses a grappling hook to save himself, but refuses to quit, even when he's beat down and the Agent is dragging him out of the ocean.

The Avengers arrive then, and are just as mad at Hawkeye for the fight; but even they feel the Agent hadn't earned his spot. USAgent huffs off, with Scarlet Witch wondering if he might not be going bad. I gotta say, Hawkeye did have it coming. But then again, he and the other Avengers have a point about the Agent being a tool, too. And they both seem a lot cooler with each other in later issues. I do think Hawkeye deserved 65, 70% of the asskicking he got, though.
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Monday, August 18, 2014

Apparently some people still have time on their hands...

I have a batch of forced overtime this week, which will be swell when I see it on my check, but blows right now. I'm in a bit of a bind for time, but I did get a great pile of dollar books from the Comic Book Shop, including today's issue: from 1977, Action Comics #472. The opening story features Superman getting beat down by Phantom Zone escapee/man-hating Horu-Kanu master Faora, but we're checking out the back-up feature the Sporting Life of Steve Lombard, "If I'm Over Here...What am I doing over there?" Written by Bill Kunkel, art by J.Calnan and Tex Blaisdell.

Steve, being a poor but persistent practical joker, is today removing screws from Clark Kent's file cabinet so it'll fall apart on him, when he's surprised to come face to face with himself! The duplicate re-tightens the screws, but disappears before anyone else sees him. After another encounter where Steve wrecks a take, no one else sees the dupe, and he wonders if he's cracking up...or if someone isn't pulling a joke on him. Namely because he remembers Clark pulling something like that with Roy Raymond, and despite often being portrayed as a dimwit, Steve's smart enough to buy a tape recorder, which picks up his duplicate's voice--figuring a hallucination wouldn't show up on tape. Everyone shares a good laugh, but the duplicate Steve disappears--Lois and Jimmy had played along, but only knew he was a friend of Clark's. Namely, Batman.

Apparently, there was no crime in Metropolis or Gotham that week. I don't figure that reveal would sit too well with a lot of Batman fans today, since Bats is supposed to be grim and broody and obsessed; and certainly not fun. But I kind of like stories where we see Batman and Superman maybe doing silly stuff like anyone else would; although this is a bit of a throwback to when Superman seemed to make elaborate practical jokes about as common an occurrence as getting replaced by alien duplicates...which was pretty darn common in Metropolis as well.
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Friday, August 15, 2014

Eight Deadly Venoms!

Every once in a while, when I'm getting a figure, my girlfriend ("fiancee" is kind of a dumb word, but yeah) will ask, "Don't you already have one of those?" And sometimes my answer is, "Yes, but not one this nice." Like today's figure, the Walgreens exclusive Agent Venom!

Maybe not as fun as Dinner Jacket Venom, but still a lot of fun. Four guns, and a tentacle-back piece that can hold four guns! After I picked him up, I enjoyed reading a ton of the most recent Thunderbolts and Venom series featuring the Flash Thompson version of the character. (The Infinity crossover issues of Thunderbolts are particularly entertaining: given his choice of mission for the T-Bolts, the Punisher picks a mob family that he'd never been able to get to. The mission runs afoul of the usual complications...along with an alien invasion, and some of the criminals getting mutated by the Terrigan Mists and getting powers, and Deadpool struggling mightily to get a decent slice of pizza. Amusingly, the mobsters aren't sure who is more terrifying: the Punisher, his "pet monster" Venom, or Elektra.)
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Thursday, August 14, 2014

80-Page Thursdays: Jimmy Olsen #1!

Hey, it's been a while since we've had this tag out! And it's been a while I've been eyeballing this issue: from 2011, Jimmy Olsen #1, "Jimmy Olsen's Big Week" Written by Nick Spencer, pencils by R.B. Silva, inks by Denis Freitas (or Dym). (The GCD says 84 pages, but play along!)

This story started life as a backup feature in Action Comics #893, but then the issues were downsized and the last three chapters (of seven) were left out in the cold until this collection. As in the then-current continuity, Superman had left Metropolis (Lex Luthor was even headlining Action at the time!) and Jimmy is at loose ends himself. After sitting around playing Lexcorp's Superman: The Video Game, his girlfriend Chloe Sullivan leaves him, and his rivalry with Lexcorp junior exec Sebastien Mallory is getting him nothing but frustration. Jimmy declares his week is going to be bigger than Mallory's, starting with stopping that alien invasion that just showed up; which turns out to be hard-partying, oxygen-drunk "intergalactic Lindsays." Thinking quickly, Jimmy gets Supergirl, Perry White, Martha Kent, and most of Metropolis to play along with making Earth not seem like party central. And that's only three days in!

The rest of Jimmy's week gets more and more hysterical, including a visitor from the Fifth Dimension, a trip into space, and a lot of gags; including a rather pointed take that to the state of Superman's comics at the time. It's way more fun and charming than just about anything I think I've seen from DC the last few years, and if Jimmy got his own book like this, I'd be on board.

These stories were the first appearances of Smallville's Chloe Sullivan (played by Allison Mack for like ten years and two hundred and some episodes) in DC continuity...just in time for the New 52 reboot. Yay...

I've joked before about getting a kickback from Hastings, but I waited until I had a coupon to pick this one up...and then got it for fifty cents! Absolutely recommended.

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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

"Attack by Sanctuary II."

This strip was based on what I remembered from Avengers #260, "Attack on Sanctuary II,"...a comic I'm not positive I've ever read, but here goes: the Avengers face Nebula and her space pirates, on the good super-evil ship Sanctuary II. The Avengers may have the pirates on the ropes, before getting dragged off by the Beyonder for another Secret Wars II crossover. Still, the ship formerly belonged to Thanos, but he was good and dead for quite some time there--from 1977 to 1990! And Nebula is revealed to be Thanos's grand-daughter. Or at least, she claimed to be or possibly believed she was. The idea that Thanos, a death-worshiper, would have kids, let alone grandkids; was weirder to me than the idea that somewhere, something had sex with Thanos...

Marvel's database has Sanctuary II as destroyed in Thanos Imperative #4...but off the top of my head, I think that was the Sanctuary II from the Cancerverse belonging to the evil Captain Marvel from there? Or it may have been destroyed in the 2003 Thanos series that also re-introduced Star-Lord. Or that may have been another H-shaped ship. I don't know if it showed up in Infinity, I haven't read that one yet. I don't even remember if there was a Sanctuary I, for that matter; but it's an oddly esoteric name for a ship belonging to the Big Bad. It's tough to get a sense of scale in comics sometimes, but I imagined Sanctuary II was pretty damn big--so big, that there were probably still alien crewman deep in the lower decks that hadn't even got word Thanos had died the first time yet.

I was wishing I could re-find an issue of Silver Surfer where Thanos pulls an old ship out of mothballs, that had a name like Dreadnaught 666 or something--Yep! Although that does look a little more like what you would expect from Thanos; in my head I thought it was a little more like Captain Harlock's Arcadia or Warhammer 40K.

I'm getting senile, is the point of all this. That, or like many old people, things as way more awesome in my head than they actually were...

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