Friday, June 23, 2017

So I found another copy for fifty cents, which made cracking and buying it easier than finding my copy somewhere: from 1989, Punisher Annual #2, featuring "Knight Fight" Written by Mike Baron, art by Bill Reinhold.

This would be the second of five straight Punisher Annuals that were involved in some crossover, starting with the Evolutionary War and going until 1992's the System Bytes: traditionally, Punisher would be scheduled fairly early in the crossover, before things got really nuts, to keep him grounded. And this Atlantis Attacks chapter starts both grounded and weird, as a passing Marc Spector sees a guy at a pet store eat a gerbil at the counter! Curious, Spector trails the guy back to a private drug rehab clinic; meanwhile, the Punisher is on the trail of a murderer, who turns out to have checked himself in with the same organization. Frank investigates the clinic's downtown office: Baron's Punisher was still able to pass in polite society; unlike say, Ennis's version, who usually looked like a monster. Staking out the office, Frank hears a tricked-out chopper, setting up the best panels in the whole crossover.

No Marvel misunderstanding brawl for these guys, they're professionals. I know some later writer would wreck this--Frank kills Marc's insane brother or something--but I love the idea of these two just being super-cool with each other.

The office has both armed guards and loose snakes, although the latter are too sluggish in the chill to be up to much; and the same actually applies to the creepy forked-tongued goons that jump the guys. Later, at Marc's mansion, we get a bit of recap, with oddly different lettering, tying the snake men back to Viper, and last year's "snake riot" from Captain America #344. (Such a great issue, I want to read that now!) Hitting the clinic, Moon Knight and Punisher realize while the riot had been considered a "mass hallucination," these goons really were turning into snakes! Then, Frank gets ambushed by Viper, who shoots him up full of...snake juice, I guess. Which doesn't turn him into a snake, yet, but he goes wild, shooting up the place. More so than usual, even. The Viper bugs out, and I'm not sure where she turns up next in the crossover; partly because I'm reading them in no particular order.

Moon Knight manages to if not hypnotize, at least confuse the Punisher, with his shiny crescent darts; and Frank goes into convulsions and passes out. Taking him back to the mansion, Marc takes care of him until he comes out of it, two days later, and that's that for this chapter, which is still probably one of my favorite single issues of the time. Also this issue: a surprisingly dark Microchip back-up, and not just because night-vision goggles play a big part in it. There were several of those over the years, but Micro has to go straight to murder-town on this one. Then some "Punisher's Fighting Techniques" with art by Jim Lee, and the fifth chapter of "The Saga of the Serpent Crown," featuring Conan vs. Thoth-Amon!

Let's see: Atlantis Attacks was 14 chapters, and so far we've looked at six now, with a seventh scheduled. Hoping I can dredge up the rest eventually!
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Thursday, June 22, 2017

Oh, no! It's Mr. Flash!

When last we saw our hero, the Flash had just been reduced to a steaming puddle by the villainous Molder; which I can't help but think would be a major setback for most heroes. Except maybe Mr. Bill, I suppose.

As we saw the previous issue, the Elongated Man had been transformed into the Molder, by E-M taking a hit of his gingold-booster for his powers, while being carried at super-speed by the Flash. The Molder turns on his criminal partner, figuring he was no longer needed, although he only melts him into the ground rather than murdering him. Still, an ambulance crew scrapes what's left of the Flash off the tarmac and takes him to the hospital, where he's given a bed--seriously, I don't know what else they thought they could do for him. Fluids, maybe?

Iris is trying to keep it together, working on a Flash retrospective at the TV station, when she gets a visit from Sue Dibny, who has to tell her Ralph was Flash's killer. They have this discussion, somewhat unwisely, at a coffee shop, and are overheard by an eavesdropping Russian spy! Still, Iris disguises herself as a nurse and sneaks in to see the Flash, and gives him a good electric shock, which revives the Flash and causes a small explosion, throwing her through a window! Flash saves her, and the next day gets to work saving Ralph, with a gingold antidote made from a tree infected with fungus. When Sue won't answer the phone, Flash heads over to see her, and finds her the prisoner of Russian spies, who were using her as a hostage to get the Molder to destroy a defector's pro-America art exhibit. Flash beats up those spies, then injects the Molder with the antidote at super-speed, and together he and Ralph beat up the rest of the spies. Easy as pie.

The Russian spy angle feels a bit out of the blue, even for a book like this! Still, probably had to get that page count up somehow. Somewhat amusingly, a letter that issue notes suburban square Barry's "Flash alias has not brought any deep emotional scars," and while the letter writer considers that a positive, that's definitely been rolled back in recent years.
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Wednesday, June 21, 2017


Ooh, behind schedule this week; but more fun with Old Man Logan next week!
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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Like this character? Here's eight more! Now they're gone!

Marvel's publishing strategy is often to flood the market; and sometimes that involves spin-off versions of a popular character. That's nothing new, really; that's how you get a Supergirl or Batwoman. But then when the market contracts, usually Marvel has to clear the boards and go back to just the original flavor. Like today's book! From 2014, Hulk #6, "The Omega Hulk, part 2" Written by Gary Duggan, pencils by Mark Bagley, inks by Andy Hennessy.

I had more than lost track of the Hulk at this point, but there's a helpful recap page: the Hulk's current persona, Doc Green, has decided to rid the world of gamma-powered weapons. Great, except most of those were his close friends and his son: A-Bomb, She-Hulk, Red She-Hulk, and Skaar. (Oh, and Red Hulk, but we know he's a dick.) This issue, he's starting with Rick Jones, the blue A-Bomb.

Doc Green may have a couple points: A-Bomb was created by MODOK, so there's every possibility he left a backdoor into Rick's mind. And who knows what would happen in the future, if A-Bomb mutated or got Alzheimer's or something. It's super-patronizing, actually; but he manages to stick Rick with his untested cure, and it seems to work. Rick isn't thrilled about this, but Doc Green's next stop is give MODOK--and his current employers, S.H.I.E.L.D.--a stern talking-to and beating, to encourage them not to mess with gamma radiation. Meanwhile, "Thunderbolt" Ross, the Red Hulk, isn't going to wait for Doc Green to come at him...!

If you're following Secret Empire, I don't think Doc Green did Rick any favors. But again, Marvel does this sometimes: clear out all the alternate versions or sidekicks or spin-offs, to try to bring focus back to the original. Probably, they do that about the time you've started to accept the Player-2 versions...
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Monday, June 19, 2017

Even the comic shop that sold me this didn't know it existed...

In their defense, they've got a million books in there; but I didn't even recognize the publisher, Hermes Press: from 2013, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century #2-4, story and art by Howard Chaykin.

The first issue wasn't in this pile, so I don't know how exactly Buck ended up in the future from around the 1920's; but as was typical for the character's various incarnations, he doesn't get the "Whoo!" moment that Fry gets upon waking up in the future on Futurama. This 25th century future is somewhat more crapshack than usual, though: while America wasn't a radioactive crater like most of the rest of the world, it was being invaded by the Han (Chinese) who planned to eliminate most of the Americans left and put the collaborating rest in a theme park/nature preserve called "Americaland." The Han forces might have a pretty good shot at it, since the Americans were divided on mostly racial gang lines, and faced being picked apart unless Buck could rally them under a single banner.

Man, there are a lot of racial slurs in this one, and while Buck aspires to get Americans to see each other as Americans, there are several occasions in these three issues alone where he has to kill in a very cold-blooded fashion. This isn't as, well, smutty as you might usually expect from Chaykin; although there are some bits with Ardala Kane that probably would've gotten there if the series had more room.

Just to muddy up the waters, when I got this, I also picked up Dynamite's 2011 Buck Rogers Annual #1, "Dear Buck..." Written by Matt Brady and Troy Brownfield, art by Carlos Rafael. This version appears to be more sci-fi and less political than Chaykin's; but is also hung up on being a man out of time. Albeit, a time closer to our own, since this Buck references Major Tom and mixtapes rather than Louis Armstrong and records. When Dr. Huer works out Buck's birthday correlates with a mysterious burst transmission, they head out into the wastelands to investigate a historical archive, and find a message from his time-lost girlfriend. And robots and cannibals. Still, it ends with Buck a bit more ready to face the future, not that he had much of a choice in the matter.

At first glance, I would've assumed the shinier Dynamite version to have been more recent than Chaykin's, but nope! Still, I think that license gets passed like a mike; there's probably still some mileage for Buck in the next hundred years or so...
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Friday, June 16, 2017

Man, Robert Frost doesn't get a "written by" credit either issue!

It took us a few posts to find a few comics with the poem "Ozymandias," but today we double down with Robert Frost's "Fire and Ice." First up, from 2005, Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #191, "Cold Snap, part 2" Written by J.Torres, pencils by David Lopez, inks by Fernando Blanco.

During Mr. Freeze's latest crime spree, when one of his hired goons suggests stealing a painting to sell later, and Freeze says "there will be no later," that should be a warning sign for that guy. Batman catches it, when he sees the video footage, and suspects Freeze of being suicidal; although he doesn't see Freeze as the type to do it simply. Unwilling to go on without his beloved Nora (and I'm not sure what had happened to her at this point) Freeze is gathering up some of her favorite things, and a few frozen corpses, then he's going to crank up his diamond-powered freeze machine to 11 and freeze the whole city. Batman points out that might not even kill him, but when the machine is about to blow, Freeze refuses to let himself be saved, and seemingly dies in the ensuing explosion. Batman figures like winter, Mr. Freeze would return. (In somewhat poor scheduling, Mr. Freeze would return the very next issue, albeit in a story set earlier in his career.) Alfred asks if he thought Freeze could ever get past his grief; with a painting of his parents behind him, Batman admits he might not be qualified to answer that one.

Mr. Freeze is less suicidal, somewhat more murdery in the next one: 2017's All-Star Batman #6, "Ends of the Earth, part one" Written by Scott Snyder, art by Jock. Attacking a research faculty in Alaska, with his zombie-like cryogenic revivals, Freeze intends to release a bacteria from an ice core that would kill about everything on earth. Batman tries to stop him, and points out Nora probably wouldn't be keen on waking up in the icy graveyard of the world. Freeze has Batman beat, but Batman had planned on that, and had infected himself with a hot-running virus to destroy the bacteria--even as the faculty is bombed!

This virus storyline would go on, but some of this issue isn't clear: Bats drags Freeze into a cryogenic chamber, to wait out the bombing? And the virus was heat resistant to destroy the bacteria, but wouldn't firebombing take care of that? And as is often the case, Batman seems to go out of his way to save the villain, but his henchmen? Screw 'em. Still, this time Mr. Freeze seems to have come around to the ice portion of Frost's poem; which kind of seemed like a given, but there you go.
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Thursday, June 15, 2017

Build your own miniature comic book spinner rack!

I do a craft project here maybe once or twice a year, and usually my Wife suggests getting a 3D printer and knocking it out in plastic instead of glue and backer boards. This time, she suggested just buying the damn thing instead of building it: a miniature comics spinner rack! Best of all: it's mildly functional! (I think I'm often described as such...)

Nerdist mentioned this, which I don't think has come out yet, and I don't know if it's going to be that price either. Maybe? DC Comics Miniature Comic Tiles Collection, which looks neat, but is 13 inches tall. That'd be closer to 1:6 scale, roughly; and Marvel Legends (and DC Multiverse, and a bunch of other stuff) is in a ballpark 1:12 scale. So, we have to do it ourselves!

Here's a scan of the backer board and some issues: for some reason, I had a scaled-down scan of 2011's My Greatest Adventure #1. That ended up being my template for the size. Then, I'd look up comic covers (and a few back covers) and paste them over that. I did waaaaay more than I needed to. So should you!

Cut out the backing board pieces. (NOTE: The last one I did, felt just a smidge wide, you might try shaving a centimeter or two off there.) Next, you'll need 28 paperclips: placing them on the lines, then bending them at a 90-degree angle. (The above one didn't come out as I wanted, but you can see how the paperclips are bent.) I had a sheet of foam from something the Wife ordered off Amazon, and I like to reuse that stuff: I cut a little piece for the middle, then hot-glued it and the four sides together. Once dry, you can put all the comics you want in the racks: I recommend at least two, but you could probably get three depending on how stiff the paperclip is.

On the bottom of the above scan, you can see two of the "Comics for All Ages/Hey!! Kids Comics" pieces: mount those on a piece of backing board, then take a kebab skewer and poke it through the foam. My base is just a couple of Powerade lids; you can do better than that! Still, while it won't spin like a real one would; doing it this way, the comics are removable, and you can change up the display!

We've got two unfinished ones to the left, have to finish up there.

Ah, I have a ton of fond memories of a very specific spinner rack: my hometown grocery store had one, that I would park myself in front of while my mom did the week's grocery shopping. There's a few books in the scan above I know I got there: Star Wars Annual #1 and ROM #25, for sure. Later, I started getting most of my books at a Circle K that I could badger the staff until they put the books out on Wednesdays. When I graduated, by then comics were being phased out of grocery stores, and I saw my old rack out behind the store. I considered stealing it, but I didn't know if it was free to take or not; and to this day I regret not taking it. (I at least should've asked!) Those racks are somewhat rare now, although you could probably find a non-vintage one...which would kind of defeat the purpose!

Now, if you wanted the advanced class; you could look up all the books that were on the racks during a specific month and create a more historically accurate version. An easy one to start with would be Marvel's 25th Anniversary covers, cover dated November 1986. I also thought a full rack of comics homaging Kevin Maguire's Justice League #1 could be doable, with a bit more digging. Which I did!

Which led to the homage cover from the TV show Fringe, an alternate universe's cover with Jonah Hex in Guy Gardner's spot! The Maguire inspired covers before, while most of them probably never hit a spinner rack, I think all were actual comics you could buy! Or with some tweaking, you could do a full rack of homage covers, books that never were.

I saw my sister this weekend, and she does a bit of antiquing: I asked her to keep an eye out for a spinner rack for me, but not to go nuts. Maybe someday...

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Wednesday, June 14, 2017

"Print is Dead."

Tomorrow, we'll hopefully have time to check out how to make a spinner rack! Unless I get hung up playing with them.
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Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Every time I have a mini-series missing an issue, drink!

Yeah, that happens way too often for a fun drinking game here. Still, we have a bonus issue though: five issues of the first Secret Six mini-series from 2006, plus the first issue of their 2008 regular series! Well, that's six issues, I guess. Written by Gail Simone, art by Brad Walker and Nicola Scott, inks by Jimmy Palmiotti and Doug Hazlewood.

Darn, I missed the Doom Patrol's appearance, although from the description there, they got jobbed out by the Mad Hatter, who did a short run with the Six. The Hatter was even nuttier than usual here, but had finally started to come around to the team as a burgeoning, completely dysfunctional family; which makes it sad-slash-hilarious when Ragdoll gives him the boot.

Much of this limited revolves around Scandal Savage, her relationship with former Female Fury Knockout, and her father's attempts to coerce her into giving him a grandchild. The latter would be bad enough in any case, but made far worse since her dad was immortal caveman and murder enthusiast Vandal Savage; there's every possibility he wanted a grandkid to eat or harvest its organs or something. And despite being unarguably the team's toughest member (physically) Knockout would get taken out...actually, that would happen multiple times over the title's run! She gets burned down by mercenary Pistolera in #2, but recovers from horrific burns. (Knockout remains, well, a knockout, even after that; thanks to Darkseid's gift of genetic engineering "to stay presentable," I don't think Darkseid cared if guy warriors were burnt lumps of scar tissue or even survived...) Later, on her way for a rematch with Big Barda, Knockout would get got again in what looks like an otherwise fun issue of Birds of Prey (#109) as part of the Death of the New Gods mini. Surprisingly, I think she would still be one of the few New Gods to return after that before the New 52, so good for her.

Still, with Knockout out, the Secret Six would start their regular series down to four members! (Actually, take that back: five. Bane is here, more towards the end of the issue.) Not that I think they referred to themselves by that name, anyway. In the mini-series, Deadshot has a visit with his daughter that predictably goes south; while I didn't feel Catman had as much to do. (Well, there was some stuff with Cheshire...) At the start of the regular series though, after what appears to be a brutal encounter with poachers in Africa, Catman is having a bit of a moral dilemma, which his pal Deadshot blithely pushes through: while they aren't great guys, he figures 90% of the bad stuff they do happens to other bad guys, so whatevs. He also has a disturbing insight to Catman's relationship with the Huntress that I hope is wrong...

Simone has a few plates going from the start: a new crime lord is introduced, from a box; Scandal tries to push through her grief over Knockout, the guys try to set her up with a Knockout-dressed stripper, and the team's latest mission to break out Tarantula seems to be so ill-advised Huntress calls Catman up to warn him. We checked out the last issue several years back, but I still have a lot of issues to fill in here.

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Monday, June 12, 2017

You get what you pay for, which in this case was nothing, yes?

Much as I love the silly robot, I don't exactly know why anyone would hire bounty hunter "freelance peacekeeping agent" Death's Head. While he's certainly on the higher-end of mercenaries, like Batroc or Deathstroke, like those two he's not going to be able to beat down your A-list hero types, yet still has just enough honor that if you're a big enough douche, there's every chance he'll turn on you. Or just drag his feet, as in today's book: 1993's Incomplete Death's Head #3, reprinting "Contractual Obligations" from 1988's Death's Head #2, written by Simon Furman, pencils by Bryan Hitch, inks by Dave Hine.

This issue, Death's Head has been hired to retrieve Scavenger, of the Brit merc team Dragon's Claws. (I know I've read a couple of that book, but I'm having trouble describing it: a Marvel UK book that feels more like a mid-tier 2000 AD piece, with mercenary violence as sportsball almost.) DH gasses him and legs it, since a previous fight with the Claws had left him without legs! He had been repaired, and this job was part of his payback, although only for maybe another twenty minutes or so: figure Death's Head had done the math on costs and labor for repairs, versus his usual billable hours...

His employer and Scavenger's captor, were part of the latter's origin: a maximum security prison had been built on a fault line, and largely sank in an earthquake. Many of the prisoners had survived, but the combined trauma of their imprisonment and the quake left them severely agoraphobic, unable to even leave the ruined prison. A young Scavenger had been one of the few who could leave and bring back supplies, until eventually he was trusted enough they took the explosives off him, and then he never came back. Scavenger had hoped by leaving, he'd force the inmates to face their fears and rejoin the world; but that didn't work out. Still, when the fighting breaks out, he manages to force the leader outside, and into a drooling, gibbering mess. Meanwhile, Death's Head's rematch with Dragon's Claws goes much better for him, even though his metal heart isn't in it, and although he has Dragon on the ropes, DH calls time a minute early and spares him out of respect.

O.G. Death's Head is obviously the best Death's Head; but I would love to write him as a robotic Dr. Who, prone to regenerating into similar but new versions. And he was a time-traveller as well--today's story took place in 8162--so you could always check in with the old ones. I'd need creator Simon Furman to sign off on DH III's regeneration scene, though!
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Friday, June 09, 2017

Ooh, I had high hopes for this one.

On paper, this should be right up my alley: a Warlord appearance, from the artist of the first Warlord comic I remember reading. From 2000, Aquaman #71, "To Enter the Lost World..." Written by Dan Jurgens, pencils by Steve Epting, inks by Norm Rapmund. Epting's a good artist, but man, I wish Jurgens had drawn this one too!

In the lost world of Skartaris, the Warlord's friends Machiste and Mariah try to buy time for the dwarf wizard Mongo Ironhand to cast a spell summoning help. Which, this being an Aquaman comic, means Aquaman; who is bored out of his mind with the usual kingly duties in Atlantis, and takes the opportunity of a mystic disturbance to leave Garth (formerly Aqualad, now Tempest) in charge and investigate with Mera. Mera points out in the old days, Aquaman would've taken Garth on such a trip; but since he was a new dad and Aquaman was looking to get back together with Mera, it's pretty clear.

The disturbance turns out to be a whirlpool, that seemingly sucks Aquaman and Mera into the past, since they see a elasmosaurus, and are nearly run down by a viking-like ship. The sailors assume them to be "sea wizards" and attack, and Aquaman counters by telepathically setting a dinosaur on them; and then Travis Morgan dives overboard to bring the fight to them. Aquaman thinks he recognizes him, though...

That's enough for Travis to realize they were from the "surface world," since Skartaris was long thought to be a world within the earth's core. (In recent years, it's been cast as an alternate dimension.) Travis had met Oliver some time back, and in a bit of continuity fudging, recognizes Aquaman. With his new allies, Travis leads them against the "Ch'rin," stone giants that may only be the harbinger of the big bad to come...!

This isn't a bad issue, and while I'm always glad to see Travis and his supporting cast; here he falls into a bit of the same trap the Inhumans used to: every guest appearance, there's no real continuity or lasting changes from the last one. And oddly, while there's been several, I can think of more I don't have all of than I do: the Suicide Squad: Raise the Flag mini-series. Dan Jurgen's 90's Teen Titans series. A scuffle in Skartaris in Secret Six. Towards the end of Priest's Justice League Task Force. Well, as usual, something to keep an eye out for.
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