Friday, December 29, 2017

"The End" Week: Action Comics Weekly #642!

This issue kinda-sorta barely counts as a last issue, but I'd been looking forward to it, so we'll go ahead even though it was a bit disappointing: from 1989, Action Comics Weekly #642, "Where There's a Will..." Written by Elliot S. Maggin, art by Steve Ditko, Gil Kane, Jim Aparo, Curt Swan, and more.

You can read a bit more about the Action Comics Weekly experiment here, but while the sales weren't terrible (though they may have been down) producing the book was apparently a nightmare. The various anthology features may not have fit together tonally, or not been structured to make good use of the weekly format, or been hamstrung by creative team changes. On that note, this particular issue was supposed to be written by Neil Gaiman; but his script was turned down by editorial, since they felt at that point in continuity (post-Crisis, shortly after Byrne's run) Superman and Green Lantern would not have been close or known each other's secret identities. Even though reading the final product, I thought they did anyway, or at least Clark knew Hal's.

When Abin Sur crashed on earth, his first choice for his replacement was Clark Kent, but per Guardian bylaws the new Green Lantern had to be a native. (Like many Guardian rules, this may have never come up before or since.) Seeing the other candidates, Clark suggests Hal Jordan, since he had interviewed the prospective astronaut earlier. (Pre-Crisis, Clark had met Hal at least twice before he became Green Lantern!)

In the present, Hal is tracking the theft of fissionable material, but seems cranky and off his game. He also seems indecisive, and easily snowed by a crooked major; although that may have been to set up a Casablanca homage; but he then gets shot and left to die. His ring scans the earth for replacements, and while some are brave ordinary men, it also grabs Nightwing, Guy Gardner, Clark Kent, and Deadman in the body of a criminal. (Guy had his own ring, but wasn't wearing it right that second, as he was challenging a gun-runner to take a shot at him with it!) The ring brings them all, frozen in time, to Hal to pick; but the ghostly Deadman and Clark at super-speed are able to talk to Hal. (Clark plays it off as "...for some reason," but Deadman knows who he is.)

Deadman suggests Hal bow out gracefully, pick a replacement, and check out the afterlife, it's fun! Don't get stuck fighting for ever like he did. Clark takes the opposite position: don't choose a successor, fight for as much life as possible, because there's so much left to see. While Deadman and Clark argue, a power ring projection of Abin Sur visits Hal like the Ghost of Christmas Past, and tells Hal his self-doubt is his impurity, like the yellow weakness of the power rings; and he can either overcome it, or let someone else have a go. Hal returns to his body, seemingly none the worse for wear, and returns the replacement candidates to their lives, all with a "residual charge" of green power that takes care of their immediate problems when they get back. Hal then wraps up the crooked major, and Deadman and Clark close out the series arguing, with Deadman seemingly giving the title back to Superman.

This was an interesting idea, maybe not quite as executed as it could've been; but there is some fun art in there. The question of what it met to be without fear had been an ongoing one in Green Lantern's ACW serial, but I don't think we quite got the answer here.
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"The End" Week: Dead of Night #11!

Timing is everything. Hit at the right moment, and you can capture the world's imagination. Miss your chance, and you might debut in the last issue of a series, then have two more books cancelled before you can appear again, like the Scarecrow here. From 1975, Dead of Night #11, "Enter: the Scarecrow" Written by Scott Edelman, art by Rico Rival.

This has a real Night Gallery feel to it, since a mysterious painting of a scarecrow is involved: a pair of burglars in goat-head masks attempt to steal it, but are instead brutally killed by the mysterious, laughing Scarecrow. Later, an art collector (with an assist from his brother) buys the painting at auction, beating out a loud, and threatening, crabapple. Said crabapple is of course the head of the goat-masked "Cult of Kalumai," and they steal the painting and the collector's girlfriend. Beneath the painting of the scarecrow is the devil-like "visage of Kalumai," and with that and a little human sacrifice they plan to bring back their god. The Scarecrow smashes in Batman-style, then kills the hell out of all the cultists. The scarecrow painting is mysteriously restored...

It's left mildly ambiguous here if the Scarecrow is something mystical, or a really good mystery-man type. His timing was off, though: this was the last issue of Dead of Night, and he had been slated to appear in Monsters Unleashed and Werewolf by Night but both were cancelled before he could appear! His storyline was seemingly wrapped up in Marvel Two-In-One #18; yet he would appear much, much later, but as the "Straw Man," since his name had been taken by the Ghost Rider villain the Scarecrow!

After years of Batman comics featuring the villainous Scarecrow, it's odd to see a more-heroic one; but I vaguely remember the Disney movie The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh, which also could've been an inspiration for this book.
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"The End" Week: Conan the Barbarian #275!

We checked out the previous issue earlier this year, since I never thought I'd get this one; but I found a nice reader copy while I was on vacation! From 1993, Conan the Barbarian #275, "Cry Kozak!" Written by Roy Thomas, pencils by Mike Docherty, inks by Ricardo Villagran, Alfredo Alcala, and Ernie Chan. And a Colin MacNeil cover with "The End!" right on it!

Conan had been captain of the mercenary Free Companions, but being kidnapped by masked cultists the previous issue may have been the last straw. He might've left them to their own devices, if one hadn't gotten a bit too mouthy and been gutted for it. Still, Conan ends up knocked out, and the mercenaries' new leaders discuss what to do with him: Conan's sole ally, Isparana, doesn't openly come to his aid, since she's carrying the child of the Devourer of Souls (!) but she leaves a knife so he can escape. Surprisingly, Conan's escape attempt fails, as he's knocked out again by a sling-stone. The leaders decide to have Conan dragged to death by a horse, since that way no single one of them has to take responsibility for it!

Conan is keel-hauled a good distance before he's able to get the horse stopped, but has lost a bit of blood. Still, he's helped by an old friend, mute Khitan Turgohl. Turgohl had been collecting weapons for the Kozaki raiders, who are amenable to Conan joining them but warn him not to step outside his station and usurp leadership. A few pages later, after the Kozaki village is attacked by fire demons and most of said leadership is killed, Conan is nominated for the job...They figure he had a good head on his shoulders and didn't panic during the attack. Moreover, Conan is unafraid to offer himself to meet with the enemy Turanians, who arrive under flag of truce: they didn't send the fire demons, but had some refugees from another Kozaki village and wanted to trade them in exchange for the Kozaki relocating more northward. Conan goes with the Turanians to confirm their refugees; reasoning the Kozaki weren't too attached to him yet, but his boldness could solidify his leadership.

Unluckily for the barbarian, the Turanians' leader is Yezdigerd, who remembered a prior run-in with Conan from Conan the Barbarian #20! Which was also written by Roy Thomas, who likes to tie in continuity like that: it's not really necessary, but that issue would have been reprinted fairly recently in Conan Saga #7. Yezdigerd has Conan taken prisoner and thrown in with the refugees, where Conan finds Turgohl's wife Tania, who might be responsible for this mess: she had tried to use the "Blood Jewel of Bel-Hissar" to summon the fire demons, but couldn't control them. Before Yezdigerd can have Conan beheaded, Tania creates enough of a distraction that Conan's able to turn into a fight to distract attention away from Tania, who gets the jewel again and summons more fire demons. Conan, Tania, and the refugees escape; although Conan doesn't have time to kill Yezdigerd.

Back with the Kozaki, Turgohl tries to take back the cursed Blood Jewel, but then can't throw it away. Conan stops him from killing himself, and takes the gem and its curse himself, to deal with later. Then, another Kozaki tribe asks for help, and Conan agrees, thinking the tribes could be united. But he wasn't expecting to take them against the Free Companions...!

This would be continued in Savage Sword of Conan #218, which I mistakenly thought was the last issue of that series: it's not, it would continue to #235. This also wasn't the end of Conan's color adventures at Marvel: there would be two short series (Conan the Adventurer and Conan) magazine-sized black-and-white Conan the Savage, and a smattering of limited series ending with Conan: the Flame and the Fiend in 2000.
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"The End" Week: World's Finest Comics #323!

It's a sad fact of life that sometimes friends drift apart. You might no longer share the same interests, or not have the time you had to spend together before, or disagree about what to do with yourselves. Or, your friendship might be ending by editorial fiat. Like today's book! From 1985, World's Finest Comics #323, "Afraid of the Dark" Written by Joey Cavalieri, pencils by Jose Delbo, inks by Alfredo Alcala.

There seemed like a bit of lip service to wrapping up an earlier storyline here; as the villain is Nightwolf, at the behest of the Power Broker; but it's the former's only appearance, and I can't even find any info on the latter. Still, an archaeologist who appeared in an earlier issue, and got her grant from the Wayne Foundation, spills the beans on Nightwolf: he was her fling, but stole a belt they had discovered and went to an old shaman to find out how to use it. Now, he's covered Metropolis with Advanced Darkness and magic wolves. While Superman realizes it's magic and he's vulnerable to it, he still gets knocked out and maybe gnawed on a bit by the doggies.

Meanwhile, after seeing the archaeologist, Batman disguises himself as Nightwolf's shaman, in order to trick him into a fight where Bats easily takes away his belt, and that's that. Except Batman is surprisingly pissed off at Superman, for nearly getting himself killed. For some reason, they have this conversation in a barn, somewhere, and after Superman has a rambling monologue about the good times he had on farms and wheatcakes. Swear to god, wheatcakes. That's usually Spider-Man's thing!

The last page alludes to Superman and Batman's fifty years of friendship, as they both go their separate ways. With Batman swinging away on a rope attached to...nothing in particular, I'd guess. The editorial on the last page notes that the book was going on "hiatus," while the bigwigs tried to sort out a premise and format. (I was more familiar with World's Finest as an anthology book.) I was going to blame this on the Dark Knight Returns, but that wouldn't debut until 1986! Ditto Byrne's the Man of Steel. This was post-Crisis, though. And the World's Finest name has returned, more than once.
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"The End" Week: Micronauts #11!

As I write this, over at the delightful Gone & Forgotten, Calamity Jon has been featuring Micronauts Monday; checking out a classic issue every week. So he'd still be at least a year away from today's book: from 2003, Micronauts #11, "Invasion, part 4" Story by Dan Jolley, pencils by Steve Kurth, inks by Barb Schulz.

This was a new version of the Micronauts, completely separate and distinct from the Marvel book; in fact, Hasbro/IDW has had another incarnation in recent years! Some elements are consistent, though: in some form or another, there will be Acroyear, Microtron, Biotron, and the big bad is always Baron Karza. Almost literally big bad this issue, since for his invasion of earth, Karza appears to be piloting a colossal mecha of himself. Sending lackey Red Falcon after the fleeing 'Nauts, Karza starts his "population reduction program" moving forward.

Token earthling and team leader Ryan Archer is normal-sized on earth, while his teammates are action-figure sized; but Ryan makes a better use of his home field advantage by laying a trap for Red Falcon in a chemical warehouse, where Microtron then gasses Falcon and his troops. (It looks pretty fatal, but maybe, maybe not.) Using Falcon's ship to get through Karza's defenses--and Falcon's body as a ventriloquist dummy--the Micronauts counter-attack, with a "collection rod" trap taking out Karza's mech. Before Archer can finish him, though; he's shot in the back by Karza's daughter Persephone. (She was on the outs with her dad, but couldn't let him die, either.) Later, after recovering in the Microverse, Acroyear tells Archer the team is his, since he came closer to destroying Karza than anyone else had so far.

This was the last issue of this series (and the third last Micronauts we've checked out!) but it would briefly continue with publisher Devil's Due for three issues. Also this issue: a house ad for upcoming series The Walking Dead, which only seems like a hundred years ago.

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Thursday, December 28, 2017

"The End" Week: R.E.B.E.L.S. '96 #17 and R.E.B.E.L.S. #28!

Spoiler alert, guys: sometimes I buy a last issue--or two!--just for this feature. From 1996 (duh) R.E.B.E.L.S. '96 #17, "Deliverance" Written by Tennessee Peyer, pencils by Derec Aucoin, inks by Phyllis Novin; and from 2011, R.E.B.E.L.S. #28, "Starstruck, conclusion" Written by Tony Bedard, pencils by Claude St. Aubin, inks by Robert Campanella.

R.E.B.E.L.S. was a spin-off from L.E.G.I.O.N., which was itself a spin-off: it was launched out of the Invasion mini-series and was also a prequel to the Legion of Super-Heroes. The Legion was set in the 30th century, while the L.E.G.I.O.N. was set in the present: it began as L.E.G.I.O.N '89, and ticked up every year until its cancellation with L.E.G.I.O.N. '94 #70. During the Zero Hour crossover, it was relaunched as R.E.B.E.L.S '94, although it was perhaps an acronym for nothing. (Or, per DC's wikia, "Revolutionary Elite Brigade to Eradicate L.E.G.I.O.N. Supremacy.") In-story, the the L.E.G.I.O.N. was an interplanetary police force for hire, created (mostly) by Vril Dox, who is perhaps better known as Brainiac 2. He was the son of the Superman villain Brainiac, and the ancestor of the LOSH's Brainiac 5: Vril was probably closer to lawful neutral, and could be a bit manipulative. And so was his son, Lyrl Dox, the bad guy of the first R.E.B.E.L.S. series, who mind-controlled the L.E.G.I.O.N. and was on the verge of taking the whole galaxy, while still a baby! Vril manages to derail his son's plans here, seemingly reducing Lyrl to a normal infant. Maybe.

Maybe not, since Lyrl appears in the next R.E.B.E.L.S. last issue, seemingly at least teenaged; as this time the team is rebelling against the control of Starro. (Which, along with the usual starfish-facehuggers, had some kind of prime host here.) Along with traditional members Captain Comet and Lobo, this team had Adam Strange, Starfire and her (mostly) evil sister Blackfire, and a Validus precursor of some sort, Tribulus. The latter's mental lightning is used to destroy the Starro-spore on Vril, who then uses Tribulus to punch the prime Starro through a portal so Lobo can beat it, presumably to death. Now freed, the planets Rann and Tameran enter a mutual defense pact, with Vril serving as Blackfire's "consort." Lyrl disappears, as the L.E.G.I.O.N. prepares to deal with a crisis on Oa; but this was the last issue before Flashpoint and the New 52 relaunch; and I don't think the L.E.G.I.O.N. or R.E.B.E.L.S. teams have appeared since, although they may have been mentioned in passing.

I'm not sure any incarnation of the group was a huge seller, but that's a fair run: DC (and Marvel, for that matter) don't seem to support this kind of mid-tier book anymore.

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"The End" week meets 80-Page Thursdays: Justice League Quarterly #17!

Another 80-page last issue! I actually think I bought this before Marvel Super Heroes #15, but just getting around to reading it now: from 1994, Justice League Quarterly #17, featuring stories by Paul Kupperberg, Charlie Bracey, and Andy Mangels; and art by Danny Rodriguez, Carlos Franco, Phil Jimenez, and more.

Even though the book was called Justice League Quarterly, this is at least the fourth Global Guardians story I've read in it, and they get the cover this time too. And none of them have been that memorable. How many of them can you even name? Fire and Ice don't count, and no Wikipedia'ing it! Here, the precog Tuatara (who I don't think is called that all issue, everyone just calls him his first name, Jeremy) has a bad vision of a large, redheaded foe taking out former Guardians, looking for their MIA old boss, Dr. Mist. Several members are killed or crippled, including Tuatara, who is left in a coma; but Owlwoman believes she can rebuild the Guardians with some new members referred by J'onn J'onzz. And I don't think they're ever seen again. Certainly not the new guys, anyway; who are only shown on screen, which thus makes it seem like they chose to never appear rather than join the Global Guardians.

Also this ish: a man awakens from a coma with superpowers, and goes on a rampage over his loss of seven years; but luckily he runs into Captain Atom, who lost twenty years. Do not try to one-up him. (I kid, but it's nice to see CA show a different side.) And lastly, nice Phil Jimenez story for a Maxima story, where she saves a runaway from a life of prostitution. She was usually portrayed as more imperious, haughty; but here shows a compassionate side that I don't think we ever see again. Round out the issue with a few pin-ups (including one of Guy Gardner with a terrible goatee, from Mike Wieringo!) and that's all she wrote.

I'm still missing an issue or two, but aside from JLQ #3 and parts of #5, I don't think this series ever lived up to its potential. It probably could have just done Booster and Beetle hijinks for 80 straight pages and called it a day, with maybe the occasional interlude of Guy Gardner getting punched the hell out...
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"The End" Week: Suicide Squad #66!

For this feature, I collect last issues throughout the year, and then usually start writing the posts around September. I'm a week away from this posting, but this was an issue I didn't think I would find easily: from 1992, Suicide Squad #66, "And Be a Villain!" Written by John Ostrander and Kim Yale, breakdowns by Geof Isherwood, finishes by Robert Campanella.

Although the roster had changed many times, this was the final mission of Amanda Waller's Suicide Squad; although she would be back at it later. In the jungles of Diabloverde, she leads the team against a knockoff Suicide Squad: villains working for hire and appropriating the name. The faux Squad is bodyguarding the seemingly deathless Guedhe, who seems like a metagene powered voodoo doctor with an army of zombies. On the way, Amanda and most of the rest face their personal demons in the jungle: for her, it's the guilt over all those who had died for the Squad. When it's over, that drives her to break up the team, and think about what to do with her life going forward.

The series ends with Count Vertigo trying to decide if he wants to live or not, by looking down the barrel of Deadshot's gun. There's also a nice retrospective from Ostrander on the book, where he mentions letters of input from Karl Kesel, who would be the next writer to use the Squad, in Superboy #13-15. Per Wikipedia, Kesel says he nearly killed off Captain Boomerang there!
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"The End" Week: Legion Lost #16 and Legion of Super-Heroes #23!

I actually have a small pile of Legion last issues next to me right now (and at least one Legion-related book!) but we'll double-down on what, unbelievably, is still the most recent of their finales: from 2013, Legion Lost #16, "Last Stand" Written by Tom DeFalco, pencils by Andres Guinaldo, inks by Mark Irwin; and Legion of Super-Heroes #23, "Aftermath" Written by Paul Levitz, art by Kevin Maguire.

The previous, pre-New 52 Legion Lost replaced the then-ongoing Legion books, and followed several members lost, and presumed dead, on the other side of the galaxy. This LL was an ongoing title to this point, and featured several members lost, and presumed dead, in the 21st century. (The Legion traditionally has a large cast, but none of the main characters overlapped between the two Lost books!) Unfortunately, they're a bit buried this issue, which also features Caitlin Fairchild (of Gen 13) Warblade (of WildC.A.T.s) a future version of Captain Atom (Adym), and the reboot version of the clone Superboy! And other characters with names like Leash, Thraxx, Harvest, and Daggor...and my eyes just glazed over typing that.

Several characters are redesigned to within an inch of their lives: Fairchild and Warblade are virtually unrecognizable. Although a couple Legionnaires are recovered, and a time loop seemingly closed, the villain is still up to whatever he's up to, and the team is still trapped in the past; and I don't believe either has been seen since. And I had a vague idea that New 52 Superboy's origin/status quo had been rejiggered since then as well.

Meanwhile, in the 31st century, we at least have Kevin Maguire art! Even if large chunks of the team are missing or dead, after the Fatal Five disrupted the United Planets' technology across several worlds. Brainiac 5 is trying to get the lights back on and lead the team, even though no one really trusts him to do that. Shadow Lass quits, before the Science Police come down to tell them the Legion is being disbanded. What's left of the team doesn't seem up to fighting it.

On her homeworld, Dream Girl feels like the Legion was disappearing like a bad dream; while Bouncing Boy mentions in other universes, where "Steppenwolf didn't send Superman to his doom," maybe things turned out differently. Bwah? That may be referring to Earth-2, so was this ever really "our" Legion? Well, it probably was, but this would be a way to leave the door open for another version down the line. Which has been hinted at, but hasn't turned up yet.

Man, I went out of my way to find both of these, and they didn't do it for me. Two Legion Last issues should do it for this year, the rest may have to keep...
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"The End" week meets 80-Page Thursdays: Marvel Super-Heroes #15!

We don't often have an 80-pager for "The End" Week, but we have one today! From 1993, Marvel Super-Heroes #15 (Fall 1993), featuring stories by Walt Simonson, Bill Mantlo, Len Kaminski, and more; art by Keith Pollard, Joe Barney, Don Heck, and more.

Most of my write-up for this issue was spent trying to figure out if I'd blogged this one already, since we've already hit most of the run. No? OK, then. This may have been the last of the fill-in, inventory stories to burn off, wrapping up the series with a somewhat disjointed Iron Man story, then two Thor's, both fairly funny. As always, I wish Simonson had drawn his; but it's a fun one with Volstagg. Although, every time I see Volstagg on a horse, I think of the horse as the biggest hero in the story.

The Hulk is mentioned on the cover, but only appears in a pin-up: the last story for this title would be a terrible, possibly re-dialogued Dr. Druid story guest-starring the Texas Twister and Son of Satan. That one's not going on any highlight reels, but the rest is fine, and the Volstagg story has been reprinted--in a collection using the cover from this issue!
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Wednesday, December 27, 2017

"The End" Week: Invaders #41 and #15!

From 1979, Invaders #41, "Beware the Super-Axis!" Written by Don Glut, breakdowns by Alan Kupperberg, finishes by Chic Stone, edited by Roy Thomas. (Who I'm sure had some input!) And from 2015, All-New Invaders #15, "The Return of Toro, part 2" Written by James Robinson, art by Steve Pugh.

Even though it's not a series I read regularly at the time, I have strong memories of the old Invaders: they appeared as the Grandmaster's pawns in Avengers #71, which was reprinted in Marvel Super Action #32, which was probably my first Avengers comic. (Man, I haven't blogged that yet? At all? The hell? No, I did post one Invader-less panel way back when!) And I remember reading an issue where the team was captured and the Human Torch was kept in an airless, vacuum container; and I was trying to figure out why he didn't suffocate: I didn't know the "Human" Torch was an android! Not positive what issue that was.

Anyway, this issue is mostly fight sequence, between the Invaders (with less well known members the Whizzer and Miss America) punching it up with the Super-Axis, featuring Baron Blood, Master Man and Warrior Woman, and U-Man. The Torch is hypnotized by Lady Lotus for a good chunk of it, and the issue ends with Lotus escaping to fight another day, with her uncle, the Yellow Claw!

The modern, "All-New" Invaders was at least two-thirds old members: the Torch, Namor, the returned (and now of Inhuman origin) Toro, and as of this issue the old Steve Rogers, since he had lost the Super-Soldier Formula. I kind of suspect that was at least part of the reason this was cancelled: keeping consistency with Steve appearing in his book, who knows how many Avengers titles, and anything else. While Steve is having a hard time adjusting to being old, he meets with Namor and the Torch, over the coordinates in the ocean where the Avengers found him, frozen in ice.

In a recent adventure, Lash, an Inhuman searching for others of his kind that he deemed 'worthy,' intervened in a fight to invite Toro and Iron Cross to join him. Card-carrying Nazi Iron Cross was not thrilled at that revelation, but realizes his old life was over, and joins Lash. While their current adventures appeared to be wrapping up, Namor tells the Torch that he had "been the villain to Steve on many occasions," but Jim Hammond brought out the best in him. And Jim was not only working with S.H.I.E.L.D, he had rescued another former lab specimen like himself: Speedball's cat, Niels!

Who trashed a good chunk of his place, but seems to be coming around to him. It's a nice ending, that I'm pretty sure was crapped all over by Secret Empire, if not sooner; and a better storyline--the Winter Soldier, the British Invaders, and Killraven versus a new Martian tripod invasion--was left hanging. Robinson notes in the closing that some of the loose ends might be wrapped up elsewhere, but Secret Wars might've derailed that. Unless they were in Robinson's next book...better look for the last issue of that, now.

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"The End" Week: Aquaman and the Others #11!

File under: Optimism. Who thought Aquaman could support two monthly titles? Certainly not me, when I made fun of the idea of the Others back in 2012, but I guess they showed me? For 11 issues, anyway. From 2015, Aquaman and the Others #11, "Alignment: Earth, conclusion" Written by Dan Jurgens, pencils by Lan Medina, inks by Allen Martinez.

I bought an entire run of this series from the quarter bin, give or take an issue. It's readable--Dan Jurgens is pretty consistent, and the art on the decent side of DC's current house style--if not outstanding. This issue was the wrap-up of the Others versus Mayhem, a super-villain team featuring Cheshire and the NKVDemon. The NKVDemon is a step down from the KGBeast, but still has better name recognition than the rest of the Others; with the exception of Mera. Actually, I don't think Mera's even a member, she might just be there because she's not comfortable having her husband unattended around hot jungle girl type Ya'wara. Possibly with cause, but still.

At the end of the issue, the team takes some time off to "recharge." Knowing DC's usual practices, they'll probably be killed off in some event a few years from now. I was going to double up with another Aquaman last issue, but I'll have to see where I stashed that one.
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"The End" Week: Flash #350 and #230!

We doubled-down on Warlord last issues earlier this week, so let's try that again with another, even longer-running DC title: from 1985, Flash #350, "Flash Flees" Written by Cary Bates, pencils by Carmine Infantino, inks by Frank McLaughlin; and
from 2006, Flash #230, "Last Man Standing" Written by Joey Cavalieri, pencils by Val Semeiks and Joe Cooper, inks by Drew Geraci and Livesay.

Barry Allen's last issue of Flash, which had been running since 1959, opens with the Flash missing, having escaped from jail after the guilty verdict in his long-running murder trial. Moreover, Barry Allen was missing as well and presumed dead; although Barry's lawyer, Cecile Horton, checks with his parents and recaps his recent surgery, repairing his face after injuries inflicted by Big Sir. (I know Big Sir was super-strong, but I'm used to the goofball from later Justice League International comics; it's disconcerting to think of him delivering a beating!)

Elsewhere, the Reverse-Flash visits his captives, most of Flash's Rogues' Gallery: Captains Cold and Boomerang, Mirror Master, Weather Wizard, Trickster, and Rainbow Raider. (Rainbow Raider? No Heat Wave today?) Reverse-Flash had been holding them for some time, but didn't need them anymore, and leaves them to be crushed in their cell-cube. (Perhaps tellingly, he uses a wand to trigger the cell...) Although their weapons had been removed, Mirror Master had secret, laser-lenses in his mask that he uses to free them; and the Rogues plot their revenge.

Meanwhile, Flash is having a strange conversation with one Nathan Newbury--or, his body, inhabited by a visitor from the future! Newbury and his fellow jurors had been ready to acquit the Flash, on the charge of the murder of the Reverse-Flash, when R-F had brainwashed the jury into a guilty verdict. The future visitor explains the Reverse-Flash's death, 500 years before his birth, had disrupted the space-time continuum, but is interrupted by an attack by the Reverse-Flash, who uses a futuristic flying gunship to destroy City Hall! Flash and "Nathan" escape, but the onlookers think Flash destroyed the building, and that he's holding a juror hostage. They visit Barry's parents, while the Rogues visit their tailor, Paul Gambi, for new outfits and gear. Then, the Rogues hit the Flash Museum: not for their usual vandalism, but for information, specifically on the Cosmic Treadmill. Modifying it for use without super-speed, they head to the 25th century, to give the Reverse-Flash the what-for.

Flash and "Nathan" are already in the 25th century, trying to figure out how the Reverse-Flash returned, but as near as the future historians can tell, he died in 1983. But after checking one of his old hideouts, the future cops have a witness who may have seen witnessed something: an outline that doesn't match R-F's, but that Flash still recognizes, and they set out for the 64th century...!

The Rogues also put the clues together: the "Reverse Flash" had actually been future villain Abra Kadabra all along! They realize the snooty-yet-chicken Abra looked down on them, but wouldn't risk trying to kill them himself, so he hid behind a disguise. Flash and "Nathan" are ambushed by Abra in the future, who converses with a cohort named Snurff, about how all of this appears to be for a bet with a "High Commissioner" about having magic reinstated as a "noble art form!" He also acts as if he's actually doing the Flash a favor. As "Nathan" tries to explain who they really are, Flash tells "him" he already knows; but their escape is interrupted by the Rogues, who help Flash out since revenge is overriding their usual hate for the speedster. Abra is captured, relatively quickly even for the Flash, but uncharacteristically begs the Flash to stay in the 64th century for the next six hours.

Returning to the 20th century, the Rogues catch the TV news that the real Nathan Newbury helped prove the jury had been brainwashed, but worry their old foe may never return from the future; particularly since he hadn't been treated especially well the last few years. Flash is acquitted in 1985, but remains in the 30th century, with the future visitor: his wife, Iris! She had been from that era originally, and when she 'died,' her family, knowing from the historical record when it would happen, extracted her 'psychic Iris' and put her in a new body. While they're glad to see Iris and Barry reunited (even if neither looks like they used to now!) Iris's parents know the Flash's future fate is still to come, his upcoming death in Crisis on Infinite Earths #8. This issue is a happy ending that won't last.

Wait a minute: the Trial of the Flash ran approximately a million issues--OK, 28--and Abra freaking Kadabra was behind the whole thing? I'm not sure he had carried a two-parter up to that point. And his motivation is save the Flash, to change history, in order to prove magic is awesome? Was he even using magic, or fancy 64th century science? And the historical record has to be an utter crapshoot now, post-Crisis or not, since the Reverse Flash did appear later. It almost made sense at the time.

Moving on, Wally's last issue of his Flash series begins post-apocalypse: an asteroid strike had already killed millions, and the resulting dust cloud was blocking the sun, reducing humanity to scavengers. Except not really, even though we spend three pages there: this is a nightmare, caused by a shadowy acolyte. The asteroid hadn't hit yet; and Vandal Savage was trying to pull it in. He had given the acolytes powers, but may have started to believe his own fake religion: Flash rewires the summoning machine to repel the asteroid, and Vandal rides the beam, "ascending into heaven," or rather being launched into space.

Wally had been around long enough to worry that Vandal would be back, and about his threat against his kids; later he tells Jay and Bart that while he's not quitting, he can see the finish line. It's played off as him wanting to spend more time with his kids, and I was thinking this was when Barry came back, but not yet: former Impulse and Kid Flash Bart Allen would get a brief 13 issue run as Flash, then Wally would be back with issue #231, continuing his numbering! And Wally would retire again in his next last issue, #247! All that numbering rejiggering is more interesting than this issue, y'ask me. Points for using Vandal Savage though; he was the villain in the first issue of this series!

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