Friday, September 29, 2017

Feels like this could've been a few more issues. Maybe.

I have no idea why I didn't buy these when they came out, especially since I would buy the next 18 issues. From 2005, JLA Classified #1-3, written by Grant Morrison, pencils by Ed McGuinness, inks by Dexter Vines. Got all three from the dollar bin the other day, although #1 is in pretty bad shape.

Like a number of Morrison's JLA stories, there is a lot going on: the entire JLA, minus Batman, is out, investigating a super-villain infiltration of "the infant universe of Qwewq." Gorilla Grodd attacks, and later takes over, the Ultramarines. Along with some very Morrison ideas, that team featured Club of Heroes alumni Knight and Squire, and another version of Jack O'Lantern: in fact, later we'd see some more members also from the old Global Guardians like Olympian and Tasmanian Devil. Covering for his team, Batman goes into his "sci-fi closet" and subs in robot versions of the League! Who don't do especially well; in fact I don't think they last four pages. (McGuinness's version of the Superman Robot would get a pretty nice action figure some years back; I don't know if anyone else's robot did.) Hmm, just noticed Bats didn't have a Wonder Woman-robot; but I think the bots may have all been refurbished Superman-robots, so that would make sense.

May be too much going on here: while Squire has a moment to shine, the overall message of this story seems to be a team that kills might not be equipped to deal with "jet-powered apes and time travel." So, it's implied, why not send the Ultramarines to clean up Qwewq? I know the Knight and Squire would be seen later, but I don't know if the rest was followed up on. It also feels like the JLA itself is barely in this, which might be intentional: they're kept at arm's length, godlike and remote.
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Thursday, September 28, 2017

Not living up to that title this issue.

I have a vacation coming up shortly, even though in all likelihood the blog will continue to trundle along aimlessly while I'm gone. I am going to be far away from my usual haunts, though; and in an area completely new to me. Which means I'll be hitting some new comic shops! I should put together a list of anything I'm seriously looking for; but c'mon, I really just want a big messy pile of random quarterbooks. Like today's book! From 1990, 666 #1, featuring stories by Peter Milligan, Tom Tully, David Anderson, and more; and art by Massimo Belardinelli, Eduardo Vano, and Chris Weston.

The full title for this reprint book was 666: the Mark of the Beast; that and the covers make it sound a lot more hardcore than it actually was. In fact, there was an ad for it on the back of the same issue, so the Fastner and Larson cover art is on both sides; with the ad's breathless copy: "The science of horror is exquisite in its precision, relentless in its application, and ulimately deadly in its execution!" Whoa, ease up there. These were British imports like Judge Dredd or Rogue Trooper, but from pretty far down the roster: oddball Peter Milligan strip "the Dead," in which an immortal man has to die to find out why demons are appearing; and early Tornado serial "The Mind of Wolfie Smith," a hard-luck psychic boy's adventures, last seen in 1981. The rest of this issue is filled out with a couple tame horror shorts.

Nowhere near the strongest of Fleetway/Quality's reprints, but I'd still grab a pile if I found them cheap. #4 has a Simon Furman/Steve Dillon werewolf story, and another Peter Milligan strip, "Freaks," starts in #7.

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Wednesday, September 27, 2017


It has actually been a long time since I've been in a liquor store, so I'm not sure that's still true: is the cheap stuff still on the bottom shelves? I ask merely out of curiosity, I spend too much on toys to drink.
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Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Sometimes, when a writer leaves a comic title after a lengthy run, they may feel the need to "put the toys back in the box," or reset the status quo a bit. I don't know if that was the intention with today's book, but it does leave the doors open for the next creative team. From 1995, Silver Surfer #102, "Surfer's Plea!" Written by Ron Marz, with Mike Friedman and Mike Lackey; pencils by Tom Grindberg, inks by Bill Anderson.

Mephisto had nearly snared the Silver Surfer, with an elaborate scheme that involved faking the return of Galactus's herald Nova. (And as we mentioned about nine years ago, Mephisto shoved his tongue down the Surfer's throat!) Believing he had killed Mephisto and more depressed than usual for him, he goes to confront Galactus; which of course means a brief scuffle with the current herald, Morg. Did anyone like him? I still think he tries to fill the same role of "sadistic lackey" that Terrax did much better.

The previous issue, the Surfer had tried to go back to his old girlfriend, Shalla Bal; even though they hadn't been a couple for years; only to find her with his half-brother Fennan. Who may or may not have ever existed, in fact, Zenn-La was retroactively destroyed in Silver Surfer #130, so this wasn't the "real" Shalla Bal. Come to think of it, Shalla Bal and the Zenn-Lavians appeared in the most recent run of Silver Surfer as well...Back to the issue at hand, the Surfer confronts Galactus and requests he take his cosmic power back, and leave him a normal man, Norrin Radd, again. Galactus answers with a flat no; possibly because he knows the Surfer is overreacting and Mephisto wasn't dead. The Surfer tries to force the issue, and gets slapped down, but not unkindly. Galactus knows the universe needs the Surfer, and won't take him away. Galactus also tells the Surfer that as the sole survivor of the previous universe, maybe he knows a little something about loneliness, but the Surfer's like a moody teen, no one's felt pain like his, and so forth.

Before the Surfer leaves, planning on draining his power some other way; the Air-Walker, currently serving as the computer on the worldship, tells the Surfer he, and countless others in the universe, owe him their lives. But today, the Surfer's not hearing it. The issue closes out with another recent cosmic baddie, Tyrant, plotting a comeback.

Ron Marz wrapped up a five-year run here; a good chunk of it with regular artist Ron Lim. I usually liked Grindberg's work, and there are some nice splash pages here, but not my favorite issue. The book would flounder a bit until #123, when J.M. Dematteis and Ron Garney took over; and I don't even think their run lived up to its potential.
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Monday, September 25, 2017

Werewolf chainmail probably only comes in husky sizes...

I thought I had blogged the previous issue, even though it was from another series, years back. I also know I have the next issue, and I wish I knew where now...from 1978, Marvel Premiere #45, "Otherwar!" Written by David Kraft, pencils by George Perez, inks by Frank Giacoia.

John Jameson, the long-suffering Man-Wolf, is on the moon this issue; crashed after his kidnappers couldn't contain him. (Which apparently took all of the last issue of Creatures on the Loose, I thought the kidnappers had Manny caught the issue prior.) The Man-Wolf, now extra-wolfy with the moon's influence, busts out onto the surface of the moon, where strangely the vacuum doesn't kill him. Instead, he makes a beeline for a mysterious doorway in an oddly circular crater, and then things get weird. In the extra-dimensional Other Realm, John finds he has his mind, in full control of the Man-Wolf. One of his kidnappers, Garth of Mournhelm, explains:

Garth and the others had been waiting for the prophesied return of the "Godstone," the Moonstone lodged in John's neck; to help them defeat the "false god Arisen Tyrk." They consider John "Star-God," although some of them may wonder where all his powers went. A sacred sword and flying horses are also involved, and John just rolls with it because there doesn't seem to be enough pages for him to freak out a bit. After a brief interlude with J.Jonah Jameson worrying about his missing son and his son's missing fiance, Kristine; John and his D&D party storm the castle with an aerial battle against Tyrk's soulless "Cavalry of the Damned." And largely get their collective ass kicked: two are killed, John and Gorjoon are dumped in a lake, and the rest are captured. John fears he was a danger in his world as a mindless beast, but perhaps more dangerous here since they believed in him; but swears vengeance on Tyrk...

We'll get to the conclusion of this sometime. Oddly, I know long after the parasitic Moonstone was removed from him, John appeared as full-on Star-God years and years later in She-Hulk. This feels like a weird direction for the character, but then around the same time maybe Werewolf by Night was already doing the lycanthrope story beats. Or, as I suspect is sometimes the case, if you get an artist like George Perez, maybe that's an excuse to go nuts a bit.
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Friday, September 22, 2017

We checked out #310 back in 2014 and #312 in 2015, but we're just getting around to #311 today! From 1985, Incredible Hulk #311, "Life is a Four-Letter Word!" Written by Bill Mantlo, pencils by Mike Mignola, inks by Gerry Talaoc.

When last we saw the Hulk, in a world accessed from the Crossroads nexus, the mostly-mindless savage Hulk had saved a girl from human sacrifice, only for her to turn on him and Bruce Banner ending up on the sacrificial altar! Bruce had been gone for about a year, buried in the Hulk, and greets this startling return with a hearty, weary shrug. The ongoing insanity of his life was old hat to him at this point, and he was getting mighty tired of it. Even his sudden rescue by a strange, Scottish-accented human is met with crushing ennui: Bruce feels like he's been saved just so his suffering can keep going.

The Scot was a Dr. DeCyst, an alchemist from over two centuries prior, who magically transported himself to this alien world, and started harvesting their blood for his immortality. But he was still aging, and thought the Hulk's blood might restore his youth. Bruce greets this story the same way you would hearing a joke for the fortieth time, but since DeCyst's plan would keep the Hulk alive as a blood donor, Bruce can't go along with it: he wants to die. Or, at least that's what he tells himself, but chased by DeCyst's skeleton troops, he turns into the Hulk again, his way of choosing life. As the Hulk goes to town on the troops, the "savage" alien that was going to sacrifice Bruce, breaks DeCyst's control long enough to kill him, freeing her people. Guided by the manifestations of his psyche, Glow, Goblin, and Guardian; the dissatisfied Hulk triggers the spell that returns him to the Crossroads. Which sets up the extra-dark next issue; considering a lot of this issue was Bruce's suicidal thoughts, that's saying something.
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Thursday, September 21, 2017

Have gun, will travel, to be a total dick.

Somewhat obscure mercenary character Paladin was recently shown in a Marvel Legends reveal, in a somewhat simplified costume. Or a more modern costume: his old one had a sort of padded look, like riot gear, and a lot of purple. As seen in today's book! From 1990, Punisher: No Escape, written by Gregory Wright, pencils by Tod Smith, inks by Danny Bulanadi.

Paladin was usually portrayed as the merc with a heart of gold, who used a stun-gun and super strength and didn't kill; more of a good guy than someone like Deadpool. He's also a bit more money-grubbing, as shown this issue, when a ten million dollar bounty on the Punisher from the Maggia seems to override his ethics. Moreover, the Commission on Superhuman Activities may also be (at least partially) in the mob's pocket, as they set the USAgent on the Punisher as well.

This was during the period after John Walker's parents had been killed but he was in complete denial about it: he was still trying to be a good hero, and shows a little remorse when he accidentally beats a thug to death. After Paladin kidnaps Microchip as bait, USAgent fights the mercenary while the Punisher takes care of the mobsters. The former fight is a bit of a short one, even though Paladin thinks he's as strong as the Agent; he's probably not. USAgent (apparently) breaks both of Paladin's legs with a shield toss, although he still somehow escapes. The Punisher saves Micro, and takes the opportunity to fake his death so he can ditch the Agent, who catches an earful from his bosses for not bringing the Punisher in.

Aside from this issue, I think I've only seen Paladin in his Amazing Spider-Man appearance: I thought he was one of Deadpool's Mercs for Money squads, but I guess not. I think he was picked for an action figure because they could reuse some parts; rather than a character that might need more sculpting and tooling like Stingray...although I'd think Solo or Terror could be more easily made and maybe just slightly better known.
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Wednesday, September 20, 2017


The Magus's new body is, of course, a Dr. Strange. I'm not sure who had the idea, but I got the tip from the Fwoosh, I can't take credit for it. We saw it in "Pfeffernusse" with Iron Man and Thor; I think all three have received more than one new figure since that strip!

Granted, this storyline's gone on forever, but have we done a strip without any of the main characters? Well, we have now!

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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

They didn't exactly answer the question...

From Catwoman: Secret Files and Origins #1, "Why Holly Isn't Dead" Written by Ed Brubaker, art by Eric Shanower.

Holly and Catwoman aren't the last characters I'd expect to be breaking the fourth wall, but, well, they're up there. I don't know if I've ever seen a character complain so much about being not killed off as Holly there; although my wife would agree "If they're going to have continuity, they should at least take it seriously." The link there attempts to justify it as post-Zero Hour changes; but I'm 90% sure Brubaker just wanted to use the character and ran with it.

This wasn't a bad pickup from the dollar bin: Ed Brubaker writes most of the issue, with art by Michael Avon Oeming and Cameron Stewart as well.
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Monday, September 18, 2017

Not a Review: Mattel's DC Multiverse Rookie series!

Even though Hasbro's Marvel Legends have taken the bulk of my action figure budget this year, I have still chipped in for two full series of Mattel's DC Comics offerings this year: the King Shark series, and the Wonder Woman movie figures featuring the "Collect & Connect" Ares. Ares and King Shark may have been the strongest figures in their series, as the figures you had to buy to build them ran from mediocre to okay. Yet, I still pre-ordered the next batch, rather than chance trying to find them later: DC Multiverse "Rookie" series, featuring Batman, the Atom, Batwing, Duke Thomas, and the Reaper! I got mine Friday from Big Bad Toy Store, who did their usual great job for me.

We'll start with the Atom, from TV's Arrow and Legends of Tomorrow. He's played by former Superman Brandon Routh, and comes with an alternate unmasked head that mildly resembles him. This may be the first time I say it here, but I hate the neck joints Mattel is using now: it's a smaller peg, that the heads pop on and off of with a bit of force, but doesn't give a lot of up-and-down motion. On TV, the Atom can fly, but here, his figure can't look up. Let's try an articulation count: pegged neck, two ball shoulders, two mid-bicep swivels, two elbows, two swivel wrists, waist swivel, two of Mattel's hinge-swivel hips, two mid-leg swivels, two knees, two ankles; so I'm getting a total of 18 points. That's not a huge count, and a number of the points are limited by the design: the shoulder, elbow, and knee pads all get in the way; but in fairness that suit is probably pretty restrictive in "real life" as well.

I kind of like this one: I want to say he's a solid B figure (for Mattel) but that may be because I like the show. I think the detail is better than the previous Arrow and Flash figures; but he's still smaller and less articulated than Hasbro's Marvel Legends figures based on movie and TV. But he does come with a tiny Atom as well! C'mon, something to be said for that.

Next, we'll look at Batwing, a character I have to admit I don't know much about, although he did appear in the recent DVD Batman: Bad Blood. He's not as basic as he might first appear, having a very black color scheme but a few raised sculpted elements on his belt, forearms, chest, and neck. The legs felt like an old DCUC figure though, which would be a perfectly acceptable reuse of parts if the ankles were a little better.

His main feature is the large bat-wing he uses to fly; a large and unarticulated piece, but it plugs in solidly to his back. Some of his joints were a little stiff at first, but I think he's a nice enough figure: the neck articulation is a bit better than the rest, so he holds a flying pose all right.

Another character I'm not overly familiar with: from We Are Robin, Duke Thomas. And as sometimes happens, by the time this figure has come out, he's changed his costume! Much of the sculpt may be unique, and I'd say the most unique aspect would be the large, basketball shoes; but he doesn't seem to have any ankle joints because of them. Feels like the articulation could be a bit better overall here: a mid-bicep swivel might've helped a bit. He does come with an alternate unmasked head, nunchuks, and a smoke grenade.

The fourth figure here is perhaps a bit more recognizable: Batman! And this is his current look, for however long that lasts. I was thinking this might become my go-to, current Batman; but I'm not sure. There are bat-shaped kneepads and a substantial bit of armor on the forearms and a bit on the shins. The fists feel hard, though. The inside of his cape seems very purple, a bit of a callback to his earliest appearances. Neck articulation is miserable, but there was something bothering me about the head that I couldn't put my finger on until I got out my New 52 Batman from 2013 for comparison: the New 52 head is way smaller, this Batman's head may be closer to scale, but didn't look right to me at first!

One last thing: he didn't come with any accessories, which sounds like a crime Batman should investigate!

Lastly, a character than may be the least known of this lot, but sold the lot for me: from Batman: Year Two, the Reaper! That storyline has gone in and out of both continuity and print a couple of times, and the character is probably only remembered vaguely as the inspiration for the villain in Batman: Mask of the Phantasm. The Reaper had been a Gotham City society type, until his wife was killed by a criminal, which led him to become a murderous vigilante. Eventually "retiring" to take care of his daughter, he would return to face--and beat--the city's new vigilante, Batman; who then has to team-up with the mob--and Joe Chill! (A later issue of Secret Origins would fill in some backstory but set some dates that would stretch the timeline a bit too far: Reaper was active in the 50's, and the Alan Scott Green Lantern came out of retirement to stop him. Only a lucky shot with wooden nunchuks gave the Reaper the chance to escape.)

The Reaper wore heavy leather spiked armor, and a cape and hood over a skull mask. The armor piece and cloak are done with an overlay, which I think Mattel used to do a lot with their Masters of the Universe Classics figures. It restricts movement a bit, but probably the only way to do it. Unless they came from MOTUC, there are a lot of new pieces here, including the spiked elbow and knee pads and feet. His hands are interchangeable with his scythes, and look great, although I don't know if I'd display him with the regular hands. A figure I wouldn't have guessed I'd ever get, and not too shabby!

Lastly, we have the Collect & Connect Rookie, the robot suit used by replacement Batman Jim Gordon in the "Superheavy" storyline. In fact, if you have that Jim Gordon figure, there's a fun and somewhat secretive add-on there: the Rookie head can be replaced by either of that Jim Gordon figure's heads, and the chest piece comes off to reveal him within! Neat!

Not so neat: the left arm of mine would not peg in, at all. There is a little black piece inside the torso that seems to be loose, or the peg on the arm isn't long enough, I'm not sure which is the problem.

I reached out to Mattel's customer service, but my only alternative might be to heat up and crack the torso, get the other pieces out of it, then replace it. Which would involve finding another Reaper figure, which I thought was going to be a pain in the ass, which is why I ordered the set in the first damn place...

(EDIT: Mattel's Customer Service actually did send me a voucher for $20, which I'll put towards a Reaper if one should appear, and thanks!)

Well, for the time being, I'm using the ubiquitous putty that's holding everything else together around here. It has undermined my appreciation of the Rookie figure a bit; but writing this up may have made me appreciate the other figures a bit more. Still not as good as the average Marvel Legend figure lately, though. Mattel has the Justice League figures on the shelves now, based on the movie; and they didn't really grab me. Will I be back on board for their next series, which I think is C&C Clayface? Maybe.

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Friday, September 15, 2017

So, for years around here I've done "homemade strips," little comics made with action figures; and you can probably tell what I've bought recently by when they show up in a strip. Sometimes I'll have an idea for a character right away; or just a notion where they would fit: for example, Yondu turned up pretty quickly with a plotline, while Titus and Darkhawk worked for an incidental bit. Other times, a figure like the Shocker or Moon Knight, I might not have an idea for immediately, but something will turn up for them. Someone like the Eel, well, will probably end up in the background of some villain group sometime...and sometimes I have a character like the DC Multiverse Legends of Tomorrow Hawkman that I'm not sure will ever have a strip for to justify his purchase. But every once in a while, there's a figure on the horizon that has almost a full script waiting for her to come out...and in preparation for that, let's check out an issue of her comic! From 2016, the Unbelievable Gwenpool #6, written by Christopher Hastings, art by Irene Strychalski.

The girl formerly known as Gwen Poole was originally from a universe where superheroes were only comic book characters--sounds unbearably drab, right?--but ended up in the Marvel Universe. Believing it to be "fictional," Gwen got herself a costume, as befits a "main character," although in a misunderstanding she became known as Gwenpool. Her main ability is that by reading a lot of comics, she has a lot of secret knowledge, like the secret identities of most heroes; ironically, since she didn't read Deadpool, she didn't know much about him. This issue, Gwenpool teams up with Spider-Man Miles Morales: she recognizes him, and knows he was a refugee from another universe as well, the Ultimate Universe. For his part, Miles is not sure what this weird girl is on about, seemingly not remembering much of that. Still, Gwen knows from the back issues she read pre-new Secret Wars, that only "important" supporting characters for Miles made it to the Marvel U, including a plotline about a disgruntled student bomber.

Gwenpool and Spider-Man confront the bomber, with Gwenpool planning on shooting him in the face: to her, the bomber isn't "real," just a plot point. To Miles, the bomber might be a criminal, but deserves to live: he stops Gwen, knocking her out and webbing her up for the cops. Gwen threatens to spill his secret identity, but knows she can't go through with it. She is a little hurt Miles thinks she's crazy, though. Arrested and booked, she is later busted out of jail by her supporting cast, including Batroc; but as their disapproval piles on she laments "This isn't fun..."

I've only read a few issues of her title, but I've enjoyed the idea: I don't know if it wouldn't get old month-after-month, but I think she'd work great to show up for an issue or an annual in various books. I'm curious about her recent appearance in Champions, since I picture those kids as too-earnest goody-goodies, and Gwenpool as a good foil for them.
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Thursday, September 14, 2017

80-Page Thursdays: Justice League Quarterly #15!

These 80-Page Thursday posts are sometimes the shortest to write; probably because a lot of time they aren't very good. We'll have another 80-pager or two before the end of the year, but this might be the last for a bit: from 1994, Justice League Quarterly #15, featuring stories by Michael Jan Friedman, Steven Seagle, Charles Moore, and more; and art by Mike Mayhew, Mark Tenney, Michael Oeming, and more.

So, we mentioned the Praxis serial that had run for several issues, and this issue featured the conclusion. It'd be the last time we see him, too. There's a very slight connection to old Justice League of America stories: the serial killer Praxis is tracking, 'the magician," is trying to get more power from Ghast, of Abnegazar, Rath and. We also have some JLE guest-stars, including grey-templed Hal, some version of Bloodwynd, and slacker Wally; this was the post Giffen/DeMatteis era, when the League's defining characteristic was none of them got along, or really wanted to be there.

Also this issue: skipable Jack O'Lantern and Tasmanian Devil stories, and a Ray story with early Michael Oeming art. The last one's okay, but not worth tracking this down for.
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Wednesday, September 13, 2017


Ooh, short one today, better pad it with some commentary! I mentioned I loved the new Jessica Jones figure, but I have seen a couple reviews that didn't seem as sold on the likeness, and I respectfully disagree. A couple more wished she had come with a scarf, since she had one most of Defenders.
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