Friday, August 18, 2017

FLASH GORDON PART 10

“TRIUMPH IN TROPICA”
by Alex Raymond & Don Moore

And now we reach the finale of Alex Raymond’s ten-year run on FLASH GORDON. When last we left our heroes, Flash and Dale had made their way into Tropica’s capitol with the assistance of an elderly woman named Tartara and her perennially shell-shocked son, Timor.

Timor quickly turns coward and tries to hand Flash and Dale over to King Brazor’s secret police, but our heroes escape with the assistance of a criminal named Trico. Trico introduces Flash to the Underground, a resistance group working against Brazor. Flash quickly assumes command of the Underground. Meanwhile, Brazor plots Desira’s execution. Flash and Trico work to rescue her, even as news from the front lines comes in: the army of Gundar, which had lain siege to the capitol, has been wiped out.


Amid all this, a female member of the Underground, Gypsa — a beautiful dancer — has made clear her lust for Flash. But, in a surprising twist, there’s no zany misunderstanding on anyone’s part. Flash shuts Gypsa down, Dale retains control of her emotions, and Gypsa — after a brief flash of anger — takes it all in stride, continuing to assist Flash in his mission. It’s all quite refreshing.

Monday, August 14, 2017

DAREDEVIL #190

"RESURRECTION”
Writer/Storyteller: Frank Miller | Penciler/Inker/Colorist: Klaus Janson
Letters: Joe Rosen | Editor: Denny O’Neil | Supervisor : Jim Shooter

The Plot: Daredevil, Black Widow, and Stone fight the Hand at a cemetery, but are unable to stop the ninjas from stealing Elektra’s corpse. Meanwhile, the Kingpin fends off an assassin sent by one of his underlings, Injun Joe. Daredevil visits the Kingpin for help in finding the Hand, and Kingpin asks DD to take out Injun Joe instead. Daredevil does so and is rewarded with the Hand’s location.

Daredevil, Black Widow, and Stone confront the Hand in an abandoned church as they attempt to resurrect Elektra. DD senses a heartbeat and attempts to use mystical arts to resurrect her, as he saw Stone do to Black Widow, but he fails. The Kingpin’s men burst into the burning church and finish off the Hand. Daredevil and Black Widow go outside, leaving Stone to finish Elektra. But before he can do the deed, he senses DD managed to purify her with his attempt to bring her back to life.

Daredevil and Black Widow enter the church once more to find Stone and Elektra’s body gone, with only Stone’s gi left behind. Later, Elektra scales a cliff in the snow, reborn thanks to Daredevil and Stone.

Friday, August 11, 2017

FLASH GORDON PART 9

“JUNGLES OF MONGO” | “FIERY DESERT OF MONGO” | “BATTLE FOR TROPICA”
by Alex Raymond & Don Moore

“Jungles of Mongo” is a relatively short arc compared with Flash’s other recent adventures. It picks up, naturally, directly where “Queen Desira” left off, with Flash, Dale, Zarkov, and Desira having escaped Prince Brazor’s castle into the jungle of Desira’s kingdom. They fight off wild animals and make their way through a bizarre underground cavern where gravity is flipped in reverse, before finding an outpost of Desira’s army. There, they’re nearly turned over to Brazor, who has convinced Desira’s subjects that she died and that anyone claiming to be her is an imposter, but manage an escape into the “Fiery Desert of Mongo”.

This story arc opens with Flash and company fighting against nature in Mongo’s harshest locale yet. The desert presents a dragon, a lava river, and even a “waterfall” of fire as obstacles for the group. Eventually, low on water and supplies, their mounts dead from heat and exhaustion, things look bad for our heroes — until they’re found by a bandit king named Gundar.


This leads into yet another pastiche for Raymond to explore. It’s not quite as overt as some of the previous ones, but the castle inhabited by Gundar and his men carries a sort of “Arabian Knights” vibe. Gundar proves to be an honorable villain as, even while openly planning to turn Flash and Desira over to Brazor, he has the prisoners looked after by his personal physician, fed, and quartered in some very nice guest rooms.

Monday, August 7, 2017

DAREDEVIL #189

"SIEGE”
Writer/Storyteller: Frank Miller | Penciler/Inker/Colorist: Klaus Janson
Letters: Joe Rosen | Editor: Denny O’Neil | Supervisor : Jim Shooter

The Plot: Stone uses his ninja abilities to restore Black Widow’s health. The Hand attack Matt’s brownstone, outmatching the combined forces of Daredevil, Black Widow, Stick, Stone, Claw, and Shaft. Claw is killed during the fight, then Stick and Shaft sacrifice their lives to drain the Hand’s life forces, defeating them.

Stone meditates to determine the Hand’s next move, while Daredevil and Black Widow split up to search for the ninjas. Eventually they return to Matt’s home empty-handed, and Stone reveals that he believes the Hand will attempt to resurrect Elektra to replace the late Kirigi as their ultimate warrior.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: It's revealed that, rather than being his peers as the previous issue made it seem, Claw, Stone, and Shaft are Stick’s protégés.

Heather shows up at Matt's apartment, drunk and submissive. Later, Black Widow visits Foggy (clarifying that apparently the superheroine/superspy publicly dated Matt Murdock while she was Daredevil’s partner) and a Foggy tells her what Matt did to force Heather into marrying him. The pair decide that breaking up Matt and Heather would be best for both, so the Widow forges notes from one to the other facilitating this.

Friday, August 4, 2017

FLASH GORDON PART 8

“RETURN TO EARTH” | “QUEEN DESIRA”
by Alex Raymond & Don Moore

At the end of “The Fall of Ming”, Zarkov picked up signals from Earth and learned that the planet was in the throes of a new World War (though it’s not the World War II that was raging when Alex Raymond crafted these stories; rather it’s a fictionalized war against something called the Red Sword). Seeing his homeworld in danger, Flash had Zarkov and the scientists of Mongo build a ship to take him home, and he, Dale, and Zarkov boarded the craft with advanced Mongo weaponry to aid in the good fight.


“Return to Earth” opens as our heroes splash down in the Atlantic Ocean, where they’re picked up by an American ship and brought back to Washington. Though the government has doubts about their stories of Mongo, our heroes are turned over to an old colleague of Doctor Zarkov, named Grubich, for care.

For the first time, a fairly large plot hole emerges in the otherwise mostly cohesive FLASH GORDON narrative. Though there have been minor hiccups here and there, nothing has been as overt as this: when the strip debuted in 1934, Earth was in a panic because the planet Mongo was hurtling toward it. Zarkov was a world-renowned scientist who developed a rocket he believed could move the incoming planet off course. As we know, Zarkov was successful -- but the rocket crash-landed on Mongo instead, marooning Zarkov, Flash, and Dale there for quite some time.

Now, as we return to Earth, it seems the world has forgotten Mongo ever existed. Besides that, the government appears to have no idea who Zarkov is despite his earlier fame. Plus, as we’ll soon learn in the subsequent story arc, Mongo is apparently nowhere near Earth, and it’s quite a long journey to get back there!

Monday, July 31, 2017

DAREDEVIL #188

"THE WIDOW’S BITE”
Writer/Storyteller: Frank Miller | Penciler/Inker/Colorist: Klaus Janson
Letters: Joe Rosen | Editor: Denny O’Neil | Supervisor : Jim Shooter

The Plot: Black Widow fights her way out of S.H.I.E.L.D. medical custody and goes in search of Daredevil, but doesn't find him at either his brownstone or Heather’s apartment. Meanwhile, Stick speaks with Matt, who is in a sensory deprivation tank hidden in his basement, while Kirigi is given an assignment to kill Stick.

Widow is also unable to locate Matt at his office and continues her search. As Matt and Stick continue their conversation, Black Widow enters the Kingpin’s office but he, too, is unaware of where Daredevil could be. As the Widow fights Kingpin’s goons, he notices that she appears to be dissolving somehow.

Meanwhile, Kirigi enters Matt’s basement but he is defeated by Stick and his associates, Shaft, Claw, and Stone. As Matt emerges from the sensory deprivation tank, Black Widow arrives and collapses.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: Black Widow visits with her friend and father figure, Ivan, before setting out on her quest. She notes that “…he's been through a lot lately,” but there's no footnote explaining the comment.

(However, stay tuned to this very site and we'll find out what she means in another month or so!)

Sunday, July 30, 2017

THE UNBOXING - JULY 2017

The Spider-Man party continues this month with AMAZING SPIDER-MAN EPIC COLLECTION: KRAVEN'S LAST HUNT from Marvel. This book includes a notable chunk of Spidey stuff from the eighties, from the unmasking of the Hobgoblin to the SPIDER-MAN VS. WOLVERINE one-shot to wedding of Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson to the eponymous storyline featuring Kraven the Hunter. I have mixed feelings about this era. Partly it's due to a lot of substandard artwork, but more than that, the stories often feel too dark for Spider-Man -- especially SPIDER-MAN/WOLVERINE and "Kraven's Last Hunt". But still, if I collect every installment of no other Epic Collection line, I will collect all of Spider-Man because -- it's Spider-Man!

In addition, this month Marvel also brings the DEADLY HANDS OF KUNG FU OMNIBUS volume 2, a black-and-white volume completing Marvel's collection of the magazine series that starred, among others, Shang-Chi, Iron Fist, and the Sons of the Tiger. As I mentioned when volume 1 was released, I've had a weird love of the Sons for many years without having read any of their actual adventures, and I'm pleased to finally rectify that. (That is to say, I'm rectifying my not having read the issues, not my love of the characters! That will endure even if I don't enjoy the stories.)


Lastly, I would be remiss if I didn't mention that Amazon has a "ghost" listing up for the 2018 release of the MASTER OF KUNG FU EPIC COLLECTION volume 1. I had previously speculated, based on statements from Marvel collected edition editors, that the Omnibuses might be the only way to get this material. I'm glad to see that's not the case; in addition to the fancy hardcovers, MASTER OF KUNG FU will also be available in a nice paperback format as well.