Monday, February 19, 2018

WONDER WOMAN #5, #6, AND #7

“THE ARES ASSAULT” | “POWER PLAY”
Pencils/Plotter: George Pérez | Scripter: Len Wein | Inker: Bruce D. Patterson
Letterer: John Costanza | Colorist: Tatjana Wood | Editor: Karen Berger

The Plot: (Issue 5) As military tensions rise around the world, rogue American and Soviet troops seize control of missile bases in their respective countries. Meanwhile, Diana and her friends deduce that there is another half to Harmonia’s amulet, and Diana is able to use her half to transport them to the missing fragment in Ares’ realm. There, they battle Deimos and Phobos. While Deimos escapes, Diana decapitates Phobos and claims the other half of the amulet. When the pieces are joined together, the group is teleported once more, to the missile base, where they come face to face with Ares.

(Issue 6) Ares’ thrall, General Tolliver, prepares to launch the missiles as Diana and her allies engage his men. Diana is abruptly transported away from the missile base to Ares’ realm, while Steve catches up with Tolliver, gunning him down too late to prevent him entering his launch code. Tolliver and his men rise again as reanimated minions of Ares and renew their fight. Diana uses her lasso on Ares, showing him the truth of his plan: if he starts a nuclear war, humanity will be wiped out and no one will remain to worship him. Realizing this would mean his end as well, Ares calls off the attack, letting Tolliver die, and vanishes with a vow to never again interfere in human affairs.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: Issue 4’s cliffhanger is resolved in a cop-out, as we learn that Colonel Michaelis (whose first name is revealed here as Matt) simply startled Etta when he appeared outside Julia’s house, causing her to slip and hit her own head. Michaelis is one of the good guys after all, having stalked Steve and Etta in order to help them.

Friday, February 16, 2018

GUNSMITH CATS PART 6

“KIDNAP” | “MR. SMART” | “LONG NIGHT” | “MIDNIGHT PLUS FOUR” | “FIFTY CALIBER”
“JEENA” | “BLOODY RALLY” | “9mm VS. 40mm” | “FAMILY” | “SWEET HOME”
Presented by Kenichi Sonoda
Translation: Dana Lewis & Toren Smith | Lettering and Retouch: Studio Cutie

As I noted last week, we’re in my favorite stretch of GUNSMITH CATS, as Kenichi Sonoda sets aside his overarching plotline, drops the mob politics and creepy sex stuff, and simply gives us a couple of fun, one-and-done story arcs. And while I like last week’s story quite a bit as the first half of GUNSMITH CATS’ highest point, this storyline is easily my bar-none favorite portion of the saga.

We begin with Rally and May on a stakeout — TV kids’ personality Mister Smart, already estranged from his family over child abuse charges, is wanted for skipping out on a parking ticket. Things begin to escalate quickly, though, when Smart apparently kidnaps his daughter Jeena and a high-speed chase ensues involving Smart, Rally, and a Hummer driven by Riff-Raff and occupied by armed men named Sharko and Borgnine.

The plot thickens when Borgnine plants a bomb on Jeena which must receive a periodic reset code, lest it explode, killing her. This ensures Smart’s participation in Borgnine’s plot to steal a large sum of drug money from the local syndicate. Of course the plan goes sour when Rally shows up, leading to an eventual showdown at the home of Mister Smart’s ex, once he realizes “Borgnine” is actually the woman's divorce attorney (with whom she’d had an affair prior to the separation and who she used to trump up the false child abuse charges against her ex-husband) in disguise.

Monday, February 12, 2018

WONDER WOMAN #3 & #4

“DEADLY ARRIVAL!” | “A LONG DAY’S JOURNEY INTO FIGHT!”
Pencils/Plotter: George Pérez | Scripter: Len Wein | Inker: Bruce D. Patterson
Letterer: John Costanza | Colorist: Tatjana Wood | Editor: Karen Berger

The Plot: (Issue 3) Hermes and Diana arrive in Boston, where they drop Steve Trevor at Hanscom Air Force Base Hospital, then head for Harvard. There, Hermes leaves Diana on her own. At the hospital, the base’s commanding officer, General Hillary, is prohibited from seeing Steve until the matter of General Kohler’s death is sorted out. At Harvard, Diana meets Professor Julia Kapatelis, who, upon touching Harmonia’s amulet, forms a rapport with Diana.

Later, Steve escapes an assassination attempt by General Tolliver, the man holding him prisoner, and flees the hospital. Meanwhile, a strange statuette is delivered to Julia’s home and is opened by her daughter, Vanessa. That night, Steve makes contact with Etta Candy while Julia brings Diana home with her. Around midnight, the statuette comes to life, transforming into a creature called Decay, the daughter of the Medusa, and robbing Vanessa of her youth.

(Issue 4) The Kapatelis house collapses as Decay attacks, then escapes. Diana gives chase. Meanwhile, Etta finds files on something called the Ares Project at the Air Force Base. Elsewhere, Diana uses her magical lasso to defeat Decay, making the TV news in the process. She is quickly named Wonder Woman by reported Carole Bennett of the Boston Globe-Leader newspaper. When Steve, hiding out in an isolated cabin, sees Diana on television, he leaves with Etta to go find her.

As Vanessa recovers from Decay’s magic, Diana speaks with Julia, who vows to aid her in her mission against Ares. Later, as Julia and Diana attempt to learn about Harmonia’s charm inside Julia’s winter home, Steve shows up — but before he and Diana can speak, they respond to a nearby shout to find Steve’s best friend, Colonel Michaelis, standing over Etta’s body.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

THE UNBOXING - FEBRUARY 2018

Nothing in physical format this month, but we do have the "Digital Unboxing" to enjoy. A couple weeks ago, Amazon had another of their bargain basement Marvel sales, and I took advantage to pick up a few collections dirt cheap: BLACK PANTHER: PANTHER'S QUEST, INVADERS CLASSIC: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION volume 1 and volume 2, and IRON MAN EPIC COLLECTION: DOOM. Also, in a Dark Horse sale I grabbed THE BLACK BEETLE IN: KARA BÖCEK by Francisco Francavilla, and in a Conan-specific Dark Horse sale, I picked up CONAN AND THE JEWELS OF GWAHLUR by P. Craig Russell.


(It was announced recently that Marvel has regained the Conan license, and presumably they will begin publishing Epic Collections, Omnibuses, etc. of their original Conan material when the transfer takes effect in 2019. But I recall that when Dark Horse lost the STAR WARS license, they had a massive, insanely discounted sale near the end of their final year, and I'm holding out to see if they do the same with Conan later in 2018. I only picked up JEWELS OF GWAHLUR because it looked cool and was pretty cheap to begin with.)

And now a surprise: The Unboxing Junior Edition! I love to read to my son, and we have a ton of little simple readers for him to enjoy. But recently I started reading him a MICKEY AND MINNIE STORYBOOK COLLECTION which is a little advanced (he's only nineteen months old, after all), but which he still seems to really like. Thus I checked to see if there was a Marvel equivalent, and came across three such books on Amazon! The books all come in an earlier and a more recent edition, and since the covers of the recent ones aren't very uniform, I went with the lovely matching prior printings (which also happen to cost less on Amazon).


So now we have an AVENGERS STORYBOOK COLLECTION, a SPIDER-MAN STORYBOOK COLLECTION, and a MARVEL SUPER HEROES STORYBOOK COLLECTION to read. And the best part -- and one of the major reasons I'm mentioning these here -- is that these books were printed before Marvel stopped promoting certain characters whose rights belong with Fox, so the SUPER HEROES book actually includes a Fantastic Four story and a Silver Surfer story. In addition, the collection goes deep with certain characters you don't normally see in these kids' books, like Daredevil and She-Hulk.

The second reason I decided to spotlight these books is that, even though they were published within the past few years, they present the more classic versions of the characters (albeit usually in 2000s-era costumes). So the SUPER HEROES book, for example, has a story about Professor X's younger days, which covers his encounter with Baron Strucker alongside Magneto, his first meeting with the Shadow King, and even his battle against the demonic Lucifer (!), as well as a story about the original X-Men and even one covering the "All-New, All-Different" team's mission to Krakoa! That's some relatively obscure material for a kids' book, when they could've taken the easier route of Magneto and the Brotherhood all the way through.


Anyway, I won't gush too much over these things, but for someone like me, it's great to have the ability to read kids' books to my son which cover the actual, authentic backstories of these characters as originally conceived in the comics. I don't intend to be one of those parents who tries to force his interests onto his child -- in fact it would break my heart if my son grew to resent Marvel simply over my pushing him into it -- but I do want to introduce him to Marvel, and I would prefer to do that via the original continuity and characters, then let him branch out into whatever he likes going forward.

Friday, February 9, 2018

GUNSMITH CATS PART 5

“ROLLING BEAN” | “SEEPER” | “V26” | “HOT MOTOR” | “WHITE OUT”
“MISSING WASHINGTON” | “N.Y. HIT” | “CROSSFIRE” | “GAME SET”
Presented by Kenichi Sonoda
Translation: Dana Lewis & Toren Smith | Lettering and Retouch: Studio Cutie

The early installments set up the characters and world of GUNSMITH CATS and provide an overarching storyline/antagonist via Gray. The next chunk of story introduces Goldie, who will go on, in the final set of chapters, to be the major villain of the entire saga. But it’s this run of material, which we’ll look at over this week and next, which I consider to be the peak of Kenichi Sonoda’s story.

It begins when Rally learns that Bean Bandit has agreed to travel to New York, pick up some drugs, and ferry them back to Chicago. Bean is given half of a dollar bill, with his New York contact having the other half to match up for confirmation of the driver’s identity. Rally, who has adopted a zero-tolerance policy on drugs since her run-ins with Goldie, challenges Bean—if she can prevent him from picking up his shipment, he will never run drugs again.

Bean agrees to Rally’s terms and initially, she attempts to steal his half of the bill by tailing him to his garage/apartment and sneaking in with Misty’s help, but the plan takes a turn when Bean departs unexpectedly and Rally is forced to stow away in his car.

Monday, February 5, 2018

WONDER WOMAN #1 & #2

“THE PRINCESS AND THE POWER!” | “A FIRE IN THE SKY!”
Pencils/Plotter: George Pérez | Script/Co-Plotter: Greg Potter
Inks: Bruce Patterson | Letters: John Costanza | Colors: Tatjana Wood
Editor: Karen Berger

The Plot: (Issue 1) The history of the Amazons is recapped as they are created on Earth by a group of Greek goddesses collectively calling themselves the Midwives. Some time later, Heracles is tricked by Ares into raiding the Amazons’ city of Themyscira, where he brutalizes and pillages them before moving on. Later, the Amazons are relocated to an island paradise, where their princess, Diana, is born. When the time comes for the Amazons to send an envoy into the world of man to save it from Ares, a tournament is held. Diana enters and wins, against the wishes of her mother, Hippolyte.

(Issue 2) Air Force pilot Steve Trevor is assigned a midnight mission to fly a stealth jet to an isolated location above the sea. Meanwhile, Diana is armed with a golden lasso forged by Hephaestus and then is taken by Hermes on a quest for clues to Ares’ location. She returns just as Trevor arrives at Paradise Island, where his co-pilot, Captain Slade, drops a bomb. Diana saves the island and the jet crashes into the ocean. Diana pulls Steve from the wreckage and, at the order of Athena, returns to man’s world with him. Meanwhile, Trevor’s commanding officer, General Kohler, is found dead in his office — both he and the deceased Slade having been agents of Ares.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: Obviously these issues feature the post-CRISIS debut of Wonder Woman, though she hasn’t acquired that moniker yet. Also making their post-CRISIS debuts are a bunch of gods and goddesses, plus Colonel Steve Trevor and his adjutant, Lieutenant Etta Candy. We meet a few other characters on Steve’s Air Force base, though I’m unsure if they had pre-CRISIS versions.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

I BOUGHT A FONT

Typically in my amateur graphic design endeavors, I use whatever free fonts I can find out in the world. Blambot is one of my favorite sites for this; they have a bunch of great freeware options to choose from, and I browse their wares often. But I've never felt the need or desire to actually purchase a license for one of their pay fonts until recently, when I stumbled across Might Makes Right while browsing their site. It's a font created to mimic the bombastic style of Bronze Age lettering, and I fell in love with it as soon as I saw it.

Image via Blambot.
So I bought it. $25.00, plus a 10% off coupon to make it $22.50 -- and I couldn't be more satisfied with the purchase!

Now at this point you may have noticed all the crazy colorful blurbs that appeared up and down the blog's two side columns earlier this week, and you've probably deduced that the above is my long-winded way of explaining that I used Might Makes Right to create most of them. After updating the masthead over the New Year, I decided to go one step further and renovate the entire blog. It now looks the way I always kind of hoped it could look in my head, but was never sure I could pull off. There's now some more color in this thing, which I've long wanted, and I even found space for a few more John Byrne heads (including a certain Trinity at right, to finally give this place some DC representation)!

Oh, and while most of this stuff is intentionally trying to evoke the Silver and Bronze Ages of comics, the "Table of Contents" at the upper right is a deliberate attempt to homage Marvel's "Comicraft Age" of the late nineties (though since Comicraft fonts are crazy expensive, it's done with some freebies that resemble Comicraft's work of that vintage).

(The links still work, too -- clicking on the "Written by..." box at the upper left will take you to my Blogger profile, clicking on the Twitter blurb below it will take you to my Twitter profile, and clicking on the Amazon ad at the upper right goes to Amazon.com.)

I'm extremely pleased with this new look, so hopefully it's appealing to readers, too. The idea was to make this blog look like the love child of John Costanza, Joe Rosen, and Richard Starkings, and I like to think I accomplished that goal with some degree of success. However I'm also happy to solicit feedback if anyone cares to drop in a comment below. If you like it, that's great -- but if you think it's too busy/cluttered, too colorful, whatever, I'd love to hear about it.