Sunday, November 30, 2014

THE UNBOXING - NOVEMBER 2014

Delayed slightly but worth the wait, it's time for November's "Unboxing"!

First up this month, from DC, is BATMAN ADVENTURES, volume 1. I had originally passed on this book because I thought it was a reissue of a trade I already owned from the nineties, containing the first five issues of the series, but then later I learned it actually contains twice that number, BATMAN ADVENTURES #1 - 10.

I've made no secret of my love of BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES, and I think I've noted before that BATMAN ADVENTURES, which told original stories based on B:TAS, was pretty much the only ongoing DC series I read regularly growing up. I hope DC commits itself to collecting all of BATMAN ADVENTURES in trade, and moreso, I hope they will follow it up with THE BATMAN AND ROBIN ADVENTURES and BATMAN: GOTHAM ADVENTURES, the subsequent series which followed. At the very least, BATMAN ADVENTURES volume 2 has already been solicited, so that's a step in the right direction.

Friday, November 28, 2014

TRANSFORMERS: REGENERATION ONE #99

"THE WAR TO END ALL WARS, PART 4"
Writer: Simon Furman | Breakdowns: Guido Guidi | Finisher: Stephen Baskerville
Colorist: John-Paul Bove | Letterer: Chris Mowry | Editor: John Barber
Editor-in-Chief: Chris Ryall

Cover by Andrew Wildman
The Plot: In Zero Space, Primus appears to Spike in the form of his brother, Buster, informing him that he is "the Trinity" -- a perfect fusion of human, Cybertronian, and Nebulan.

Meanwhile, Jhiaxus attempts to convince Rodimus Prime to join him, but Rodimus refuses. The Wreckers travel through the Hub, demolishing it from within, while Starscream orders Shockwave to attack it from without. As Jhiaxus's men counterattack, Rodimus escapes and frees his fellow Autobots, and Starscream, now fully possessed by the Underbase, attacks Jhiaxus and destroys his physical body. Starscream reverts to normal and is rescued by Shockwave.

On Cybertron, the proto-Transformers seal themselves into protective cocoons while the Dinobots watch. On Earth, G.B. Blackrock attempts to repair Optimus Prime while Linda Chang readies an assault team to enter the space bridge and rescue Spike. But inside the main space bridge hub on Cybertron, Galvatron attacks and kills the technicians in charge.

Finally, the dark Matrix energy which once possessed the Deathbringer rises on Cybertron.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

SPIDER-MAN: HOBGOBLIN LIVES #1

"VICTIMS"
Writer: Roger Stern | Artists: Ron Frenz & George Pérez
Letterer: Jim Novak | Colorist: Christie Scheele
Editors: Glenn Greenberg & Tom Brevoort | Editor-in-Chief: Bob Harras

The Plot: As Jason Macendale, the second Hobgoblin, stands trial for his various crimes, Peter Parker and Betty Leeds find themselves recalling that Betty's husband Ned was unmasked as the original Hobgoblin years before -- a fact known almost exclusively to the two of them.

Following a guilty verdict, as he is escorted from the courthouse, Macendale informs gathered reporters that he had the original Hobgoblin killed and took his place, fingering Betty as the goblin's widow. Peter saves Betty from a rampage of reporters looking for comment, then changes to Spider-Man and gets the full story from her.

Later, a mysterious man breaks into Great Neck Maximum Security Prison and makes his way to Macendale's cell. Announcing himself as the true original Hobgoblin, this stranger tells Macendale that he only allowed him to play Hobgoblin for as long as it amused him. But he is no longer amused, and kills Macendale in his cell before departing the prison and changing into the costume of the Hobgoblin.

Later still, the Hobgoblin confronts his one-time partner, Roderick Kingsley, and informs him that their relationship is about to begin again.

Monday, November 24, 2014

SPIDER-MAN BY ROGER STERN: TIME PASSES

After Roger Stern left AMAZING SPIDER-MAN in 1984, Tom DeFalco and Ron Frenz continued as the creative team, and furthered the Hobgoblin storyline. But internal editorial politics eventually forced them off the series, and soon thereafter the Hobgoblin was posthumously unmasked as Ned Leeds, who had been killed off a few months before the revelation. Jason Macedale, Jack O'Lantern, then took over as the new Hobgoblin.

Spider-Man's living black costume eventually escaped and was replaced by a cloth version which the wall-crawler wore for a few more years, as well. The alien costume, of course, went on to become one half of Spidey's foe, Venom. Shortly after the Hobgoblin reveal and shortly before the end of the black costume and debut of Venom, Marvel made the controversial decision to marry Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson in 1987's AMAZING SPIDER-MAN ANNUAL.

Uncle Rog Speaks: "The only way the writers were able to keep that marriage going on the printed page for as long as they did was by changing who Pete and MJ were, by turning them into different people. And a lot of talented writers worked on Spider-Man during that period, doing their best, but that marriage never quite worked for to me. It was like hearing about two old friends who'd run off and made this terrible mistake."

Sunday, November 23, 2014

SPIDER-MAN BY ROGER STERN OMNIBUS - BONUS MATERIAL

This book, as I noted way back when I began the Stern reviews, is one titanic tome. It's almost 1,300 pages long and weighs over seven pounds! We've already spent the better part of a year on the issues collected within, so now I'd like to briefly touch on the quality of the book itself.

The Omnibus is edited by the great Cory Sedlmeier, Marvel's Masterworks guru. Due to Sedlmeier's involvement, the reproduction on these issues is tremendous. On the occasions where I read an issue then went into my Marvel Unlimited app to snag screen captures of various panels, the difference was night and day. Without a doubt, this book is the best these issues have ever looked and will ever look. Another benefit to Sedlmeier's involvement is that, as with all Omnibus volumes he has personally overseen, the letters pages for every issue are included. And not only are all the published pages there -- Sedlmeier actually found a SPIDER'S WEB column for AMAZING #238, which was put together more than thirty years ago but wound up not seeing print at the time, and included that in the book as well!

Friday, November 21, 2014

TRANSFORMERS: REGENERATION ONE #98

"THE WAR TO END ALL WARS, PART 3"
Writer: Simon Furman | Breakdowns: Guido Guidi | Finisher: Stephen Baskerville
Colorist: John-Paul Bove | Letterer: Chris Mowry | Editor: John Barber
Editor-in-Chief: Chris Ryall

Cover by Andrew Wildman
The Plot: Under the command of Rodimus Prime, an Autobot fleet assaults Jhiaxus's hub. Using data gleaned from a drone, Nightbeat attempts to destroy the hub, but though his plan should work, it fails. Jhiaxus reveals he had planned for this, and initiates a counterattack. Rodimus Prime is forced to surrender.

On Earth, the space bridge is activated, but Fortress Maximus emerges, rather than the expected Nebulan delegation. Fort Max blasts Optimus Prime and grabs Spike, then re-enters the space bridge.

Meanwhile, the Ark arrives at the Hub undetected thanks to Starscream, who is not acting like himself. He notes that there are four, but one more is needed and he requires Shockwave's help to find that one. Starscream somehow disconnects Shockwave from the Ark's systems and returns him to his normal body. While on Cybertron, the Unicron cult brings Galvatron before Primus.

G1 Continuity: No continuity nods this issue, other than Kup invoking Springer's line, "I've got better things to do tonight than die!"

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #252

"HOMECOMING!"
Plot: Roger Stern | Script: Tom DeFalco
Pencil Breakdowns: Ron Frenz | Finished Art: Brett Breeding
Letters: Joe Rosen | Colors: Glynis Wein | Editor: Danny Fingeroth
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: One week after disappearing into the huge alien structure in Central Park, Spider-Man emerges from it in a new black costume, with Dr. Curt Connors in tow. After returning Connors to his family, the web-slinger catches up on his personal life as Peter Parker and patrols the city in his new outfit. While out and about, he bumps into a pair of quarreling teens and takes them up above the city, letting them see the environment, good and bad, that they take for granted.

The Sub-Plots: Spider-Man's black costume is somehow alive, responding to his thoughts by disappearing and changing into street clothes when necessary.

Despite having taken several photos of his adventures on Battleworld, Peter decides that he can't sell them to any respectable newspaper or magazine, both because Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four advised all the kidnapped heroes to keep their adventure a secret from the general public and because the photos are simply too unbelievable to be taken seriously.

Peter also gives Aunt May a call to check in and agrees to join Nathan and her for Sunday dinner.

Monday, November 17, 2014

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #251

"ENDINGS!"
Plot: Roger Stern | Script: Tom DeFalco
Pencil Breakdowns: Ron Frenz | Finished Art: Klaus Janson
Letters: Joe Rosen | Colors: Christie Scheele | Editor: Danny Fingeroth
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Spider-Man and the Hobgoblin continue their fight within the goblin's burning warehouse as firefighters battle the blaze outside. Hobgoblin gets the drop on the spider-senseless wall-crawler, subduing him and escaping the scene in his battle van. But Spide-Man grabs hold of the fleeing vehicle and eventually makes it inside for a rematch with his foe. As the van rockets through the city under control of an auto-guidance system, Spider-Man's spider-sense returns, allowing him to turn the tables and stun the Hobgoblin. But when the van drives into the Hudson River and begins taking on water, Spider-Man is forced to evacuate. He dives back into the water to search for the Hobgoblin, but finds only his mask drifting to the surface.

Later, Peter Parker has dinner with Harry Osborn and assures him that all proof his father was the Green Goblin was destroyed in the warehouse fire. After Harry leaves, Peter suffers an agonizing blast of spider-sense and follows it to the Sheep Meadow in Central Park, where an enormous futuristic structure has appeared. The web-slinger is drawn to the bizarre edifice and as soon as he enters it, he vanishes.

The Sub-Plots: Jonah Jameson, having printed his confession regarding his role in the Scorpion's creation in the Daily Bugle, steps down as the newspaper's editor-in-chief, turning the job over to former city editor Robbie Robertson.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

MOVING DAY

I've been quiet around here the past couple Sundays, and the trend continues today. Originally November's "The Unboxing" was to go up, but it's been delayed as my wife and are moving this weekend to our new home. I lived eight years in my condo, but after getting married we started looking for a place of our own, and eventually we found it. So I'm spending the weekend hauling things from one town to another, and "The Unboxing" has been placed on hold, ironically, as I find myself boxing and unboxing pretty much all our belongings.

I hope to have November's "Unboxing" up by month's end. In the meantime, your regularly scheduled Spider-Man and Transformers posts will continue to appear during the week -- and next weekend will bring a review of the bonus material in the SPIDER-MAN BY ROGER STERN OMNIBUS, as I prepared that post some time back.

Friday, November 14, 2014

TRANSFORMERS: REGENERATION ONE #97

"THE WAR TO END ALL WARS, PART 2"
Writer: Simon Furman | Breakdowns: Guido Guidi | Finisher: Stephen Baskerville
Colorist: John-Paul Bove | Letterer: Chris Mowry | Editor: John Barber
Editor-in-Chief: Chris Ryall

Cover by Andrew Wildman
The Plot: The Dinobots are displeased that the proto-Transformers have been "reintegrated" into society by way of what is essentially a ghetto. Meanwhile, Rodimus Prime speaks with Jhiaxus, who reveals that he used the power of the Underbase to cyberform multiple worlds into a series of Cybertrons called the Hub. Rodimus declares Jhiaxus a madman, and a fight breaks out.

Elsewhere, Jhiaxus's men attempt to "purge" the proto-Transformers, but the Dinobots step in to defend them and are nearly killed. Ultra Magnus arrives with reinforcements, but Jhiaxus calls for his men and they depart Cybertron. Nightbeat informs Rodimus that Jhiaxus was on-planet long enough for the Autobots to scan him and his men. Armed with this intelligence, Rodimus prepares to strike against Jhiaxus.

Meanwhile, the space bridge between Earth and Nebulos is completed and about to be tested. And on Nebulos, Fortress Maximus is reunited with his head, but goes momentarily berserk upon reactivation. Aboard the Ark Starscream explains to Shockwave that, like him, Jhiaxus is one of "The Five".

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #250

"CONFESSIONS!"
Writer: Roger Stern | Artists: John Romita, Jr. & Klaus Janson
Letterer: Joe Rosen | Colorist: Christie Scheele | Editor: Danny Fingeroth
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Spider-Man exits the Century Club, changes back into Peter Parker, and meets up with Harry Osborn inside. Harry informs Peter that the club members have decided not to report the Hobgoblin's extortion scheme to the police.

Later, with no spider-sense to guide him to the tracer planted on Hobgoblin last issue, Spider-Man uses a list of the victims' names provided to Peter by Harry and traverses New York looking for leads, but finds none. Finally he realizes that he can find the tracer with his old receiver device. Peter repairs the receiver and follows it to the Hobgoblin's warehouse, where the two begin a battle which quickly sets fire to the goblin's lair.

The Sub-Plots: Jonah Jameson decides to one-up the Hobgoblin by admitting his culpability in the Scorpion's creation via a Daily Bugle editorial. Spider-Man pulls the editorial from Jameson's typewriter, telling him to keep it to himself, but as soon as the web-slinger leaves Jameson's office, the publisher begins his confession again. On the issue's final page, Jameson gives the manuscript to a copy boy for composing.

Monday, November 10, 2014

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #249

"SECRETS!"
Written by: Roger Stern | Breakdowns by: John Romita, Jr. | Finishes by: Dan Green
Letters by: Joe Rosen | Colors by: Bob Sharen | Edited by: Danny Fingeroth
Chiefed by: Jim Shooter

The Plot: While hosting a housewarming party at his new home in New Jersey, Harry Osborn receives a blackmail package from someone aware of his father's identity as the Green Goblin. In Manhattan, Jonah Jameson finds himself with a similar demand. The next day, Harry is accompanied by Peter Parker to the Century Club, where a number of blackmail victims, all wealthy and powerful men, are gathered to meet their blackmailer. Peter waits outside while Harry and the others enter a meeting room to find themselves in the presence of the Hobgoblin. When Jonah and Harry stand up to the goblin, he is revealed as a robotic stand-in. The true Hobgoblin then bursts into the room, having used the robot to ferret out troublemakers, but is attacked by Spider-Man.

Hobgoblin gets the better of Spider-Man by using a gas on him which dulls his spider-sense. Thus incapacitated, the wall-crawler is easily defeated by his foe. As Spider-Man passes out, he attempts to tag the goblin with a spider-tracer, but fails. Hobgoblin prepares to kill Spider-Man, but is stopped by the Kingpin of Crime, another club member. The goblin, unwilling to challenge the Kingpin, departs, unaware that the crime lord has planted the discarded spider-tracer on his glider.

Kingpin brings Spider-Man around with smelling salts and informs the web-slinger that, believing Hobgoblin to be a potential threat to his operations, he has planted the tracer. But unknown to the Kingpin, Spider-Man is unable to follow the tracer's signal without the aid of his spider-sense.

Friday, November 7, 2014

TRANSFORMERS: REGENERATION ONE #96

"THE WAR TO END ALL WARS, PART 1"
Writer: Simon Furman | Penciler: Guido Guidi | Inker/Finisher: Stephen Baskerville
Colorist: John-Paul Bove | Letterer: Chris Mowry | Editor: John Barber
Editor-in-Chief: Chris Ryall

Cover by Andrew Wildman
The Plot: In the distant future, near the end of his life, Rodimus Prime reflects on the past. And in that past, the Autobots are cleaning up after Bludgeon's attack. Bludgeon himself is still alive, and Rodimus decides to spare him rather than give him the honorable death he expected.

On Earth and Nebulos, Optimus Prime and an Autobot team construct different ends of a space bridge to ferry the surviving human population off-planet. Prime takes a break to join a conference call with Cybertron, and appoints Rodimus the official leader of the Autobots. Rodimus then declares his intention to find and deal with the four loose ends Primus showed him: Jhiaxus, the Deathbringer Matrix energy, Galvatron, and Spike.

Ultra Magnus and some men find Galvatron, but he is taken underground by a cult of Uncron worshippers. Soon after, Jhiaxus arrives on Cybertron, declaring peaceful intentions. Starscream somehow senses his arrival just before it happens.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN ANNUAL #17

"HEROES AND VILLAINS"
Plot: Roger Stern | Script: Bill Mantlo | Penciler: Ed Hannigan
Inker: Jim Mooney | Letterer: Diana Albers | Colorist: George Roussos
Editors: Tom DeFalco & Danny Fingeroth | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Milton Farr, publisher of sleazy men's magazines, is kidnapped by mobsters who are aware he has information which could topple the Kingpin. Meanwhile, Peter Parker attends the pre-reunion mixer for Midtown High School's class reunion, where he bumps into former classmates Louie Minelli, now an insurance salesman, and C.J. Vogel, a comedy writer. Peter leaves the mixer and changes to Spider-Man, and as he departs he spots Louie coercing C.J. into delivering a package for him by invoking the name "Remington Colt".

Peter learns that Colt was a pen name for writers working for Farr, and also that Farr has been kidnapped. He follows C.J. on his delivery run and gets in between two rival gangs, both after Farr's dirt on the Kingpin. Spider-Man saves C.J. from the gangs and nurses him back to health as Peter Parker. After C.J. leaves Peter's apartment, Spider-Man heads out to Farr's office, where he finds a hidden safe C.J. had described to Peter. The web-slinger takes a file which would identify C.J. as Remington Colt, then departs to let the police in on the safe's location, which still contains the evidence on the Kingpin.

But Farr finally breaks under pressure, and his captors head for the office to raid the safe. C.J. has headed there as well, to recover the Colt file, and is cornered by Louie. Spider-Man returns from calling the police in time to find one of the gangs holding Louie and C.J. both at gunpoint. The wall-crawler saves them and webs up the gang, but C.J. burns Farr's safe, still believing the Colt file to be inside.

Later, at the Midtown High reunion, C.J. gives a monologue filled with cruel jokes about his former classmates, and the alumni are not amused. Backstage, Peter gives C.J. the Colt file and informs him that Louie has been arrested for his part in recent criminal activities. C.J. evidences his selfishness to Peter, who berates him and walks away.

Monday, November 3, 2014

PETER PARKER, THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #85

"THE HATRED OF THE HOBGOBLIN!"
Writer: Bill Mantlo | Artists: Al Milgrom & Jim Mooney
Letterer: Diana Albers | Colorist: Bob Sharen | Editors: Tom DeFalco & Danny Fingeroth
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter | Gracious Plot Assist: Roger Stern

The Plot: The Hobgoblin finally perfects Norman Osborn's strength enhancement formula in the form of a chemical bath. After immersing himself in it, the villain emerges super-strong. He sets out to test his now power by killing Spider-Man.

The goblin conveniently finds the web-slinger out for an evening constitutional with the Black Cat, and attacks. Spider-Man proves a match for his foe's newfound strength, but when the Cat attempts to offer aid to her love, she spoils his hastily planned trap and allows the Hobgoblin to escape into the night.

The Sub-Plots: Harry and Liz Osborn host a lunch at Central Park's Tavern-on-the-Green, where they announce to their assembled friends -- Peter Parker, Mary Jane Watson, Ned and Betty Leeds, Flash Thompson, and his girlfriend Sha Shan -- that they're expecting a baby.