Monday, May 22, 2017

DAREDEVIL #178

"PAPER CHASE"
Story & Art : Frank Miller | Finished Art : Klaus Janson
Colors: Glynis Wein | Letters: Joe Rosen
Editor: Denny O’Neil | Supervisor: Jim Shooter

The Plot: At her apartment, Elektra is attacked by agents of the Kingpin and, after defeating them, she finds a card offering her employment in his organization. The next day, a young man named Sheldon, who claims to have incriminating checks connecting mayoral candidate Randolph Cherryh to the Kingpin, visits Nelson & Murdock. When Kingpin’s men arrive to try and grab him, Matt Murdock changes to Daredevil and holds them off while Sheldon escapes.

Fearing Matt could be the victim of further harassment, Foggy hires Power Man and Iron Fist, Heroes For Hire, to protect him. They fight off the Kingpin’s goons that night, much to the irritation of Matt, who had intended to get a confession from the men on tape. The next evening, Matt ditches the heroes for hire, which sends them off to harass Cherryh. Daredevil overhears the candidate speaking to Sheldon on the phone, and an agreement is made to exchange the checks for cash during a parade the next day.

At the parade, Power Man and Iron Fist search for Matt but come into conflict with Daredevil. Meanwhile, Turk and Grotto, attempting to get back in with the Kingpin, try to kill Sheldon. Eventually Sheldon is caught by the heroes, but realizes he lost the checks among the tornado of ticker tape swirling above when he tried to elude Turk.

That night, Elektra arrives at the Kingpin’s office to discuss her potential employment.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

FICTIONAL PRIVILEGE AND COMPETENCE

Spider-Man is my all-time favorite superhero; possibly my all-time favorite fictional character. He's a guy driven by guilt to always do the right thing, no matter the personal cost. Peter Parker, in most of his iterations, is a kid or a young adult; a student, a freelance photographer; a guy with barely two nickels to rub together, ever trying to make ends meet. And I wouldn't want him any other way.

But at the same time, that's usually not a character I want to read about (or watch on TV, in the movies, etc.). I love characters like Bruce Wayne, Tony Stark, and so on. They have millions -- or, nowadays, billions -- of dollars and they live in palatial estates. Moon Knight, in many of his incarnations, falls into this realm as well. I'd even add the Avengers and X-Men to this category, too. They're not all obscenely wealthy, but they're comfortable and they live in big mansions. The Avengers even have a loyal butler!


There was an era for Daredevil where Nelson & Murdock were considered the best attorneys in New York and operated out of one of the upper floors of a huge skyscraper. This has always been my favorite period for the character. Angel is one of my favorite X-Men because he's the richest among them. Oliver Queen is far more interesting to me when he's wealthy than when he lives in a tenement. I like Danny Rand better as the head of a company than as a hero for hire (and thanks to the recent NetFlix series, I suspect the former will be his default setting going forward).

Friday, May 19, 2017

PARKER: THE HUNTER & PARKER: THE OUTFIT

As I confessed the other day, I had never read a single thing by Darwyn Cooke prior to this year. Somehow the guy just sort of slipped under my radar for pretty much his entire career. I'd seen his artwork now and then, and I was aware of JUSTICE LEAGUE: NEW FRONTIER, but mostly he just looked like sort of a Bruce Timm clone to me.

Nonetheless, people seemed to love the guy's work. When he died unexpectedly last spring, I made a note that I would definitely check out something he'd done, with NEW FRONTIER at the top of the list. But instead, by way of the big Comixology IDW sale back in October, I wound up reading his PARKER graphic novels first.

Parker was created by the late Donald E. Westlake under the pen name of Richard Stark, as a sort of "anti-hero" in a series of pulp novels published over the course of forty years. In 2009, Cooke began a series of four adaptations of a handful of Perker's earliest stories. The first, THE HUNTER, follows career criminal Parker on a long, bloody trail toward revenge on a man who left him for dead and the return of some stolen monies he believes are rightfully his. Parker comes into conflict with "the Outfit", a nationwide crime syndicate, and by the story's end he's recovered his cash but made a very dangerous enemy of the Outfit.

Monday, May 15, 2017

DAREDEVIL #177

"WHERE ANGELS FEAR TO TREAD"
Story & Art : Frank Miller | Finished Art : Klaus Janson
Colors: Glynis Wein | Letters: Joe Rosen
Editor: Denny O’Neil | Supervisor : Jim Shooter

The Plot: Over the course of a week, Matt Murdock is retrained in the use of his radar sense by Stick. Meanwhile, Ben Urich writes an exposé on mayoral candidate Randolph Cherryh’s connections to the mob, leading to Cherryh suing the Bugle, and publisher J. Jonah Jameson enlisting Nelson & Murdock to defend the paper. Eventually, Matt’s radar returns while the Kingpin makes plans to deal with Ben.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: This is about the closest Miller’s DAREDEVIL gets to a “quiet issue”. The main plot is Matt battling his inner demons with Stick’s aid, but elsewhere, sub-plots abound.

As mentioned above, Jonah Jameson hires Nelson & Murdock — or, more specifically, Nelson, as Matt is out of the picture for the moment — to defend the Daily Bugle. Playing hardball (and reminding Jameson and readers once more that Nelson & Murdock are the best attorneys in the country), Foggy requires an up-front retainer in the amount necessary to rent and furnish a new office for the currently homeless firm.

With Matt occupied, Heather re-enters the New York night life with her friend Rico, last seen back when Roger McKenzie was still writing the series. She flirts with a number of men at a little soiree, but when Rico disparages Matt, Heather storms out of the party without him.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

THE UNBOXING - MAY 2017

Same tune, different singer. Or something. Last month I had one lone book, a CAPTAIN AMERICA EPIC COLLECTION from Marvel. May brings a repeat of that theme, with another single offering in the form of another Epic Collection -- only this time the character is Spider-Man, and the book is THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN EPIC COLLECTION: THE GOBLIN'S LAST STAND.


This volume ushers the web-slinger into the 1970s with Stan Lee's final few issues as series writer and the beginning of Gerry Conway's multi-year stint as his successor, accompanied by the likes of John Romita and Gil Kane on art -- and it includes, as the title indicates, the milestone deaths of the original Green Goblin and of Peter Parker's longtime girlfriend, Gwen Stacy.

But that's not all! Due out later this month is the AMAZING SPIDER-MAN OMNIBUS volume 3 (and I'll speak a bit more about it in June's Unboxing). That book will include AMAZING #68 - 104, while this Epic Collection covers issues 105 - 123. That's more than fifty consecutive issues of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN reprinted by Marvel in a single month! What a time to be alive! It's almost as if they want to get a bunch of new collections out there in various formats to tie in with a big movie this summer...!

That's it for May, but next month will more than make up for the past couple smaller Unboxings with the afore-mentioned AMAZING SPIDER-MAN OMNIBUS 3 and one or two other neat surprises. See you then!

Friday, May 12, 2017

THE ROCKETEER

"THE ROCKETEER" | "CLIFF'S NEW YORK ADVENTURE"
By Dave Stevens | Lettering by Carrie Spiegle | Coloring by Laura Martin

I've been aware of THE ROCKETEER for -- gosh, decades, I guess, since the movie came out in 1991. I suppose I would've been twelve at the time, and although I recall thinking the film looked interesting, it didn't interest me enough to see it. To this day I still haven't, though I gather it has a pretty strong following. Someday I'll check it out. But, at any rate: at some point between '91 and today, probably when I was in my teens, I learned that the character was originally a comic book, and that said comic was created by Dave Stevens.* I've wanted to read Stevens' original Rocketeer stories for years, and now I've finally taken the plunge.

I was surprised to learn, as I did a little research prior to writing this post, that (per Wikipedia) "The Rocketeer's first adventure appeared in 1982 as a backup feature in issues #2 and #3 of Mike Grell's Starslayer series from Pacific Comics. Two more installments appeared in Pacific's showcase comic Pacific Presents #1 and 2. The fourth chapter ended in a cliffhanger that was later concluded in a special Rocketeer issue released by Eclipse Comics." I had always sort of assumed this was an ongoing comic or a mini-series or something. Little did I realize it was a backup serial that jumped around between multiple comics over the course of years! And that's only the initial storyline, "The Rocketeer". The second tale, "Cliff's New York Adventure", was only three chapters long but took six years and a third publisher to run to completion.

So what was the deal? Was the story not popular enough to find an audience? This seems unlikely since there was a major motion picture adapted from Stevens' work and nowadays, IDW holds the ROCKETEER rights and routinely publishes various limited series starring the character. Was it plagued by bad luck? (i.e., were the series that carried it as a backup feature routinely canceled? I do know that both Pacific and Eclipse eventually folded, but I think that happened in the nineties.) Was Dave Stevens simply a slow or lazy artist, or perhaps uninterested in the character he'd created? I really have no idea -- but the fact is that Stevens created the Rocketeer in 1982 and drew his final Rocketeer story in 1996, and the end result is approximately 120 pages of material (that's roughly eight-and-a-half pages per year, averaged out).

Monday, May 8, 2017

DAREDEVIL #176

"HUNTERS"
Story & Art : Frank Miller | Finished Art : Klaus Janson
Colors: Glynis Wein | Letters: Joe Rosen
Editor: Denny O’Neil | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Kirigi awakens and seeks shelter to rest and recover. Three days later, still without his radar sense, Daredevil leaves Heather behind at his apartment to go search for his one-time mentor, Stick. Heather decides to seek out Stick as well, unaware she's being watched by Elektra, who then takes off after Daredevil while she herself is shadowed in turn by Kirigi.

At Josie's, Daredevil questions Turk for Stick’s whereabouts. When one of Turk’s associates gets the drop on DD, Turk realizes he's not well and departs with Grotto to acquire a weapon capable of taking the hero out. Meanwhile, Heather links up with a hood named Snuff, who promises to lead her to Stick. Elsewhere, Turk and Grotto break into the Cord Conglomerate’s headquarters in search of a battlesuit.

Elektra listens in as two informants direct Daredevil to Wall-Eyed Pike, the last man to see Stick. She then kills the men as they attempt to shoot DD in the back when he leaves. Soon Elektra, Turk, Daredevil, and Heather and Snuff visit Pike one at a time in turn, and he directs all of them to a pool hall called Duke’s.

There, Heather arrives first followed by Daredevil. DD takes out several roustabouts in a brief skirmish, then easily knocks out Turk when he arrives in the Mauler armor. Then, as DD asks Stick for help, outside Elektra is assualted by Kirigi. She manages to kill him and then finds herself pining over Matt Murdock.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

SPRINGTIME GRAB BAG (IDW RETRO EDITION)

Last Fall, Comixology had a 50% off sale for their full IDW catalog. I'm not often big on digital comics outside of Marvel Unlimited, but I took advantage of this sale to check out a few things I've wanted to read for some time, as well as one series on which I did a spur-of-the-moment splurge. Somehow all of these items wound up being stories set in the past, hence the "retro" aspect of this review series.

Now, for the next four weeks beginning this Friday, I'll take a look at all those items in order of publication, beginning with the ROCKETEER comics of the eighties by Dave Stevens. The Rocketeer is a character I've had interest in for years, based as he is on the adventure serials of the thirties, but for whatever reason I've never actually checked him out. (I've never even seen the movie, despite its being released when I was twelve years old, pretty much the perfect age to get excited about it.)

Following the Rocketeer, we'll spend two weeks looking at Darwyn Cooke's four PARKER graphic novels, based on the character created by Donald E. Westlake and set in the sixties, when the novels were originally published. Much like the Rocketeer situation, I've never actually read anything by Cooke (though JUSTICE LEAGUE: NEW FRONTIER has been on my radar for several years now). Hopefully his adaptations of another writer's work will give me a decent idea of what he was all about.

Lastly is the splurge item -- HALF PAST DANGER, a mini-series by Stephen Mooney. I'd never heard of Mooney, but in stumbling across this series while perusing the IDW catalog, I decided I liked the artwork and I liked that, as with THE ROCKETEER, the series is influenced by adventure serials and is also set in the thirties.

So for the next few weeks we'll be heading back several decades to explore eras of Nazis, hard-boiled gangsters, and high adventure. And, once this is all done, it's entirely probable I'll stick with the retro theme for a few more months as part of this year's "Summer of..." project, so stay tuned.

Friday, May 5, 2017

AQUAMAN #61, 62, & 63

”THE ARMAGEDDON CONSPIRACY”
Story: David Michelinie (with thanks to Richard “Comic Media News” Burton)
Art: Don Newton and Bob McLeod | Letterer: Milt Snappin
Colorist: Adrienne Roy | Editor: Paul Levitz

The story arc dating back to issue 58 concludes in AQUAMAN 61, as our hero teams up with Batman and Green Lantern to stop the Kobra’s plot to destroy Lisbon, Portugal. Kobra (who was the Fisherman's mysterious master, "King-1") has apparently faced Batman before, and the Caped Crusader speaks often of how deadly he is, even going on a couple of wildly out-of-character rants berating Aquaman for prioritizing the lives of hostages over capturing the villain. But there are no footnotes in the story to indicate where these two crossed paths before, nor do we get any sort of flashback or exposition explaining exactly why Batman feels so strongly about Kobra.

Indeed, this entire story feels a bit off, as if something is missing. It almost seems like a crossover with JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA, as we're told that a number of developments in the heroes’ hunt for Kobra occurred off-panel and are touched upon only extremely briefly here.

But this is David Michelinie’s final issue of AQUAMAN, so perhaps he knew he was on the way out and felt a need to wrap up his Kobra story before someone else came in to take it over. When he arrived, back in ADVENTURE COMICS #443, it was in the station of mere scripter, and he alternated that duty with a couple other writers. But eventually he returned on a permanent basis with ADVENTURE 450, becoming the longest-running writer in this stretch of issues. But his run has come to an end and writing chores are turned over to the writer of the Mera serial from the past few installments to close out the DEATH OF A PRINCE storyline.

Monday, May 1, 2017

DAREDEVIL #175

"GANTLET"
Story/Art : Frank Miller | Finished Art : Klaus Janson
Colors: Christie Scheele & Bob Sharen | Letters: Joe Rosen
Editor: Denny O’Neil | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Daredevil pays a visit to Elektra as she meditates. She promises she does not love him and throws him out her window. Later, after checking on Heather and finding she's gone off to a party where he believes she can't be targeted by the Hand, Daredevil goes to protect Foggy from the ninja assassins as he makes his way to the courthouse for Melvin Potter’s trial. DD finds a card on one of the defeated ninjas, but Elektra arrives and grabs it from him, then heads for the address printed upon it.

As Foggy stalls, awaiting Matt’s arrival in the courtroom, Elektra arrives at a novelty shop and begins battling the Hand, with Daredevil soon arriving to aid her. As Foggy realizes Matt won't make it to the trial, Elektra encounters a hulking ninja named Kirigi, who proves impossible to kill. Foggy requests a mistrial while Elektra’s duel with Kirigi brings them to his master. Elektra runs the giant ninja through, sending him tumbling down the stairs, then turns her attention to the man who sent him. Daredevil arrives to confront her, but passes out.

Later, Matt shows up at the courthouse to find Foggy’s movement for a mistrial was successful, and Melvin is off the hook. Foggy reaffirms the future of Nelson & Murdock for the television cameras present. Elsewhere, the Kingpin gloats over his victory against the Hand, now driven out of New York thanks to his pitting Daredevil against them.

Friday, April 28, 2017

AQUAMAN #57, 58, 59, & 60

”A LIFE FOR A LIFE”
Writer: David Michelinie | Artist: Jim Aparo | Colorist: Liz Berube

His son dead, Aquaman has gone out in search of the boy’s killer, Black Manta — in a rather cavalier fashion. I'm not sure David Michelinie’s script quite fits the gravity of this situation. Aquaman’s child has been murdered in cold blood, but he's going about his business here like any other mission, even tossing out a wisecrack or two along the way. It seems to me that, based on what happened, Aquaman should be functioning like a latter-day Batman at this point, speaking little, dishing out brutal beatings to anyone who gets in his way, and so forth. But instead, for the most part, it's just business as usual. I guess it's possible Michelinie is trying to show us a hero in denial, but if that's what he's going for, he doesn't explain it at all.

Quickly before I move along, I should mention something I didn't note last time. The prior story in ADVENTURE COMICS 452 featured Black Manta dramatically removing his helmet to reveal to Aquaman that he is, in fact, a — black guy! And that, folks, from his own mouth, is the reason he decided to call himself Black Manta. Not because he wears a black costume or, I dunno, has a black heart, but because he himself is black.

Yikes! Weren't we a little more enlightened about stuff like this by 1977?

Monday, April 24, 2017

DAREDEVIL #174

"THE ASSASSINATION OF MATT MURDOCK"
Story & Art : Frank Miller | Finished Art : Klaus Janson
Colors: Glynis Wein & Klaus Janson | Letters: Joe Rosen
Editor: Denny O’Neil | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Elektra is on the trail of a bounty in Paris when her prey is killed by a ninja assassin from the Hand organization. Elektra follows the ninja back to his lair, where she learns the Hand’s next targets are Matt Murdock and his current client. Elektra hops a plane to New York.

The next night, after a court date for Melvin Potter, Daredevil returns home where, as Murdock, he's attacked by the Hand. Matt fights them off with some aid from an unseen Elektra. The next day, Matt arrives at the law offices of Murdock and Nelson to find Foggy present. As they talk, the Hand move in on the building but Elektra fights them off — however one ninja launches an explosive which hits the building and injures Matt.

Matt comes to in the hospital to find his radar sense gone. But before he can dwell on this, he learns that Melvin is being transferred and takes off to protect him. Meanwhile, Elektra busts Melvin out of a paddy wagon and provides him with his Gladiator paraphernalia. They're attacked by the Hand and are on the defensive when Daredevil shows up to help. The Hand retreat, leaving DD and Melvin alone. As Melvin describes the woman who aided him, Daredevil realizes who she is.

Meanwhile, the defeated Hand operatives are executed for their failure by a towering ninja, who is then presented with a photo of his next target: Elektra.

Friday, April 21, 2017

ADVENTURE COMICS #449, 450, 451, & 452

”THE MENACE OF THE MARINE MARAUDER”
Reuniting the twin titans of Aquaman’s past:
Writer: Steve Skeates | Artist: Jim Aparo
Aided and abetted by: Colorist: Liz Berube

It occurs to me that in two posts covering several issues so far, I haven't once said anything about Jim Aparo’s artwork! I know I've seen “Aparo’s Aquaman run” referenced here and there on the internet over the years, and I must assume those references are to this run of issues specifically. And since most of those references have held the work up as excellent, I must concur with them. This is really good stuff!

Mind you, I have no real baseline to go off of; I've never read any other Aquaman comics. But Aparo has a great handle on the character (I love the wavy locks he gives him; all the better to float about in the seawater as he swims), and his grasp of the supporting cast and environments is just as good. His Mera in particular is very fun to look at, with her massive mane of flowing red hair.

It's interesting to me that Aparo is working on Aquaman here just after his brief run with the Spectre, and he has adapted his style accordingly. Where the Spectre stories featured glorious use of heavy, overwhelming blacks, Aquaman is much more open for traditional superhero coloring. It's quite a remarkable adjustment in the span of only a couple months.

Oh, and Aquaman fights some guy named the Marine Marauder in this issue.

Monday, April 17, 2017

DAREDEVIL #173

"LADY KILLER"
Story & Breakdown Art : Frank Miller | Finished Art : Klaus Janson
Colors: Glynis Wein | Letters: Joe Rosen
Editor: Denny O’Neil | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: On his way to meet with his new client, Melvin Potter, Matt Murdock is accosted by a group of hoods who he efficiently dispatches. But during the skirmish, a pair of nearby reporters are attacked by a hulk of a man who is soon misidentified as Melvin.

The next day, Matt and secretary Becky meet Melvin in jail and Becky immediately faints. Later, she confides in Matt that she was assaulted on her college campus years ago, an incident which cost her the use of her legs, and that she saw the assailant’s face: it was Melvin. Upon learning that Becky never contacted the police, Matt throws a fit and leaves.

The next day in court, Matt is granted a delay in jury selection in Melvin's existing case until the defendant can be cleared of the new assault charge. Matt changes to Daredevil and searches the city for the truth, but comes up empty-handed. Later, Melvin escapes police custody and heads to the Dibney Museum for his Gladiator paraphernalia, but Matt shows up and convinces him to turn himself back in.

That night, Melvin’s social worker, Betsy Beatty, is assaulted by the Melvin lookalike. He’s scared off by neighbors, but Betsy’s experience allows her to tell Daredevil the sorts of places he should be looking for the guy. He finds him in a leather club and after a barroom brawl, defeats him.

The Melvin lookalike is indeed Melvin’s doppelganger, and Melvin is exonerated in the assault case. Matt convinces Becky to testify against the lookalike to put him behind bars.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

THE UNBOXING - APRIL 2017

One lone item this month, courtesy of Marvel: The CAPTAIN AMERICA EPIC COLLECTION: JUSTICE IS SERVED. This volume marks another nice chunk of Mark Gruenwald's long CAP run in Epic format, and, even better, it plugs a gap between 2014's SOCIETY OF SERPENTS Epic and 2011's "prototype" Epic, THE CAPTAIN. Between all three books, that's CAPTAIN AMERICA issues 302 - 350, plus associated annuals and tie-ins -- roughly one-third of Gruenwald's run -- collected consecutively!


(And by the way, if you want to extend that streak backwards, 2012's DEATH OF THE RED SKULL collects issues 290 - 301, by J.M. DeMatteis and Mike Zeck, too!)

Furthermore, with this volume now released, there's only one unknown Epic Collection remaining to fill in the gap between THE CAPTAIN and 2015's STREETS OF POISON book. Hopefully that volume, which would include the fan favorite "Bloodstone Hunt" serial (and which I'd be willing to bet will be named for that very storyline since the 2010 collection is long out of print), will be the next Gruenwald-era Epic to see release, because, being the anal-retentive fan I am, I much prefer unbroken runs on my bookcase rather than those that skip around. But in any case, the clear takeaway from all of this is that it's a very nice time to be a fan of Mark Gruenwald's CAPTAIN AMERICA.

Friday, April 14, 2017

ADVENTURE COMICS #444, 445, 446, 447, & 448

”AND DEATH BEFORE DISHONOR”
Plot: Paul Levitz | Script: Gerry Conway | Art: Jim Aparo
Editor: Joe Orlando

Beginning here, the Aquaman serial truly ramps up, and it's in a style that I enjoy. See, I have maybe an odd take on serialized fiction: I believe that “filler” is necessary. Not “fill-ins”, mind you, but filler. One of my favorite examples of this in the field of comics is Roger Stern’s final year-ish on AMAZING SPIDER-MAN. The Hobgoblin was the overarching story of that entire run, accounting for seven out of fourteen issues from #238 – 251. In the meantime, Spider-Man had other adventures unrelated to that villain, even as his presence lurked in the background, informing some of the wall-crawler’s choices in that time (such as his actively searching for the goblin in #246 and 247).

Most all the stories in that run of issues are fun adventures, but only about half of them relate to the overarching story. I really like this approach. It makes the “main” story feel more important when it’s touched upon if you have unrelated adventures interspersed among those that advance the main plot.

Side note: This is one area where I believe pretty much all of the Marvel NetFlix series fail dramatically. They have thirteen episodes per season, and they tend to devote every one of those thirteen to the main plot with no divergences or side-stories. Wouldn’t the Purple Man’s machinations be a lot more meaningful if he only appeared in about half of JESSICA JONES’ episodes, with Jessica taking on “case-of-the-week” style adventures in between? Wouldn’t DAREDEVIL be more fun if Murdock & Nelson spent a few episodes per season on some court case that had nothing to do with the Kingpin or the Punisher or whoever else? I think so, at least -- and this would also help to alleviate the Netflix shows' universally recognized flaw of treading water during the back half of every season.

But I digress; we're here to talk DC comics, not Marvel TV. As of this issue, Aquaman is voted out as kind of Atlantis, replaced by a usurper named Karshon while he was off fighting his villainous half-brother, the Ocean Master, and from this point, the Aquaman serial will feature a mixture of stories dedicated wholeheartedly to the “king in exile” saga, interspersed with others which have nothing to do with it.

Monday, April 10, 2017

DAREDEVIL #172

"GANG WAR!"
Writer/Penciler: Frank Miller | Inker : Klaus Janson
Colorist: Glynis Wein | Letterer: Joe Rosen
Editor: Denny O’Neil | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Daredevil awakens in a water main and escapes into a community of underground vagrants. He returns to Josie’s to question Turk. Meanwhile, from his underground lair, the Kingpin supervises a gang war against his treacherous ex-lieutenants. Bullseye sets out to track the Kingpin down and learns the location of his stronghold. Meanwhile, Daredevil raids that very place and recovers what he believes to be the Kingpin’s files, but which turn out to be newspapers.

Bullseye and some men attack the Kingpin’s lair but find it booby-trapped. Later, as Bullseye berates his employers for their incompetence, the Kingpin arrives and hires him away from them. He forces his former men to sign confessions holding them responsible for the gang war, then he turns his attention to Lynch, his right-hand man who he has deduced killed his wife, Vanessa. The Kingpin kills Lynch in a fit of vengeance.

Later, Daredevil learns from a neighborhood hooker that there's a gangland meeting going down. He heads for the Kingpin’s office tower and shuts down its generator, which lures Bullseye into the basement for a fight. Daredevil bests Bullseye but is surrounded by the Kingpin and his men. Kingpin offers DD the files on the men who signed his confessions, as well as Bullseye, to get him to leave. Daredevil does so, departing with an implied promise that their feud is not yet over.

Elsewhere, beneath the city streets, the Kingpin’s wife, Vanessa, awakens and wanders off, amnesiac and hungry.

Friday, April 7, 2017

ADVENTURE COMICS #435, 436, 437, 441, 442, & 443

”AS THE UNDERSEA CITY SLEEPS” | “THE KING IS DEAD; LONG LIVE THE KING!”
Story: Steve Skeates | Art: Mike Grell | Editor: Joe Orlando

“A QUIET DAY IN ATLANTIS”
Script: Paul Levitz | Art: Mike Grell | Editor: Joe Orlando

Déjà vu! I already wrote about these three issues of ADVENTURE COMICS a few years ago when I covered The Spectre by Michael Fleisher and Jim Aparo! But, even while the Spectre was the lead feature in the bimonthly series, Aquaman served for a time as his backup serial before eventually — as well see below — graduating to top billing.

Unfortunately these early Aquaman tales are nothing to get too excited about. I've known for years that Black Manta is Aquaman’s main villain; his Joker or Lex Luthor, of you will. But to read these stories, one would get the impression that he's the Sea King’s only antagonist! He appears in all three stories, and unfortunately they're all pretty pedestrian. And, mind you, this is partly Aquaman’s fault, as it’s established in the first story that when he captures Black Manta, he just tosses him back out into the sea rather than incarcerate him anywhere.

Anyway, I can only assume things will pick up moving forward; otherwise what's the point of collecting this stuff in a trade paperback?

Monday, April 3, 2017

DAREDEVIL #171

"IN THE KINGPIN’S CLUTCHES"
Writer/Penciler: Frank Miller | Inker : Klaus Janson
Colorist: Glynis Wein | Letterer: Joe Rosen
Editor: Denny O’Neil | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Daredevil awakens in the back of a garbage truck and heads back to his brownstone. Meanwhile, the Kingpin begins a war against his former lieutenants, spreading the word that he wants his kidnapped wife returned. Elsewhere, the crime bosses concoct a plan to deal with the Kingpin and send Bullseye out to invite him to a meeting.

Undercover as a hit man, Daredevil convinces Turk to take him to the Kingpin’s underground lair with the intention of stealing the Kingpin’s files. Kingpin hires him but locks him up for the night after learning of the meeting arranged by his ex-lieutenants. But when DD escapes the Kingpin’s “vault”, he winds up fighting the man himself, and loses.

Kingpin arrives at a construction site to trade his files for his wife, but instead he uses a hypersonic device to knock out everyone present before they can kill him. As he approaches the unconscious Vanessa, however, a mysterious party launches an explosive which demolishes the unfinished building, apparently killing Vanessa. Kingpin is led to safety by his right-hand man, Lynch.

Meanwhile, Turk and his partner Grotto drop Daredevil, tied up, into a water main to drown.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

AQUAMAN: DEATH OF A PRINCE

I've been hanging onto this book for probably about five years now, just about the same amount of time that GREEN LANTERN/GREEN ARROW sat unread on my bookshelf. But now I figured, hey -- I've finally given GL/GA a chance; I might as well do the same with the King of the Seven Seas.

I'm pretty sure my very first exposure to Aquaman was on SUPER FRIENDS as a young child. Indeed, aside from that series and the sixties-era Filmation AQUAMAN cartoons available on home video in the eighties, I'm not sure I've had much exposure to the character at all. Certainly on JUSTICE LEAGUE and JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED, but not really anywhere else outside of comics -- and within comics it's entirely possible that the only Aquaman I've ever read was in JLA: YEAR ONE (if you don't count the little pack-in comic that came with the Super Powers Collection Aquaman action figure, anyway).

So this will be a brand-new experience to me. As with most DC characters, I know what Aquaman's basic deal is -- son of a lighthouse keeper and an Atlantean woman, king of Atlantis, suffocates after an hour outside of the water -- but that's really about it. Let's spend the next few weeks getting me a bit more acquainted with him, shall we?

Friday, March 31, 2017

GREEN LANTERN #89 AND THE FLASH #217-219 & 226 (BACKUP SERIAL)

Script: Denny O’Neil | Art: Neal Adams | Editor: Julie Schwartz
Inks: Dick Giordano (backup serial only)

“…AND THROUGH HIM SAVE A WORLD…”

And then GREEN LANTERN was cancelled…!

I always find it bizarre when a series I consider to be perennial is cancelled or even on the verge of cancellation. Around the mid-seventies, DETECTIVE COMICS hovered at the edge of oblivion, and I believe it was only the belief that DC simply couldn't cancel the comic their company was named after which kept it afloat. Over at Marvel, by the eighties, CAPTAIN AMERICA hovered just under the axe, and I believe the same held true for DAREDEVIL in the seventies. And then of course there's X-MEN, which while not outright cancelled, was reduced to being a reprint magazine in the early seventies.

Such would be the fate of GREEN LANTERN as well, as not even the socially relevant stories of Denny O'Neil and Neal Adams could save it (which I believe lends some credence to my belief that kids have no interest in, nor any need to know about, a lot of the stuff covered in this run).

GREEN LANTERN 89 is the series’ final issue, and ugh – it may well be the single preachiest, most ham-handed installment of the entire O'Neill/Adams run, and that title comes with some stiff competition. The story involves out heroes meeting up with a young man named Isaac, who's been vandalizing a Ferris Aircraft plant over the pollution it causes. By our tale’s end, Isaac – who bears a passing resemblance to Jesus Christ – has crucified himself outside the plant in protest and died overnight as Green Arrow and Green Lantern are unable to save him.

Monday, March 27, 2017

DAREDEVIL #170

"THE KINGPIN MUST DIE"
Writer/Penciler: Frank Miller | Inker : Klaus Janson
Colors: Glynis Wein | Letters: Joe Rosen
Editor: Denny O’Neil | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Daredevil questions Turk about some big goings-on in the underworld and learns that New York’s mob bosses have put out a hit on their former leader, the ex-Kingpin of Crime. Meanwhile, the Kingpin, now living in Japan, is prepared to turn over his crime files to the U.S. Attorney General in exchange for a complete pardon.

The Kingpin’s wife, Vanessa, travels to the United States to hire Nelson & Murdock to represent the Kingpin in this matter. But their meeting is interrupted by a mercenary sent by the local mob. Daredevil fights him, however he proves only a delaying tactic and Vanessa is kidnapped firing the brief skirmish.

Meanwhile. Bullseye is released from prison and immediately hired by the mob to take out the Kingpin. Daredevil shows up at mob HQ to attempt to talk Bullseye out of this, but the mercenary easily trounces DD, dropping him from a skyscraper. He manages to break his fall, but lands unconscious in a garbage truck.

Later, the Kingpin arrives in New York on a private airstrip. The mob, tipped to his destination, awaits him — but the plane turns out to be a decoy, exploding and taking out the armed gangsters. The Kingpin then lands via a second plane and declares war on New York’s crime bosses.

Friday, March 24, 2017

GREEN LANTERN #87

Script: Denny O’Neil (story A) & Elliot Maggin (story B)
Art: Neal Adams | Inks: Dick Giordano (#87) | Editor: Julie Schwartz

“BEWARE MY POWER” | “WHAT CAN ONE MAN DO?”

Well, you learn something new every day, and for me today, it's this: until the very instant I looked at this issue’s cover before reading the stories inside, I never had any idea that John Stewart was created by Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams. For whatever reason, I thought he came along later and was perhaps the brainchild of Steve Englehart during his GREEN LANTERN CORPS run from the eighties.

Anyway – GREEN LANTERN (co-starring Green Arrow) #87 splits the title heroes into two separate solo stories. In the first, Earth’s backup Green Lantern, Guy Gardner, is injured during an earthquake and the Guardians choose architect John Stewart as his replacement. Hal Jordan spends the story training Stewart and even forces him to protect a bigoted senator at a presidential rally in order to test his devotion to the GL uniform. Stewart comes through, protecting the senator from an assassination attempt (which turns out to be a publicity stunt) and earning Hal’s respect.

I like John Stewart, though pretty much everything I know about the character comes from the JUSTICE LEAGUE cartoon series. Here, in his original incarnation, he's a bit rougher and more quippy than his animated counterpart, but he's still an entertaining character.

Monday, March 20, 2017

DAREDEVIL #169

"DEVILS"
Writer/Penciler: Frank Miller | Inker : Klaus Janson
Colorist: Glynis Wein | Letterer: Joe Rosen
Editor: Denny O’Neil | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Bullseye escapes from custody just before undergoing an operation to remove a brain tumor. Hallucinating, he has spells during which he believes everyone he sees is Daredevil. The real Daredevil begins a hunt for Bullseye, eventually catching up with him for a battle that heads underground to Manhattan’s subway tunnels. There, despite the cacophony of agonizing sounds assaulting his radar sense, Daredevil bests Bullseye and turns him over to the police.

Later, Bullseye’s surgery goes on as planned and the tumor is successfully removed.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: As the issue opens, Matt Murdock is on a TV talk show called Good Evening, New York to discuss his role in “the controversial angel dust murders.” This seems to be a continuity glitch — said murders were to be the plot of the McKenzie/Miller Punisher story which was advertised a few issues back but never published. I guess Miller either figured at this point that the angel dust story would remain an unpublished, "untold" adventure, or it might run somewhere else somehow. But, as we'll see in a few months, the storyline will eventually see print near the end of Miller’s run as writer, appearing in "real time" continuity rather than as a flashback or something -- which means Murdock is in some kind of time loop here, where he's asked here about something that hasn't yet happened!

Detective Nick Manolis returns to fill Daredevil in on Bullseye’s escape. He must have a very broad mandate within the NYPD, not to mention an unusually huge jurisdiction — two issues ago he responded to an armed assault on Long Island, while here he's presiding over a multiple homicide in Manhattan!

Friday, March 17, 2017

GREEN LANTERN #85 – 86

”SNOWBIRDS DON’T FLY!” | “THEY SAY IT’LL KILL ME… BUT THEY WON’T SAY WHEN!”
Script: Denny O’Neil | Art: Neal Adams | Inks: Dick Giordano (#86)
Editor: Julie Schwartz

I think I said this up front when I began this review series, but it bears repeating as we begin a look at this, the best-known story from the O'Neil/Adams GREEN LANTERN/GREEN ARROW run: I don't, as a rule, object entirely to social messages in superhero comics. My objection tends to be more on a case-by-case basis. Look at it this way: when these stories were originally published in 1970-71, comics’ target market was still ostensibly children. And while I do believe children are more complex than we often give them credit for, with their own fears and issues, I don't believe it's the purview of a mainstream superhero comic to introduce them to the concepts of white guilt, overpopulation, or, errm… plastic cities.

But by the same token, I do believe that superhero comics should teach appreciation for all races and creeds, and they should certainly tackle problems which the children reading them might actually encounter. No child will give a second thought to overpopulation. It means nothing to them. But do a story about, say, bullying or drugs, and then you're sending a message which your target audience can comprehend and appreciate, and which may actually resonate with them.

Which brings us to GREEN LANTERN issues 85 and 86. The story follows our heroes as they chase down the junkies who mugged Green Arrow using a crossbow that fired one of his own shafts at him. This quest leads them to Arrow’s ward, Speedy, among the junkies. As the cover to part one implies, this story hinges largely on GA actually being a little ignorant — or at least blind — as he initially assumes Speedy is undercover and never once guesses the awful truth revealed on the final page (and totally spoiled by the cover): Speedy is a junkie himself!

Monday, March 13, 2017

DAREDEVIL #168

"ELEKTRA"
Artist and Writer : Frank Miller | Inker/Embellisher: Klaus Janson
Colorist: Dr. Martin | Letterer: Joe Rosen
Editor: Denny O’Neil | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: In search of a thief under the protection of Eric Slaughter, Daredevil runs afoul of a bounty hunter whose voice he recognizes as that of Elektra, the woman he loved in college. Elektra knocks DD out and, while unconscious, he flashes back to their time together.

When he comes around, Daredevil continues his search for the missing thief, and he and Elektra cross paths once more on the waterfront as Slaughter is about to send his charge away in a seaplane. Elektra realizes that Daredevil is Matt Murdock when he saves her life. He then leaves her on the pier as the police approach.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: Daredevil’s search for the missing thief brings him into contact with Turk, who reminds DD and the readers of their last altercation on Coney Island in issue 161.Turk’s boss, Eric Slaughter, puts in an appearance here as well.

But more importantly, this issue features the debut of Elektra, possibly Frank Miller’s most iconic creation. We meet her first via a brief skirmish with Daredevil, and then her backstory is quickly filled in by way of an extended flashback to Matt Murdock’s college days. The short of it is that she was the daughter of the Greek ambassador, studying in the United States. She and Matt fell head over heels for one another very quickly, leading him to reveal his powers to her. But Elektra left school abruptly a year later when he father was killed by the police in a botched attempt to defuse a hostage situation.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

THE UNBOXING - MARCH 2017

Just two books this month, one from each of the "Big Two", and both are nice hardcovers.

The first, from Marvel, is the MASTER OF KUNG FU OMNIBUS volume 3, continuing the cult classic run from the seventies and eighties. I'll remind readers that volume 1 and volume 2 are both still available, but that it really seems as if this is a limited reprint deal, so once these books are gone, it's probably not likely (but don't hold me to this; I'm only try to read between the lines) that this material will ever be collected again in any format. There will be a fourth and final volume to close out the series, but as of yet it hasn't been solicited.


And from DC, it's BATMAN AND THE OUTSIDERS volume 1. This series, by Mike W. Barr and Jim Aparo (later replaced by Alan Davis), is one I've had interest in for some time, but until now the only reprint available was a black-and-white SHOWCASE PRESENTS volume from a few years back. Now, however, it's arrived in full color and I look forward to finally reading it. Hopefully this initial volume sells well enough to warrant enough follow-ups to collect the full series (or at least the full run of issues featuring Batman as the team's mentor). At the moment there are no further installments solicited, so time will tell...!

Friday, March 10, 2017

GREEN LANTERN #82 – 84

Script: Denny O’Neil | Art: Neal Adams | Editor: Julie Schwartz
Inks: Dick Giordano (#82-83) & Berni Wrightson (#82 assist & #84)

“HOW DO YOU FIGHT A NIGHTMARE?”

My theory last week that the "social relevance" angle was a six-issue experiment seems to be borne out by this installment, which is a simple, message-free superhero adventure featuring Sinestro using Green Arrow and Black Canary as bait to spring a trap for Green Lantern. The entire tale is set at night, giving it the moody atmosphere I most associate with the O'Neil/Adams team from their Batman stories, and that, combined with the presence of a genuine supervillain, makes this easily my favorite installment of the run so far.

A few observations: Apparently Sinestro has a sister, who aids him here in his scheme. No idea if this was her first appearance or not. Green Arrow notes that he “used to be rich”. I was well aware that the classic version of Oliver Queen was a wealthy playboy a la Bruce Wayne, and that by the eighties he had been stripped of his wealth, but I had no idea that aspect of his character had been done away with so much earlier. I always figured it was an invention of the Mike Grell/"Longbow Hunters" era of the character. And lastly, it suddenly occurs to me that Black Canary only ever uses judo against her enemies in these stories. I haven't seen her use her sonic scream at any point. I assume the character must have lacked that ability during this period, but I've no idea whether it was a power she’d once had and lost, or whether it simply hadn't been created yet.

Monday, March 6, 2017

DAREDEVIL #167

"THE MAULER!"
Writer : David Michelinie| Penciler: Frank Miller | Inker: Klaus Janson
Letterer: Joe Rosen | Colorist: Glynis Wein
Editor: Denny O’Neil | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Matt Murdock and Heather Glenn are at an exclusive country club soiree hosted by defense contractor Edwin Cord when the party is crashed by an armored figure called the Mauler, who has come for Cord. Matt changes to Daredevil and defends the CEO, but the Mauler escapes.

Later, DD confronts Cord at his estate and learns that the Mauler is a disgruntled former employee named Aaron Soames, who stole the armor when he was fired. The following night, Daredevil stakes out Cord’s Long Island factory, expecting the Mauler to strike again while Cord works late. Sure enough, Soames shows up and attacks once more. Soames reveals to DD that his pension was lost as a result of a computer glitch and Cord refused to fix it, leading him on the path to retribution.

Somes finally confronts Cord and Daredevil is surprised to see that all he wants is to destroy Cord’s ID and credit cards so that he won’t exist either. But Cord security arrives and blasts Soames, klling him. Daredevil knocks Cord unconscious and departs in disgust. He attends Soames’ funeral some time later.

Friday, March 3, 2017

GREEN LANTERN #79 – 81

Script: Denny O’Neil | Art: Neal Adams
Inks: Dan Adkins (#79) & Dick Giordano (#80 & 81) | Editor: Julie Schwartz

“ULYSSES STAR IS STILL ALIVE!”

Still in Indian country, Green Lantern, Green Arrow, and their Guardian colleague become involved in the struggle between a tribe and a pair of men named Theodore Pudd and Pierre O’Rourke over logging rights. The heroes disagree on their course of action and go their separate ways, Green Lantern looking for legal recourse while Green Arrow teams up with Black Canary to pursue extralegal remedies.

Our heroes are drawn back together when Green Lantern shows up at a standoff between the tribe and the loggers with a U.S. congressman in tow, to find the Indians fighting back alongside the so-called spirit of their late tribal hero, Ulysses Star. The ghost is unmasked as Green Arrow, and he GL have a drag-out fight to settle their philosophical debate.

In the end nothing is really hashed out. The corrupt loggers are arrested for arson (a component of Green Lantern’s investigation) while the tribe finds themselves living in squalor as always.

Along the way, Green Lantern, who has shown some doubts over his usual approach to heroism in recent chapters (and even in this one) remains true to himself by following the letter of the law, which is a nice touch from O'Neil, who so far has seemed mostly concerned with knocking the series’ star down a few pegs.

Monday, February 27, 2017

DAREDEVIL #166

"TILL DEATH DO US PART!"
Writer/Co-Plotters/Penciler: Roger McKenzie & Frank Miller | Inker: Klaus Janson
Letterer: Joe Rosen | Colorist: Glynis Wein
Editor: Denny O’Neil | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: On the day of Foggy Nelson’s wedding, Daredevil’s old enemy, the Gladiator, holds the Digby Museum of Human History hostage, threatening to execute several visiting children unless a champion is sent to battle him. Matt Murdock changes to Daredevil and heads for the museum, where he challenges and defeats the Gladiator, then makes his way to the church, where he barely arrives in time for the wedding’s conclusion.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: The children’s chaperone happens to be Betsy Beatty, a social worker assigned to the Gladiator himself, a.k.a. Melvin Potter — who believes Betsy is in love with him.

As described above, Foggy is married this issue to his fiancée, Debbie. Matt serves as best man. Foggy’s family shows up for the wedding, including his mother and father, his sister Candice, and his fraternity brother Porkchop Peterson. Candice apparently has a romantic interest in Matt.

This is, according to my internet sources, the first appearance of Foggy's mom, a portly, friendly looking housewife with reddish hair like her son. Several years later, Karl Kesel and Cary Nord would introduce Rosalind Sharpe, a thin, angular brunette attorney as Foggy's mother during their brief run on DAREDEVIL. I'm uncertain whether these two depictions have ever been reconciled.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

THE UNBOXING - FEBRUARY 2017

We've got a couple books from outside the realm of the usual suspects (Marvel, DC, and IDW) this month, so I'll save those for last. First up are two offerings from Marvel: LUKE CAGE, IRON FIST, AND THE HEROES FOR HIRE Volume 2. and WOLVERINE: WEAPON X UNBOUND. Both conclude runs begun in previous collected editions, though you wouldn't know it based on the Wolverine book's name.


"Unboxing" aficionados will recall that the HEROES FOR HIRE series was fast-tracked, with volume 1 just released a couple months back. The WOLVERINE book, meanwhile, completes the Larry Hama/Marc Silvestri run that began in 2013's WOLVERINE BY LARRY HAMA & MARC SILVESTRI volume 1 and 2014's volume 2. Why wasn't this collection simply branded as volume 3 in that series? My guess would be that with a full three years elapsed since the prior volume (it came out in February of '14), Marvel opted to go with a new angle for the final installment. In any case it doesn't really matter; the important thing is that the complete Hama/Silvestri run is now collected in three nifty paperbacks.

Friday, February 24, 2017

GREEN LANTERN #76 – 78

Script: Denny O’Neil | Art: Neal Adams
Inks: Frank Giacoia (#77 & 78) | Editor: Julie Schwartz

“NO EVIL SHALL ESCAPE MY SIGHT!”

Right off the bat, our socially relevant excursion begins on something of a false premise. Green Lantern arrives in Star City to visit with his colleague, Green Arrow (and were they ever especially close prior to this run of issues?) but first bumps into a young man roughing up an older gentleman. Naturally, GL takes the older guys’s side and sends his assailant off to police headquarters for booking, which results in the area’s remaining citizens promptly pelting him with trash.

Green Arrow appears and explains that the fellow GL just saved, Jubal Slade, is a slum lord with plans to demolish the tenement housing the young man who attacked him, along with numerous other Star Citizens. Arrow takes GL on a quick tour of the building, which leads to our afore-mentioned false premise: an older black man confronts the Lantern, calling him out for working for “the blue skins” and helping the “orange skins” and “purple skins” but doing nothing for the black skins. Ashamed, Green Lantern has no rebuttal.

John Byrne, not exactly renowned for his racial sensitivity, nonetheless has an excellent point about this scene: Green Lantern has saved Earth countless times. He has saved the entire human race countless times. He has, therefore, saved the “black skins” countless times. He is above such things as petty racism. He routinely battles threats of intergalactic proportions. Going out of his way to help any particular race is absurd because he goes out of his way to help the entire human race every day.

Monday, February 20, 2017

DAREDEVIL #165

"ARMS OF THE OCTOPUS"
Script/Co-Plotters/Pencils: Roger McKenzie & Frank Miller | Inks: Klaus Janson
Lettering: Joe Rosen | Coloring: Bob Sharen
Editor: Denny O’Neil | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Having gotten wind of the impending theft of a shipment of adamantium, Daredevil visits Josie’s Bar & Grill to shake down some informants. Learning that the unbreakable metal is due to be delivered to Glenn Industries, DD pays a visit to their offices, where he bursts into a board meeting and informs Heather Glenn that something is going on within the company behind her back.

The next night, Matt Murdock learns that Heather never showed up for a date. He heads for the wharf, where the adamantium is in the process of being stolen, and is clobbered by Doctor Octopus.

Later, at Glenn Industries, Doc Ock brags to his prisoner, Heather, that he plans to use the adamantium to construct a set of new, unbreakable arms. But Daredevil arrives and attacks, defeating Ock.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: It's revealed that since her father’s death, Heather has had tenuous control over his company. We also learn how he died: enthralled by the Purple Man, he was jailed for embezzlement. Later he killed himself after Daredevil failed to prove his innocence.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

GREEN LANTERN/GREEN ARROW

I'll be the first to admit that I can be curmudgeon in some ways; I'm a guy who generally doesn't like to see social issues as the primary raison d'etre for any comic book story. I don't mind when nods to society's ills are slipped into a tale that's otherwise about something else entirely (see Storm discovering her childhood home is now a junkie-infested slum in UNCANNY X-MEN 122 or Wolverine scaring Kitty Pryde off smoking in issue 196), but I really don't get why anyone, child or adult, would want to read an entire superhero story about drugs or homelessness or whatever.

So now I'm about to cover a beloved run by two legendary comic superstars, Denny O'Neil and Neal Adams, dedicated to just that premise.

I've owned the GREEN LANTERN/GREEN ARROW trade for about four or five years now, but I've never quite been able to bring myself to read it. I've grabbed it off the shelf about three or four times over that span with the full intention of doing so, but just haven't found the will to crack it open -- and I think the main reason is that I love O'Neil and Adams on Batman. L-O-V-E. They crafted some of the most definitive and enjoyable Batman tales of all time. And because of that, I've had trouble jumping into what I'm pretty sure would quickly devolve into a "hate-read" of their other legendary run together.

Make no mistake -- I'm going into this thing with an agenda. I don't want to have one, but it's not like I can just force it out of my head. I'll do my best to be even-handed, but I fully expect to dislike the non-stop bleeding heart fest I'm about to cover for the next several weeks. Hopefully I don't scare anyone away in the process because I think I've got some pretty fun stuff planned after this run is over!

Friday, February 17, 2017

BIG O VOLUME 6

"LITTLE ROBOT LOST" | “ANGEL” | “THE MEMORY DISK” | “ROGER…”
Story and Art by Hitoshi Ariga | Created by Hajime Yatate

The final volume of BIG O ramps things up, giving us four chapters serialized together for one book-length story to close out the saga. We open with Dorothy, out for a walk on Paradigm City’s beach, grabbed and mangled by a new mystery megadeus which steals her memory unit. Roger and Big O defeat the new threat, but the memory unit remains missing.

The second story reveals that Alex Rosewater has been collecting all the various megadeuses and mechs Big O has defeated over the past twenty or so chapters, and is repairing them all for some unknown purpose. We also learn that Rosewater believes there are people beyond the sea who are infiltrating Paradigm, and who are responsible for the new megadeus which rose from the ocean in the previous chapter.

Meanwhile, Roger searches for Dorothy’s memory unit, a quest which leads him to a criminal hideout where he bumps into Angel. This meeting continues into the book’s third chapter, in which Angel escapes after teasing Roger with the fact that she has the memory unit. Angel hops into a megadeus she calls Big Four, but Big O is right behind her. As she battles Big O, Angel communicates with a mystery man about her acquisition of Big Four.

The battle between Big O and Big Four continues into the manga’s final chapter and heads into the ocean. While the megadeuses duke it out in a city sunk beneath the sea, Alex Rosewater speaks with his board of directors, telling them he believes Big Four’s arrival proves his theory that there are foreign powers at work outside of Paradigm City. Soon, during a lull in their fight, Angel sees a vision of Beck while Roger hallucinates a conversation with Schwarzwald. When Roger comes around, he spots Dorothy watching the fight from a nearby rooftop. The fact that she sought him out despite missing her memories reinvigorates Roger and Big O destroys Big Four, apparently killing Angel in the process.

Monday, February 13, 2017

DAREDEVIL #164

"EXPOSÉ"
Writer: Roger McKenzie | Artist: Frank Miller | Inker: Klaus Janson
Letterer: John Costanza | Colorist: Glynis Wein
Editor: Denny O’Neil | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: After spending some time in the hospital, in critical condition following his fight with the Hulk, Daredevil is upgraded to stable. Ben Urich pays him a visit and reveals that he knows DD is actually Matt Murdock, and that he's written an article exposing this fact. Ben asks Matt why he became Daredevil, and Matt recaps his origin. When the story is finished, Ben burns the article rather than publish it.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: Black Widow sits by Daredevil’s side the entire time he's at the hospital. She's visited by the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, and -- for some reason -- Power Man and Iron Fist, even though, as a later Miller issue will reveal, those last two have never actually met DD at this point.

As noted above, Daredevil’s origin is retold here. The short of it is that Matt Murdock is the son of a boxer who encouraged him to study regularly in order to make something of himself. Matt was blinded by radioactive chemicals which also gave him a “radar sense” but he kept the ability to himself as he made his way through law school. However when Matt’s father was killed by his crooked manager for refusing to throw a fight, Matt became Daredevil to avenge him.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

X-MEN: OPERATION: ZERO TOLERANCE

Hardcover, 2012. Collects 1997's UNCANNY X-MEN #346, X-MEN #65 - 70, WOLVERINE #115 - 118, GENERATION X #26 - 31, X-FORCE #67 - 70, CABLE #45 - 47, and X-MAN #30

In its way, "Operation: Zero Tolerance" seems to have had just as many hiccups behind the scenes as did "Onslaught" a year earlier. We got a taste of this last time in our look at THE TRIAL OF GAMBIT, and I'll elaborate further below.

But first, the contents: This volume opens withe the standard recap page, bringing readers up to speed on the status of the X-teams circa 1997. From there we move into GENERATION X #26 and 27 by Scott Lobdell with artists Joe Bennett, Chris Bachalo, and Pop Mhan, followed by X-FORCE #67 from the well-regarded John Francis Moore/Adam Pollina run. A short recap and an excerpt from X-MEN 64 featuring Jubilee and the crossover's villain, Bastion, come next. Then it's back to GENERATION X for issue 28, again by Lobdell (writing his final issue of the series) and Bachalo. The X-Men join the fray in X-MEN #65, which features most of the team (minus those off in space as seen in THE TRIAL OF GAMBIT) captured by Bastion's forces. UNCANNY X-MEN 346, which we discussed last month as part of THE TRIAL OF GAMBIT, comes next, and then we get another recap leading into GENERATION X 29, where temporary guest-writer James Robinson joins Chris Bachalo.

Next, X-MEN 66 by Lobdell and Carlos Pacheco follows the adventures of Iceman and introduces Cecilia Reyes to the X-Men's world. Then we catch up with the captured X-Men in WOLVERINE 115 by Larry Hama and Leinil Francis Yu. X-FORCE returns for issue 68, which continues into CABLE 45 through 47 by James Robinson with art from Randy Green and Rob Haynes, before returning to X-FORCE for #69. WOLVERINE 116 continues the saga of the X-Men, while GENERATION X #30 and 31 feature Jubilee's escape and the long-teased secret of team members Monet and Penance revealed, as Chris Bachalo follows Scott Lobdell off the series they had created together two-and-a-half years earlier.

Friday, February 10, 2017

BIG O VOLUME 5

"ANOTHER SIDE OF YOU" | “IN DARKNESS” | “PAST LIVES”
Story and Art by Hitoshi Ariga | Created by Hajime Yatate

The battle with Big Duo chronicled in BIG O volume 4 may be the climax of the manga’s major overarching story — the saga of Michael Seebach/Schwarzwald — but there are still questions to be answered and two more volumes in which to cover them.

Volume 5 opens mere days after the events of the prior story, with Big O still severely damaged after its showdown with Big Duo. The book’s first story is a character piece centered on Norman as he works to repair Big O while Dorothy covers for his household duties, as Roger goes about his “day job” as Paradigm City’s top negotiator. It’s a nice low-key tale following the massive battle in the prior installment, and in fact there’s not even a megadeus fight here! Big O simply spends the entire chapter undergoing repairs.

The stuff with Norman is interesting, as we learn that he likes to travel occasionally to Paradigm’s richest dome and visit a decaying statue of the Virgin Mary (which he calls his “confidante”), and we see that he has some expertise in the use of heavy firearms — but for me, the most interesting aspect of the story is once again related to memory and the Event. Roger’s client this time is an elderly man who worries that the opulent lifestyle he’s enjoyed for the past forty years is not really his. He woke up in a palatial mansion the day of the Event and has lived there ever since as its owner, but part of him wonders if he was simply a servant who happened to be the only person home at this time.

Monday, February 6, 2017

DAREDEVIL #163

"BLIND ALLEY"
Script: Roger McKenzie | Pencils: Frank Miller | Inks: Josef Rubinstein & Klaus Janson
Lettering: Jim Novak | Coloring: Glynis Wein
Editors: Jo Duffy & Dennis O’Neil | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Matt Murdock ducks out of a fundraiser for the re-election of District Attorney Blake Tower when his radar sense detects the Hulk nearby. Matt talks the Hulk into a calm state, reverting him to Doctor Bruce Banner.

The next morning, Matt and Banner converse and then Matt sends the doctor on his way with a wad of bills. But Banner is overwhelmed on a subway car and transforms into the Hulk. He begins a rampage through Manhattan, but Daredevil arrives to stop him. DD wages a futile battle against the Green Goliath, ultimately convincing him to leave town.

After the Hulk has departed, police find Daredevil lying in an alleyway, at death’s door.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: District Attorney Tower, a recurring character throughout the Marvel line of this era (readers of the blog may recall his appearances in CAPTAIN AMERICA and AMAZING SPIDER-MAN issues from a few years after this one) appears here. In fact, Tower’s very first appearance had been in an issue of DAREDEVIL some years earlier, where he ran against Foggy Nelson for the D.A. position.

Friday, February 3, 2017

BIG O VOLUME 4

"TO THE ONE I CAN’T FORGET" | “THE CHOSEN ONES” | “THE SUN WILL RISE AGAIN”
Story and Art by Hitoshi Ariga | Created by Hajime Yatate

BIG O’s fourth volume features a major showdown which the TV series saved for its penultimate episode — but we’ll get to that in a moment. First, the volume opens with an examination of Roger Smith’s psyche as he attempts to locate a bar once owned by the elderly father of his current client. During his quest, Roger is haunted by recollections of a woman he met in a bar years earlier, and eventually he discovers that the establishment for which he's searching is the same one in his memories; he has forgotten somehow.

This brings up a question we covered briefly last time: even now, in Paradigm City, do people still randomly lose their memories, either in whole or in part? It's been established that Roger is younger than forty years old; he was born after the Event. But does his fragmented recollection here mean that he's lost a few memories of his own over the years? Or are these just honest lapses? The manga presents no answer, leaving us to wonder.

The story also features Big O battling a mech piloted by Roger’s client, looking to break into a safe inside the old bar, but that's really just the obligatory giant robot fight. Roger’s inner struggles are the true plot for this one.

The second story, “The Chosen Ones”, takes another look inside Roger’s head while also furthering the mysterious agenda of the Paradigm Company. In this one, Roger has gone to investigate disappearances in the slums outside the domes, and is himself kidnapped by a pair of mad scientists looking to mine the memories of Paradigm’s lost souls for answers about the Event. The scientists have brainwashed a number of military policemen, who capture Roger for their masters. But when Roger is strapped into their memory extraction machine, he overloads it, breaks free, and saves the day with Big O’s help.

Monday, January 30, 2017

DAREDEVIL #161

"TO DARE THE DEVIL "
A: Roger McKenzie * Frank Miller * Klaus Janson Spectacular
Letterer: Diana Albers | Colorist: Glynis Wein
Editors: Allen Milgrom & Mary Jo Duffy| Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: A panicked Turk visits Eric Slaughter on Coney Island, informing him that Daredevil is coming to find Black Widow. But unknown to Turk, Daredevil has followed him and is already there. DD battles Slaughter’s men and makes his way into the amusement park, where Bullseye is waiting with the Widow and an army of assassins.

Soon, Black Widow frees herself while Daredevil overcomes Bullseye’s traps. As the Widow fights Bullseye’s men, DD challenges the villain himself and emerges victorious when Bullseye suffers a nervous breakdown after being beaten up. Slaughter and his men show up, but Slaughter lets Daredevil and the Black Widow depart, so disappointed is in Bullseye that he chooses not to fulfill the assassination contract he had previously accepted.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: Ben Urich continues his investigation into the connection between Daredevil and Matt Murdock, visiting Fogwell’s Gym, where Matt’s father, “Battlin’” Jack Murdock, trained as a boxer. Urich learns that as a child, Matt’s ironic nickname from his peers was “Daredevil”.

Friday, January 27, 2017

BIG O VOLUME 3

"BIG O VS. BIG O" | “MY SWEETHEART DOROTHY”
“UNTO US A BEAST IS BORN” | “ALCOHOL, TOBACCO & MEMORIES”
Story and Art by Hitoshi Ariga | Created by Hajime Yatate

Beck is back… again. The BIG O anime used this character sparingly, at least in the first run of episodes. Of those thirteen, he popped up in a grand total of three. The manga, however, has no compunctions about utilizing Beck early, often, and unrelentingly.

This time, our volume opens with Beck breaking out of prison and then using a mech disguised as Big O to wreak havoc on Paradigm City. Beck knows Roger Smith is Big O’s pilot, and has one of his men shadow Roger so he can be sure that wherever his faux O operates, Roger will be occupied elsewhere. But Roger catches on to this scheme and, with some help from Norman and Dorothy, defeats Beck.

I have to say, tired as I am of Beck, this is a pretty fun story. It borrows elements from a TV series episode titled “Beck Comes Back”, including Beck’s prison break, the physical design of his mech after the Big O shell is removed from it, and the members of his gang (though a female associate is added who didn’t appear on the show, apparently for the sole purpose of providing a gratuitous topless scene* and making goo-goo eyes at Beck).

The story also gives us new machinations by Angel — she busts Beck out of prison and provides him with the megadeus for unknown reasons — and lets Norman in on the action, sort of, as he "pulls an Alfred" and disguises himself as Roger to dismiss Beck’s theory about Roger being the man being the Big O. However I need to give negative points to whoever translated the name of Beck’s robot (or perhaps I need to award bonus points to whoever translated it for the TV series adaptation), which is called “Super Beck” here. Its name in the anime, “Beck Victory Deluxe”, is way funnier.

Monday, January 23, 2017

DAREDEVIL #160

"IN THE HANDS OF BULLSEYE"
Script: Roger McKenzie | Pencils: Frank Miller | Inks: Klaus Janson
Lettering: Joe Rosen | Coloring: Glynis Wein
Editors: Mary Jo Duffy & Allen Milgrom | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Bullseye ambushes Black Widow at her apartment and takes her prisoner, then leaves a note for Daredevil.

Later, after a trip to the cemetery with Heather Glen and his friends, Matt Murdock changes into Daredevil and goes to visit Black Widow. He finds the note in her ransacked apartment and goes out to find Bullseye. At Josie’s Bar & Grill, he beats up a room full of Eric Slaughter’s men and tells Turk to get the word out that he's searching for Bullseye.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: At the cemetery, we learn that Heather’s father died while Matt was “…too busy playing Daredevil to help.” This scene also confirms for new readers that Heather does indeed know Matt’s secret identity.

Daredevil visits Ben Urich for information on Bullseye and Urich takes the opportunity to question DD about his friendship with Matt Murdock.

A footnote reminds us that Eric Slaughter’s gang attacked Daredevil last issue, and DD now suspects that Slaughter was hired by Bullseye.

This issue features the first appearance of Josie and her infamous bar, where Daredevil can often be found shaking down informants and shattering plate glass windows.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

THE UNBOXING - JANUARY 2017

The first Unboxing of the year is a quiet affair -- which is how I like it after the spend-a-thon of the holiday season -- featuring two trades, one from Marvel and one from DC.

First up, from the Distinguished Competition, we have BATMAN AND ROBIN ADVENTURES volume 1, collecting the first ten issues of the eponymous series, which replaced BATMAN ADVENTURES as DC's animated Batman tie-in at the point when BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES was retitled to THE ADVENTURES OF BATMAN AND ROBIN. Make sense? B&RA ran for twenty-five issues plus a couple annuals, one-shots, etc., so it seems likely this will wind up as a three-book series, though no further installments have been solicited yet.


And from Marvel we've got THE INCREDIBLE HULK EPIC COLLECTION: FUTURE IMPERFECT, collecting another chunk of Peter David's long run on the Green Goliath, including the popular "Future Imperfect" mini-series he did with George Pérez. I must commend Marvel on releasing these Hulk Epics in chronological order, rather than jumping around the series as they do with their other Epic lines. FUTURE IMPERFECT picks up exactly where the prior Hulk Epic, GHOST OF THE PAST, left off a year-and-a-half ago -- and some may recall that volume picked up exactly where the defunct HULK VISIONARIES: PETER DAVID line ended. Meaning, for those keeping track, if you count the out-of-print VISIONARIES trades, we have nearly a hundred consecutive issues of David's HULK collected (#331 - 419). David was on HULK through issue 467, so there's still a good chunk of issues to go, but it's nice to see more of the run behind than ahead.

Next month should look much like this one, with only a couple trades and maybe one more item, so we'll continue to ease into the new year come February!

Friday, January 20, 2017

BIG O VOLUME 2

"SISTERS DOROTHY" | “GHOST SHIP AND FALLEN ANGEL”
“NO NAME, NO MEMORY, NO FUTURE” | “TIEF IM SCHWARZWALD”
Story and Art by Hitoshi Ariga | Created byHajime Yatate

The second BIG O manga volume picks up where the last one left off, as author/artist Hitoshi Arita presents an adaptation of the anime’s second episode, “Dorothy Dorothy”, which means that good ol’ Beck is our villain for the fifth consecutive chapter. This time he continues his plot to rob the Paradigm City Mint while Roger does some deductive work and learns that Dorothy — full name R. Dorothy Wayneright — and the much larger Dorothy I megadeus were both built by Doctor Solderno based on blueprints provided by one Timothy Wayneright. But by the time Roger finds Timothy, the old man has been murdered by Beck.

Piloting Dorothy I, Beck makes another go at the mint, but is thwarted once more by the combined efforts of Big O and Dorothy. I'm the end, with both of her “fathers” dead, Dorothy comes to reside in Roger’s penthouse as his maid.

One thing I've always found odd about BIG O is how wealthy Roger Smith apparently is. He's ex-military police, so he didn't make his fortune there. He's Paradigm City’s “top negotiator”, but exactly how much does that job pay? I don't know what negotiators/mediators get in real life, but it doesn't seem like it would be enough to live in a palatial penthouse and employ a butler!

Anyway — with the opening episodes adapted and the status quo finally in place, Ariga departs once again from the TV series’ plots, going his own route even as he introduces more characters from the show. First up is the mysterious Angel, who debuts here in a chapter titled “Ghost Ship and Fallen Angel”. Angel introduces herself to Roger as “Casey Jenkins from the Ruins Research Group” and asks Roger to help her investigate a so-called “ghost ship which has been haunting Paradigm Harbor.