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.

Monday, January 16, 2017

DAREDEVIL #159

"MARKED FOR MURDER!"
Writer: Roger McKenzie | Penciler: Frank Miller | Inker: Klaus Janson
Letterer: Jim Novak| Colorist: Glynis Wein
Editors: Mary Jo Duffy & Allen Milgrom | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: A mystery man named Pondexter hires aging gangster Eric Slaughter to assassinate Daredevil. Slaughter’s men rough up Matt Murdock and Foggy Nelson for a line on DD, which leads Matt to change into his alter ego and seek the assassins out. He fights off their best attempts to kill him while Pondexter secretly videotapes the entire altercation.

Later, in his home, Pondexter reveals that he's actually Daredevil’s enemy, Bullseye, and makes plans to study the tape of Daredevil’s fighting style and then go after Black Widow to use against the Scarlet Swashbuckler.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: This issue features the debut appearance of Eric Slaughter, who will go on to be a minor recurring character throughout Frank Miller’s DAREDEVIL run.

We also get the first appearance of Judge Coffin, who will pop up once or twice over the next few years as well, though here he seems to harbor some sort of dark secret (he believes criminals are guilty and must be punished "one way or another") which I don't believe ever pans out into anything.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

X-MEN: THE TRIAL OF GAMBIT

Paperback, 2016. Collects 1997's UNCANNY X-MEN #341 - 350, UNCANNY X-MEN #-1, X-MEN #62 - 64, and X-MEN #-1.

Before we dive into our latest X-MEN collected edition (released just a scant few months ago, in fact), let's address the sizable elephant in the room: the ONSLAUGHT OMNIBUS ended on UNCANNY X-MEN #337 and X-MEN #57, while this book picks up with issues 341 and 62, respectively. So we're missing three issues of UNCANNY and four issues of X-MEN as of this writing. Personally, if you toss whatever annuals and X-MEN UNLIMITED issues came out around that time, I think those contents would make for a fine ONSLAUGHT AFTERMATH trade or something along similar lines, so I hope to see the errant issues collected soon.

As for THE TRIAL OF GAMBIT: the book opens with UNCANNY X-MEN #341 by Scott Lobdell and Joe Madureira, an issue I seem to recall was heralded, at least by WIZARD magazine, as a modern-day classic in which Cannonball battles Gladiator of the Shi'ar Imperial Guard. This leads directly into UNCANNY 342 through 345, in which Lobdell, aided by Madureira and guest artist Mel Rubi, sends the X-Men off into one of their classic tropes which he had, up to this point, not yet done during his run on the title -- a spacefaring saga in which the group battles the Phalanx for the fate of the Shi'ar.

Then we jump over to the sister title, X-MEN, for issues 62 through 64, plotted by Lobdell, scripted by late nineties X-office go-to guy Ben Raab, and drawn by the newly arrived Carlos Pacheco and Art Thibert. The story follows the remaining Earthbound X-Men on a trip to Hong Kong for team-up with Shang-Chi and a battle with Sebastian Shaw and the Kingpin of Crime.

Friday, January 13, 2017

BIG O VOLUME 1

"TAKE BACK A MEMORY" | “ELECTRIC BUG” | “THY NAME IS DOROTHY”
Story and Art by Hitoshi Ariga | Created byHajime Yatate

BIG O is part crime noir story, part giant mech epic, and part Western superhero serial. The first manga volume introduces us to our protagonist, setting, and most of the supporting cast in quick order. Roger Smith, the hero of the story, is the best negotiator in Paradigm City, a sprawling metropolis where the privileged and wealthy live beneath massive domes lit by artificial sunlight, while the poor and downtrodden reside outside the domes beneath a perpetually smoggy darkness — and, more importantly, it’s a city where everyone woke up one day forty years earlier with total amnesia.

Roger’s not merely a negotiator, however — he is also the pilot of Big O, a “Megadeus” robot which resides beneath the city and rises to his aid whenever he encounters evil giant robots and creatures (which, conveniently, happens in pretty much every chapter). It’s interesting to note that the series’ creators intended “Megadeus” to be pronounced “mega day-us”, as in deus ex machina, since that’s basically what it is: an instrument — perhaps, as hinted throughout the series — of God’s will, which comes to the aid of humanity whenever they need it most. The American dub of the anime series butchered this, however, by constantly referring to the thing as a “mega deuce.”

With more space allotted it than the TV series which it adapts — by the time it's done, the manga will have a total of twenty-one chapters versus the anime’s thirteen episodes — author and artist Hitoshi Ariga spends a bit of extra time at the outset letting us get to know Roger on his own before moving on to establish the series’ proper status quo. Thus we open with a two-parter called “Take Back A Memory” which really helps to flesh out the world of Paradigm City — though it also raises some peculiar questions about the nature of the event that robbed the city’s inhabitants of their memories.

Monday, January 9, 2017

DAREDEVIL #158

"A GRAVE MISTAKE!"
From time to time, a truly great new artist will explode upon
the Marvel scene like a bombshell!
Ramblin’ Roger McKenzie, Kinky Klaus Janson, Joe Rosen,
Geo. Rouses, Amiable Al Milgrom, and Jim (Trouble) Shooter
confidently predict newcomer -- Lanky Frank Miller is just such an artist!

The Plot: Attorney Matt Murdock is kidnapped from his legal offices by the Unholy Trio: Cat-Man, Bird-Man, and Gorilla-Man. Matt’s friend, Natasha Romanoff — the Black Widow — defeats Bird-Man before he can escape, but the others get away with Matt.

Gorilla-Man and Cat-Man bring Matt to a graveyard where he's confronted by the villainous Death-Stalker. Death-Stalker reveals he was previously known as the Exterminator, a villain once defeated by Daredevil, and now he wants revenge. He kills both Cat-Man and Gorilla-Man while Matt changes into his alter ego, Daredevil. DD and Death-Stalker fight, but the villain becomes careless and his intangibility power ultimately kills him when he materializes inside a solid tombstone.

Later, Matt returns to the law offices to find Black Widow gone.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: Before we get to the continuity notes proper, I'll mention that this issue features appearances by pretty much the entire DAREDEVIL cast of this era. In addition to Black Widow, mentioned above, there's also (left to right): Matt “Daredevil” Murdock, his girlfriend Heather Glenn, legal secretary Becky Blake, Debbie Harris, girlfriend to Matt’s legal partner Foggy Nelson, and Foggy himself.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

BIG O

The past three years I spent January and/or February on GUNDAM: THE ORIGIN, a manga adaptation of the original MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM saga. I figure I'll stick with the tradition again this year, too. As I've said before, I haven't read a ton of manga, but there are a few series I've looked at over the years that I really like. One of these is BIG O.

Conceived as a multimedia franchise in Japan back in 1999, BIG O was, first and foremost, an anime series. It was quickly adapted into English and thrown onto Cartoon Network's Toonami block, where it was advertised as the spiritual successor to BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES. (Indeed, B:TAS' Toonami tagline had been "good guys wear black" and when BIG O premiered, its tagline was "good guys still wear black.")

In all honesty, aside from the fact that it was produced by Sunrise, one of the better animation houses to work on BATMAN, BIG O had very little in common with that earlier series other than the main character having a cool car and a faithful butler. But it was a really fun, stylish show that won me over in very quick order. I watched the show on TV and I even bought the DVDs to support it that way as well. And when Viz brought the manga to American shores circa 1999, I read it first in monthly comic book format and eventually picked it up again years later when they released the full run in a series of six trade paperbacks (in proper manga-size dimensions).

I really enjoyed the manga; it followed the same general storyline as the TV series, but took its own path to get there, sort of like an alternate telling of the same story. And, unlike the anime, which ended after thirteen episodes on a cliffhanger, the manga had a proper ending (an ending which, I believe, holds up far better than the conclusion the TV series eventually received when it returned in 2003 for a second season).

For the next six weeks, we'll look at the BIG O manga. I plan to cover all six volumes of Viz's American release*, to see just how well it holds up and, ultimately whether I prefer it over the TV show. I recall the series, which I've watched multiple times, quite well, but I have few memories of the manga so I look forward to refreshing them.

It's showtime!


* Note that when BIG O's second season appeared in 2003, there were two more manga volumes produced -- but they've never, so far as I can find, been translated into English, either officially or by fans. So this isn't the complete BIG O manga experience, but it will be the full run as originally published alongside the first season of the TV show.

Friday, January 6, 2017

TRANSFORMERS/G.I. JOE: DIVIDED FRONT

Though the Dreamwave TRANSFORMERS/G.I. JOE: DIVIDED FRONT mini-series ended in 2004 following only a single issue when the publisher went bankrupt, issues 2 through 6 were all solicited with covers shown for 2 through 5. In addition to #1, these issues are covered below for the sake of completion. All solicits courtesy of the Transformers Wiki, though they can be found elsewhere online as well.

"TARGETS OF OPPORTUNITY"
Dedicated to Larry Hama!
Writers: James McDonough and Adam Patyk | Pencils: Pat Lee
Breakdowns: Nick Kuslian | Background: Edwin Garcia | Inks: Rob Armstrong
Colors: Anthony Washington and Alan Wang | Letters: Ben Lee

The Plot: At New York City Harbor in 1985, a group of G.I. Joes led by Flint battle Cobra forces under the command of Destro. The villains escape, and later, at G.I. Joe Headquarters, Flint is reprimanded by his commanding officer. Meanwhile, a spacecraft crashes in Oregon. Cobra gets wind of this and sends agents to investigate, while Starscream does a flyover of their island.

Later, Flint is assigned a new mission: he leads a team of Joes to Oregon where they fight Cobra once more and locate the unconscious body of Autobot Blaster. Soon, back at Joe HQ, Flint is called before his elderly commander, Duke, who introduces him to fellow members of the original World War II era Joe team and begins to explain the team's past with the Transformers.

Issue 2 Solicit: The secrets of G.I. Joe and Cobra's pasts are revealed as the greatest arms race in history intensifies, blazing a path across the world. Desperate for an equalizer, the Joes raid a top-secret Cobra bunker located in the Everglades. But when Cobra's newly hired Dreadnok biker gang intervenes, will the Joes be too late to gain the advantage and, more importantly, save their Autobot allies?!

Issue 3 Solicit: FAN-FAVE FIREFLY DEBUTS! Snake Eyes is a hard ninja to kill -- which is why COBRA Commander has called in one of his biggest guns to do the job: the assassin Firefly! What is the history behind this COBRA'S rivalry with Snake Eyes? And can the Joes' ninja overcome this deadly saboteur in time to help his teammates retrieve the stolen Transformer technology from COBRA'S secret Arctic base? It's chaos on the ice as the Autobots face off against Destro's deadly COBRA/Decepticon hybrid warriors, with Starscream waiting to pick up the pieces!

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

DAREDEVIL BY FRANK MILLER

So I actually came up with the idea to do this last year as I was watching DAREDEVIL season 2 on NetFlix, but at that time I was knee-deep in John Byrne's FANTASTIC FOUR, which was going to take me through to the end of the year. Thus I backburnered Miller's DAREDEVIL run until the FF stuff was finished.

Now here we are. Frank Miller's DAREDEVIL is another one of those classic late seventies/early eighties runs I missed as a kid and eventually checked out much later. Its legend was built for me over the years by publications like WIZARD, to the point that I felt I had to read it. My first exposure to the issues came via Marvel's DAREDEVIL VISIONARIES: FRANK MILLER trade paperbacks published somewhere around 2001 or so. I devoured the run then and I believe I've re-read it maybe two times in the ensuing decade and a half (which should make this my fourth go-round with this material).

Marvel released a DAREDEVIL BY FRANK MILLER AND KLAUS JANSON OMNIBUS a few years after the Visionaries trades, but I was on a much tighter budget back then and didn't want to upgrade -- plus Omnibuses were a brand new thing at the time and I didn't really know what to make of them. Eventually the Omnibus went back into print years later in 2013, and this time I sold off the VISIONARIES books to subsidize its purchase. Though I believe the contents and reproduction should be identical to the trades, I'm excited to read Miller's run in the oversize format.

One last thing: both the Visionaries books and Omnibus featured new, modern-style coloring from Steve Buccellato -- a practice of which I thoroughly approve and wish Marvel would engage in more often, as long as it's done well (I wrote a little article on the subject some time back). From what I can see, it looks like the issues on Marvel Unlimited, from which I'll be pulling my screenshots, use this same modern coloring. So be aware that, as far as color goes -- which I don't really ever bring up much anyway -- I'm not looking at the original hues (though I believe Buccellato has said he used the original colors, mostly by Glynis Wein and Klaus Janson, as a guideline for his work).

By my count, at a rate of one issue every Monday, this project should take us close to the end of August. So get ready, because beginning on Monday -- here comes Daredevil, the Man Without Fear!

Monday, January 2, 2017

FANTASTIC FOUR BY JOHN BYRNE - AFTERWORD

As I noted when I began this project just about a year ago, John Byrne's FANTASTIC FOUR run never really clicked with me as a reader. True, I missed it the first time around and read it years after the fact in reprint format, but I did the same thing with Frank Miller's DAREDEVIL and Walter Simonson's THOR, among others, and I found those runs lived completely up to their considerable hype.

Byrne's FF, meanwhile, didn't floor me. I recall thinking at the time that it wasn't bad; just not as great as I had long been led to believe. I think, at least partly, this was due to the fact that I found myself comparing it with what I consider to be the gold standard Byrne run, his time on X-MEN with co-plotter Chris Claremont. This time around, I tried not to hold the FANTASTIC FOUR issues up against the X-MEN ones, but I must say that even with that in mind, I felt much the same way as before. I think the truth is that, no matter who's churning out their adventures, the FF just don't grab me (much).


"Second only to Kirby and Lee" is praise you often see thrown Byrne's way, but I have no way to know if that statement is true, having never read that revered original run either. I've just never been a big FF fan. I like them fine as occasional guest-stars in other characters' titles, but their adventures on their own, on the rare occasions I've checked them out, have never really floated my boat regardless of who wrote and drew them. I like a lot of John Byrne's output, but perhaps expecting him to make me love a group to which I'm inherently indifferent is unfair.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Here we are once again. I had another pretty productive year, dedicating the entirety of my Monday and Wednesday postings to John Byrne's FANTASTIC FOUR. Of course I stopped doing Wednesday posts about halfway through the year to make certain I'd have enough of a backlog to keep going after my son was born in July. Things have worked out well and I intend to keep doing Mondays only for the foreseeable future.

Fridays will remain in the rotation as well, and this year's Fridays covered a plethora of items. My Dreamwave TRANSFORMERS posts from Fall of 2015 carried over into January, and that was followed by the conclusion of my three years'-long look at GUNDAM: THE ORIGIN. From there it was an assortment of books from various publishers covering things as varied as THE LEGEND OF ZELDA, Walter Simonson's RAGNAROK, Terry Dodson's MUSE and RED ONE, and a MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE graphic novel from my childhood. Conan and Red Sonja followed these various items, then we looked at the Marvel work of Alan Davis and a couple other Marvel books before jumping into The Summer of ROBOTECH. And when ROBOTECH wrapped up, it was back to Dreamwave's TRANSFORMERS for the remainder of the year.

This year, Fridays should be just as varied. With GUNDAM: THE ORIGIN finished, I have a new manga project to look at through February, which will be announced next week. After that I have about two solid months of vintage DC planned, followed by an assortment of IDW items I picked up in a digital sale last year. Then we'll have this year's "Summer of...", which is something I've wanted to read for a long time and which I'm really looking forward to finally examining. Then the Fall TRANSFORMERS tradition will continue, with another continuity from a publisher other than Dreamwave, Marvel, or IDW.

Mondays, meanwhile, should be Marvel-centric for the entirety of 2017. Thanks to the great state of California (a statement I'm not sure I've ever uttered before now), I spent the final six weeks of 2016 on paid paternity leave, and during feedings and naptimes I binged on yet another classic Marvel run, and I've already written up posts for every single issue. So my Mondays are already filled through September, which I think is the furthest ahead I've ever managed to work since I started this blog. I'll announce that project this Wednesday, following a final look back at John Byrne's FANTASTIC FOUR tomorrow.

Then there are Sundays, where The Unboxing will continue every month. I've also got two more X-Men collections to review, THE TRIAL OF GAMBIT and OPERATION: ZERO TOLERANCE, in January and February, which will conclude that monthly project I started back in October of 2015. At the moment I have no plans for something new to take the X-Men series' place, but we'll see if I come up with anything. Of course anything else that strikes my fancy will pop up on Sundays as well, though currently there's nothing slated for the near future.

So thank you once again for your patronage over the past year. I continue to have fun writing up these posts and I hope they bring some small amount of entertainment to those who read them!