Friday, July 21, 2017

FLASH GORDON PART 6

“THE TYRANT OF MONGO” | “ICE KINGDOM OF MONGO”
by Alex Raymond & Don Moore

“The Tyrant of Mongo” is less a single story arc than a bundle of smaller plots joined together by the overarching theme of Ming as Flash’s main antagonist. Though Ming has obviously always been involved in the ongoing saga, and even encountered Flash face-to-face multiple times, and although he has waged war against Flash’s kingdom, of Kira, deposing our hero and sending him into hiding, this may be the first time Ming brings his full hatred to bear on our hero in a nonstop series of conflicts.

Having been expelled from their underground catacombs by Ming’s floodwaters, Flash, Dale, Zarkov, Sonja, and a few of the freemen wander ashore on an island which houses the tombs of Mongo’s nobility. They befriend the cryptkeeper and soon begin waging a guerilla war against Mingo City from their new secret base. Flash leads a raid to sink several of Ming’s “rocket submarines” while they’re sitting in port, but hijacks one such craft for himself after winning its crew over to the cause of the freemen.


Subsequently, Ming makes a trip to the island to inter his uncle (who Ming himself has had executed for plotting against him). The Freemen attack, leading to one of the most iconic scenes in all of FLASH GORDON lore (so iconic that even I, who knew essentially nothing about Flash coming into this series, was aware of it): Flash faces Ming in a saber duel. Ming is ultimately captured and his forces driven off, and Raymond and Moore continue to deepen their characterization of Mongo and its people, as we meet an honorable commander in Ming’s army, Lin-Chu, who parlays with Flash and even considers him a worthy foe.

Monday, July 17, 2017

DAREDEVIL #186

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

The Plot: Daredevil shows up at Glenn Industries during a board meeting to inform Heather and the board that evidence is en route to the assistant district attorney which will shut the company down. But after he and Heather have both departed, the board’s chairman, Mr. Spindle, reveals that he's hired Stilt Man to deal with the ADA. However Stilt Man loses one of his gloves while counting Spindle’s payment, and goes to Melvin Potter’s costume shop for a new one, where he's noticed by Turk, who tails him home.

Meanwhile, Matt Murdock prepares evidence of Glenn Industries’ wrongdoings, then, as Daredevil, drops it off with ADA Maxine Lavender. Elsewhere, Turk knocks out Stilt Man and take his battlesuit, then offers his services to the Kingpin. When Kingpin turns him away, Turk decides to fulfill Stilt Man’s mission and kidnap the ADA.

While dropping off further evidence with the police, Daredevil finds Stilt Man’s alter ego, Wilbur Day, reporting the theft of his armor. Soon, when Turk kidnaps Lavender, DD shows up to save her and easily defeat the new Stilt Man.

In the aftermath of Matt's legal assault on Glenn Industries, he tells Heather that they will need to prepare her defense. Believing this has all been a ploy to leave her with no choice but to marry him, Heather accepts Matt’s proposal.

Friday, July 14, 2017

FLASH GORDON PART 5

“OUTLAWS OF MONGO”
by Alex Raymond & Don Moore

When last we left Flash Gordon and friends, the villainous Grombo had escaped from Barin’s forest kingdom despite our heroes’ best efforts. As the “Outlaws of Mongo” story arc opens, Grombo is found in the neighboring desert land by some of Ming’s people — and Alex Raymond continues to play with various pastiches by presented Ming’s desert warriors as, essentially, Foreign Legionnaires.


Grombo brings word that Flash, missing in action since Ming conquered his cave kingdom, is still alive and living in Barin’s castle. When Ming gets wind of this, he demands Barin turn Flash and Dale over to him, but Barin refuses. Flash, realizing Ming won’t rest until he’s captured, leaves Barin’s kingdom under cover of night, and when Ming calls Barin again, the prince declares that he honestly does not know where Flash is.

But Flash’s mistake was in leaving Dale behind. Ming quickly changes gears and demands her instead, planning to use her as bait to capture Flash. When Barin refuses this request as well, Ming declares war on the treetop kingdom. Flash, in the desert, sees Ming’s forces marching on Barin and does his best to stop them, but in the end he’s captured. Ming calls off his invasion of Barin’s realm as Flash is brought before him and sentenced to death.

Monday, July 10, 2017

DAREDEVIL #185

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

The Plot: Heather comes to Foggy for help in getting to the bottom of her company’s apparent illicit dealings. They go together to Glenn Industries but are informed that Heather’s signature is already on all the paperwork, so if anything untoward is going on, she’s complicit. Foggy sends Heather home so he can pursue further action, unaware he's being followed by Daredevil.

Eventually Foggy’s path leads him to the Kingpin, who has purchased explosives from Glenn Industries to use in a waterfront heist. While Foggy verbally spars with the Kingpin, Daredevil thwarts the Kingpin’s operation and then warns the crime boss not to mess with “Guts” Nelson.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: “Guts” was apparently Foggy’s fraternity nickname, which he has adopted as a street name for the duration of this tale.

During his adventures, Foggy crosses paths with Eric Slaughter and Turk, with the latter accompanying him for the remainder of the story until Foggy ditches him by putting him on a plane to Chicago. The Kingpin’s right-hand man, Flint, also pops up.

Friday, July 7, 2017

FLASH GORDON PART 4

“FOREST KINGDOM OF MONGO” | “TUSK-MEN OF MONGO” | “BEAST MEN OF MONGO”
by Alex Raymond & Don Moore

One of the things I like about these FLASH GORDON strips — and I’m certain something Alex Raymond probably enjoyed as well — is that the setting of Mongo allows Raymond to send our heroes off into all manner of different locales and environments. We’ve seen Ming’s city, a tribute to the splendor of ancient Rome, while Ming and his people clearly draw inspiration from “the mysterious Orient”. There was the futuristic city of Hawkmen as well, not to mention the caverns of Flash’s short-lived kingdom of Kira. Now we move into King Barin’s forest kingdom, which actually comes across more like a jungle and allows Raymond to cast Flash as a Tarzan stand-in for several weeks.

I suppose some could call this a cheat — Raymond has decided his strip will feature the best of all worlds and so, rather than doing something in the vein of PRINCE VALIANT and being stuck forever in the middle ages, he can venture into that genre for a while, then within a couple weeks dip his toe into science fiction instead. Personally, I just think it’s a canny move on Raymond’s part: by setting his story on a world where all these genres exist side-by-side in a huge mash-up, he’s ensured that he’ll never get bored with his premise since his premise can be literally whatever he wants it to be from story arc to story arc!

So: following their escape from Ming in the previous arc, Flash, Dale, and Zarkov are shot down by the warlord’s air force while en route to Barin’s kingdom. They brave the wilds, but Zarkov is set upon by a group of rabid squirlons and descends into madness even as Ming’s forces firebomb the area where our heroes’ ship crashed. The end result is that Zarkov staggers away, rambling, under the impression that Flash and Dale are dead. Eventually he runs across a group of Barin’s men, out searching for the group, and tells them exactly that.

Monday, July 3, 2017

DAREDEVIL #184

"GOOD GUYS WEAR RED!”
Story & Art : Frank Miller | Finished Art & Colors: Klaus Janson
Letters: Joe Rosen | Editor: Denny O’Neil | Supervisor : Jim Shooter

The Plot: Daredevil stops the Punisher from assassinating Hogman, then, the next day while defending Hogman in court as Matt Murdock, he runs a bluff which leads to a phone call from Coach Donahue of the local high school. The coach requests a meeting in the school gym, but when Matt shows up, Donahue is high on angel dust and attacks him. Matt subdues Donahue and considers that, although he is Hogman’s dealer to the school’s students, he doesn't seem like a user.

Meanwhile, Hogman kills a witness who saw him shoot his partner, Flapper. The next day, Hogman is acquitted of Flapper’s murder and he subsequently gloats over his guilt to Matt. Soon, Daredevil confronts Hogman and learns he has a pacemaker which kept his heartbeat even when he initially proclaimed his innocence, thus fooling DD's hypersenses.

That night, young Billy calls Hogman and requests a meeting. The boy prepares to shoot Hogman, but the Punisher intervenes. He takes out Hogman’s bodyguard and wings Hogman, but Daredevil arrives and stops him from killing the drug lord. DD shoots the Punisher with Billy’s gun and convinces Billy to let Hogman live. Soon, Hogman is indicted for the other murders on his hands, but Billy remains unconvinced justice will prevail.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: The Glenn Industries board of directors continues to manipulate Heather — or so they believe. But she investigates some of their activities and learns her company is in business with a manufacturer of plastic explosives for some unknown reason.

Friday, June 30, 2017

FLASH GORDON PART 3

“AT WAR WITH MING” | “UNDERSEA KINGDOM OF MONGO”
by Alex Raymond & Don Moore

Following from the prior story arc, which saw Flash finally installed as King of the cavern land of Kira, Flash receives a note from Ming in which the emperor says he doesn’t believe Flash won over Queen Azura, and the despot will not recognize Flash as ruler of Kira until he executes her. Flash, being a careful, level-headed ruler, immediately declares war on Ming for this outrage.

…Look, I know this is an action/adventure serial, and as such, there should be some form of action and/or adventure every week, but Flash seems way out of line here. And we’ve seen this impetuous, impulsive side of oour hero before, but it’s usually in the heat of the moment as he’s forced to come up with a game plan on the fly or something. But here he’s won his freedom from Ming, he’s tamed his kingdom, and he’s more or less dropped off the merciless warlord’s radar. You’d think he might want to lay low for a while and build up his strength before racing into a foolhardy war against the emperor of the world!

But such prudence is not the way of Flash Gordon, so a war begins. Ming marshals the various kingdoms of Mongo loyal to his banner, while Flash receives aid from King Vultan and the Hawkmen, plus Prince Barin (now wearing a spiffy Robin Hood getup since becoming ruler of Mongo’s tree kingsom) and his forces. Unfortunately none of these are enough to save Flash from the treachery of Aura, who — though she has apparently settled into her role as Barin’s bride — still harbors loyalty to her father. Aura gives away Flash’s battle plans to Ming, who wipes out his army and takes him captive.

Monday, June 26, 2017

DAREDEVIL #183

"CHILD’S PLAY”
Writers: Roger McKenzie & Frank Miller | Artists: Frank Miller & Klaus Janson
Colors: Klaus Janson | Letters: Joe Rosen
Editor: Denny O’Neil | Supervisor : Jim Shooter

The Plot: As Matt Murdock gives a talk at a local high school, a girl named Mary O’Koran goes into a drug-induced panic and leaps out the classroom’s second story window. Matt changes to Daredevil and rushes the girl to the hospital, but she dies. Her brother, Billy, swears vengeance on the drug pushers, “Hogman” and “Flapper”.

That night, Daredevil locates Flapper but during a skirmish with the Punisher, is unable to save him from being gunned down by someone on a nearby rooftop. DD ascends and finds Billy holding a gun, but the boy swears he shot high and missed. The next day, Matt volunteers to handle Billy’s defense.

While searching for evidence of Billy’s innocence, Daredevil runs afoul of the Punisher again. He then confronts Hogman, who he believes killed Flapper for skimming profits. Two weeks later, Matt gets Billy exonerated, but when Hogman protests that he didn't fire the gun either, his heartbeat remains even. Matt next declares he will defend Hogman.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: A doctor at the hospital fills Daredevil in on angel dust, the drug found in Mary’s system.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

THE UNBOXING - JUNE 2017

Two books, both from Marvel, and both starring Spider-Man, comprise this month's Unboxing. You'd think the guy has a movie coming out in a couple weeks or something!

First is a trade paperback collecting SPIDER-MAN BY TODD DEZAGO AND MIKE WIERINGO. Some sources have labeled this as "volume 1" while others have not. It collects SENSATIONAL SPIDER-MAN #7 - 24, which is the bulk of the two creators' work on the web-slinger. A second installment would be very significantly shorter, as their run concluded with SENSANTIONAL #31. It'll be interesting to see how Marvel collects those remaining issues.

(Though it should be noted that SENSATIONAL #25 - 28 were collected in the SPIDER-MAN: SPIDER-HUNT and SPIDER-MAN: IDENTITY CRISIS trade paperbacks from a few years back, along with issues of the other ongoing Spider-titles of the time.)

(And it should be doubly noted that the Wieringo-free SENSATIONAL 32 and 33 can be found in the SPIDER-MAN: THE GATHERING OF FIVE trade, while the earlier Dan Jurgens-created SENSATIONAL #1 - 6 are avaialable in the various trades and Omnibuses containing the "Clone Saga" -- meaning that the SENSATIONAL entire series is currently collected aside from issues 29 - 31!)

Friday, June 23, 2017

FLASH GORDON PART 2

“TOURNAMENTS OF MONGO”
“THE CAVERNS OF MONGO” | “WITCH QUEEN OF MONGO”
by Alex Raymond & Don Moore

In the climax of the previous story arc, Doctor Zarkov’s scientific acumen saved the city of Hawk Men from plummeting to the surface of Mongo, thus winning Flash and company the eternal gratitude and friendship of King Vultan, ruler of the Hawk Men. As the “Tournaments of Mongo” arc opens, Ming arrives in the floating city to take back his bride, Dale — but Vultan declares Dale under his protection and proposes a contest to determine the freedom of both her and Flash. Ming agrees and begins the “Tournament of Death”.

Though it’s not exactly spelled out in narration, it seems that the tournament is intended for those people of Mongo with nothing to lose in life: convicts, the poor, etc. The rules are simple: any number of contestants enter, and following a series of challenges, there can be only one living victor. The champion may then select a woman of his choice as his bride, and will be awarded one of Mongo’s kingdoms to rule.

In addition to Flash, the rebel Prince Barin also enters the tournament, disguised with a mask. We learn over the course of the challenges that Barin is in love with Ming’s daughter, Princess Aura, and that he is the rightful ruler of Mongo, a position Ming somehow usurped from him. In the end, it’s down to Flash and Barin, and when the prince is unmasked, the people of Mongo cheer for both of them to win the tournament. Backed into a corner by this overwhelmingly popular support, Ming allows both men to live. Flash chooses Dale as his bride, while Barin picks Aura. Ming awards the men their kingdoms, two of the planet’s most untamed: Barin will rule the Forests while Flash will have the Caverns.

Monday, June 19, 2017

DAREDEVIL #182

"SHE’S ALIVE”
Story & Art : Frank Miller | Finished Art & Colors: Klaus Janson
Letters: Joe Rosen | Editor: Denny O’Neil | Supervisor : Jim Shooter

The Plot: Matt awakes in the middle of the night, convinced Elektra is still alive, and goes out in search of her. Meanwhile, in prison, the Punisher kills three of his fellow inmates and is soon approached by a government agent who will arrange to break him out so he can intercept a drug shipment entering the country via Long Island.

After learning that the Kingpin has a big underworld summit upcoming, Matt spends the day at Nelson & Murdock obsessing over the coroner’s report on Elektra. That night, the Punisher escapes from Ryker’s Island Penitentiary while Daredevil questions the Kingpin about Elektra. After the hero leaves, Kingpin assures the other mob bosses that DD will be busy chasing Elektra's ghost and will not interfere with their drug shipment.

Late at night, after learning Matt attempted to get Elektra's remains exhumed, Foggy goes searching for his partner. Meanwhile, the Punisher thwarts the drug-running operation and KOs his government benefactor before the man can re-arrest him. At the cemetary, Matt digs up Elektra's coffin and is horrified to realize that it actually is her body that was buried and that she is truly dead. Foggy arrives to take him home.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: Glenn Industries’ board of directors, who we haven't seen since way back in issue 165, is still plotting to steal the company from Heather. I guess they work very deliberately.

Friday, June 16, 2017

FLASH GORDON PART 1

“ON THE PLANET MONGO” | “MONSTERS OF MONGO”
by Alex Raymond & Don Moore

These initial FLASH GORDON strips, comprising nearly the entire year of 1934 — January 7th through November 18th — introduce us in very quick order to our hero and his situation. And I mean very quick order. The first strip presents us with the news that a newly discovered planet is hurtling toward Earth, and the world’s preeminent scientific mind, Doctor Hans Zarkov, is working to knock it off course. We then meet renowned Yale polo star Flash Gordon and his girlfriend, Dale Arden, aboard an airplane which is struck by a meteor presaging the larger planet’s impact. They bail out, conveniently landing near Zarkov’s lab, and the addled scientist forces them aboard his rocket at gunpoint, then takes off on a collision course with the mystery planet.


I'll repeat: that's all one strip — thirteen panels! Fortunately, subsequent installments are a bit more reasonably paced, and really, it's easy to realize why the story needs to begin in such a seemingly rushed fashion. This isn't a twenty-some page comic book or a novel or a half-hour TV show or a two hour movie. It's half a page in the local newspaper, and it's the very first installment of a new feature. Once the strip is established, it can afford to be more leisurely with its storytelling, but in order to get that far, it needs to hook new readers immediately, and so we wind up with the above.

So — Zarkov’s plan is a success and the other planet, Mongo, is diverted from its crash-course with Earth. But Zarkov himself perishes when his rocket crashes, and Flash and Dale find themselves marooned on Mongo. What follows is a long and winding serial which sees the pair captured, separated, recaptured, escaped, and more, in a series of non-stop, genuinely exciting cliffhangers which introduce them to the varied species which call Mongo home.

Monday, June 12, 2017

DAREDEVIL #181

"LAST HAND”
Story & Art : Frank Miller | Finished Art & Colors: Klaus Janson
Letters: Joe Rosen | Editor: Denny O’Neil | Supervisor : Jim Shooter

The Plot: In prison, Bullseye fantasizes about revenge on Daredevil. Upon learning that Elektra has replaced him as the Kingpin’s assassin, Bullseye accepts an offer for a TV interview and uses the event to stage a daring escape. He learns from Eric Slaughter that Elektra has been assigned the task of killing Foggy Nelson, so Bullseye tails Nelson the next day until Elektra makes her move. When she ultimately lets Foggy go, Bullseye attacks and kills her.

As he spies on Nelson & Murdock identifying Elektra's body in the morgue, Bullseye suspects Matt Murdock is actually his arch-enemy. He goes to Matt’s brownstone and attacks, but Daredevil appears to fight him off. Ultimately DD wins, and this time, rather than saving Bullseye’s life, he lets the assassin drop several stories, crippling him.

Later, as Bullseye lays in traction, unable to move or speak, he fantasizes about revenge on Daredevil.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: Bullseye is incarcerated under the name Benjamin Pondexter, which dates back to the Roger McKenzie days, though here he identifies it as one of many aliases he's used and refuses to disclose his true name.

Bullseye recalls Daredevil saving his life in issue 172, though there is no footnote. Also, even though his tumor was removed in issue 169, he still suffers agonizing headaches as a side effect. He feigns one of these headaches to facilitate his escape.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

THE SUMMER OF FLASH GORDON

Though he worked in comic strips for years before launching FLASH GORDON and had another successful strip, RIP KIRBY, for a decade after FLASH ended until his untimely death in 1956, I think it's generally agreed that FLASH GORDON was Alex Raymond's magnum opus. The character's adventures have been translated into other languages and adapted into movie serials, comic books, novels, big screen motion pictures, animated cartoons, and television series. FLASH inspired STAR WARS, for Pete's sake! And virtually all the adaptations draw their inspiration from Raymond's decade on the strip over any of the other material presented in its sixty years of existence.


As I discussed last weekend, lately I've been big into newspaper action/adventure comic strips, and I decided to write about one this year. SHATTUCK this past Friday was a warm-up for this: ten weeks looking at Alex Raymond's full original run on FLASH GORDON. I'll be using Titan Books' hardcovers for this project, and each post will cover between one and three story arcs. (The original strips weren't identified by story arc titles so far as I know, but in the intervening decades, the various plotlines have been divided up into arcs which seem to be universally agreed upon by one and all.)


Beginning this Friday, we'll travel to the myterious planet Mongo with renowned Yale polo star Flash Gordon, his girlfriend Dale Arden, and their trusty ally, Doctor Hans Zarkov. I hope you'll be along for the ride, too.

Available on Amazon: Volume 1 | Volume 2 | Volume 3

Friday, June 9, 2017

SHATTUCK

About three years ago, I wrote about Wally Wood's CANNON comic strip, which was published by the Overseas Weekly some decades back. Wood also furnished two other strips to the Weekly back then: the very well-known SALLY FORTH, and the much more obscure SHATTUCK. Last year, Fantagraphics Books, who published the CANNON collection in 2014, issued a hardcover for SHATTUCK as well. I had enjoyed CANNON and SHATTUCK's price was right, so I went ahead and picked it up.


SHATTUCK is a western strip, and while the division of labor isn't perfectly spelled out, it seems that it was masterminded by Wood and produced by his studio: written by Nicola Cuti and drawn at various points by Howard Chaykin, Dave Cockrum, Syd Shores, and Jack Abel, with contributions from Wood himself as well.

The book's afterword notes that the story behind the strip's creation, and the people who worked on it, is probably of more interest and importance than the actual strip itself, and that may well be true. SHATTUCK isn't awful by any means; but it's not exactly groundbreaking, either. It tells the story of Merle Shattuck, an outlaw who kills the sheriff of a town called Sundown and then goes on the run.

Monday, June 5, 2017

DAREDEVIL #180

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

The Plot: Daredevil beats up Turk, Grotto, and an associate of theirs. Meanwhile, Ben Urich develops the photos he took of the Kingpin’s meeting with Randolph Cherryh and realizes that the vagrant woman he saw may be Kingpin’s wife, Vanessa. He informs Daredevil and together they descend beneath the city in search of her. Eventually DD goes on alone, ordering Ben home, but Ben is immediately kidnapped by a group of vagrants.

At the same time, election results come rolling in Cherryh wins the mayorship of New York in a landslide. Underground, Daredevil is brought before the vagrants’ King, who has taken Vanessa as his queen. The King attempts to feed DD and Ben to his alligator, but the man without fear frees himself and defeats the beast, then the King as well.

Later, Daredevil brings Vanessa’s wedding ring to the Kingpin and offers a trade: Vanessa for Cherryh. Kingpin agrees and Cherryh withdraws from the mayoral race, admitting the Daily Bugle’s allegations against him were true. Kingpin wants someone to pay for this, and orders Elektra to kill Foggy Nelson.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: Two weeks have passed since last issue, during which Daredevil has had his ankle in a cast thanks to Elektra’s bear trap, while Ben has recovered from her sai attack. In that time, Ben has taken Elektra's advice and spiked his story on Cherryh’s mob ties, forcing Jonah Jameson to publicly retract the Daily Bugle’s prior articles to that effect.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

CUCKOO FOR COMIC STRIPS

For some reason, lately I've been almost infatuated with newspaper action/adventure strips of yore. If you'll pardon several paragraphs of self-indulgence, I'm going to try to figure out exactly how I got to this point.

I think I can pinpoint the kernel of when it started, at least. At some point about five or six years ago, I was, "researching" sword-wielding barbarian gals in the mold of Red Sonja (as you do), and I came across a character named Axa, the heroine of a post-apocalyptic wasteland who starred in a strip for Britain's Sun newspaper back in the early eighties. The strip, created and illustrated by Enric Romero with scripts from Donne Avenell, had been released in the United States many years earlier, but those collections were long out of print. However I found some scans online and read nearly the entire Axa canon in short order. I really liked Romero's mostly realistic artwork in the black-and-white format, and I found the daily newspaper strip format pretty interesting. It didn't hurt that the strip was "mature" (i.e. juvenile) in nature, with the title character constantly losing her top in battle.

Somewhere around that same time, circa 2009/2010, Marvel released two volumes collecting the original Spider-Man newspaper strip run by Stan Lee and John Romita. However these books were panned by critics for their presentation of the material, so I skipped them -- but they stuck in my mind as something I might be interested in checking out someday. (And, as noted a while back, I have in fact gotten into these strips by way of IDW's more recent Library of American Comics reprints of the same material.)

Friday, June 2, 2017

HALF PAST DANGER

"BITE THE BULLET" | "IN LIKE FLYNN"
"SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES" | "CURIOUSER AND CURIOUSER!"
"OURS IS BUT TO DO AND DIE" | "KILLING WITH KINDNESS"
Created, Written, and Drawn by Stephen Mooney
Colors by: Stephen Mooney (#1) & Jordie Bellaire (#2 - 6)
Edits by Chris Ryall & Chris Schraff

HALF PAST DANGER opens in 1943 as a group of U.S. Army soldiers patrols a tropical island which they quickly find to be occupied by A) Nazis and B) dinosaurs. The entire unit is wiped out save for its commander, Sergeant Tommy "Irish" Flynn, who manages an escape. The story picks up some time later as Flynn is recruited by British agent Elizabeth Huntington-Moss to join her team in returning to the island to investigate further. The group is rounded out by Captain John Noble of the U.S. Army and Ishikawa Minamoto, a Japanese defector who happens to also be a ninja.

Our heroes reach the island, meet a German scientist named Greta, and come into conflict with the Nazis, who are loading the dinosaurs into a train, and ultimately onto a boat, in order to return them to Germany. But when the group heads aboard the Nazi ship, we learn that one of our heroes is a traitor, and that the dinosaurs are merely a red herring for the Nazis' true goal -- the capture of Captain Noble.

Ultimately the Nazis are defeated and our heroes rescued by the United States, and we're promised that "Half Past Danger Will Return".

Well, I doubt I'll be along for that ride. As noted a couple weeks, back, this was really just an impulse buy for me when I checked out an IDW sale on Comixology. The collected edition's cover promised "dames, dinosaurs, and danger" and while all three are prevalent in the story, there just wasn't enough of any of it to keep my attention. I like the concept in theory -- a dinosaur-infested island discovered by Nazis during World War II is a fantastic idea, and fits with Hitler's interest in the unusual -- and Stephen Mooney's story is fine. HALF PAST DANGER reads, as I'm sure he intended, like a summer popcorn movie with bold action, diabolical villains, and a decent character arc for the protagonist, Flynn.

Monday, May 29, 2017

DAREDEVIL #179

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

The Plot: Ben Urich meets with an informant in a movie theater, but the informant is killed by Elektra, who warns Urich to back off of the Kingpin. Ben returns to the Daily Bugle and calls Matt Murdock. Soon Daredevil arrives and upon learning of Elektra’s involvement, he heads out to find her.

The next day, Ben meets with mayoral candidate Randolph Cherryh at the gym, and Cherryh’s men rough Ben up. Daredevil arrives and escorts him to safety, then listens in as Cherryh phones the Kingpin and sets up a meeting for the next day in Little Italy -- but DD is unable to attend due to a court date. Against the scarlet swashbuckler’s wishes, Ben spies on the meet, taking photos.

That night, Ben meets with another informant who directs him to a nearby building to find Cherryh’s mistress. But Daredevil shows up and, believing this a trap, goes in instead. As Ben watches, DD emerges from the building battling Elektra. She gets the better of him with the help of a bear trap* and knocks a brick wall down on him. Then, hearing Ben’s telltale cough nearby, she hurls a sai at him, stabbing him in the back.

* Yes, you read that right.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: Cherryh observes that Ben is only around forty years old here. He's always seemed older to me; usually somewhere in his fifties.

Friday, May 26, 2017

PARKER: THE SCORE & PARKER: SLAYGROUND

Last week I spent most of my time talking a bit about the Parker character, but I paid little mind to Darwyn Cooke's artwork. This time I plan to correct that. But first, we'll have a quick rundown of the plots of both THE SCORE and SLAYGROUND.

THE SCORE is a tale of Parker and a dozen associates taking on a job to rob an entire small mining town in the middle of the night. And, much as I stated previously that I liked the prior Parker stories for their showcasing our anti-hero doing everything right and accomplishing his goals without a hitch, I also really like the fact that THE SCORE throws a major wrench into the operation in a twist I don't really want to reveal here, sending Parker and company into a panicked retreat before their operation can be successfully completed. Where the previous stories showed us a cool, capable Parker executing his plans flawlessly, this one gives us a Parker who must improvise in order to save his skin.

Both approaches suit the character very well, and it should be noted that even when everything is going wrong, the plan crumbing around him, Parker takes it all in stride and remains as calm as ever. I guess I should amend what I said last week (and elaborated upon this past Sunday): I like seeing ultra-competent characters do everything right, but I also like when said ultra-competents are forced to wing it and do so in as unruffled a fashion as possible. I think really, what I don't like are panicky characters who dig themselves into deeper holes when they find themselves in a tight spot. To quote one John "Hannibal" Smith, I suppose you might just say that I love it when a plan comes together.

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!