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.