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.