Monday, December 30, 2013


Writer/Plot: David Michelinie | Finished Art/Plot: Bob Layton
Pencil Art: John Romita, Jr. | Letters: John Costanza | Colors: Bob Sharen
Editor: Roger Stern | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Following a well-meaning drunken escapade in which, as Iron Man, he makes a bad situation worse for the local authorities, Tony Stark finally acknowledges his drinking problem. With the help of Bethany, Tony goes through several days of detoxification. Eventually feeling himself again, Tony apologizes to Jarvis, but learns in the process that the butler has used his two shares of Stark International stock as collateral for a loan, which now puts the majority share of the company up for grabs.

Iron Man intimidates Jarvis's sleazy loan shark in an attempt to get the stock back, but learns that SHIELD has already acquired them. His company now lost to him, Tony nearly turns to the bottle once more, but ultimately forsakes it, choosing to remain sober and face this new challenge head-on.

Sunday, December 29, 2013


Those reading my IRON MAN reviews lately may have noticed a sudden flood of lovely digital images to accompany the text. The reason, as I'm sure it's not that hard to discern, is that on Cyber Monday, I joined Marvel's Digital Unlimited service. In addition to giving me the ability to grab panels and pages without needing to scan everything, this also provides access to tons of comics I've never read before, and would otherwise probably not have purchased.

(Or in a few cases, comics I would gladly purchase in book form if Marvel would get with the program and collect them -- I was downright flabbergasted to see that Mark Gruenwald's entire hundred-plus-issue CAPTAIN AMERICA run is available in the Unlimited library!)

So, fair warning: while my main focus here will continue to be on reviewing classic comics in collected edition formats, I may write about digital issues as well. Sometimes it might even be modern things that interest me, but that I've never really wanted to purchase.

Now, if only DC would get on the ball and start a similar program...!

Friday, December 27, 2013

WRATH OF THE SPECTRE: ADVENTURE COMICS #431, 432, 433, 434, 435, 436

The Spectre, created in 1940 by Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel, was revived in 1974 to headline DC's ADVENTURE COMICS anthology series. The Spectre's alter ego, NYPD homicide detective Jim Corrigan, was murdered by gangsters and returned to Earth by God's hand as an avenging ghost, on a mission to rid the world of all evil.

Legend has it that DC editor Joe Orlando was mugged, and decided afterward that he wanted a superhero who could operate outside the law and bring brutal vengeance down on criminals who had otherwise escaped justice. The dormant character of the Spectre was re-tooled to become the vehicle for Orlando's revenge fantasies, in a series written by Michael Fleisher and illustrated masterfully by Jim Aparo.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013


My fiancée is amazing. That is all. Happy Holidays, everyone!


Writer/Plot: David Michelinie | Finished Art/Plot: Bob Layton
Pencil Art: John Romita, Jr. | Letters: Jim Novak | Colors: Ben Sean
Editor: Roger Stern | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Iron Man fights off Justin Hammer's super-powered henchmen and eventually gains the upper hand when Rhodey arrives with several Monaco police helicopters. Hammer orders a retreat, and his floating complex transforms into a hovercraft. But Iron Man destroys the vehicle before it can get away. Hammer disappears in the confusion, but his forces are arrested.

With Phillip Barnett -- the man responsible for the device that had remote-controlled Iron Man's armor -- in custody, Iron Man's name is cleared and his impounded armor returned to him. However public opinion has turned against our hero in the wake of the Carnelian ambassador's assassination, driving Tony to his worst drinking binge yet, which culminates with the retirement of long-time Avengers' butler, Edwin Jarvis.

Monday, December 23, 2013


Writer: David Michelinie | Finished Art/Conceptual Assist: Bob Layton
Pencil Art: John Romita, Jr. | Letters: John Costanza | Colors: Ben Sean
Editor: Roger Stern | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Rhodey comes around on the Monaco beach and is arrested for disturbing the peace. Meanwhile, Tony Stark is brought before Justin Hammer. Hammer gives Tony a tour of his lab complex, including a look at the computer which has taken control of Iron Man's systems so many times in recent days. During the tour, Tony attempts to escape, only to find that he is aboard a massive floating estate with water on all sides.

Later, Tony is locked up but soon escapes his cell after electrocuting a guard. While sneaking around Hammer's estate, he sees Blizzard, Melter, and Whiplash arrive on the island and get berated by Hammer. As Hammer lectures the villains, Tony sneaks into the lab, dispatches the guards, and blows up the Iron Man controlling machine, then turns his attention to the briefcase housing his spare armor, which Hammer's men had been analyzing.

In response to the explosion, Hammer sounds the alarm, and a small army of supervillains come to his aid from nearby barracks. They burst into the lab to find Iron Man waiting for them.

Sunday, December 22, 2013


Art: Jim Aparo
"In the world of mortal men he is Jim Corrigan, had-boiled police detective -- but to the vermin of the underworld he is the Spectre, awesome avenger of evil, an earthbound ghost who punishes evil with a fearsome vengeance from beyond the grave."

A couple years ago, I watched the DC SHOWCASE DVD, which highlighted three short films from the Warner Bros. animation department. Among those cartoons was WRATH OF THE SPECTRE, and I instantly fell in love with it. The short starred Gary Cole as Jim Corrigan/the Spectre, and the story was crafted to resemble a hard-boiled seventies exploitation film -- a genre I happen to love, even if don't go out of my way to seek such movies out. There was a great funky score, and the plot featured the Spectre tracking down a group of criminals one by one, and killing them in gruesome fashion.

Friday, December 20, 2013


Writer: Mike W. Barr | Pencilers: Alan Davis, Terry Beatty, Carmine Infantino
Inkers: Paul Neary, Dick Giordano, Al Vey | Colorists: Adrienne Roy, Carl Gafford
Letterers: John Workman, Todd Klein, Romeo Francisco | Editor: Denny O'Neil

Writer: Mike W. Barr | Penciler: Alan Davis | Inker: Paul Neary
Colorist: Adrienne Roy | Letterer: Richard Starkings
Editor: Denny O'Neil

Art by Mike Kaluta
DETECTIVE COMICS #572 is a "jam" issue, celebrating the title's fiftieth anniversary, and starring three of the book's regular featured characters of decades past: Batman (of course), the Elongated Man, and Slam Bradley, who I had never heard of before. Upon looking him up, I've learned that he starred in DETECTIVE #1, and has appeared sporadically in the DC Universe since.

Beyond the above group, the story also stars Sherlock Holmes, who, it seems, is a real person in the DC world. Watson's chronicles of Holmes' cases are treated here as works of non-fiction, and everyone views Holmes as a well-known historical figure. It's a conceit I enjoyed, and it fits just fine into a shared universe like this one. However, Barr goes overboard with the idea here, revealing in the story's finale that Holmes is still alive and fairly spry at well over a hundred years of age, due essentially to nothing more than clean living.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013


Writer/Plot: David Michelinie | Finished Art/Plot: Bob Layton
Pencil Art: John Romita, Jr. | Letters: Joe Rosen | Colors: Ben Sean
Editor: Roger Stern | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: The police make a token attempt to arrest Iron Man before letting him go on the merit of his past service as a superhero. Later, Tony Stark delivers Iron Man's armor to the authorities. Then, after an all-night bender, he sobers up and sets about clearing his alter ego's name.

First, Tony pays a visit to the Avengers and takes a hand-to-hand combat lesson from Captain America. Then, remembering the name "Hammer" from his battle with Whiplash, Melter, and Blizzard, Tony sends Scott "Ant Man" Lang to infiltrate Ryker's Island prison and interrogate Whiplash.

Ant Man reports back with word that Hammer has a headquarters near Monaco, so Tony flies there with Rhodey. Their investigation draws attention from Hammer's agents, and the duo soon find themselves on the run. After escaping from one group of thugs, they are confronted by a second, much larger enemy force.

Monday, December 16, 2013


Writer/Plot: David Michelinie | Co-Plotter: Bob Layton | Pencil Art: John Romita, Jr.
Finished Art: Layton & Friends | Letters: Jim Novak | Colors: Bob Sharen
Editor: Roger Stern | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: With aid from Bethany, Iron Man manages to escape from and defeat Blizzard, Melter, and Whiplash. After the villains are arrested and Iron Man has changed back to Tony Stark, Bethany suggests that the pair spend the night together at the hotel.

The next day, Tony struggles all day with inventor's block before changing to Iron Man to blow off some steam. He later flies to the United Nations, where Iron Man has been requested at a diplomatic function for the Carnelian ambassador. But as Iron Man poses for photos with Ambassador Kotznin, Justin Hammer once again seizes control of our hero's armor, using his repulsor rays to assassinate the ambassador.

Friday, December 13, 2013


Writer: Mike W. Barr | Penciler: Alan Davis | Inker: Paul Neary
Colorist: Adrienne Roy | Letterer: John Workman | Editor: Denny O'Neil

Mike W. Barr and Alan Davis have a slightly peculiar run on DETECTIVE COMICS. Their issues begin after CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS, in the rebooted world of "Batman: Year One" and other such stories. They are telling tales featuring the Batman teamed with post-Crisis Jason Todd, the angry brat who would eventually perish by the Joker's hand.

And yet, no one seemed to tell them this. These stories might as well be set in the pre-Crisis universe. Indeed, they draw upon pre-Crisis continuity, such as the fact that Catwoman is reformed and aware of Batman's secret identity. Robin here has not become the unlikable character who would eventually be killed off -- he is very much like the classic Dick Grayson Robin, in fact.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013


Writer/Plot: David Michelinie | Finished Art/Plot: Bob Layton
Pencil Art: John Romita, Jr. Letters: Irv Watanabe | Colors: Bob Sharen
Editor: Roger Stern | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: As he approaches Stark International on Long Island, Iron Man's boot jets malfunction. He manages to save himself, and heads for his lab, where he spends hours examining and testing his armor, only to find nothing wrong with it. Afterward, Bethany drops in and Tony invites her to Atlantic City for a date.

As Tony and Bethany gamble after dinner, the casino is attacked by three of Iron Man's old foes, Whiplash, Melter, and Blizzard. Tony ditches Bethany and changes into Iron Man. He initially has the upper hand on the villains, but when they join forces they turn the tables. Against the others' wishes, Whiplash prepares to finish Iron Man off.

Monday, December 9, 2013


Writer: David Michelinie | Pencils: Carmine Infantino | Inks: Bob Layton
Letters: John Costanza | Colors: Ben Sean | Editor: Roger Stern
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter
Based on the original story by Stan Lee, Larry Leiber and Don Heck

The Plot: Iron Man and Namor part ways with the U.S. Naval forces that came to their aid last issue. As Iron Man flies home, he reflects on his origin, back in Vietnam: he was there as Tony Stark to demonstrate and perfect new weaponry for the army when he was mortally injured and kidnapped by the warlord Wong Chu. Wong Chu ordered Stark to spend the final week of his life constructing weaponry with the aid of another prisoner, a physicist named Professor Yinsen.

But instead of following Wong Chu's orders, Stark and Yinsen constructed a suit of armor that would keep Stark alive and allow him to overthrow Wong Chu. Yinsen sacrificed himself to allow Stark's escape, and later that night Stark, now as Iron Man, defeated and killed Wong Chu.

Back in the present, Iron Man finishes his reminiscence as he passes over Montauk Point, New York. Justin Hammer is informed of Iron Man's whereabouts, and orders a third test of his ability to remotely control our hero's armor.

Sunday, December 8, 2013


Hardcover, 2013
Winter is upon us, and in my mind there's no better superhero to read about on a nice chilly night than the Batman. As a kid I didn't read many DC comics. I was all about Marvel, preferring to get my DC fix from their other media: the Christopher Reeve SUPERMAN films, the Adam West BATMAN series (still in syndication when I grew up in the eighties), and SUPER FRIENDS. Later on, of course, came the Bruce Timm cartoons, starting with BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES. In fact, the comic book spin-off of B:TAS, BATMAN ADVENTURES, was -- and remains -- the only DC comic I ever read regularly on a monthly basis.

I did manage to read the occasional limited series as I got older, but regular monthly DC comics remained a sizable blind spot in my comic book knowledge. Finally, in recent years, I've begun plugging some holes in my DC collection through various collected editions. Among the collections out there are two series of hardcovers from DC, which inexplicably have different titles even though they're essentially the same line: LEGENDS OF THE DARK KNIGHT and TALES OF THE BATMAN. The books themselves are beautiful, with great design work, slick dustjackets, and top-notch production.

Friday, December 6, 2013


Since I just finished the first half of TRANSFORMERS: REGENERATION ONE, I figured I'd keep going with another Hasbro property, G.I. Joe -- here teamed with J. Scott Campbell's Danger Girl characters. This is a review of the DANGER GIRL/G.I. JOE collected edition, released in 2013 and collecting the 2012 limited series of the same name. This review assumes some familiarity with both Danger Girl and G.I. Joe.

Written by Andy Hartnell | Penciled by John Royle | Inked by Philip Moy
Layout Assist by Jeff Moy | Colored by Romulo Fajardo, Jr.
Lettered by Neil Uyetake | Edited by John Barber & Scott Dunbier
Danger Girl created by J. Scott Campbell & Andy Hartnell

Art by J. Scott Campbell
Danger Girl has been a bit of a guilty pleasure for me since it first appeared, back when I was in college. It was the only series from the Cliffhanger imprint that I picked up, and I guess I made the right choice because I seem to recall it was the only Cliffhanger series to reach its conclusion (even if it did take something like two years to get those seven issues). The series is not high art, though it has never pretended to be. It's simply the comic book equivalent of a big, dumb summer popcorn blockbuster, which is something you just want to read once in a while.

On the other hand, I've been a G.I. Joe fan since I was a kid, and I've followed their comic book adventures through the decades from Marvel to Devil's Due (for a while), and now to IDW (eventually dropping their relaunch in favor of Larry Hama's continuation series). But while the comics are my preferred G.I. Joe continuity, the 80s cartoon series features the characterizations I like best -- and this story seems to feature just those Joes. It's a little more "grown-up" than the cartoon (there is some blood and characters die as in the original comics), but it's clearly made with a cartoon sensibility, fitting perfectly with the Danger Girl universe.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013


Plot/Writer: David Michelinie | Plot/Finished Art: Bob Layton
Pencil Art: John Romita Jr. | Letters: John Costanza | Colors: Carl Gafford
Editor: Roger Stern | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: As Iron Man sinks into the sea, Rhodey and Bethany arrive in the area aboard a Stark International jet-copter. When they refuse to leave restricted airspace, they are shot down and taken prisoner.

Elsewhere, Namor rescues Iron Man and explains that he was protecting the island because its inhabitant, Hiram Dobbs, had nursed him back to health after he swam too close to the government waste stockpile and contracted radiation poisoning. Dobbs goes on to reveal that he has lived on the island for twenty years, and, despite the special forces' captain's claims that the U.S. has been dumping waste there for years, he had never seen any soldiers until the area until that very morning. Iron Man and Namor depart to investigate the soldiers' camp.

Rhodey and Bethany, meanwhile, have been taken aboard the soldiers' ship and escaped their captors. Roaming the vessel, they encounter the captain, who reveals that he and his men are not U.S. military after all, but agents of the Roxxon Oil Corporation. It turns out Roxxon has been trying to acquire the nearby island due to a deposit of vibranium within.

Namor and Iron Man arrive and swiftly rout the soldiers, leading the captain to activate a self-destruct mechanism back at his base camp. The soldiers surrender and Iron Man and Namor get everyone safely out of the blast radius, but the island is destroyed.

Monday, December 2, 2013


Words/Plot: David Michelinie | Finished Art/Plot: Bob Layton
Pencil Art: John Romita Jr. | Letters: John Costanza | Colors: Ben Sean
Editor: Roger Stern | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Tony Stark orders his fourth martini on the flight home from Paris, but the drink is interrupted when a flying tank strikes the plane, ripping a wing off. Stark changes to Iron Man and guides the aircraft safely to a water landing.

After the passengers are rescued by a U.S. special forces unit which was in the area for maneuvers, Iron Man speaks with the unit's commanding officer and learns that the tank was hurled by Namor, the Sub-Mariner. According to the special forces captain, the U.S. has been dumping radioactive waste on a nearby island for years, but recently an elderly hermit named Hiram Dobbs has taken up residence there. Namor hates Dobbs and will not allow the U.S. forces to remove him from the island, leading to the conflict which resulted in the chucked tank.

Iron Man goes to confront Namor and, still belligerent after his four drinks, starts a fight. The U.S. officers discuss some ulterior motive for their presence in the area, and hope that Iron Man and Namor will finish each other off. Meanwhile, the battle moves underwater, where Iron Man manages to blast Namor away from him. As he regroups, however, our hero's armor malfunctions, his eye and mouth slits opening, and he begins to drown.

Sunday, December 1, 2013


Concluding the list:
  1. Thunderbolts by Kurt Busiek, Fabian Nicieza, & Mark Bagley
    (THUNDERBOLTS #1 - 50, plus assorted related issues)
    Nostalgia Rating: 5 | Story Quality: 4 | Overall: 4.5
    Art: Mark Bagley
    Reason: When this series launched, the first issue revelation secured it immediately as the book I waited most for every month. About a year later, it was supplanted by the next item on this list, but even then Kurt Busiek and subsequent writer Fabian Nicieza maintained the twists, turns and momentum that had gripped me from the outset. I capped this run at THUNDERBOLTS #50 because I believe that's the apex of the series. I like the stories for about another ten issues, but 50 is the peak. And if we were to include the final 15 issues, the "Story Quality" grade would drop a point or two, as Nicieza became hampered by the Bill Jemas/Joe Quesada mandates of minimal continuity and "writing for the trade", and the series became aimless and boring. But the first fifty or so issues of THUNDERBOLTS were some of the finest comics coming out of Marvel at the time.

Friday, November 29, 2013


Writer: Simon Furman | Penciler: Andrew Wildman | Inker: Stephen Baskerville
Colorist: John-Paul Bove | Coloring Assist: James Stayte | Letterer: Chris Mowry
Editor: John Barber | Editor-in-Chief: Chris Ryall

The Plot: The Autobots retake their headquarters, but not before missiles are launched at Ultra Magnus's ship. Grimlock and the Dinobots confront Scorponok, whose plan is thwarted thanks to the revelation that Perceptor has been in on Grimlock's plan all along, only playing at being a Decepticon. In their climactic battle, Grimlock and Scorponok plummet to their apparent deaths.

Beneath Cybertron's surface, Hot Rod takes the Sword and Covenant of Primus, sparing the lives of the proto-Transformer creatures, and departs their tunnels, vowing to return.

On Earth, Shockwave restores Starscream's cognitive functions, and together they plot to take control of the Ark from Galvatron. The ship takes off just as Optimus Prime arrives. Spotting Galvatron standing on the Ark's bridge, Optimus wonders if Megatron has somehow cheated death once again.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013


Writer/Plot: David Michelinie | Finished Art/Plot: Bob Layton
Pencil Art: John Romita Jr. | Letters: Diana Albers | Colors: Carl Gafford
Editor: Roger Stern | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Iron Man triggers an electromagnetic pulse, creating a diversion which allows him to subdue rogue SHIELD agent Buck Richlen. Immediately after, the Helicarrier comes under assault from Russian fighter jets, and Iron Man realizes that with no one at the helm, the SHIELD craft has drifted into Soviet airspace.

While Iron Man flies out to deal with the jets, the Helicarrier's occupants come around. Nick Fury orders a retreat from the U.S.S.R., and with Iron Man's help, the escape is successful. Back aboard the Helicarrier, Fury has Richlen taken into custody, and assures Iron Man that he and his men were a renegade cell within SHIELD.

Later, at Stark International's Paris branch, Tony decodes data he procured from the Helicarrier's computer system, and learns that SHIELD has been buying up Stark stock, to the point that they practically have a controlling interest in the company. When Stark calls Fury, angrily confronting him with this fact, Fury reveals that although Richlen's unit was acting without orders, they were working in the interest of a SHIELD directive: to acquire Stark International and get the company back into the munitions business.

Monday, November 25, 2013


Script/Plot: David Michelinie | Finished Art/Plot: Bob Layton
Pencil Art: John Byrne | Letters: Irv Watanabe | Colors: Glynis Wein
Editor: Roger Stern | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: After repairing his armor following the previous night's encounter with Spymaster, Tony Stark travels to the SHIELD Helicarrier to attend the NATO/SHIELD defense symposium, and -- having discovered that Spymaster was armed with SHIELD weaponry -- to investigate SHIELD's involvement in Spymaster's attacks.

Aboard the Helicarrier, Tony slips away from his escort and begins to hack SHIELD's computers. This spurs the renegade agents who had hired Spymaster to go after Stark themselves. They flood the Helicarrier with gas, knocking everyone out, then toss Tony out of the craft. Coming around as he plummets earthward, Tony dons his armor and returns to the Helicarrier. He takes out most of the rogue agents, but their leader escapes and takes the unconscious Nick Fury hostage, then orders Iron Man to turn his repulsor rays on himself, or Fury will die.

Sunday, November 24, 2013


And away we go:
    Art: Alan Davis
  1. Excalibur by Alan Davis
    (EXCALIBUR #42 - 67)
    Nostalgia Rating: 1 | Story Quality: 4 | Overall: 2.5
    Reason: I won't waste much time on this one, because I've already written about it at length in my Captain Britain reviews -- but I find Davis's tight plotting and mastery of seemingly unrelated sub-plots which thread back together, sometimes when you least expect them to, to be astounding. The run loses steam after issue #50, but it's never a chore to read, and the characters are all great fun.

Friday, November 22, 2013


Writer: Simon Furman | Penciler: Andrew Wildman | Inker: Stephen Baskerville
Colorist: John-Paul Bove | Letterer: Chris Mowry | Editor: John Barber
Editor-in-Chief: Chris Ryall

The Plot: The Dinobots, hunted by Scorponok's forces and realizing they can't win, resolve to kill Grimlock for his betrayal. They lure Grimlock to the "nursery", where all the Nucleon-infected Autobots are kept. But Scorponok's forces also converge on the area. Grimlock convinces the Dinobots he is still on their side by taking out the Decepticons. The last remaining non-Deceptified Autobots arrive, and Grimlock reveals he has a plan to stop Scorponok.

Beneath the planet, Hot Rod touches the Covenant of Primus and receives a vision, in which he learns the monsters chasing him were prototype Transformers judged a failure by Primus. Primus eliminated them to start over, but some survived. Hot Rod believes his job is to finish them off with Primus's sword.

On Earth, Optimus Prime drives through British Columbia toward the Ark's crash site, where he plans to destroy the starship to prevent it from unleashing any further horrors on the planet.

Meanwhile, Ultra Magnus and the Autobot attack team approach Cybertron. Under orders from Scorponok, they are given an "all-clear" signal, with the intention to shoot them down when they reach Cybertron.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013


Script/Plot: David Michelinie | Finished Art/Plot: Bob Layton
Pencil Art: John Romita Jr. | Letters: John Costanza | Colors: Ben Sean
Editor: Roger Stern | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Spymaster assassinates Tony Stark's Life Model Decoy and draws Iron Man away from Stark International. After realizing he's been had, Iron Man flashes back to the sequence of events which brought him to this point: In order to draw his would-be assassin out of hiding following last issue's bombing, Tony attended a high profile reception for the Carnelian ambassador, then returned to Stark International for the night.

Following the flashback, Iron Man returns to S.I. to confront Spymaster. After a chase across the company grounds, Iron Man catches and defeats the mercenary, and discovers that he was attempting to steal a tape containing a list of Stark's shareholders. Elsewhere, the men who hired Spymaster reflect upon his failure, as they walk to a NATO/SHIELD meeting presided over by their superior... Nick Fury!

Monday, November 18, 2013


Plot/Words: David Michelinie | Plot/Inks: Bob Layton | Pencils: John Romita Jr.
Letters: Annette Kawecki | Colors: George Rouossos | Editor: Roger Stern
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: As the Ani-Men beat up on Tony Stark, the mysterious assassin from last issue reveals himself as Spymaster. Having previously planted a bomb in Tony's penthouse, Spymaster triggers the device's countdown. Meanwhile, throwing his secret identity to the wind, Tony dons his Iron Man armor to battle the Ani-Men. But their fight ends abruptly when the bomb detonates, apparently killing the villains.

Madame Masque and Count Nefaria escape in the confusion and travel to Stark International on Long Island, where Madame Masque attempts to restore her father's youth and vitality with Tony's equipment. But Iron Man catches up with them and, after making his way past a couple traps set by Madame Masque, confronts her. In the ensuing conflict between Iron Man, a rogue Mars exploration rover controlled by Masque, and Stark security, the machine containing Nefaria is destroyed, and the Count perishes.

Madame Masque reveals that, as Whitney, she still loves Tony -- but she now blames him for her father's demise. She departs, declaring that she must sort out her feelings.

Sunday, November 17, 2013


Why a Top Twelve? Well, this was originally going to be a top ten list, but I could only whittle the thing down to about twelve entries. And since this is my blog, I make the rules. So, for the next few weeks, I'll post the list in segments. Today is the introduction. Next Sunday will be numbers 12 through 6, and the following weekend will bring the Top Five and a little wrap-up.

I have an interesting group here, I think. There are things you'd expect -- runs that most anyone would have on a list of the best Marvel ever. But at the same time there are several glaring holes as well. Versed as I am in the world of Marvel, there are several classic runs I've never read. The Lee/Kirby FANTASTIC FOUR, for example, does not appear here, because I've barely ever read any of it. Though really, the entire Silver Age, beyond Spider-Man, is a huge blind spot for me. I know what happened; I just haven't read all of it personally. So all I can do is pick my favorite runs from the ones I've read, and that's exactly what I've done here.

Friday, November 15, 2013


Writer: Simon Furman | Penciler: Andrew Wildman | Inker: Stephen Baskerville
Colorist: John-Paul Bove | Letterer: Chris Mowry | Editor: John Barber
Editor-in-Chief: Chris Ryall

The Plot: Scorponok seizes control of Soundwave's Decepticons, however Soundwave himself has fled Cybertron following his infiltration of the Hall of Silence, and is now aboard Bludgeon's Warworld. When Bludgeon reveals that he has created an army of mindless war machines awaiting a spark of life from the Creation Matrix, Soundwave agrees to provide Thunderwing's remains, the last remaining source of Matrix energy.

On Cybertron, Scorponok's warriors continue to turn the Autobots into Decepticons, while Perceptor oversees the construction of a device which will send a planetwide signal to change all remaining Autobots at once. Scorponok orders Grimlock to execute an Autobot prisoner, Punch, to prove his loyalty, but Grimlock attempts to kill Scorponok instead -- at which point Scorponok reveals that he has some form of control over Grimlock's new body by causing it pain.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


The book I'm using for this review series was hyped as the complete IRON MAN run by David Michelinie and Bob Layton, but technically it is the IRON MAN BY DAVID MICHELINIE, BOB LAYTON, AND JOHN ROMITA JR. OMNIBUS. As such, the very first issue in the book is Romita's first as penciler, an issue before the arrival of Michelinie and Layton.

Writer: Bill Mantlo | Embellisher: Dan Green
Letterer: Diana Albers | Colorist: Don Warfield
Editor: Roger Stern | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter
And introducing the pulse-pounding penciling of John Romita Jr.

The Plot: The Avengers drop off Iron Man's unconscious enemy, the Unicorn, at Stark International in New York. After the Avengers depart, Iron Man reviews the Unicorn's history, then changes to his alter ego, Tony Stark, and departs for Manhattan to see his girlfriend, Whitney Frost. Along the way he is observed by a mysterious figure with plans to assassinate him.

When he reaches his penthouse, Tony is attacked by the Ani-Men, servants of Avengers' foe Count Nefaria. After the Ani-Men knock Tony out, Whitney reveals herself as Madame Masque, and states her plot to force Tony into curing Nefaria, her father, of an affliction she blames on the Avengers.

Monday, November 11, 2013


Years before Robert Downey Jr. made Iron Man and Tony Stark household names, there was one definitive portrayal of the Golden Avenger which fans held as the "iron" standard. In the late seventies, writer David Michelinie and artist Bob Layton arrived at Marvel and were assigned the IRON MAN series, joining incoming penciler John Romita, Jr.. Michelinie scripted while Layton inked and sometimes penciled, but both were credited as co-plotters.

I personally have little experience with this era in Shellhead's career. I first read IRON MAN regularly when the series was shunted into the "Heroes Reborn" universe in 1996 (yes, for all the derision it receives, "Heroes Reborn" really did accomplish its goal of bringing in new readers). I stuck with the series for a few years afterward, through the excellent Kurt Busiek/Sean Chen era and eventually gave up during Frank Tieri's term as writer in 2002 or so.

Via trade paperbacks, I have read some of the Michelinie/Layton run -- the "Demon in a Bottle" storyline and the famous Dr. Doom/Camelot 2-parter -- but that's it. Fortunately, to coincide with the release of IRON MAN 3 this past summer, Marvel finally saw fit to collect the full original Michelinie/Layton run in its entirety in a handsome hardcover Omnibus volume.

I picked up the Omnibus when it was released, but it was shuffled down my reading list a bit as I caught up on some other things (many of which you've read about here). But now the time has finally come to crack the book open and read, for the first time in full, this classic status quo-setting run on the invincible armored Avenger. Thus, my very first long-term single-issue-at-a-time review project will begin Wednesday and continue every Monday and Wednesday for about the next three months.

Friday, November 8, 2013


Writer: Simon Furman | Penciler: Andrew Wildman | Inker: Stephen Baskerville
Colorist: John-Paul Bove | Letterer: Chris Mowry | Editor: John Barber
Editor-in-Chief: Chris Ryall

The Plot: Scorponok brings the Autobot Headmasters, Highbrow, Hardhead, and Brainstorm, back online as Decepticons. Grimlock, now in his new body, then transports the Headmasters to Cybertron. The Autobots take Grimlock into custody upon his arrival, and when he is visited in his cell by Perceptor, he uses Scorponok's new C.N.A. re-encoder to turn the Autobot scientist into a Decepticon. Meanwhile, the Headmasters infiltrate Autobot capital city Iacon, clearing the way for Scorponok.

All of this is unnoticed by Hot Rod, who, after a brief meeting with Grimlock, heads beneath the surface of Cybertron, where a group of Autobots have located the tunnels which should lead them to the chamber housing Primus, the Transformers' god. However, the tunnels are populated by a group of robot-devouring monsters.

On Earth, Optimus Prime chooses to remain behind despite the humans' orders, and help them rebuild. He sends Ultra Magnus and the rest of his troops back to Cybertron. Meanwhile, Galvatron follows Starscream into the Ark, and Starscream leads him to Shockwave, somehow wired into the Ark's on board systems.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013


TPB, 2012
In 2009, shortly following the conclusion of the CLANDESTINE: BLOOD RELATIVE limited series, Alan Davis began work on a trio of annuals for Marvel which would continue the Destines' story. Each of these annuals would headline a different Marvel character, and Destines would be supporting characters in each. The stories would be designed to be read individually if desired; however, if read together, the three annuals would tell one overarching ClanDestine tale.

All three annuals eventually saw release in 2012. The first, FANTASTIC FOUR ANNUAL #33, features the Thing and the Human Torch working with Dr. Strange to investigate the energy escaped from Vincent Destine's grave at the end of BLOOD RELATIVE. The Torch and the Thing are hurled back through time, where they encounter Vincent at various points in his life before finally witnessing his long-hinted death at his father's hands: Adam was forced to take Vincent's life when his reality warping powers ran amok.

Monday, November 4, 2013


Premiere Hardcover, 2008
In 2008, twelve years after he had last visited the characters in X-MEN AND THE CLANDESTINE, Alan Davis returned to his creations for a five-issue limited series called CLANDESTINE: BLOOD RELATIVE. Interestingly, Davis treats this story as if is a direct continuation of the last stories from over a decade previous. Now, "Marvel Time" can allow for certain liberties to be taken with timeline compression, but it seems a bit odd to essentially continue a twelve year-old story as if no more than a month had passed between installments. This approach doesn't hurt Davis's efforts, mind you -- it just seems a strange creative decision.

The story is much of the same as the first time around -- in fact, the Destines find themselves battling the very same villain they fought in their first story arc, lo those many years past -- a character of Davis's creation called Griffin. In fact, Griffin's scheme here is a direct sequel to the very first CLANDESTINE issues, wherein he kidnapped the family. We learn now that he cloned them, and he sends those clones to exact revenge for his previous defeat.

Sunday, November 3, 2013


I'm not really into original comic art or commissions at all. I have a few sketches I've picked up at cons over the years for reasonable prices, but in general I'm priced out of the comic art market. Even if I had the money, though, I just think the prices fetched by original pages and high-end commissions are insane. Thousands of dollars for one page or one piece? Ludicrous. If you can buy a TV or a computer (or maybe even a used car!) for less than the price of a piece of original art, then the original art costs too much. I don't care that the work is one of a kind. In the end it's just a piece of paper, and no piece of paper is worth that much, regardless of what's on it.

But that doesn't stop me from fantasizing. There are plenty of artists from whom I would commission some artwork, if their prices made any sort of earthly sense. For whatever reason, though, my dreams of original art return most frequently to John Byrne. Byrne's commission work is hit or miss, but when it's good, it's very good. And if he was willing to take the request, I would ask him for a series of X-Men commissions. But since I'm never going to actually do it, I want to get this out of my system. So here's the fantasy letter I would write to Byrne's art dealer, Jim Warden, in a different world:

Friday, November 1, 2013


The second TRANSFORMERS: REGENERATION ONE trade paperback collects issues 86 - 90. I have recently learned that the series is planned for a finite run of twenty issues, to wrap up the entire saga in #100, which will just fill two more trades after this one. Personally, as of right now I'd love to see it continue past #100 if sales warrant, but I guess we'll see what happens...

Writer: Simon Furman | Penciler: Andrew Wildman | Inker: Stephen Baskerville
Colorist: John-Paul Bove | Letterer: Chris Mowry | Editor: John Barber
Editor-in-Chief: Chris Ryall

The Plot: On Nebulos, Grimlock is held prisoner by Scorponok, who explains that his original head came online upon the death of his Headmaster self during the Unicron battle. Scorponok has isolated a gene in all Transformers, which determines whether they are "born" as Autobots or Decepticons, and he believes he can return to Cybertron and alter the gene to create a planet of Decepticons. Bribed with a new, fully functional body, plus the possibility of curing those Autobots negatively affected by Nucleon, Grimlock reluctantly agrees to help Scorponok in his plan.

On Cybertron, Soundwave makes it to Thunderwing's resting place in the Hall of Silence. Hot Rod orders the Hall destroyed per protocol in the event of an intruder, which plays into Soundeave's plot somehow.

And on Earth, Spike and Blackrock inform Optimus Prime that the remaining humans have voted the Autobots off the planet. Meanwhile, the Autobots have gathered all Megatron's now-deceased zombies in one place to disintegrate them. However, Starscream yet lives, and escapes prior to the disintegration, to sneak aboard the Ark. His entry is noticed by Galvatron.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013


Premiere Hardcover, 2008
The first story arc in the CLANDESTINE ongoing series is titled "Family Reunion". In it, we meet the core cast: siblings Walter, Dominic, Samantha, Kay, Rory, and Pandora. The last two are the youngest and initially believe themselves to be the niece and nephew of Walter, but they soon learn they are his younger brother and sister, and that everyone they had been told was an aunt or uncle is actually a sibling.

There are other Destines who pop up here and there, notably genius Newton, who lives in a parallel universe, and Gracie, the family mystic -- but the above characters comprise the core cast. Additionally, by the end of the first four-part story arc, we meet Adam Destine, the family's father -- who sired all of his offspring with an otherworldly genie.

Monday, October 28, 2013


Following my months long Captain Britain marathon, I decided to keep the Alan Davis train going over the summer with a series I've had interest in quite a while: CLANDESTINE. I was vaguely aware of this series when it debuted in 1994, but I wasn't entirely sure what it was. And as I was an avowed fan of the "Image Comics" art style, Alan Davis's clean, clear artwork did not appeal to me at the time (how tastes can change!).

CLANDESTINE was an ongoing series, apparently a joint production between Marvel U.S. and Marvel U.K., but it was canceled after only a dozen issues. Alan Davis, the creator of the series, left after eight of those issues and the remaining four were published without his input. About a year after the series' cancellation, Davis returned to the characters for a two-part limited series, X-MEN AND THE CLANDESTINE. He immediately disavowed the final four issues of the ongoing series and picked up with the characters exactly where he had left them.

Following the X-Men crossover, the ClanDestine disappeared for over a decade. Then, in 2008, Davis produced a new five-issue limited series starring the characters. This series led into a trio of annuals, released in 2012, which saw the ClanDestine interacting with the Fantastic Four, Daredevil, Wolverine, and Dr. Strange.

As with my Captain Britain reviews, the ClanDestine posts were composed mainly from memory, since I read these books in July, before I had decided to start blogging. But I like to think I have some interesting -- or at the very least, not boring -- things to say about the books. So, beginning Wednesday: A three-part CLANDESTINE review series.

Sunday, October 27, 2013


Note: This post uses the general term "comics" throughout to mean specifically Marvel superhero comics.

Okay, look -- I don't mean for this to turn into a "get off my lawn" rant, but there's a good chance it will. I am 34 years old -- apparently the target audience for today's superhero comics (which is ludicrous to begin with) -- and I fully, honestly believe comics were better when I was younger than they are now. I don't necessarily mean from a technical standpoint, of course. While I admit I tend to prefer many of the artists of my youth to the ones of today, there are plenty of great artists doing excellent work nowadays. And computer coloring and lettering, when done well, blow most of the old stuff out of the water.

Art by Jim Lee (left, 1991) and Dale Keown (right, 2011).
Note the much brighter, more exciting, and visually appealing
colors on the left piece vs the drab, boring hues on the left.

Friday, October 25, 2013


Writer: Simon Furman | Penciler: Andrew Wildman | Inker: Stephen Baskerville
Colorist: John-Paul Bove | Letterer: Chris Mowry | Editor: John Barber
Editor-in-Chief: Chris Ryall

The Plot: Optimus Prime leads his Autobots into final battle with Megatron and his zombie forces. Megatron reveals to Prime that he he has programmed the Ark to launch every nuclear missile on Earth  in the event that either Prime or Megatron should lose their duel.

On Cybertron, Soundwave continues to explore the Hall of Silence, while Hot Rod struggles to figure out what to do about the situation.

The Wreckers, Spike, and the human resistance attack the Ark, and Spike makes it inside. Kup manages to kill Ratchet after being inoculated against the Scraplet infection, frying Megatron's brain just as he is about to kill Optimus Prime. The tables turned, Prime kills Megatron instead. At that precise instant, Galvatron awakens elsewhere on Earth. The missiles are not launched after all, due to Spike frying the Ark's systems before Megatron's failsafe can kick in.

Lastly, on Nebulos, Scorponok invites Grimlock to join him, with the incentive of a new, fully-transformable body.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


Much like "The Cross-Time Caper", my Captain Britain review series was intended to be relatively short. I figured maybe one post per book, except two for the Omnibus -- a total of eleven installments. But here we are on part eighteen! Hopefully folks have stayed with me this long. As I noted way back when I stated the series, I hadn't intended on blogging when I read the stories, so my "reviews" are little more than recaps with my own random thoughts tossed in, stream-of-consciousness style. My next, much shorter review series -- to be announced on Monday -- will be in the same format, but then I'll get into issue-by-issue reviews of a classic Marvel run, which will be structured more like my TRANSFORMERS series.

So if you've made it this far into my ramblings on the subject of Captain Britain, I really appreciate that. Let's see of we can tough it out for one last post. Much like Alan Davis at this stage in EXCALIBUR, I'm starting to get a little bored with my subject matter!

Monday, October 21, 2013


Note: This volume contains a fill-in issue and a one-shot called EXCALIBUR: XX CROSSING, neither of which involved Alan Davis in any way. I didn't read either of them for my marathon session.

Alan Davis's run as writer of EXCALIBUR continues with our heroes moving into Braddock Mnor as their new base of operations, thanks to Brian's lighthouse having been destroyed during the anti-Phoenix/Necrom affair. It's nice to see Davis drawing the house again, and the place looks pretty much exactly as it did during his previous run with it. We even get to return to the caverns beneath the manor where the Mastermind computer resides, now joined by Widget.

Davis writes, but does not draw, the two issues immediately following number 50. The first is a throw-away adventure following a group of saurian analogues for Excalibur from a world where dinosaurs rule the Earth. The second of these presents Davis's attempt to unify all previous Phoenix-related stories into one single origin for the Phoenix Force. It's certainly a handy issue for Phoenix-philes, but since we're concerned mainly with the Captain Britain related aspects of this run, it is of little concern for this review. I will mention however, that it guest stars the X-Men, and the beautiful Davis cover makes me wish he'd drawn the interiors.

Sunday, October 20, 2013


In case it hasn't been hammered into your skull yet by way of my Captain Britain reviews -- I love Alan Davis.  I've met him once, in the Marvel booth at the San Diego Comic-Con in 1999, when he was the "plot-master" for the core X-Men books.  I got his autograph and a head sketch of Cyclops -- which, frustratingly, I seem to have misplaced, or I would present it here.  I regret now that I didn't ask Davis for Captain Britain, but I barely knew Cap back then, having never read early EXCALIBUR, and with the Moore/Davis trade paperback reprint a couple years away.

Friday, October 18, 2013


Writer: Simon Furman | Penciler: Andrew Wildman | Inker: Stephen Baskerville
Colorist: John-Paul Bove | Letterer: Chris Mowry | Editor: John Barber
Editor-in-Chief: Chris Ryall

The Plot: On Earth, Springer, Whirl, and Sandstorm fly into Megatron's trap to rescue Kup, while the rest of the Wreckers team up with the human resistance to infiltrate the still-crashed Ark. As the second group battles the Ark's robot guardians, the first team falls to Megatron's zombie forces, and Megatron himself prepares to execute Springer.

Meanwhile, ever since Optimus Prime left for Earth, Hot Rod has been having visions of himself alone on a barren Cybertron, defending it from some unknown foe. He is unable to give these premonitions much thought, however, as Blurr arrives to inform him that someone (Soundwave, unbeknownst to the Autobots) has invaded the Hall of Silence, where the Autobots keep Thunderwing's remains.

And back on Earth, Optimus Prime's group arrives just as Megatron is about to kill Springer. While Prime and Megatron have a stand-off, zombie Starscream manages to choke out two words to his ailing prisoner, Kup: "Kill Ratchet."

Wednesday, October 16, 2013


Following Chris Claremont's departure from EXCALIBUR in 1991, Scott Lobdell wrote seven issues until a new creative team took over with issue #42. As it happened, that team would turn out to be writer Alan Davis and penciler Alan Davis, both returning to the series they had launched years before with Claremont.

Per Davis, his only directive from editorial was to tie up any loose ends that remained from the Claremont era, and he does so with flair. Though not known primarily as an artist, Davis demonstrates an unexpected aptitude for juggling sub-plots and maintaining a clear long-term narrative while interspersing a number of smaller stories along the way. And as you might expect from Davis, he brings the neglected Captain Britain mythos back to the fore.

Monday, October 14, 2013


Note: This collection includes three fill-in issues and an original graphic novel titled "Weird War III". None were written by Chris Claremont, so I did not read them as part of my marathon.

Chris Claremont's finale on EXCALIBUR is a lackluster three-parter titled "Girls' School From HECK" in which Courtney Ross (who Claremont may or may not remember is actually Sat-Yr-9 posing as Courtney) sends Kitty to the finishing school she (Courtney, not Sat-Yr-9 -- but who knows at this point?) attended as a teen.

Kitty makes a rival in Phoebe Huntsman, but the girls put aside their differences to become cheerleaders for England's first American football team and save the school from going bankrupt. Yes, you read that right -- Chris Claremont's graceful exit from EXCALIBUR was apparently re-tooled from a teen farce movie script he couldn't sell back in the eighties.

(To be fair, he may have intended the story to come across as an homage to those types of films, but it's played so straight that it doesn't really come across that way.)

Sunday, October 13, 2013


This past week I finally accomplished a goal of displaying my ideal Avengers team in Bowen statue form. I've been collecting these things for the past few years, and I have a modest group of about twenty or so. Two were just added to my collection: Iron Man and Ms. Marvel. I'm still down a Thor, but since he was produced before I started collecting, and fetches insane prices on the aftermarket, I'm unlikely to acquire one any time soon. So for now, this is it.

Friday, October 11, 2013


Writer: Simon Furman | Penciler: Andrew Wildman | Inker: Stephen Baskerville
Colorist: John-Paul Bove | Letterer: Chris Mowry | Editor: John Barber
Editor-in-Chief: Chris Ryall

The Plot: On Earth, the Wreckers make peace with Circuit Smasher, who takes them to the headquarters of the remaining human resistance, and describes Megatron's conquest of the planet. Megatron sends out a communication informing the Wreckers that he has Kup prisoner. Springer begins to formulate a rescue plan. Meanwhile, after learning of Megatron's presence on Earth, Optimus Prime and Ultra Magnus lead a team of Autobots to stop him. Elsewhere, Bludgeon's Decepticons conquer a planet, then Bludgeon receives a call from Soundwave, informing him that the Autobots are gone and he will now be able to procure the mysterious item Bludgeon requires... which appears to be the remains of a Transformer.

G1 Continuity: Circuit Smasher is revealed to be Spike Witwicky, longtime Autobot ally and once the Headmaster partner of Fortress Maximus. The leader of the human resistance is G.B. Blackrock, who was an oil magnate and friend to the Autobots throughout the original series. Megatron has exposed Kup to the Scraplets, metal-eating space-mites from the Budiansky run.

Also, Circuit Breaker appears -- unnamed in silhouette to avoid rights issues -- during Spike's flashbacks to the Megatron war. Blackrock later mentions her, calling her only "a former employee".

Wednesday, October 9, 2013


"The Cross-Time Caper" continues as Excalibur -- sans Kitty, who was transported back to our Earth during the previous issue's Jamie Braddock story -- travels to an Earth ruled by longtime X-Men foe the Shadow King, in a 2-parter illustrated in sub-standard fashion by Chris Wozniak. Despite his amateurish style, Wozniak somehow becomes the series' regular guest penciler from this point.

Fortunately, Alan Davis soon returns for a 2-parter in which Illyana Rasputin -- Magik of the New Mutants -- corrupted by her demonic powers, rules the Earth (sensing a pattern?). Davis's visuals are as spectacular as ever, but as usual, this installment of "Cross-Time" feels like a waste of paper. Claremont's stories have become less and less inspired with every chapter of "Cross-Time", but mercifully, the story is drawing to a close.