Friday, February 28, 2014


Written & Illustrated by: Yoshikazu Yasuhiko
Original story by: Yoshiyuki Tomino & Hajime Yatate
Mechanical Design by: Kunio Okawara

This is a heavy volume, filled with more drama and carnage than anything else so far in the story. It begins with the funeral of Garma Zabi and the introduction of his family: father Degwin (glimpsed briefly at the end of volume 2), the leader of the Principality of Zeon; brother Gihren, the commander-in-chief of Zeon's armed forces, sister Kycilia and brother Dozle (also seen previously in volume 1), admirals of the Zeon navy. Gihren uses the funeral's broadcast to give a rousing speech to the citizens of the Principality, reinforcing the revolution's purpose.

On Earth, White Base continues its journey to South America, now pursued by Ramba Ral, ace Zeon pilot. The politics behind Ral's situation are, I believe, new to the story. It is established that Ral served loyally under Zeon Zum Deikun, founder of the Principality who was overthrown by the Zabis. Out of favor with the ruling family, Ral and his loyal troops served in the reserve forces. But now, following Char's failure to seize the "Trojan Horse", Ral is called to active service by Dozle.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014


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

The Plot: Tony and Rhodey check into the Park Sheraton Hotel in Dallas for the 24th Annual conclave of Electrical Engineers and Innovators. As Tony explores the convention floor, he bumps into several of his business rivals. The Stark International exhibit is soon assaulted by a trio of armored men calling themselves the Raiders. Tony changes to Iron Man and manages to beat the villains back, but not before they total much of the Stark exhibit.

The next day, Tony digs around for clues as to who was behind the attack, which targeted only his exhibit, but comes up empty. On Sunday, the final day of the convention, as Iron Man gives an exhibition for the assembled conventioneers, the Raiders attack again. They briefly have Iron Man on the ropes, but in the end he turns the tide and defeats them.

Later, Edwin Cord, head of the Cord Conglomerate, uses footage of the Raiders in action in an attempt to win a contract from SHIELD. But SHIELD Agent Burke is appalled at Cord's use of the mercenaries and their assault on Stark's private property, and orders Cord arrested instead.

Monday, February 24, 2014


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

The Plot: Iron Man and Sunturion team up to stop Star Well I from crashing in Sarasota, Florida. Sunturion super-charges Iron Man's deflector beam, allowing it to knock the plummeting space station off course, causing it to splash down in the Gulf of Mexico. Sunturion's body dissipates in the effort.

The next day, on Earth, Tony Stark is invited by Roxxon Oil to a celebrity golf benefit for the victims in Allantown, which is being played in the media as an anthrax outbreak. Tony tells Mrs. Arbogast to decline the invitation.

Continuity Notes: Sunturion laments the fact that Iron Man disabled Star Well's self-destruct system last issue (apparently forgetting that if he hadn't, they would both be dead right now).

The opening narration tells us that the Allantown incident occurred "two days ago", meaning that only 48 hours have passed since Tony Stark's yacht was hijacked in the Caribbean in issue #140.

Sunday, February 23, 2014


Even though my main sources of entertainment these days tend to be television and old comic books, I still find time for the occasional prose novel here and there if it tickles my fancy. And watching all those episodes of SHERLOCK recently got me in the mood to read some Sherlock Holmes. I've read all the original Doyle works before, though I would have no problem checking most any of them out again -- but in the third season premiere of SHERLOCK, a reference was made to Jack the Ripper, and it got me wondering if anyone had ever produced a story in which Holmes attempted to solve the grisly Whitechapel murders.

So I Googled the matter and found that, sure enough, there have been a number of Holmes vs. Jack stories over the years, both written and on film. The one work that really caught my attention was a novel titled DUST AND SHADOW: AN ACCOUNT OF THE RIPPER KILLINGS BY DR. JOHN H. WATSON. The book was written by Lyndsay Faye, and every review I saw said that she captured the spirit and voice of the original Doyle works near perfectly. I downloaded the first chapter to my Kindle app and was hooked immediately, so I quickly went ahead and purchased the full book.

Be Warned: Some minor spoilers follow from this point.

Friday, February 21, 2014


Written & Illustrated by: Yoshikazu Yasuhiko
Original story by: Yoshiyuki Tomino & Hajime Yatate
Mechanical Design by: Kunio Okawara

Yoshikazu Yasuhiko continues his retelling and deepening of the original MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM SAGA in this second volume of GUNDAM: THE ORIGIN. The story picks up with White Base now on Earth, forced off course by Char's forces so that the ship is trapped in the Zeon-controlled North American southwest. The ship immediately comes under attack by Garma Zabi's forces, but with the aid of the Gundam, manages to fight off this initial sortie.

Yasuhiko borrows some cues from the GUNDAM compilation movies for his reorganization of this segment of the saga. The initial battle with Garma's forces is a combination of a couple separate events from the TV series, and it works much better this way. Rather than Garma ineffectively and repetitiously attacking White Base multiple times during its journey through his territory, he really only has one major initial encounter with the "Trojan Horse".

Wednesday, February 19, 2014


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

The Plot: As Iron Man gapes in awe at the Roxxon space station, a meteor shower flies through the area. Iron Man is joined in fighting off the meteors by an armored figure named Sunturion, the space station's guardian. Sunturion invites Iron Man aboard, where the armored Avenger is greeted by Arthur Dearborn, the station's designer. Dearborn gives Iron Man a tour and explains that the station, called Star Well I, was created as a receptor and storage unit for solar radiation.

Dearborn admits that the Allentown, Iowa incident was the result of a malfunction in Star Well's systems. Iron Man is preparing to incarcerate Dearborn when Russian satellite attack drones enter Star Well's airspace, having tracked Iron Man to the station. Dearborn reveals that he and Sunturion are one and the same, then the duo heads out to stop the drones, after which they return to the station separately.

Dearborn receives a call from Jonas Hale with Roxxon, asking for a status report. But when Hale learns that Iron Man is aboard the station, he attempts to remotely detonate it. Iron man, however, has removed the self-destruct mechanism, keeping Star Well intact. Hale then begs Iron Man to let him remain aboard the station, but Iron Man refuses, resulting in a battle between the pair, which causes collateral damage that sends Star Well plummeting toward the Earth.

Monday, February 17, 2014


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

The Plot: Tony, Bethany, and Ling return to Stark International to find a horde of Stark employees awaiting Tony's attention for various matters. Among these issues is the fact that a SHIELD unit, led by Nick Fury, has moved into Stark's analytical lab complex to investigate the mystery of Allentown. After making a date with Bethany for later that night, Tony speaks with Fury and learns the fate of Allentown. SHIELD has deduced that the town's citizens were killed by a bombardment of microwave radiation from outer space.

Leaving Fury and his men to their investigation, Tony returns to his office, where he is greeted by Senator Mountebank, who tries to persuade Tony to cover up the Allentown situation. Tony kicks Mountebank out and returns to work. Meanwhile, Stark's director of communications, Mike Trudeau, receives a call from a mysterious employer, ordering him to shut down SHIELD's investigation. Trudeau steals the recently rebuilt Jupiter Landing Vehicle and attacks the lab complex. Iron Man defeats the JLV and has Trudeau taken into custody.

Realizing more is going on than he'd initially realized, Iron Man dons his prototype outer space armor and flies to Allentown. Tracing the microwave radiation to its source, he flies into space and finds an enormous Roxxon space station orbiting the Earth.

Sunday, February 16, 2014


My second box of the year is a big one. As I think I've mentioned before, I have a large blind spot in my comic book knowledge when it comes to DC stuff. I've read plenty of mini-series and one-shots, but barely any ongoing series. So, since DC has been making a surprising effort to get some of their classic material into print, I've been biting. Among this month's books are SUPERMAN: THE MAN OF STEEL volume 8, continuing a reprint series DC began several years ago, and GREEN LANTERN: SECTOR 2814 volume 3.

My understanding is that one more Superman volume will finish John Byrne's run from the eighties, and whenever that comes to pass, I'll probably finally open the books and read them through. I bought volumes 1 through 7 on sale last year, and I'm watiing eagerly to read the whole set. The Green Lantern series, I believe, completes the original pre-CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS run of that series under that title. It was re-titled as GREEN LANTERN CORPS for the remainder of its existence, and one volume of that run is already in print. I'm uncertain how I will proceed with these books, but I'll get to them eventually.

Friday, February 14, 2014


Written & Illustrated by: Yoshikazu Yasuhiko
Original story by: Yoshiyuki Tomino & Hajime Yatate
Mechanical Design by: Kunio Okawara

GUNDAM: THE ORIGIN is part retelling, part reboot of the original GUNDAM saga. It keeps the major story beats and arcs, but adds some much welcome additional details to the characters and story.

The inaugural volume begins with a brief recap of the universe's backstory: it is the year 0079 of the Universal Century, and humans have lived for some time in space colonies. The furthest colonies from the Earth named themselves the Principality of Zeon and declared their independence, sparking a civil war between the terrestrial Earth Federation and the forces of Zeon. Both sides' weapons of choice in this war were massive humanoid tanks called mobile suits. In only one month of fighting, half the entire human population was wiped out, and a stalemate was reached.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014


Plot/Writer: David Michelinie | Plot/Finished Art: Bob Layton
Pencil Art: John Romita, Jr. | Letterer: John Costanza
Colorists: Nel Yomtov & Ed Hannigan | Editor: Jim Salicrup
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Iron Man searches the sea, but finds no sign of his stolen yacht. He returns to the raft holding Rhodey and changes back to Tony Stark just in time to be picked up by the authorities. Meanwhile, Bethany is taken before Justin Hammer, the mastermind behind the missing yacht. Hammer explains that he has been contracted by an American businessman to deliver a great deal of opium to the U.S., and he intends to use the various yachts hijacked by Force for that purpose. Before having Bethany locked up, Hammer reveals to her that they are aboard his new headquarters, a massive, shark shaped submarine.

Elsewhere, Tony has reconfigured Iron Man's sensors to detect heat signatures beneath the ocean's surface. He suits up and heads out, soon locating Hammer's sub. Force intercepts Iron Man, leading to an undersea duel which sees the armored Avenger using all his energy reserves to defeat his foe. Iron Man storms aboard the submarine and uses its power source to recharge his armor, then seeks out Hammer. The power fluctuations caused by our hero allow Bethany and captured passengers from various other stolen boats to escape their cells.

Iron Man confronts Hammer, but the villain triggers the submarine's self destruct system. Iron Man races to save Bethany rather than capture his enemy, allowing Hammer to escape. Our hero finds no sign of Bethany before the sub detonates, but when he returns to the surface, he finds her, along with the other hostages, aboard the captured yachts, having commandeered them during the sub's destruction.

Back at Tony's villa, our heroes enjoy some R&R while they recover. Meanwhile, in the United States, Nick Fury and SHIELD investigate Allentown, Iowa, where the town's two hundred residents are confirmed deceased.

Monday, February 10, 2014


Writer-Co-Plotters-Artist: David Michelinie & Bob Layton
Letterer: John Costanza | Colorists: Ben Sean & Bob Sharen | Editor: Jim Salicrup
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Tony has taken Bethany, Rhodey, Ling, and Dr. Ehrmann down to his private island in the Bahamas to facilitate Ling's recovery from her recent beating. As the group relaxes and frolics, nearby a cruise ship is hijacked by an armored villain his lackies, the latest in a string of similar takeovers.

The next day, while Tony and Rhodey go SCUBA diving, Tony's yacht is taken by those same hijackers, their leader revealed as the Force. Bethany manages to throw Tony's briefcase into the sea, but Force's men hurl a pair of concussion grenades along with it. Rhodey is knocked out shielding Tony from the grenades, allowing Tony to change into Iron Man unobserved.

Iron Man leaves Rhodey on a life raft, then goes after his yacht. But his flight is intercepted by the Force's men, aboard flying jet-skis. Iron Man defeats the goons, but the yacht has vanished.

Back in the U.S.A., the citizens of a small town called Allentown, Iowa all drop dead at the same time.

Sunday, February 9, 2014


I'm not a huge anime/manga person, but I've checked out the odd series in both formats here and there, most frequently back when I was in college and there was an anime boom on Cartoon Network. But of the series I looked at back then, only a very few stuck with me to the point that I would consider myself a fan. One of those properties is MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM.

I first encountered Gundam, as I imagine is the case for many Americans of a certain age, via Cartoon Network's broadcast of GUNDAM WING on their Toonami programming block back in 2000 or so. I had heard of Gundam previously, but never seen it. GUNDAM WING introduced me to the franchise, and while I enjoyed the show quite a bit on its own merits -- I still dust it off to watch every few years -- it was soon overshadowed in my estimation by the original 1979 series, MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM.

Friday, February 7, 2014


The final volume of Archie Goodwin/Al Williamson STAR WARS newspaper strips begins with Luke Skywalker and Vrad Dodonna, son of rebel General Jan Dodonna, about to attack Darth Vader's flagship Executor with the power gem procured previously by Han Solo and Chewbacca. However, Luke has learned that Vrad is a coward who deserted his unit during the previous battle he was involved in.

Vrad ditches Luke after the attack begins, but ultimately has a change of heart and makes a suicide run against the Executor, weakening its shields and allowing the Milennium Falcon to score a hit against its engines. The damage is minor, but keeps the super star destroyer occupied with repairs long enough for the rebel evactuaton to take place.

The following sequence drips with tension and excitement as the Mon Calamari create a diversion, attacking the Imperial blockade while the rebels exit the Yavin system via a route that takes them past an unstable star. The Executor is repaired and Vader moves to intercept, but the overly anxious Admiral Griff -- originally introduced as Vader's subordinate during the arc where Luke infiltrated the Imperial construction yard some time back -- brings his own fleet out of hypserspace too close to Vader's, resulting in the destruction of Griff's ships and the ultimate escape of the rebels.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014


Writer-Co-Plotters-Artist: David Michelinie & Bob Layton
Letterer: John Costanza | Colorist: Ed Hannigan | Editor: Jim Salicrup
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Madame Masque explains to Tony that she rejoined the Maggia following their split, and that she had intended to have Bethany beaten to keep her away from Tony. As Masque finishes her story, Rhodey bursts into the room on a forklift, pursued by Dreadnoughts. Tony dons his helmet and flies Bethany to safety, then returns to the Technical Press building to aid Rhodey. Despite Iron Man's orders to return to Stark International, Bethany heads back to the building as well, intent on settling Ling's score with Madame Masque.

While Iron Man battles the Dreadnoughts, Rhodey attempts to retrieve the energizer link, but runs afoul of Spymaster. Spymaster attempts escape in the Technical Press helicopter, but Rhodey pursues in a gyrocopter and his fancy flying causes Spymaster to crash. Iron Man defeats the Dreadnoughts while Bethany confronts Madame Masque. When Bethany tells Masque that Tony almost destroyed himself with alcohol after she left, Masque flies into a rage and attacks. But Bethany dodges Masque's gunfire and disarms her. After lecturing Masque on the true meaning of love, she lets her go and reunites with Iron Man and Rhodey outside the building.

Monday, February 3, 2014


Writer-Co-Plotters-Penciler: David Michelinie & Bob Layton
Finisher: Tom Palmer | Letterer: John Costanza | Colorist: Ed Hannigan
Editor: Jim Salicrup | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Tony and Rhodey arrive at the hospital where Ling is still in critical, but stable condition. Tony attempts to send Bethany back to Stark International while he investigates Ling's beating, but Bethany and Rhodey go against orders and accompany Tony. Together they break into the penthouse of Harmon Taylor, the man Ling had been guarding, to find Taylor dead and replaces by Spymaster. With surprise on his side, Spymaster knocks our heroes out with a gas grenade and absconds with Bethany and Tony's briefcase.

When they come to, Tony and Rhodey search for clues. Tony finds a check written to Taylor from a company called Technical Press, which Tony knows to be a front for the Maggia crime family. Tony and Rhodey head to Technical Press's headquarters and infiltrate it, and no sooner are they separated than Tony finds the Director's office and his briefcase. He has just finished donning his armor when the Director, revealed as Madame Masque, arrives with two Dreadnoughts and declares her intention to kill him.

Sunday, February 2, 2014


In the early nineties, the Warner Brothers television animation department was in the midst of what would eventually be dubbed a "second golden age" for cartoon musical scores. Programs like TINY TOON ADVENTURES, ANIMANIACS, and BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES featured original scores for each and every episode, crafted by a variety of talented composers and performed by a full (roughly 30-piece) orchestra. BATMAN was followed a few years later by SUPERMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES, from the same creative and musical teams.

Helming the musical side of these DC superhero shows was the great Shirley Walker. Walker came up with the recurring themes and motifs to be used for the majority of the series' main characters and villains, and she contributed many complete scores to both shows herself, but scoring as many episodes as Bruce Timm's production team created was unfeasible for one person. So Walker also trained and supervised a group of younger composers, which eventually shrunk to her core regular group: Kristopher Carter, Harvey R. Cohen, Michael McCuistion, and Lolita Ritmanis.