Monday, March 31, 2014


Writer: David Michelinie | Penciler: John Romita, Jr.
Inkers: Dan Green, Chic Stone, & Bob Layton
Letters: Joe Rosen | Colors: Bob Sharen & Don Warfield
Editor: Jim Salicrup | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: On his way to the Yonkers Raceway for some horse races, Iron Man is attacked by a mysterious enemy, who escapes before he can be identified. Our hero proceeds to the races, but is preoccupied and returns to Stark International to find the complex under attack by a very insane Unicorn, who is the same villain that assaulted Iron Man earlier.

Iron Man battles the Unicorn, but uses up all his power reserves in the process of saving several Stark employees. Unicorn prepares to deal the killing blow on behalf of The Other, but Iron Man convinces him The Other has forsaken him, having returned to Russia. The Unicorn departs to travel to Russia and find his missing master, but in his unhinged state, he walks straight into Long Island Sound, apparently drowning.

Saturday, March 29, 2014


Spruced up the ol' blog header last night, to make it look both a little less plain and a little more like a Marvel comic masthead that might accompany the various corner boxes I use for decoration. I think it turned out pretty nicely.

For those who are curious, the letters in "NOT A" are repurposed and rearranged from the words "GIANT SIZE" on an old Marvel cover from the seventies (the "O" was created from the "G"), while the words "HOAX" and "DREAM" are typed in BadaBoom and DamnNoisyKids, respectively -- both of which are free fonts available from the good people at BlamBot. The "Matthew Blogging Group" is of course a reference to my own name.

For posterity, if anyone cares, a comparison between the old, in retrospect lame, header, and the spiffy new one:

Friday, March 28, 2014


Writers: Jimmy Palmiotti & Justin Gray | Pencils: Khari Evans | Inks: Jimmy Palmiotti
Colors: Paul Mounts with Christina Strain
Letters: Artmonkey's Dave Lanphear & Natalie Lanphear
Assistant Editor: Alejandro Arbona | Editor: Warren Simons
Editor-in-Chief: Joe Quesada | Publisher: Dan Buckley

Storywise, "Survival of the Fittest" is a vast, vast, vast improvement over Frank Cho's first SHANNA THE SHE-DEVIL. Palmiotti and Gray squeeze more material into the first issue than Cho covered in his seven. The story begins with a group of pirates boarding the yacht of a crime lord called the Axe-Man and stealing his diamonds. But the ship is attacked by a monstrous leviathan. The pirates escape as the yacht goes down with all hands and passengers aboard.

The pirates, their boat damaged by the sea creatures, arrive at nearby "Monster Island". They run around, chased by dinosaurs and giant bees, and meet up with Shanna, who takes them to her "Swiss Family Robinson" style treehouse, where she now lives with Doc. But the pirates are pursued to the island by Axe-Man and his minions.

The ensuing story covers Shanna's and the Pirates' attempt to get to Axe-Man's seaplane, and their misadventures as they run afoul of a group of savage neanderthals living in a city of Nazi gold, and hordes of veliciraptors out to eat them. After lots of violence and running around the city, our heroes are whittled down to Shanna and two pirates, Dirk, and Ivan. Axe-Man is killed, and his surviving henchmen agree to help the pirates leave the island in exchange for some diamonds.

Shanna shares a kiss with the pirate leader, Dirk, and then he departs with the rest of his people.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014


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

The Plot: Iron Man battles the Living Laser inside the Heaven's Hand complex, while Rhodey ferries Bethany and her injured husband Alex back to the United States. The Laser uses so much power against Iron Man that he begins to overload. He attempts to reconstitute himself before it's too late, but Iron Man stops him and the Laser disperses into particles of light.

Later, back in the U.S., Bethany tells Tony that she will stay with Alex to help him through his rehabilitation. She and Tony part ways, and Tony sheds a tear for the end of their relationship.

Continuity Notes: A footnote tells us that Bethany's and Iron Man's rescue of Alex took place last issue. The Laser then spends a couple pages recapping his recent history: Count Nefaria doubled his power in AVENGERS #164 - 166, but the boost was only temporary. When it wore off, the Laser found that his body now constantly absorbed light, and that he would eventually overload and die. The East Germans offered to help him expel the excess energy by using it to power dormant weapon satellites in Earth's orbit.

The Laser is humanized a bit when Iron Man asks if the thought of betraying his country bothers him and he admits that yes, it somewhat does.

Monday, March 24, 2014


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

The Plot: Iron Man scouts an East German research complex called Heaven's Hand, then returns to the Stark Inernational office in West Germany, where he analyzes his findings. The next day, inside Heaven's Hand, Bethany is brought before another prisoner -- her "late" husband, Alexander van Tilburg. The Germans explain that they faked the death of Alex, East Germany's ambassador to the United States, so that he would reveal to them any information he might have regarding American sleeper agents in Germany. But the drugs they used scrambled Alex's mind, and now the Germans need Bethany to help them inside his head.

That night, Iron Man sneaks into Heaven's Hand, then changes into disguise as an East German major. He has Bethany brought to him, then leads her to a closet for a private conversation. Bethany berates Tony, telling him that her capture was part of her plan to rescue Alex. Mercenaries were to attack the complex, but the equipment Bethany needs to escape with them is in her cell. So she convinces Tony to change into Iron Man and aid her escape.

He does so, and makes short work of the complex's German defenders. Bethany, Alex, and the mercenaries board a plane piloted by Rhodey and escape, but Iron Man is shot down by the Living Laser before he can follow.

Sunday, March 23, 2014


I assume everyone has this quirk, to some extent, and as the winter turns to spring around here, I find myself thinking about it more: There's something in the realm of entertainment that you like, or even love, but you only want to enjoy it in certain weather or at a certain time of year. I'm not talking specifically seasonal things, like watching HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS in December. I mean something along the lines of, to use an example I've provided before, only wanting to read Batman comics in the winter. Batman just feels like a character you should read when the trees outside are dead and the weather is miserable. Bonus points if it's raining (or even snowing, but that's not something I ever encounter where I live).

I assume part of this feeling has something to do with repetition. I find that hour-long dramas are better when viewed in the fall than almost any other time of year, which makes sense since that's when the TV season traditionally starts. But I've found that cable dramas, like GAME OF THRONES, MAD MEN, and JUSTIFIED, feel more correct to me in the springtime -- again, because that's when most of them premiere. But even if the series isn't currenlty airing -- say I just want to pop in a Blu-Ray to watch an episode -- I still would favor the springtime weather. I also prefer to watch most of my cable dramas while it's still light outside, and again I'm not certain just why that is.

Friday, March 21, 2014


Writer & Artist: Frank Cho | Colors: Dave Stewart & Jason Keith
Letters: Richard Starkings & Comicraft's Rob Steen
Assistant Editor: Cory Sedlmeier | Editor: Axel Alonso
Editor-in-Chief: Joe Quesada | Publisher: Dan Buckley

I have to say, nudity protest aside, I think I'm glad I've never bothered to buy a collected edition of this story. For that matter, I'm even happier I never spent the three or four dollars it would've cost per issue when it was first being released. It's just not that good.

But before I get to my criticism, I'll provide a quick summary: A military unit has crashed on an island inhabited by dinosaurs and an old Nazi lab. In the lab, they discover a nubile young woman, a clone developed by the Nazis to be a perfect killing machine, who they name Shanna (after a comic book character). Some of the soldiers are infected by a chemical weapon created by the Nazis, and Shanna, along with the soldiers' leader, "Doc", must travel to the Nazi lab to recover the antidote. They do so and return to camp.

That's it.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014


Plot/Writer: David Michelinie | Plot/Finished Art: Bob Layton
Guest Penciler: Luke McDonnell | Letters: Joe Rosen
Colors: Bob Sharen & Don Warfield | Editor: Jim Salicrup
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: While Tony goes shopping for a new wardrobe with Ling McPherson, Scott Lang, examining the damaged Stark International lab complex, comes under assault by Stark's malfunctioning internal security system, G.A.R.D. (the Graduated Radical Automated Defense system). Scott changes to Ant-Man and eventually defeats the computer. Iron Man arrives to help, only to find Scott, back in civilian attire, waiting casually for him.

Returning to his temporary living quarters, Tony opens the newspaper to find that Bethany has been captured and branded a spy by the Soviet Union.

Continuity Notes: The Stark International complex is still undergoing repairs following Blacklash's rampage in issues 146 and 147. A footnote on the second page reminds readers of Iron Man's duel with Doctor Doom in the distant past as seen last issue. The following page presents a succinct recap of Tony's relationship with Bethany, as Tony reminisces about her yet again.

Monday, March 17, 2014


A tale of magic and majesty told by
Plot/Writer: David Michelinie | Plot/Finished Art: Bob Layton
Pencil Art: John Romita, Jr. | Letters: Joe Rosen | Colors: Bob Sharen
Editor: Jim Salicrup | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Iron Man and Dr. Doom arrive in Camelot, where a group of King Arthur's knights bring them before the King himself. Arthur allows Iron Man and Doom to stay the night as his guests while he determines what to do with them. However, Doom hypnotized a courtesan, forcing her to give him the location of the sorceress Morgana Le Fay, then departs for Morgana's castle. The next day, Iron Man promises Arthur that he will aid Camelot against whatever Doom has planned.

Meanwhile, Doom reaches Castle Le Fay, where he explains to Morgana that he seeks her tutelage in the mystic arts to aid him in rescuing his mother's soul from Mephisto. Morgana agrees, if Doom will first lead her army of undead warriors against Camelot.

Soon, Doom marches on Camelot with Morgana's legion, and Iron Man stands beside Arthur and his knights in the kingdom's defense. But Iron Man soon realizes that Doom could not have raised these warriors himself, and heads for Morgana's castle. Unable to counter Iron Man's technology with her magic, Morgana retreats to another dimension, her warriors dying upon her departure.

Enraged, Doom flies to Morgana's castle. Realizing any spells he might have learned are now gone with Morgana, Doom agrees to a truce with Iron Man. The pair dismantles components from their respective armors, crafting a device to return them to the present day. The gambit is successful, and Iron Man and Doom appear on a snow-capped Balkan mountain. They go their separate ways, with Doom vowing that they will meet again.

Sunday, March 16, 2014


This is old news to many comic fans, but please bear with me (or as relates to Shanna, bare with me).

Back in 2005, Marvel produced a limited series under the Marvel Knights imprint, written and illustrated by the great cheesecake artist Frank Cho, titled SHANNA THE SHE-DEVIL. It was a reimagining of the character who was originally Marvel's answer to Sheena, Queen of the Jungle, set in its own universe independent of Marvel's main continuity.

The thing is, the title was originally intended for Marvel's adult-targeted MAX imprint, and was to feature plenty of gratuitous nudity. I was looking forward to the series, until Marvel changed it to Marvel Knights. At that point I resolved not to support it.

Friday, March 14, 2014


Writers: Jimmy Palmiotti & Justin Gray
Artists: Amanda Conner, Sanford Green, Ted Naifeh, Mike Bowden,
Santi Casas, Tony Akins, Walden Wong
Colorists: Randy Mayor & Paul Mounts | Letterer: Wes Abbott

Art by Amanda Conner
When I started my GUNDAM reviews, I noted that I'm not a huge anime/manga person, which is true. However, I do like the art style quite a bit. I even bought a few of the DC "Bishoujo" statuettes based on that style (I own one single Ame-Comi figure as well).

I've read a few things by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray and generally liked what I saw, so I figured on a lark that I would check out the AME-COMI GIRLS trade paperback when it was released (it didn't hurt that exaggerated female anatomy and skimpy costumes are right up my alley as a discerning collector).

The story is a reimagining of several DC characters, set in a universe where all the superhumans seem to be women -- either female versions of male characters like the Flash, Robin, and Steel, or simply characters like Power Girl and Batgirl filling the roles of Superman and Batman, respectively.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014


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

The Plot: Iron Man rescues a Stark International freighter bound for Latveria from a pirate attack, then orders the vessel to return to America rather than deliver its cargo. Soon, Tony Stark arrives at a regional managers' meeting at SI headquarters and berates then fires one of his men for selling electronic components to Latveria.

Meanwhile, Dr. Doom returns to the present day after studying magic in the distant past with the master mage, Cagliostro. Doom is informed that the electronics he was expecting have returned to the U.S. aboard the Stark freighter. Later, Iron Man stands guard over the electronics when agents of Dr. Doom arrive and best him, stealing the parts and departing.

The next day, Rhodey flies Tony to Latveria, where Tony is immediately approached by the local police. Serving Latveria's current monarch, King Zorba, they provide Tony with the location of Doom, currently considered a criminal, in hopes that Iron Man will take him out. Shortly, Iron Man arrives at Doom's castle and engages in battle with the deposed villain. Their struggle takes them near Doom's time machine, and the doctor's henchman, Hauptmann, activates the device, throwing Doom and Iron Man back in time. Hauptmann then destroys the machine.

Monday, March 10, 2014


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

The Plot: In the Central American country of Costa Diablo, a Stark International office is invaded by revolutionaries, and the installation's staff are taken prisoner. Iron Man travels to Costa Diablo on a rescue mission, and after getting most of the staff out with Rhodey's aid, he invades the presidential palace to spring the Costa Diablo division head, Ricardo Pruz. But when he finally reaches the building's head office, he learns that Pruz was the true leader of the revolution, having embezzled funds and resources from Stark to arm his people.

Iron Man departs in defeat, cautioning Pruz to watch his back, lest he be betrayed just as he betrayed Tony Stark. And just a few days later, Mr. Pithins shows Stark an article reporting that Pruz was executed as a traitor by his own right hand man, General Caligerra.

Sunday, March 9, 2014


This may be my smallest box ever from Discount Comic Book Service: two books. It was supposed to be three, but the CAPTAIN AMERICA EPIC COLLECTION: DAWN'S EARLY LIGHT volume dropped off my order to ship next month instead, due to a shortage from the supplier. I had no plans to read that book any time in the immediate future, however, so I'm fine waiting another month. Thus, without that sole Marvel offering, all I have this time are two volumes from DC -- and just as receiving only two books is a first, so is having my entire order be in the form of DC volumes.

First is BATMAN: MAD LOVE AND OTHER STORIES, a trade paperback collecting most of the Batman comics by Bruce Timm and Paul Dini set in the universe of BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES, along with works from some of their other BTAS collaborators. I have most all of these stories in comic book format (I read the cover off of the single issue MAD LOVE when I was a kid), but this is the first time I will have purchased them as a trade. I believe this book came out a while back in hardcover format, but I passed it up. The trade may in fact have been released previously as well, but when this edition came up for pre-order a couple months ago, I jumped on it.

Friday, March 7, 2014


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

The first half of volume 4 is another fantastic exercise by Yasuhiko in rearranging and re-ordering events from the original MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM to form a more organic and cohesive experience. The White Base makes two stops on its way to Jaburo, one at a Federation base in Lima, and a second in the neutral territory of Cuzco. While both these stops are original creations of Yasuhiko, they incorporate some moments from the original series that had previously taken place aboard ship.

While White Base travels, General M'Quve recruits Zeon's ace pilots, the Black Tri-Stars, to join the upcoming attack on Jaburo. In an event created wholly by Yasuhiko, some of the White Base crew, including Amuro, bump into the Tri-Stars in a market in Cuzco. Much like Amuro's encounter with Ramba Ral previously, this encounter adds a personal element to Amuro's eventual battle with the Tri-Stars.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014


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

The Plot: Iron Man temporarily subdues Blacklash and sets about saving Stark International from an all-consuming inferno. He rescues Pithins, Yvette, and the science students from last issue, and then grabs Mrs. Arbogast from the burning administration building. The fire department has the majority of the blaze contained, leaving only the admin building to be saved. Iron Man grabs an empty boxcar from a nearby train station, fills it with water from Long Island Sound, and extinguishes the last of the fire. However, despite Martinelli's best efforts, Blacklash escapes in the chaos.

Later, Martinelli explains to Tony that he was born Vince Martell, and "Victor Martinelli" is a creation of the Federal Witness Protection Program, following Martell's testifying against his former employers, the mob-run Center City Construction Company in Philadelphia. Martinelli suspects that the heads of Center City saw his photo in TIME and sent Blacklash to kill him.

Knowing Blacklash will try again, Tony and Martinelli prepare a trap for him. And sure enough, the next day Blacklash returns for Martinelli and corners him on Stark's airfield, where Iron Man gets the drop on him. Iron Man returns Blacklash to his bosses at Center City, telling them that if they'll forget about Martinelli, he will forget about them.

Monday, March 3, 2014


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

The Plot: As Mr. Pithins escorts a group of science students around the Stark International grounds, Iron man arrives at the administration building and changes to Tony Stark. Tony greets the students, then welcomes SI's new Vice President, Yvette Avril from the Paris office. Meanwhile, security chief Martinelli gives Pithins an earful over his picture appearing in a TIME magazine article about SI. After work, Martinelli returns to his apartment, where he is attacked by Blacklash (formerly Whiplash). Martinelli's dog, Peanut, is killed in the scuffle, but Martinelli survives.

The next day, Blacklash arrives at Stark International to finish the job. He attacks the grounds and Martinelli's security team moves to fight back, but Iron Man soon arrives to take over. However, Iron Man's battle with Blacklash causes a fire to break out, and the entire Stark complex is engulfed in flames.

Sunday, March 2, 2014


The other night I read the first three issues of AVENGING SPIDER-MAN on Marvel Unlimited. Partly to ogle some awesome Joe Madureira artwork, and partly (morbidly) to see if Zeb Wells still has as poor a grasp on the web-slinger's character as he did during the "Brand New Day" era, the last time I read Spidey's adventures regularly. I was not disappointed on either count.

I have no plans to review the issues here (though I will say that nearly any Spider-Man creative team from the Silver or Bronze ages could've easily told this story in a single issue), but I just had to comment on this one scene, at the end of the final installment. I can suspend my disbelief as well as, if not occasionally even better than, the next guy. But that suspension only goes so far, and it certainly does not go far enough to allow for idiocy like this:

There is no way Jameson is unaware he's talking to his long-time employee Peter Parker, here. No. Way. Two-thirds of his face are visible!! This has to be one of the stupidest things I've seen creators do in a comic set in the mainstream Marvel Universe in a long time.

Okay, just had to vent. Carry on.