Friday, January 30, 2015


By Jeph Loeb & Tim Sale
With Richard Starkings & Comicraft's Wes Abbott / Steve Buccellato
Comicraft's JG Roshell / Bronwyn Taggart / Nanci Dakesian / Joe Quesada / Bill Jemas
Dedicated to Stan Lee & Steve Ditko & John Romita, web-heads all!

It's hard for me to choose a favorite between DAREDEVIL: YELLOW and SPIDER-MAN: BLUE. Both are tremendous pieces of work, perhaps the finest retellings of these characters' earlier periods than anything else I've ever read. But in the end, BLUE edges out YELLOW by a slight margin, simply because it stars Spider-Man, my all-time favorite superhero character.

And it's not just any Spider-Man we're following here, either. This is the web-slinger as I love him best, as I was introduced to him via reprints of the Stan Lee/John Romita comics. This is Peter Parker, in college, rooming with Harry Osborn. He's moved past the formative high school years and become, in my opinion, the most iconic version of the character. There are those who prefer Spider-Man in high school. There are those who prefer him married, or as a single adult. But for me, there is absolutely no better status quo for the wall-crawler than as an undergraduate at Empire State University, and there is no better run of Spider-Man issues than roughly AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #40 - 100.

So it's no surprise that I love BLUE so much. It begins during AMAZING issue 40, immediately after the wall-crawler's most influential artist, John Romita, came onto the title (apologies to you Ditko-fans out there -- I like the guy, and I fully acknowledge that without him we would not have Spider-Man or most of his best enemies -- but taking that for granted, I much prefer the style Romita brought to the characters and the stories).

Wednesday, January 28, 2015


Co-Creators: Marv Wolfman & George Pérez | Inker: Romeo Tanghal
Letterers: John Costanza (#11) & Ben Oda (#12)
Colorist: Adrienne Roy | Editor: Len Wein

The Plot: The Titans travel to Paradise Island, home of the Amazons, in hopes that their "Purple Ray" might save Changeling's life. While Wonder Girl, Starfire, and Raven remain with Changeling, Robin, Cyborg, and Kid Flash depart to search for Changeling's long-missing stepfather, Steve Dayton.

Meanwhile, in the underworld realm of Tartarus, the elder god (or titan) Hyperion awakens and returns to Earth over Paradise Island. Wonder Girl heads out to intercept Hyperion, but he enthralls her and brings her back to Tartarus so he can free his fellow titans, all of whom have been imprisoned with him for 30,000 years, courtesy of Zeus and the second generation of Olympian gods.

Hippolyte, queen of the Amazons, leads a war party into Tartarus, accompanied by Starfire and Raven, to recover Wonder Girl. But Hyperion succeeds in releasing his brethren and when the Amazons arrive, Wonder Girl announces that she's joined the titans. She departs with Hyperion and the others. Then, a mysterious figure appears to aid Hippolyte.

My Thoughts: The hits just keep coming. This is yet another excellent issue, and it doesn't even suffer from any of the logical inconsistencies that have plagued recent installments. I had hopes since issue 7, but now I think it's safe to declare with certainty that THE NEW TEEN TITANS has hit its stride. The characters are consistent, the stories are engrossing, and the continuity and sub-plots are strong enough to hold a reader's interest from issue to issue.

Monday, January 26, 2015


Co-Creators: Marv Wolfman & George Pérez | Inker: Romeo Tanghal
Letterer: Ben Oda | Colorist: Adrienne Roy | Editor: Len Wein

The Plot: Working for the H.I.V.E., the villainous Puppet Master has been systematically murdering board members of Dayton Industries, the company run by Changeling's stepfather, using toys to carry out the hits. When an attempt is made on his own life, Changeling calls Robin for some detective assistance. Robin learns that the deceased board members were also part of Dayton's Promethium committee, working on a project to produce infinite renewable energy.

Elsewhere, the remaining Teen Titans are going about their daily lives when, one by one, they fall under the thrall of the Puppet Master. Only Raven is unaffected, and she goes for help from Robin and Changeling. But Puppet Master sends his controlled Titans to finish off the Promethium committee and kill Robin and Changeling, bringing all the Titans together in one location. Kid Flash frees himself from Puppet Master's control and together with Robin, Changeling, and Raven, manages to restore the rest of the team as well.

The Titans locate Puppet Master's hideout and battle his toys while the villain escapes. In the aftermath, the H.I.V.E. orders Puppet Master executed, while elsewhere, Deathstroke the Terminator breaks into a Dayton facility and steals the plans for Project: Promethium.

Sunday, January 25, 2015


A love letter to the X-Men of the mid-nineties.

A few weeks back, in my review of WOLVERINE AND GAMBIT: VICTIMS, I noted that "...VICTIMS takes me back to high school and the year between 'Age of Apocalypse' and 'Onslaught', one of my favorite points in X-Men history." This bold statement elicited a comment from reader wwk5d, who said: "Interesting. That is probably one of my least favorite points."

I get this a lot, and I've seen the sentiment expressed often from many quarters. But it's just not the case for me. And don't get me wrong; I'm certain nostalgia plays a huge role in my opinion here. So much so that I'm going to ask you to bear with me as a provide a little backstory to hopefully explain where I'm coming from when I describe my affection for this era.

Although I had dabbled in the X-Men dating back to the Claremont/Lee X-MEN 1-3, I didn't become a regular X-reader until age fourteen with 1993's X-MEN #20, the issue whose cover teased the dramatic return of someone wearing a billowing purple cape. It wasn't Magneto, as readers were meant to believe, but Psylocke's former body possessed of a different character's consciousness (it's a long, long, long, long story -- and, perhaps tellingly as it pertains to the rest of this post, I was positively enraptured at that time by the mystery of Psylocke and her "twin", Revanche). In any case, the bait-and-switch tactic worked beautifully on me and from that issue forward I continued to pick up Fabian Nicieza's X-MEN every month.

Friday, January 23, 2015


Storytellers: Jeph Loeb & Tim Sale | Colors: Matt Hollingsworth
Lettering: Richard Starkings & Comicraft's Wes Abbott
Editors: Bronwyn Taggart & Stuart Moore | Man Without Fear: Joe Quesada
President: Bill Jemas
Dedicated to Stan Lee & Bill Everett & Wally Wood, prizefighters all!

The term "bittersweet, timeless classic" gets thrown around a lot these days, but in the case of DAREDEVIL: YELLOW, no description is more apt. This is a wonderful story from Loeb and Sale, told via a framing sequence set in then-modern continuity, as Matt "Daredevil" Murdock struggles to cope with the recent death of his longtime girlfriend, Karen Page. At the urging of his friend, Foggy Nelson, Matt writes a series of letters to Karen in which he describes the earliest days of their relationship.

Unlike HULK: GRAY, which structured (or, in terms of publication chronology, will structure) its entire six-part story to fit within the first issue of the Hulk's original series, covering less than 24 hours' time and therefore making up a great deal of material, DAREDEVIL: YELLOW threads its tale through the first four issues of the classic DAREDEVIL series, covering what seem to be the first few months of Daredevil's career and drawing heavily upon the original stories by Stan Lee, Bill Everett, and Joe Orlando, resulting in a much more satisfying read.

The story begins as Matt and Foggy near the end of law school. Matt's father, "Battlin'" Jack Murdock, a boxer, is killed by an agent named the Fixer when he refuses to throw a fight. Matt, blinded at an early age by exposure to a radioactive isotope which exponentially heightened all his remaining senses, dons a yellow-and-brown costume crafted from his father's gear and, calling himself Daredevil, goes for revenge upon the Fixer. The agent dies of a heart attack, however, robbing Daredevil of the chance to see justice done.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015


Co-Creators: Marv Wolfman & George Pérez | Embellisher: Romeo Tanghal
Letterer: Ben Oda | Colorist: Adrienne Roy | Editor: Len Wein

The Plot: Starfire meets Wonder Girl, in her civilian guise as photographer Donna Troy, for lunch at Donna's advertising agency. There, Starfire is recruited to become a model. Meanwhile, Robin departs Titans' Tower, having recently rejoined the circus, and promises Raven he will be back for the next Titans' meeting in a week.

Once Robin is gone, Raven considers attending Manhattan University and sends her astral form to check the school out. But the University is being held by a group of revolutionaries, and Raven is forced into action to take them out and defuse their bombs. She succeeds, but her astral form is away from her body for too long and is hurled into another dimension. With all the skill and tenacity she can muster, Raven escapes and returns to her mortal body.

Elsewhere, Changeling is visiting Cyborg when he receives a call from his currently missing stepfather's business manager, who informs him that two members of his stepfather's board of directors have been murdered. Changeling leaves to investigate.

Cyborg departs as well, paying a visit to his old girlfriend, Marcy, who he hasn't seen since before his accident. She asks him to leave, her parents having forbidden her from associating with him. As he wanders through Central Park, Cyborg bumps into a group of children with prosthetic limbs, out for physical therapy. Cyborg joins the kids' baseball game.

Monday, January 19, 2015


Co-Creators: Marv Wolfman & George Pérez
Inkers: Pablo Marcos (issue 6) & Romeo Tanghal (issue 7)
Colorists: Jerry Serpe (issue 6) & John Drake (issue 7)
Letterer: John Costanza | Editor: Len Wein

The Plot: Trigon returns to his dimension with Raven. Upon their arrival, Trigon executes a young girl for calling him a monster, then destroys a world with which he is at war.

Meanwhile, the Titans convince Raven's mother, Arella, to lead them to Trigon's dimension. There, the group goes in search of Raven but finds Trigon instead. He easily defeats the Titans, but Arella escapes and rescues Raven. While Trigon fights Arella, Raven frees the Titans. The entire group then combines their powers to defeat Trigon, banishing him to a nether-realm between dimensions. But Arella sacrifices herself to live forever in that realm as well, keeping Trigon trapped there.

My Thoughts: As can be gleaned from the above synopsis, this is another issue featuring characters getting shuffled around in all different directions for little real purpose. Maybe I harp on this too much, but it's just such a weird storytelling mechanism that I feel it's worth noting.

Otherwise, this is a decent conclusion to the Trigon saga, complete with an X-MEN-esque denouement which features all the Titans (save Changeling, who is involved in his own side skirmish) combining their powers to stop Trigon. Arella's fate is easy to predict, given the big to-do made of her leaving Azarath, but it nonetheless adds some nice emotional impact to the finale.

Sunday, January 18, 2015


A new year brings with it a new series of "Unboxing" posts, and we're kicking things off nicely with offerings from both Marvel and DC this month.

First we have WARLOCK MASTERWORKS volume 1 (paperback edition). I am a huge fan of Jim Starlin's Adam Warlock, and I own the hardcover version of the second WARLOCK MASTERWORKS volume, containing all of Starlin's work with the character (more recently reprinted in a non-Masterworks trade paperback edition). But I've never read the earlier Warlock material by Roy Thomas and friends, so this trade seemed like the best way to do that. Also, it has the dubious honor of being the final paperback Marvel Masterworks volume, as that secondary line has been officially discontinued.

Next from Marvel is X-MEN: THE ROAD TO ONSLAUGHT volume 3, the final installment in the series covering the full year of X-Material between "Age of Apocalypse" and "Onslaught". I will reiterate for the umpteenth time that, despite its many detractors, this was possibly my favorite period for the X-Men growing up, and I love that I now have that full year in my possession via three thick paperbacks. Next stop: ONSLAUGHT OMNIBUS!

Friday, January 16, 2015


Storytellers: Jeph Loeb & Tim Sale | Colors: Matt Hollingsworth
Lettering & Design: Richard Starkings & Comicraft's John Roshell
Managing Editor: Nanci Dakesian | Associate Managing Editor: Kelly Lamy
Editor-in-Chief: Joe Quesada | President Bill Jemas
Dedicated to Stan Lee & Jack Kirby, the original Jade Giants!

I don't know much about the original Hulk comics on which this story is based, but as it turns out, I really needn't have read them anyway. Unlike the other two "color" series, DAREDEVIL: YELLOW and SPIDER-MAN: BLUE, as we'll see in coming weeks, I had forgotten that HULK: GRAY draws much less on early Marvel continuity, instead creating much of its story from whole cloth.

The tale is narrated by Bruce Banner and Dr. Leonard Samson, set up via a framing sequence. Banner is on the lam as usual, but wants someone to talk to. Enter Samson, his psychiatrist pal. Together they delve into the first day or so after the Hulk's creation in order to better understand the triangle relationship between the Hulk, Betty Ross, and her father, the Hulk's arch-antagonist, General "Thunderbolt" Ross.

Even though it was published last in the set of "color" series, I've chosen to cover GRAY first because it's my least favorite of the group and I want to go in ascending order of preference rather than publication order. I suppose part of the reason this series does so little for me is simply that I've never been much of a fan of the Hulk as a solo character. I like him as an antagonist in other characters' series, and I enjoy him solo when he's intelligent -- but reading about the big dumb Hulk is about as appealing to me as reading about the adventures of a brick.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015


Co-Creators: Marv Wolfman & George Pérez | Inker: Romeo Tanghal
Guest Penciler: Curt Swan (#5) | Letterer: Ben Oda | Colorist: Adrienne Roy
Editor: Len Wein

The Plot: The Justice League attempts to stop a trio of sorcerers from releasing something evil, but Raven appears and tries to break up the fight. The sorcerers drive the JLA back, then Raven teleports to the Temple of Azarath, her birthplace, where she fails to procure her mother's aid in saving the Earth from Trigon.

Raven returns to Titans' Tower, where she finds the Titans, released by the Fearsome Five and in the thrall of Psimon. The Titans head to the Justice League satellite to attack their elders, and Raven follows. She frees the Titans from Psimon's control by making them believe they've killed the JLA. Meanwhile, Dr. Light convinces the rest of the Fearsome Five that they should turn on Psimon.

Raven teleports the Titans to the three wizards, but the Justice League is right behind. Another fight breaks out and the sorcerers fail in their task. Trigon gains a foothold on Earth and promises that his first demonic follower, Goronn, will soon arrive. Then Zatanna reveals to the Titans that Raven is crawling with evil, but Raven protests that this is her heritage, not her personality. Nonetheless, when the Titans realize that Raven tricked them into forming a team, even going so far as to magically seduce Kid Flash, they give her the cold shoulder and depart.

Monday, January 12, 2015


Writer-Co-Creators-Layouts: Marv Wolfman & George Pérez
Finishes: Romeo Tanghal (#2) & Frank Chairmonte (#3)
Letterer: Ben Oda | Colorist: Adrienne Roy | Editor: Len Wein

The Plot: The H.I.V.E. (Hierarchy of International Vengeance and Eliminations) attempts to hire the mercenary Deathstroke to kill the new Teen Titans. Deathstroke refuses, but the H.I.V.E. scans him during their meeting and then grafts his power -- the ability to use the full capacity of his brain -- onto Grant Wilson. Calling himself the Ravager, Wilson attacks the Titans but overtaxes his abilities and dies.

Deathstroke, having followed Ravager to the Titans' temporary base, vows vengeance on them for their part in Ravager's death. Later, in his civilian guise, Deathstroke visits Grant Wilson's grave and reveals himself as Wilson's father. The H.I.V.E. members observe Deathstroke's mourning, pleased that they've acquired his services for no cost.

My Thoughts: There are several sub-plots in this issue too, as an attraction begins between Robin and Starfire, Cyborg spends more time hating his father, Kid Flash wonders if Raven did something to force him into rejoining the Titans, and Raven seeks forgiveness from... someone in a realm beyond our own before revealing to the Titans that the reason she gathered them together is about to become apparent.

Sunday, January 11, 2015


Hardcover, 2014. Collects 1988's X-FACTOR #27 - 32, X-FACTOR ANNUAL #3, UNCANNY X-MEN #228 - 238, UNCANNY X-MEN ANNUAL #12, NEW MUTANTS #62 - 70, NEW MUTANTS ANNUAL #4, and material from MARVEL AGE ANNUAL #4 and MARVEL FANFARE #40.

As noted in December's THE UNBOXING, I recently acquired Marvel's newly released X-MEN: INFERNO PROLOGUE hardcover volume. This book fills a long-present gap in Marvel's collections of the UNCANNY X-MEN series and its related titles. The full details are on my X-MEN COLLECTED EDITIONS page, but the short of is that, thanks to this book bringing us issues 228 - 238, we now have the entirety of UNCANNY X-MEN, issues 220 through 306, collected in oversize hardcover format (and issues 220 - 337 collected in some format or another, between oversize and standard size hardcovers and trade paperbacks!).

But that's not all -- INFERNO PROLOGUE also brings us X-FACTOR issues 27 - 32, NEW MUTANTS issues 62 - 70, plus a few assorted annuals. That means, for those keeping track, via previous books plus this one, we now have X-FACTOR 19 - 40 in oversize hardcover and NEW MUTANTS 55 - 73 in the same format (in fact, thanks again to various trade paperbacks and other collections, most notably the NEW MUTANTS CLASSIC series, every issue of that title is collected save for issues 74 - 85 -- not bad!).

So for completists, the issues contained in this book are greatly appreciated. But what about the quality of the material and the volume itself?

Friday, January 9, 2015


Words and Pictures: Jeph Loeb & Tim Sale
Lettering: Richard Starking and Comicraft | Colors: Gregory Wright
Separations: Digital Chameleon (issues 1 & 2) & Malibu's Hues (issues 3 & 4)
Editor: Mark Powers | Editor-in-Chief: Bob Harras

Come with me now to the nineties, a decade extremely near to my comic book reading heart but one which I've covered very little (if at all?) since beginning this blog. In 1995, the X-Men were in a state of flux. The post-Chris Claremont era's status quo had changed somewhat following the "Age of Apocalypse" crossover, and it was an exciting time to be an X-fan. Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters had moved to Massachusetts under the stewardship of Banshee and the reformed Emma Frost. The name "Onslaught" (Who was he? What was he?) was on everyone's lips. And Wolverine was devolving by the day into a feral shadow of his former self.

Which brings us to VICTIMS, by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale. At the time Loeb was the regular writer of both X-MAN and CABLE. Over at DC, he had teamed with artist Sale on a handful of projects including three well-regarded BATMAN: HAUNTED KNIGHT Halloween one-shots, but, aside from a short annual backup story starring Bishop (more on that below), this was the duo's first work for Marvel.

Loeb and Sale use Wolverine's deteriorating humanity as the springboard for their story, as Gambit learns that an old friend in the London police is the latest victim in a string of modern day "Jack the Ripper" murders. Gambit heads to England to investigate and runs afoul of the law, as well as Wolverine, who is apparently the killer.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015


Writer-Co-Creators-Penciler: Marv Wolfman & George Pérez
Finishers: Dick Giordano (DCP #26) & Romeo Tanghal (NTT #1)
Letterer: Ben Oda | Colorist: Adrienne Roy | Editor: Len Wein

The Plot: In New York City, Robin comes to the aid of the authorities outside S.T.A.R. Labs, where terrorists are holding the building hostage. As Robin attempts to enter S.T.A.R., he finds himself drifting between his current situation and some other reality where he is a member of the Teen Titans alongside his former teammates Wonder Girl, Kid Flash, and Changeling (formerly Beast Boy), as well as three new teens named Cyborg, Raven, and Starfire. In this world, the Titans operate out of Titans' Tower on an island in the East River, and they're called into action to defend the city from an otherworldly blob-like organism.

Robin drifts back and forth between scenarios, but realizes the two worlds are connected when he and the Titans ultimately defeat the alien monster at S.T.A.R. Labs. Finally, Robin remains in the original version of New York, without the Titans, and wanders away after defusing the hostage situation, wondering if his encounter with the Titans was a dream. But his departure is observed by the mysterious Raven, who knows that his vision will soon make sense, as the new Teen Titans are part of his destined future.

My Thoughts: There's a lot crammed into this fourteen page preview story! Starfire, Cyborg, and Raven are all introduced with moments to showcase their powers and, to some extent, their personalities. I'll spare readers the long of it, since the characters can easily be Googled (and honestly, if you're here you probably know something about them anyway), but quickly: Raven is a magical character; Starfire is a solar-charged alien; and Cyborg is... a cyborg.

The returning Titans also each have a moment to shine. Wonder Girl is basically Wonder Woman Jr. (complete with her own golden lasso); the green-skinned Changeling can turn into any animal; Kid Flash, like Wonder Girl, is a junior version of his senior partner, the lightning quick Flash; and if you don't know what Robin's deal is, that's your own darn fault.

Monday, January 5, 2015


Here's a series I've wanted to read for years: THE NEW TEEN TITANS by Marv Wolfman and George Pérez. Both Marvel stalwarts in the seventies, this duo was among the many creators who jumped ship to DC when Jim Shooter took over as Marvel's editor-in-chief. At DC they revamped the long-running TEEN TITANS series, aging the characters a bit into their late teens and adding a handful of new members to the team. The book skyrocketed up the sales charts, becoming -- though all involved deny this was intentional -- DC's answer to Chris Claremont's X-MEN. But regardless of whether anyone felt the X-Men comparison was valid, it was that which made me want to check this series out.

A few years ago, DC began publishing a NEW TEEN TITANS OMNIBUS series. Volume One appeared in 2011, Volume Two in 2012, and Volume Three in 2013. I bought all three with the intention of getting to them eventually, and that time has finally arrived. The third volume has been mercilessly criticized by fans for its spotty collection of the series, but as long as it contains all the Wolfman/Pérez material, which is really the main draw for me, I'm fine with it. I understand there is a chunk of issues missing in the book, however, which should fit in there between other issues it does collect, but those installments are available through DC's digital store, so I'll look into reading them there when the time comes.

Sunday, January 4, 2015


As seems to be the case with many fans, I find a great deal of Jeph Loeb's writing pretty awful. But somehow, when partnered with artist Tim Sale, his work usually rises to the point that, if not brilliant, I would at least call it "very good". I love the duo's team-ups over at DC. BATMAN: THE LONG HALLOWEEN was probably the very first hardcover reprint I ever purchased, back in 2000 or so. I actually find its sequels, DARK VICTORY and CATWOMAN: WHEN IN ROME, even more enjoyable, and they reside right next THE LONG HALLOWEEN on my bookcase, along with SUPERMAN FOR ALL SEASONS.

But Loeb and Sale have done similarly good work at Marvel, and that's what I'm going to cover for the next few Fridays. We'll start with 1995's WOLVERINE & GAMBIT: VICTIMS, followed by HULK: GRAY, DAREDEVIL: YELLOW, and SPIDER-MAN: BLUE from 2001 - 2004. Please note that I'm covering those last three not in release order, but in order my preference, finishing with my favorite of the trio.

Friday, January 2, 2015


No review this Friday -- instead I thought I'd type up a little something on what to expect around here in 2015.

I've been doing a lot of in-depth reviews for the past year-plus (meaning issue-by-issue posts including plot descriptions, continuity notes, panel screenshots, etc.). We had IRON MAN by David Michelinie and Bob Layton, then CAPTAIN AMERICA by Roger Stern and John Byrne, and of course the long SPIDER-MAN by Roger Stern series. I need a break from these, so I've decided that for the next few months, my Monday-Wednesday posts will be more in the vein of my normal Friday posts -- meaning semi-essays without category breakdowns, excessive scans/screenshots, and other bells and whistles. But this series will continue the trend of being based upon a long run of issues, in this case something from DC which I've wanted to read for quite some time. I think I've mentioned this before, but the official announcement will come on Monday.

The Friday posts for the duration of this DC project will follow much the same pattern as 2014: a mishmash of items with some loose organizational themes. January will bring four consecutive Fridays on four related Marvel limited series, and that announcement is coming this Sunday. Then February will find the next three GUNDAM: THE ORIGIN volumes reviewed (remember, this is a long-term project covering a few volumes per year). March will probably bring the next two installments of AME-COMI GIRLS, and then I'll move into weekly reviews of a Marvel series which is near and dear to me. After a month or two of that, we'll follow up with various one-shots and limited series, as last Spring. These will once again be composed mostly of items from Marvel Unlimited.