Friday, September 29, 2017


Written by Josh Blaylock
Pencils by Mike S. Miller | Inks by Cory Hamscher & Armando Durruthy
Letters by Dreamer Design | Colors by Lynx Studio with HI FI Colour Design
Edits by Mark Powers

The Plot: The reactivated Autobots and Decepticons resume their civil war on Cobra Island. Cobra Commander frees Megatron from his gun mode, and the Decepticon leader challenges Optimus Prime.

Meanwhile, G.I. Joe, Wheeljack, and Bumblebee prepare to head for the island to join the fight, but Hawk is stopped by a pair of generals who order him to stand down so the U.S. can drop a nuclear bomb instead. Hawk is ordered to deactivate Bumblebee and Wheeljack and fly them Area 51 rather than Cobra Island. Hawk initially carries out his orders, shocking the two Transformers with a device provided by his superiors, but Wheeljack remains barely conscious and warns that the nuke would blow up all the energon Cobra has accumulated and plunge Earth into a nuclear winter.

Back on Cobra Island, Storm Shadow rescues Cobra Commander from Autobots Gears and Brawn, while the Baroness saves Destro and Zartan from Rumble. Meanwhile, at Megatron's command, Soundwave orders the Consructicons to spare Doctor Mindbender, and then tells them to protect the energy satellite control module.

At the Pentagon, a group of mysterious generals confers and learns that Hawk has defied orders and is flying G.I. Joe, Wheeljack, and Bumblebee to Cobra Island.

Monday, September 25, 2017


JANUARY 3rd, 1977 – FEBRUARY 27th, 1977
FEBRUARY 28th, 1977 – MAY 7th, 1977
By Stan Lee & John Romita

I read an interview some years ago with John Romita where he discussed the genesis of the SPIDER-MAN newspaper strip. It’s been a long time, but I seem to recall that Romita wanted the thing to be purely an adventure strip. He had grown up on the works of Milton Caniff and Hal Foster and imagined Spider-Man headlining a nonstop series of high adventure and cliffhangers. Stan Lee, on the other hand — at least per my recollection of Romita’s comments — wanted the series to read more like a soap opera strip in the vein of MARY WORTH.

Personally, I think either concept could fit Spider-Man. The character is, after all, the star of a monthly action-adventure comic book — but at the same time, the soap opera qualities of Peter Parker’s personal life were a major component of the series from the very beginning. And personally, at least as an adult, I’d be very happy with a Spider-Man comic strip that mostly revolved around Peter rather than his alter ego.

But in any case, the strip’s first story arc seems to go more in Romita’s direction over Lee’s. It’s more or less wall-to-wall action as our web-slinging wonder finds himself up against Doctor Doom. The idea to kick this strip off with Doom rather than an established Spider-foe is an interesting one, but it makes sense. More than, say, Doctor Octopus or the Green Goblin, Doom is (or at least was at this point) Marvel’s most recognizable villain.

Sunday, September 24, 2017


I bet you thought that with FLASH GORDON coming to an end last month, we were done with newspaper strips around here, didn't you? Well think again, true believers! As noted last September, I have the first two volumes of IDW's "Library of American Comics" reprints of the AMAZING SPIDER-MAN newspaper strip, covering strips from 1977 - 1981 by the all-star team of Stan Lee and John Romita, and the time has come to crack them open.

(This is the point where I go into a quick sidebar to note that, as I've probably mentioned before, Lee & Romita are the definitive Spider-Man team as far as I'm concerned. Others have done great work on the web-slinger, and I technically consider Roger Stern's AMAZING SPIDER-MAN run to be more of a favorite than the Lee/Romita stuff due to nostalgia, but if we're talking the most iconic version of the character, his supporting cast, and his status quo, then it's Lee/Romita all the way for me.)

When I was a youngster -- say, maybe seven or eight years old -- I had a book called THE BEST OF SPIDER-MAN, which reprinted a handful of story arcs from the earlier years of the Spidey strip. I very nearly read the cover off that thing, to the point that it became one of the most battered, dog-eared books I owned. In a way, it was more formative of my understanding of Spider-Man than the monthly comics, since I had never really been a regular ongoing reader at that point. So while I've read some of the stuff we're about to embark upon, it's been over thirty years now -- and really, the material covered by that beloved old paperback is only a fraction of what appears in the IDW collection.

Note that while there are a total of four volumes available at the moment, I'm only covering the first two -- the Lee/Romita stuff -- for now. Someday I'll probably check out the post-Romita material as well, but for the time being, all I'm interested in are the first four years. Like most strips, this one is broken into story arcs, and my plan is to look at two arcs per week. Unfortunately, unlike FLASH GORDON, I can't find a nice list of arc titles for the Spidey stuff, so I'll just use the strip dates as identifiers instead.

So get ready, because I expect this will take us through the end of the year.

Available on Amazon: Volume 1 | Volume 2
Also available: Volume 3 | Volume 4

Friday, September 22, 2017


Written by Josh Blaylock
Pencils by Mike S. Miller | Inks by Cory Hamscher & Armando Durruthy
Letters by Dreamer Design | Colors by Lynx Studio with HI FI Colour Design
Edits by Mark Powers

The Plot: Destro inspects Cobra's Transformers and prepares to take them out for a mission. Meanwhile, G.I. Joe makes plans to defend the control center for a prototype energy satellite from an attack Mercer has told them is imminent.

Soon, Destro, Zartan, and Firefly lead an assault with several Transformers as their weapons. The Joes surprise the invading Cobras and fight back, with Wheeljack and Bumblebee soon coming to their aid. But Zartan and Firefly manage to steal the stallite's control module and blow up the building. Cobra escapes, but G.I. Joe makes peace with Wheeljack and Bumblebee.

Wheeljack inspects a bizarre e-mail sent out to hundreds of accounts a few days earlier and realizes that it's Optimus Prime fighting back against Cobra's conditioning. Using Prime's code, Wheeljack sends a signal to Cobra Island which releases the Transformers from their enslaved states. As the Constructicons make trouble for Doctor Mindbender, Optimus Prime confronts Cobra Commander.

Continuity Notes: For some reason Flint and Lady Jaye still don't have their codenames like the rest of the Joes. Maybe they're still informal observers...?

Mutt and Quick Kick (and presumably Mutt's dog, Junkyard) are severely injured when Cobra destroys the satellite control center.

Duke receives some lines this issue in his capacity as G.I. Joe's field leader.

Monday, September 18, 2017


Script: Ralph Macchio | Pencils: George Pérez | Inks: John Beatty & Brett Breeding
Letters: Diana Albers | Colors: Ben Sean | Editing: Allen Milgrom
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: An unconscious Black Widow is taken to a mysterious island complex, where Snap Dragon brings her before her master, Damon Dran. Dran explains that he has replaced the Widow with a lookalike who Jimmy Woo is bringing back to the S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier. The false Widow will lead the helicarrier to Dran’s island and then assassinate Nick Fury on the bridge, escaping just before Dran’s cannons blow the ship out of the sky.

Widow is thrown into a dungeon but manages to escape. She bumps into her guardian, Ivan, brainwashed by Dran, and knocks him out. As she explores Dran’s complex, the Widow is attacked by Snap Dragon, but this time she defeats the assassin. Ivan regains some of his old memory and joins Widow in her mission.

The Widow calls the helicarrier and convinces those aboard that the Black Widow with them in an imposter. Fury shoots the false Widow and orders all weapons to open fire on Dran’s island. The island, filled with munitions, explodes, and the Black Widow and Ivan are found drifting in the sea by a S.H.I.E.L.D. aircraft.

Friday, September 15, 2017


Written by Josh Blaylock
Pencils by Mike S. Miller | Inks by Cory Hamscher & Armando Durruthy
Letters by Dreamer Design | Colors by Lynx Studio with HI FI Colour Design
Edits by Mark Powers

The Plot: While Cobra conducts tests on their Transformers, the newly formed G.I. Joe team discusses strategy. Elsewhere, two Autobots, Wheeljack and Bumblebee, have remained free of Cobra's control, and Wheeljack determines where the terrorist organization will likely strike next.

On Cobra Island, Doctor Mindbender has difficulty controlling Optimus Prime. Meanwhile, at NSA headquarters, an analyst named Mainframe is handed some important files. At G.I. Joe headquarters, Snake-Eyes demonstrates his skills to his teammates, but the sparring match is interrupted when Hawk, General Flagg, and Lady Jaye arrive with a Cobra defector named Mercer, who reveals that Cobra's "Battle Android Troopers" are actually sentient alien robots.

Destro arrives on Cobra Island and Mindbender demonstrates the Transformers' abilities to him, then reveals his newest accomplishment: Soundwave.

Continuity Notes: We learn this issue that Cobra needs energon to power their Transformers, and that Megatron, trapped in gun mode by Cobra Commander but allowed to retain his free will, has been helping them gather the ingredients.

The Joe team's ranks have swelled this issue, and they have a bunch of cool-looking vehicles in their headquarters. Among the more notable Joes seen are Scarlett, Doc, Roadblock, Rock N' Roll, Shipwreck, and Quick Kick. Duke is also name-checked (Sergeant Conrad Hauser) and glimpsed late in the issue with no dialogue.

Monday, September 11, 2017


Scripter: Ralph Macchio | Penciler/Co-Plotter: George Pérez | Inker: Al Milgrom
Letterer: Jim Novak | Colorist: Bob Sharen | Editor: Al Milgrom
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Black Widow defeats all of the assassins except Iron Maiden, who escapes when S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Jimmy Woo bursts into the store. But Widow placed a tracking device on Iron Maiden, allowing her and Woo to follow the armored woman into the sewers. There, Black Widow and Woo defeat Iron Maiden, but both are quickly subdued by yet another assassin — the deadly Snap Dragon.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: Kono the Sumo Warrior, one of the assassins, is shot… in the face. By an automatic pistol. Mark Gruenwald would later use him as a villain in the pages of CAPTAIN AMERICA with no explanation as to how he survived being shot… in the face. With an automatic pistol. The kicker: this story’s writer, Ralph Macchio, was editor on those CAP issues!

(There will be more of this next issue, which I’ll cover when we get there.)

Friday, September 8, 2017


Written by Josh Blaylock
Pencils by Mike S. Miller | Inks by Cory Hamscher & Armando Durruthy
Letters by Dreamer Design | Colors by Lynx Studio with HI FI Colour Design
Edits by Mark Powers

The Plot: A clandestine terrorist army called Cobra discovers a crashed spaceship on Earth filled with giant deactivated robots. Some time later, a group of American commandos is dispatched to guard a peace conference when Cobra attacks. Their vehicles are revealed as shapeshifting robots, and while the attack results in minimal casualties, a commando nicknamed Snake-Eyes is maimed. Cobra departs, having delivered a message to the world.

Later, one General Flagg meets with the commandos' leader, Colonel Clayton Abernathy, and with two advisors, Alison Hart-Burnett and Dashiell Faireborn. Together, the quartet makes plans to create an elite military anti-Cobra unit named G.I. Joe under Abernathy's command.

Continuity Notes: We're told that Snake-Eyes is a real chatterbox, but he gets blown up before he has a chance to speak.

G1 References: A number of Transformers from the first two years of the original toyline are glimpsed, deactivated, aboard the spaceship in the opening pages, including (but not limited to) Cosmos, Cliffjumper, Starscream, Jazz, and Megatron. The fact that all these character are aboard ship together seems to indicate that this continuity follows the established G1 backstory, at least up to this point.

Unlike most of his contemporaries (described below), Megatron's alternate mode on Earth is the same as it was in Generation One: a pistol.

Monday, September 4, 2017


Scripter/Co-Plotters/Penciler: Ralph Macchio & George Pérez
Inkers: Joe Sinnott & Jack Abel (credited as “J.J. Sinabel”)
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski | Colorist: Ben Sean | Editor: Al Milgrom
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Black Widow eludes security forces on the grounds of a Russian mansion, then after making her escape, recalls the chain of events that led to that situation: She arrived in Russia weeks earlier undercover as a defecting American scientist in order to help with the project Ivan was working on for the Soviets. But, unknown to her, the KGB was aware of her identity and fed her information until she made her move to free Ivan, at which point they sprang their trap.

Following the lead of a distinctive dagger used by one of the KGB agents she fought, the Widow travels to Hong Kong — but as she investigates the dagger’s origin, she is attacked by six assassins who take her out quickly and prepare to finish her off.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: A note on the first page tells that this story takes place before the Widow cut her hair and got a new costume in the pages of DAREDEVIL. As a matter of fact, her new look debuted over a year prior to this issue (but one month less than a year before the prior installment) in DAREDEVIL #187 from October of 1982.

S.H.I.E.L.D. is identified per its usual nomenclature of this era, the Supreme Headquarters, International Espionage Law-Enforcement Division.

Sunday, September 3, 2017


The past few years beginning in September, I've looked at various smaller/shorter Transformers comic book runs from a couple of publishers. In 2013 and 2014 I covered IDW's TRANSFORMERS: REGENERATION ONE, and in 2015 and 2016 it was Dreamwave's brief time with the Transformers license. This year, my time with the Transformers comes to an end as we look at one last publisher's finite take on the Robots in Disguise.

In 2001, the tip of the spear in eighties nostalgia hit the comic book industry as Devil's Due Press, then an imprint of Image comics, acquired the license to G.I. Joe and launched a new comic book series starring the Real American Hero. Two years later, riding the success of their ongoing JOE comic, Devil's Due negotiated a limited license to team up the Joes with the Transformers. The series was successful enough to spawn three sequels in 2004, 2006, and 2007. I own all of these series, and I seem to recall mostly liking them at the time, so here we go again: for the rest of the year, I'll be looking at Devil's Due's G.I. JOE/TRANSFORMERS comics an issue at a time.

A couple notes: at some point over the past decade, I misplaced my copies of these issues, but since I really wanted to cover this stuff, I went ahead and purchased the digital collected editions in an IDW sale last year (IDW now having the reprint rights since they picked up the full G.I. Joe license several years ago). But the IDW reprints naturally omit the Devil's Due logo and trade dress from the issues' covers -- and since I like to use covers here which fairly closely resemble what was originally published, I've had to furiously Google in search of the original versions. What I've wound up with are scans of varying quality, some quite nice and others of extremely low resolution and/or quality. But know that any substandard covers you see over the next several weeks are the best I could locate!

Also, speaking of those IDW digital collections, the publisher should be pretty embarrassed by what they've put out. Maybe Devil's Due still owns the original digital files or something, but IDW could've invested a bit more in clean-up of what they're distributing. These look like scans of the original issues. Were I so inclined, I could've just pirated this stuff and gotten the same quality. I'm curious whether the physical trades look this bad too.

Lastly, as noted above, this is likely my last autumn go-round with the Transformers. Between REGENERATION ONE, Dreamwave, and now Devil's Due, I will have covered pretty much all the "micro" continuities that interest me. So next fall, whatever I cover will not be related to my favorite Robots in Diguise (though I may try to keep it somewhat sci-fi and/or toy related if I can). Don't say you weren't warned!

Friday, September 1, 2017


Created by Xavier Dorison & Terry Dodson
Script: Xavier Dorison with the collaboration of Antoine Cristau
Pencils & Colors: Terry Dodson | Inks: Rachel Dodson | Letters: Clayton Cowles

Here we go again. I wrote about RED ONE volume 1 last March, and despite Terry Dodson's beautiful artwork, I wasn't terribly impressed with the story. But these volumes are so cheap that I decided to give the series one more chance to impress me. Did it? Let's find out...

When last we left our Soviet heroine, Vera Yelnikov, she was in battle with the Carpenter, a masked agent of a sinister American fundamentalist named Jacky Core, in Los Angeles. Vera rescues the Carpenter's target, a pregnant lesbian named Judith, and even apparently kills the Carpenter by running his truck off the road and into the water.

From there we begin to learn a few things that -- at least to my year-plus-old recollection -- were either unclear or glossed over in the prior volume: namely, gubernatorial candidate Jacky is a pastor who entertains her flock by showing them a post-World War II fundamentalist film called THE FARM, and that Vera's American employer, porn producer Lew Garner, is working on a salacious remake of THE FARM, called SEX FARM, which he believes will (somehow) ruin Jacky's reputation and cost her the election.

This is a weird book. It's really kind of obvious that it's written by someone born and raised overseas, because his grasp of how things work in the United States is tenuous. Early on, when Vera rushes Judith into a hospital, she's told bluntly that it's a private institution and the doctors will do nothing for the beaten and dying woman. Yeah, we have privatized healthcare in the U.S., and yeah, the bills for the sort of treatment Judith needs would probably sink her into crippling debt... but find me a hospital anywhere in this country that would simply and coldly turn away a mortally injured pregnant woman. You can't. Neither now, nor in 1977, and especially not in Los Angeles, has such a place ever existed.