Sunday, December 31, 2017


2018 hits tomorrow, so as usual it's time to reflect on the past year and look forward to what the next will bring.

After cutting Wednesdays from my regular posting schedule back in mid-2016, I stuck with a Monday-Friday (and occasional Sunday) format in 2017, too. Frank Miller's DAREDEVIL, supplemented by a Black Widow serial from Ralph Macchio and George Pérez, filled Mondays from January through September, at which point the Spider-Man newspaper strip by Stan Lee and John Romita took over for, more or less, the remainder of the year.

Fridays, meanwhile, continued my tradition of starting most years with a manga series by covering the adaptation of BIG O by Hitoshi Ariga. Following that, we jumped to DC Comics for GREEN LANTERN/GREEN ARROW by Denny O'Neil and Neal Adams, then an Aquaman serial called "Death of a Prince", which took us into May. At that point it was an IDW grab bag consisting of several stories including Dave Stevens' THE ROCKETEER and Darwyn Cooke's adaptations of some of Donald E. Westlake's PARKER novels. Then came this year's summertime project, a look at the FLASH GORDON comic strips by his creator, Alex Raymond. Fridays in the fall and winter switched, as usual (and probably for the last time) to the Transformers, by way of Devil's Due Press's various G.I. JOE VS. THE TRANSFORMERS mini-series.

Friday, December 29, 2017


Written by Tim Seeley | Art by Andrew Wildman | Letters by Brian Crowley
Colors by Wes Ozioba & Art Lyon | Edits by Mike Sullivan

The Plot: In Tibet, Firewall is captured by a yeti while she and Cosmos explore. Meanwile, G.I. Joe prepares to head for Tibet to help their friends. Meanwhile again, Colton leads Hawk, Flint, and Optimus Prime through the tunnels beneath Cobra-La, but they're ambushed once more by Bludgeon and his Royal Guards. Prime defeats Bludgeon, who chooses death over dishonor, while Colton takes out the guards. Elsewhere, under orders from Golobulus, Pythona awakens Nemesis Enforcer to deal with the group.

Unicron makes his final approach to Earth, while Doctor Mindbender informs Firewall she will be sacrificed upon his arrival. Colton leads Flint and Hawk to a cavern containing Cobra-La's metal-eating spores and the yetis that guard them. Cosmos arrives to help the humans fight off the yetis, and reveals Firewall is missing. Colton interrogates one of the creatures as to her whereabouts. Outside, G.I. Joe arrives in Tibet to be greeted by the Monster Pretenders in their combined form of Monstructor. Back in Cobra-La, Flint boards Cosmos with the spores to go after Unicron, who transforms into robot mode as they approach.

Golobulus holds a ceremony for the citizens of Cobra-La, but Optimus Prime, Hawk, and Colton crash it and attack. Flint and Cosmos enter Unicron, while on Earth, Unicron's appearance disrupts natural weather patterns. In Cobra-La, Colton duels Nemesis Enforcer, Optimus Prime fights the Royal Guards, and Hawk battles Golobulus. On the surface, the Joes defeat Monstructor, while underground, Pythona reveals an unforeseen fondness for Colton by killing Nemesis Enforcer. Inside Unicron, Cosmos is shot down by his "antibodies" and Flint moves out with the spores. In Cobra-La, Hawk frees Firewall, Optimus Prime defeats Golobulus, and G.I. Joe arrives as Colton takes out Mindbender.

Flint uses the spores to destroy Unicron's brain, then he and Cosmos retreat to Earth. With the day saved, everyone returns to the Pit to rest and recover.

Monday, December 25, 2017


Merry Christmas, everyone! No review post today. I'm mostly taking this week and next off, aside from finishing up the Devil's Due G.I. JOE/TRANSFORMERS stuff on Friday. Sunday will bring a New Year's post, and next Monday and Friday will feature announcements for what's coming up to begin the year around here.

However, today -- in the spirit of the season -- I've decided to bequeath my blog a gift. But first, because I'm one of the most self-indulgent people you're likely to meet, a brief rundown of the history of the masthead up above. Back in 2013 when I started this thing up, it looked like this:

Pretty sparse and simple. The idea was to have the classic X-Men and Avengers corner boxes, with heads by John Byrne, on either side, with corner boxes from several of my favorite comic book runs in a row beneath -- or, in two cases, boxes from runs I wasn't necessarily huge on, but which were considered pretty important/iconic (those would be the seventies HULK, which I've read none of, and Byrne's FANTASTIC FOUR, which I've read but have never been blown away by).

Friday, December 22, 2017


Written by Tim Seeley | Art by Andrew Wildman | Letters by Brian Crowley
Colors by Wes Ozioba & Art Lyon | Edits by Mike Sullivan

The Plot: In the year 1978, as they trek through the Himalayas, adventurer Joe Colton and his team are attacked by mysterious humanoid beings from the lost civilization of Cobra-La, allied with a Decepticon named Bludgeon.

In the present day, Clayton "Hawk" Abernathy struggles to cope with the powers of the Matrix of Leadership he now possesses. When the Autobots summon him, Hawk joins them in stopping an arms deal between Destro and a Cuban nationalist. Destro escapes, but the deal is stopped -- however when a bizarre signal announcing "I return" is intercepted by Hawk's group, he summons Optimus Prime to Earth. The signal is traced to the Himalayas, where Hawk, Prime, and Flint, in response to Hawk's request for backup, travel to investigate. Meanwhile, Unicron jouneys toward the Earth.

The rest of Hawk's team is attacked by Decepticon Monster Pretenders, while in the Himalayas, Optimus, Hawk, and Flint are assaulted by Bludgeon and the forces of Cobra-La. Meanwhile, Autobot Cosmos rescues Hawk's associate, Firewall, from the Pretender attack and ferries her to the Himalayas, while inside Cobra-La's citadel, Joe Colton -- prisoner for decades -- frees himself upon learning Hawk is in the vicinity. While Firewall contacts Duke and G.I. Joe for aid, Hawk, Flint, and Prime learn that Cobra-La met Unicron when he visited Earth millennia ago, and convinced him to space the planet while they prepared it for his second coming. Then, as Bludgeon and his forces close in on them, the trio is approached by Colton, who instructs them to follow him.

Monday, December 18, 2017


If it's not too presumptuous, I'd like to dedicate this post to the memory of Len Wein.

Writer: Len Wein
Artists: John Byrne & Jim Aparo (issue 1) & Jim Aparo (issues 2-3)
Colorist: Glynis Wein | Letterers: John Costanza (issue 1) & Jim Aparo (issues 2-3)
Editor: Paul Levitz

As discussed briefly when I unboxed TALES OF THE BATMAN: LEN WEIN about three years ago (!!), I owned THE UNTOLD LEGEND OF THE BATMAN as a child, in the form of a black-and-white, paperback novel-sized reprint which collected all three issues, edited together into a single story. I don't recall how many times I read it, but it must have been more than once, because the story is still crystal clear in my head even after all these years. Though it helps that many of the key moments this tale covers via flashback are perennial Batman classics, nearly all of them appearing in some form or another in THE GREATEST BATMAN STORIES EVER TOLD, which I also had as a youngster (and which I know for a fact that I read, re-read, and read again many times over until it was on the verge of falling apart).

UNTOLD LEGEND presents itself as a mystery story in three issues, but the mystery itself is really merely a vehicle for Len Wein, at the time the writer of the monthly BATMAN series, to tie together and codify numerous bits and pieces of the Batman's past which had been trickled out over the character's then-forty year history.

(Also, being a Marvel kid, and knowing that the Marvel Universe was less than twenty years old when I was born in late 1978, it's kind of crazy for me to realize that Batman and Superman were already forty at this point! Spider-Man didn't have his fortieth anniversary until after I finished college!)

The story begins when Batman receives, in the mail, the mangled remains of the costume his father wore as the "original" Batman, along with a note from some mysterious party threatening a long-term plot to destroy him. The Darknight Detective then sets out into a relentless search for his mystery foe. Along the way he reminisces about several of the key moments in his life and career, visits with Alfred, Robin, and Commissioner Gordon, and eventually makes his way to Wayne Manor, where it's revealed that the man out to get him is... himself! Thanks to a recent explosion in the pages of Wein's contemporaneous BATMAN issues, our hero has become schizophrenic and, as Bruce Wayne, blames Batman for robbing him of a normal life. Of course he snaps out of it in the end (with Robin's help), returns to his old self, and that's that.

Sunday, December 17, 2017


What's this? After a four-month dry spell, a new Unboxing at last?! Believe it, True-- uh... Believers. Due to back orders and other issues out of my control, three Omnibuses and a trade paperback arrived this month, two books apiece from each of the Big Two. A couple of these actually should've shown up last month, but what're you gonna do?

DC comes at us first with the BATMAN AND ROBIN ADVENTURES volume 2 trade paperback, continuing their reprints of the classic BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES tie-in comics. One more book should wrap up this series, and then hopefully DC will continue full steam ahead into BATMAN: GOTHAM ADVENTURES, which was far and away the longest-running of all three ADVENTURES series.

Next up is the JUSTICE LEAGUE INTERNATIONAL OMNIBUS volume 1. I've read precious little of the famous Keith Giffen/J.M. DeMatteis/Kevin Maguire JLI, but it's a run I've known of peripherally since -- well, I guess since it was being published. I know I owned at least one issue, and I distinctly recall flipping through some issue or another featuring G'nort and Manga Khan at the local Safeway when I was a kid. At the time, nothing I saw of the series impressed me, but I suspect I'll find it more appealing as an adult. At least, I hope I will!

Friday, December 15, 2017


Written by Tim Seeley | Pencils by Joe Ng, James Raiz, & Alex Milne
Inks by Rob Ross, M3th, & Alan Tam | Letters by Brian Crowley
Colors by Kevin Yan, Rob Ruffalo, & Tom Liu | Edits by Mike Sullivan

The Plot: Optimus Prime battles Serpentor, who suffers confusing bouts of pain from the back of his neck. Meanwhile, Hot Rod leads a combined Autobot/G.I. Joe assault on Serpentor's fortress. Inside, Hawk, Grimlock, and the rest search for Optimus Prime. Elsewhere, Optimus is defeated by Serpentor's right-hand men, Motormaster and Razorclaw. Serpentor opens the Matrix of Leadership within Prime.

Outside, the battle continues while within, Serpentor is transformed into a full-size Decepticon -- but the Matrix has seemingly changed him, removing his warlike nature -- until his body is remotely hijacked by Cobra Commander from Earth. Hawk and company burst in and attack, and Hawk grabs the Matrix after Arcee rips off Serpentor's chestplate. Serpentor is deactivated while, outside, the Autobots and Joes rout the Decepticons. On Earth, Cobra Commander is rendered apparently catatonic.

Later, peace has returned to Cybertron. The Autobots mourn Bumblebee while Hawk comes to terms with his new Matrix-enhanced consciousness.

Continuity Notes: The pain from Serpentor's neck comes from a device planted there by Zartan in issue 1, which subsequently allows Cobra Commander to take control of the robot.

The final page gives us glimpses of threats yet to come, including Doctor Mindbender and Cobra-La, the villains of the next mini-series, as well as latter day Joe characters Sergeant Savage and Iron Klaw, plus city-scale Transformers Trypticon and Metroplex, hinting at a possible fifth series which was likely aborted by Devil's Due losing the G.I. Joe license.

Monday, December 11, 2017


A mystery tale by Francesco Francavilla
Lettering by Nate Piekos of Blambot | The Black Beetle created by Francesco Francavilla

I got into this one in a weird way. At some point last year, I think around September, an artist I follow on Twitter -- I believe it was Paulo Rivera, though I could be mistaken -- retweeted a writer -- and I can't recall who it was, unfortunately -- who posted a photo of the new releases he'd picked up for the week. Among these was a graphic novel called THE BLACK BEETLE: KARA BÖCEK, a mystery tale by Franco Francavilla published by Dark Horse Comics. I thought the cover looked really cool; the Black Beetle was clearly based on old pulp heroes, and Francavilla's art style greatly appealed to me.

A little research uncovered that KARA BÖCEK was the second Black Beetle story, following from NO WAY OUT, which was available digitally from Comixology. I added it to my wishlist and figured I'd pick it up at some point down the line, but then, just a few weeks later, the New York Comic-Con took place and Comixology offered a Dark Horse 50% off coupon. Thus I picked up NO WAY OUT sooner than expected, read it within the week, and slotted it in for a post at the end of the year.

Which, as it happens, is now.

So here we go!

Friday, December 8, 2017


Written by Tim Seeley | Pencils by Joe Ng, James Raiz, & Alex Milne
Inks by Rob Ross, M3th, & Alan Tam | Letters by Brian Crowley
Colors by Kevin Yan, Rob Ruffalo, & Tom Liu | Edits by Mike Sullivan

The Plot: Optimus Prime drives around, rescuing Autobots during the Decepticon assualt, until he's cornered by Menasor and Reflector, who put Prime in communication with Serpentor. Prime agrees to surrender to the Decepticons if Serpentor releases his captives. Meanwhile, on Earth, Cobra Commander and his science advisor, Doctor Knox, are up to something.

Serpentor has a chat with Hawk on the nature of war and needing something to fight for, then Snake-Eyes and Scarlett break free of their cell and bust out Hawk and Roadblock as well. Meanwhile, Hot Rod rallies the Autobots to invade Serpentor's headquarters and rescue their friends. Inside, Optimus Prime is brought before Serpentor, but quickly breaks free and attacks the diminutive warlord. On Earth, the assembled G.I. Joe team prepares to travel to Cybertron and join the fight.

Continuity Notes: Cobra Commander at one point refers to "Mindbender and his lobster-wearing friends." This is presumably a reference to Cobra-La, who captured Mindbender at the conclusion of the previous mini-series, and it seems to imply that Cobra is aware of Cobra-La's existence, at least to some extent.

Ratchet is seen among Hot Rod's team still sporting the modifications he acquired during his two years fighting in Earth's future in G.I. JOE VS. THE TRANSFORMERS II.

Storm Shadow is seen among the assembled Joes on the final page, implying he's switched sides since the events of the first mini-series.

Monday, December 4, 2017


SEPTEMBER 1st, 1980 – NOVEMBER 1st, 1980
NOVEMBER 2nd, 1980 – JANUARY 11th, 1981
By Stan Lee & John Romita

Morose over breaking up with Carole, Peter pays a visit to Aunt May but finds her living in terror over a mystery man called “the Protector”. May explains that this guy has been shaking down the elderly in her neighborhood, demanding protection money in exchange for not roughing them up. Eager for something to take his mind off Carole, Peter sends May to stay with Anna Watson and awaits the Protector’s impending arrival.

Side note: Recall that briefly when the strip started in 1977, Aunt May and Anna were roommates as they had been during the Lee/Romita comic book run a decade earlier. Then, quickly, it was established that no, May lived by herself (albeit in an apartment rather than a house, which is still the case here), but it seemed as if Anna was her neighbor. But now, it looks like Anna lives someplace else entirely, away from the neighborhood and out of the Protector’s reach! She sure moves a lot.

Anyway, the Protector does show up, and surely this is one of John Romita’s finest character designs. He’s just a big bruiser with curly hair, a cowboy hat, an open vest with no shirt underneath, and a bullwhip. And wouldn’t you know it, just as he’s about to come to blows with Peter, Mary Jane arrives and starts flirting with him!

Friday, December 1, 2017


Written by Tim Seeley | Pencils by Joe Ng, James Raiz, & Alex Milne
Inks by Rob Ross, M3th, & Alan Tam | Letters by Brian Crowley
Colors by Kevin Yan, Rob Ruffalo, & Tom Liu | Edits by Mike Sullivan

The Plot: After receiving a briefing on Serpentor from the scientists who created him, G.I. Joe (Hawk, Roadblock, Scarlett, and Snake-Eyes) and the Autobots (Perceptor, Bumblebee, Arcee, and Grimlock) follow him to Cybertron, where they soon come into conflict with Predaking, Pirahnacon, and Serpentor himself. Serpentor kills Bumblebee and the rest of the group is taken captive.

Elsewhere, as the Autobots prepare for a peace celebration, Optimus Prime dispatches Hot Rod to lead a team to track down their missing friends. Meanwhile, more Decepticons are rallied to Serpentor's cause, and soon his Decepticon army attacks the Autobots' party.

Continuity Notes: We're told that "Serpent O.R." is short for "Serpent Organic Robot", named for the serpent which tempted Adam and Eve because the project team was tempted to use Megatron in their construction of the robot. Seems like kind of a stretch, but he had to be named Serpentor somehow, after all.

Snake-Eyes and Scarlett have a tender moment in which he unmasks for her and they share a kiss.