Friday, August 31, 2018


It's weird how these things go. A month or so back, I was thinking about typing up a debriefing on this year's Comic-Con -- but as usual, while I enjoyed myself, I find that I have very little to put to screen regarding my time there. It was fine, but a lot of the experience for me is simply spending time with friends who I don't see as often as I used to. The con itself is almost secondary nowadays to the hanging around, the games, and the eating out around town.

But as I mulled over whether or not to bother with a recap essay, I mused that the first SDCC I attended was nineteen years ago, in 1999 (and if you think that means I'll find a way to commemorate twenty years of Comic-Con next summer, True Believer, you've got me figured out). I started thinking about what the convention was like back then and the sorts of panels I attended. Then, the kicker -- my iPad wallpaper as I entertained these thoughts was an Avengers image by George Pérez, and I noted the year he'd drawn it beside his signature: 1997 (that's it at right).

I thought some more. We're more than twenty years removed now from the start of the Busiek/Pérez AVENGERS run, the Busiek/Bagley THUNDERBOLTS run, Spider-Man's Clone Saga, "Onslaught", and so forth, and it's been almost twenty years since my first Comic-Con. That got me thinking about the concept of the "Personal Golden Age" of comics, which I've seen now and then on the internet: the idea that everyone has an era where comics captured their imagination more than any time before or after. For some, it was probably right when they got into comics. For others, like me, it came a bit later.

Monday, August 27, 2018


Story & Pencils: John Byrne | Inks: Karl Kesel
Colors: Tom Ziuko | Letters: John Costanza | Editing: Michael Carlin

The Plot: Superman and Green Lantern pursue the Manhunters’ leader, Highmaster, into another dimension. The heroes are separated and Green Lantern catches up with Highmaster, falling into a ploy to reveal to the villain the location of the Guardians of the Universe. But Superman arrives before Highmaster can kill the Guardians, who recharge Green Lantern’s power ring, allowing him and Superman to work together and defeat Highmaster.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: This issue continues directly from the main MILLENNIUM series, with Superman and Green Lantern as the last heroes standing after all Earth’s other defenders were beaten by Highmaster. The story’s final page advises readers to follow the duo back into the pages of MILLENNIUM for the event’s conclusion.

My Thoughts: Though it’s an issue of SUPERMAN, this feels more like a typical installment of ACTION COMICS, featuring a stand-alone team-up between Superman and another hero. It’s a quick, breezy read (as are many of Byrne’s issues of ACTION), and while it’s decent on its own, one can’t help feeling it’d feel more momentous after reading the prior issues of MILLENNIUM.

But! Superman and Green Lantern use some cool teamwork to beat Highmaster — the Guardians supercharge GL’s ring while Superman zaps the villain with heat vision to change him from yellow to red, thus allowing the ring to actually work on him — and Byrne gets to throw in the Green Lantern oath, which I know I’d certainly want to do if I was featuring the character in a guest spot in my comic.

Friday, August 24, 2018


It's a throwback Unboxing this month -- nothing digital, no "Junior" edition; just two physical books from the Big Two publishers.

From DC, it's volume 3 of BATMAN AND ROBIN ADVENTURES, finishing that series and concluding DC's tie-ins with the original iteration of BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES. The subsequent series, BATMAN: GOTHAM ADVENTURES, adapted the retooled NEW BATMAN ADVENTURES era of the show. Hopefully DC has plans to continue this trade paperback series into that run as well. GOTHAM ADVENTURES was by far the longest running of all the tie-in series, but in total it came to about as many issues as BATMAN ADVENTURES and BATMAN AND ROBIN ADVENTURES combined.

And from Marvel, we have the X-MEN REVOLUTION BY CHRIS CLAREMONT OMNIBUS. Why did I buy this? Even I'm not entirely certain. I didn't like these issues when they first came out. By most accounts, they haven't aged well at all. They were filled with lame villains, random alterations to status quos and unnecessary costume changes for nearly every character. Perhaps tellingly, I have yet to remove the shrink wrap from the book. Usually I free an Omnibus as soon as I receive it, to peruse the pages within. But Marvel uploaded nearly every issue contained in this book to their Unlimited service practically right after it hit shelves, so if I really want to revisit the material, I can do it there.

I think I really only bought this one to maintain my nineties X-Men completist mentality -- I really do love the idea of having every X-MEN and UNCANNY X-MEN issue from that decade on my shelves. And while this book mostly collects material from 2000, it still "feels" like a continuation of the nineties. But at the same time, I question whether I really need this stuff. If you told me the X-Men's saga ended with Alan Davis's final issue in 1999, I'd be totally on board with that (even with my favorite X-Man, Cyclops, merged with Apocalypse).

So, yeah... while I wouldn't say I have buyer's remorse about this one, I'll admit it's a book I probably don't need and will likely only read/peruse once in my entire adult life. In fact, there's a good chance I might just sell it someday, never removed from its shrink wrap.

Monday, August 20, 2018


Penciller: Jerry Ordway | Inker: John Beatty
Letterer: Albert T. De Guzman | Colorist: Tony Tollin | Editor: Michael Carlin
And Welcome Aboard to Scriper: John Byrne | Plotters: Byrne/Ordway

The Plot: Superman arrives in Smallville and changes to Clark Kent, but the townspeople know who he truly is and capture him. Superman is taken to a Manhunter hideout, where Smallville’s Doctor Whitney explains that he’s been a Manhunter agent for decades and that every child born in the city since he arrived was a sleeper. Superman soon manages to escape his bonds and Whitney blows himself up to avoid capture, revealing he was actually a robot.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: Clark bumps into Pete Ross in Smallville, making this the post-CRISIS debut for that character (at least in the main SUPERMAN titles; I suppose it’s possible he showed up someplace else that I’m unaware of). Pete is Smallville County’s Notary Public.

Doctor Whitney explains that the Manhunters had an agent on Krypton, who learned of Jor-El’s plan to send baby Kal-El to Earth. The Manhunters attempted to intercept Kal-El, but were delayed by the Green Lantern Corps. Whitney was placed in Smallville to prepare the town to one day capture its Kryptonian son.

My Thoughts: Y’know, for someone who grouses about writers doing “Everything you thought you knew was wrong” stories and who has often complained that certain writers can’t let any supporting characters just be normal…

In this tale we learn that Smallville has been the home to dozens of alien sleeper agents for thirty years, including among them Lana and Pete.

I’m just saying, John Byrne really shouldn’t be casting any stones here.

Friday, August 17, 2018


It's time again for me to recognize that I've survived another year here in blog-land. Though I never said anything about it here, five years was always my unspoken goal. I would keep the site running for that long, no matter what, and then if I was bored after five years, I'd feel okay shutting it down.

Well, the good news is: I'm not bored! Busier than I used to be, maybe, but not bored. Certainly the busy part is reflected in how my posting schedule has diminished recently. I used to post three to four times a week, then it became two to three times. Nowadays it's pretty much two, with an occasional third post, plus for the first time ever, I fell so far behind on a review project that I was forced to cancel it mid-stream. As noted at the time, I do intend to return to the James Bond newspaper strip at some point, but for now I'm setting it aside.

I have a new project starting up in a couple weeks, though, which I think I should be able to keep on track all the way through. Ever since I started the blog, the fall season was devoted to Transformers posts, but this time it's going to be something different -- however, in keeping with the toy tie-in theme, it will still be a beloved eighties property in comic form. Post-CRISIS Superman and Wonder Woman will continue for the rest of the year as well, so the remainder of 2018, at least, is in pretty good shape.

That said, I have absolutely no idea yet what classic run I want to look at for Mondays in 2019. Usually by this point in the year I've figured it out, or at least narrowed it down to a few candidates, but at present I've got nothing. I should be able to figure something out before January, but right now I'm scratching my head.

Now, we'll close things out as always with a look at some stats relating to the blog. I should probably stop mentioning that the X-MEN COLLECTED EDITIONS page is the number one most viewed around here. It's so far ahead of everything else, that I can't imagine anything ever catching it. In a nice surprise (for me at least, considering how much work I put into it), the home page for my SPIDER-MAN BY ROGER STERN reviews has leapt into second position. Last year it didn't even place! This knocks the INFINITY GAUNTLET OMNIBUS review, the perennial number two, down into third place for the first time ever.

(Also, though it's still some notches down from fourth place, I should note that John Byrne's savaging of my FANTASTIC FOUR #262 review has catapulted it up the standings, way ahead of any other single issue review I've ever posted here.)

So that's your anniversary post for Year Five. Onward into our second half-decade!

Monday, August 13, 2018


Story & Pencils: John Byrne | Inks: Karl Kesel
Lettering: John Costanza | Coloring: Tom Ziuko | Editing: Michael Carlin

The Plot: An armored truck is robbed by toy soldiers, while Superman arrives at Maggie Sawyer’s office. Two British agents brief Superman and Maggie on W. Percival Schott, a renowned toymaker now out for revenge on the company that let him go. Schott has systematically murdered the various directors of the company with cutting-edge toys, and has now targeted the company’s owner, Lex Luthor. Superman saves Luthor from assassination and locates Schott’s lair, but finds the toymaker gone — apparently kidnapped.

With no leads to pursue, Superman returns to the Daily Planet, where he’s confronted by Lana Lang. Lana reveals herself as an agent of the extraterrestrial Manhunters, and flies back to Smallville with Superman on her trail.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: Though they refuse to reveal their names, the British agents in the opening pages are clearly John Steed and Emma Peel, of THE AVENGERS television series. They note that a British heroine named Godiva, who Superman has apparently met, tried to capture Schott but failed.

Luthor complains to his doctor about pain in his hand; this will eventually be revealed as the onset of Kryptonite poisoning from the ring he wears. Also, as Superman leaves Luthor’s office, he calls attention to the ring, recalling that Luthor wasn’t wearing it in SUPERMAN 10 because he had already placed it inside the Booster Gold robot he set against the Man of Steel in ACTION COMICS 595. And, miraculously, there are actually footnotes to both of these issues!

Friday, August 10, 2018


Just about four-and-a-half years ago, I put up a post discussing how close Marvel was to collecting, via a mix of hardcover and paperback, my definitive X-Men run -- the beginning of the Chris Claremont era, circa 1975, through the end of the Scott Lobdell era, circa 1997. At the time, a lot had been collected -- the majority of the issues, in fact -- but there were still holes to be plugged in both the Claremont period and the Lobdell/Fabian Nicieza period, and certain older editions were crying for updates.

Well, today I can finally say my goal is complete. Mind you, the book hasn't been published yet, but with the recent Amazon ghost listing for an X-MEN: ONSLAUGHT AFTERMATH volume to plug the very last remaining gap next spring, it's safe to declare that within the year, that run of twenty-two years' worth of X-Men will be fully represented on my bookshelf -- and the vast majority of it will be in a handsome hardcover format.

The Claremont stuff was a no-brainer. We all knew it would be released in its totality eventually. You can't ignore the definitive run by the definitive creator in a franchise's history. But I will never cease to marvel (no pun intended) at the fact that the much more divisive and oft-derided material from the nineties will be comprehensively collected, too. And we're not just talking the Lobdell/Nicieza era here, either. Beyond "X-Cutioner's Song", "Fatal Attractions", "Phalanx Covenant", "Age of Apocalypse", "Onslaught", "Zero Tolerance", and everything in between, Marvel has also collected (or will have collected, again, within the year) the full Joe Kelly/Steve Seagle run which followed Lobdell, as well as the Alan Davis run that came after them. Plus, just this month, Claremont's ill-received return to the series via the "Revolution" event found its way to hardcover via an Omnibus. It's all out there. The entire decade of the nineties for X-MEN and UNCANNY X-MEN exists in hardcover and/or trade paperback (as well as in digital format), preserved for all time in glossy, high-end collections.

Mind you, happy as I am to have all this stuff available, I won't complain if Marvel eventually upgrades all the paperbacks to hardcover format (I'd dearly love an Omnibus of the 1999 Alan Davis run, for example). And I'll continue to update my X-MEN COLLECTED EDITIONS CHART whenever something like that happens. But for the time being, at least, I'm taking a rest. I can see the end of the road, and it's a wonderful thing. The X-Men -- my X-Men -- will soon be home for good, and I couldn't be happier.

(Now, will all these books upcoming in the next year or so to round things out, it's probably time I resurrected my semi-monthly photo-reviews of the things...)

Monday, August 6, 2018


Writer/Penciler: John Byrne | Inker: Karl Kesel
Colorist: Tom Ziuko | Letterer: John Costanza | Editor: Michael Carlin

The Plot: Superman responds to a telepathic summons from a merman named Ronal and arrives at the coast near Metropolis. Ronal asks Superman to tell him about his past with Lori Lemaris, and Superman obliges, explaining how, as Clark Kent, he met Lori, a wheelchair-bound student, while he was in college, and soon fell in love with her. But Lori turned out to be a mermaid and eventually returned to the sea in search of her lost home, Atlantis.

Years later, after meeting Aquaman, Clark learned the location of Atlantis and sought Lori out. But as they embraced, Lori was knifed in the back by a mad fisherman, and Superman raced her to the undersea city. She recovered, but fell in love with her doctor, Ronal, during her convalescence. Some time later, Superman learned that Lori had died defending Atlantis.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: The story is mostly one long flashback, aside from the framing sequence with Ronal. I know Lori Lemaris was a recurring character in the pre-CRISIS Superman comics, but I have no idea how much of this version of her story is newly devised by Byrne.

As noted above, it’s said that Lori perished in defense of Atlantis, but there is no footnote or other explanation detailing where or how this happened.

Friday, August 3, 2018


...but when?

Folks, for the first time ever, I'm ceasing a review series before it's done. A number of factors have combined to get me so far behind on this thing that I haven't even started reading the next storyline, "Thunderball", yet. And for an explanation, it's time to turn back the curtain a bit.

Since my son was born, I've found that I have a lot less quiet time at home (obviously). And by the time he's asleep at night, all I usually want to do is vegetate, chat with my wife, watch some TV, and go to bed -- but evening used to be when I did the bulk of my reading, whether for pleasure or for the blog. However, the past couple years, I've found that I do most of my blog reading on my lunch hour at work. I can read an issue, type up a quick post, and then return to it the next day for proofreading. What this reliance on my lunch break for reading means, though, is that since I don't want to lug big books of comic strips or what-have-you to the office and back every day, many of my reviews nowadays are being done from digital books.

Thus the dark secret behind all the recent Digital Unboxings is revealed. While I am totally on board with digital as a format, as I've said before, I've also found it to be a necessity recently in order to keep the blog running. The ongoing Superman and Wonder Woman reviews are all being done with digital collections, and nearly all of my Friday posts over the past year or two have been from digital material as well. I still like reading physical books; it's just harder to find the time for it!

So, getting back to Bond -- I just haven't kept up on this as I'd hoped, and I'm now forced to throw in the towel. I could try to do a few more "skip weeks" to get back on track, but at this point I'd rather just focus on this fall's project instead. Since the blog began, it's been Transformers every year, but this time it will be a new toy tie-in saga instead, and it's one I'm looking forward to (and it's in digital format, so delays should not become an issue as with Bond). I fully intend to finish these 007 strips eventually, but it won't happen this year.

I hope everyone will accept my apologies for leaving this project half-finished (at least for now). There were four more Fridays of Bond scheduled, with today being one of them. I'd like to post something over the next three weeks, even if it's just editorials or Unboxings on a different day of the week than usual, but it's also entirely possible nothing will go up. However, come August 31st, we'll be back in action. And of course, Superman and Wonder Woman will continue to dominate Mondays through the end of the year.