Monday, December 30, 2019


(A couple days early...)

It's time again -- already -- for that annual tradition where I put up a combination "Year in Review"/"Looking to the Future" post. And this year, there's not all that much to review. I had started off with some pretty high hopes, but it became evident very early on that I just wasn't meeting my posting deadlines like I used to. I began my Mondays this year by finishing off the DC post-CRISIS Superman and Wonder Woman runs that had filled all of 2018. Then, immediately after, I stayed in the DC Universe for Batman in the Seventies, which filled up Mondays for the remainder of the year (ending just last week).

But it was the Friday posts, the "grab bag" sort of stuff that I do to supplement the usually much longer Monday series, where I fell short. I began the year as always, with a manga series -- in this case, GUNSMITH CATS: BURST, the sequel to GUNSMITH CATS, which I had looked at in early 2018. After that I jumped into the world of European comics with RAPTORS, and then it was a mixed bag of Marvel stuff with CAPTAIN AMERICA: SENTINEL OF LIBERTY, SPIDER-MAN: LIFELINE, CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE 1940s NEWSPAPER STRIP, and X-MEN: GRAND DESIGN vol. 1 and vol. 2.

And then -- things fell apart. I announced I was taking a brief hiatus, which I called my "Spring Break", with the intention to return on Fridays over the summer. That never happened. Come August, I came clean and stated that I had nothing in the pipeline for the fall, either. Life and other hobbies had eaten into my blogging time to a considerable extent, and while I was able to keep up with my Monday posts, that was the best I could manage.

Which brings us to today. Monday posts will continue as usual, but for now, Fridays will remain the empty void they have become over the past several months, aside from things like announcements, The Unboxing, or whatever else may pop into my mind. This is a little frustrating for me because Fridays used to be my way to read and post about other smaller things when I was in the middle of doing longer runs on Mondays. However at this this point, I'm thinking that what I may do is alternate -- start into a long run, but break periodically for something else before getting back to it.

At any rate, I intend to begin the year with a manga series, as has become tradition, and then I'm going to go into some European comics after that, around the beginning of March. Following those, I will jump into my next long-term Monday series, and we'll see how far it takes us. So -- one week from today comes our first announcement of the year (the manga series), and then the following Monday, we'll dive right into the first volume. I may have drastically cut down on my output, but I don't intend to go away anytime soon... so thanks, as always, for sticking around and continuing to follow along with whatever random stuff I happen to read.

Friday, December 27, 2019


No physical books this month, but thanks to Marvel, it was a very merry digital Christmas! Amazon/Comixology ran one of the best sales they've ever done on Epic Collections, reducing all of them, across the board (except for the STAR WARS ones) to a flat $4.99 or $5.99 apiece. Considering that Epics are usually discounted to $6.99 or $7.99, this is a pretty big deal!


But that's not all! Marvel also ran a "Celebrate 2019" sale, which while not as deeply discounted as the Epic sale, still presented some great deals -- including on stuff that was just released, which is a rarity for these sorts of sales. So in addition to the digital volumes listed above, I also picked up: FANTASTIC FOUR MASTERWORKS vol. 21, NOT BRAND ECHH: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION, PETER PORKER, THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-HAM: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION, SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN: LO, THIS MONSTER, TIGRA: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION, X-MEN CLASSIC: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION vol. 2, and X-MEN: SHATTERSHOT.

And guess what, True Believers? The sales are still on! They both run until January 2nd, so grab those Amazon gift cards you just unwrapped a couple days ago and hop over there to grab some books. I know I will (again).

EDIT: Turns out I had already written a post for the December Unboxing before I composed the above, and I just now discovered it in mid-January in my "Drafts" folder. I actually grabbed more than I realized in late November/December! So here's the rest of the haul (also all digital):

Then, from DC, it's AQUAMAN: THE SEARCH FOR MERA, TALES OF THE BATMAN: GERRY CONWAY vol. 3, and WONDER WOMAN by JOHN BYRNE vol. 3. Both of those last two books conclude their respective runs, which is nice to see. Hopefully there's a TALES OF THE BATMAN: DOUG MOENCH series in the wings, to pick up where Conway's run ended and finish off the pre-CRISIS Batman era -- but time will tell.

From IDW, I grabbed STAR TREK VS. TRANSFORMERS, and from Dynamite I picked up BARBARELLA/DEJAH THORIS.

Lastly, I got some European comics from two publishers that translate them to English: from Cinebook we have five volumes of a series called LADY S: Vol. 1: HERE'S TO SUZIE, Vol. 2: LATITUDE 59 DEGREES NORTH, Vol. 3: GAME OF FOOLS, Vol. 4: A MOLE IN DC, and Vol. 5: PORTUGUESE MEDLEY. And from Soleil it's the eighth volume of a series called EKHÖ, which I've been picking up here and there over the past couple years, but haven't yet read at all.

And with that, we close the curtain on December's Unboxing and the full year's worth of 2019 Unboxings. Owing to my decision last year to scale back on physical books in favor of digital, this year featured the fewest Unboxings since I began the blog: only seven throughout the year. But the flipside of that fact is that I think I'm actually buying more books than ever before since digital, when on sale, is drastically less expensive than physical!

Monday, December 23, 2019

DETECTIVE COMICS #426, #429, & #435

Story & Art by: Frank Robbins

And now the actual, honest-to-goodness conclusion to my look at "Batman in the Seventies", featuring Frank Robbins' final three stories as writer/artist. The first of these is by far my favorite: "Killer's Roulette" sees Batman investigating a string of suicides. Three of Gotham's wealthy citizens have killed themselves with a bullet to the head, and the Caped Crusader wants to know why. Batman goes undercover as a high roller at an offshore casino, where he meets a man named Conway Treach, who challenges him to the biggest game of chance anyone can ever play: Russian Roulette.

Batman and Treach head to Treach's cabin, where the villain explains the rules of his challenge: they will each write out a suicide note, then begin their game with a single bullet in Treach's revolver. After each pull of the trigger, one bullet will be added, until one of them dies -- at which point the survivor will take his own note and depart. At this point Batman reveals his true identity to Treach, but insists on playing the game anyway, and this is where Robbins' already excellent artwork becomes brilliant, as he captures the intensity on each man's face with every pull of the trigger, until Batman finally emerges victorious, deducing that Treach has a trick gun which will never kill him.

Even though this story's subject matter would never have cleared broadcast censors for a kids' show in 1992 (or today), I can't help feeling it would have been a really great adaptation into an episode of BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES. I can't really explain why, but something about it just feels like a B:TAS story.

Monday, December 16, 2019

DETECTIVE COMICS #416, #420, & #421

Surprise! Oh man, you should see the look on your face! We're not quite done with "Batman in the Seventies" after all. See, about seven months ago, in my look at DETECTIVE COMICS #429, I said:
"I should note that if I could, I'd look at all of the half-dozen or so Batman stories [Frank] Robbins drew, but over all these years, so far as I can see, DC has only ever collected "Man-Bat Over Vegas", which was in THE GREATEST BATMAN STORIES EVER TOLD. Anyone else up for a TALES OF THE BATMAN: FRANK ROBBINS book??"
Well, DC hasn't published such a tome, but at some point after I typed those fateful words, they did release all six of writer/artist Robbins' Bat-stories to Comixology. I bought them in a DC sale a few months back, and I've been saving them for now. I simply wouldn't have felt this retrospective was complete if I didn't write about these tales, knowing they were out there. Plus, two posts to cover these issues will take us right up to the end of the year, so the timing works out perfectly.

So, without further ado...

Monday, December 9, 2019


Writer: Marv Wolfman | Artists: Irv Novick & Frank McLaughlin
Colorist: Adrienne Roy | Letterer: Ben Oda | Editor: Paul Levitz

"The Lazarus Affair" -- and our overall look at Batman in the Seventies -- concludes with the May, 1981 issue of BATMAN. On Infinity Island, the Caped Crusader is offered a chance to join Ra's al Ghul, and -- after weighing the options -- he agrees.

But of course, Batman is bluffing. The funny thing is that everyone goes along with this in their own ways, but they all know it's a sham. Ra's al Ghul welcomes Batman into the family and sends him off with Talia for a tour of the island, then confides in his chief scientist that he knows Batman's agreement is insincere. Robin puts on a show of feeling betrayed, but secretly receives hand signals from Batman that let him know the Dark Knight is simply buying time. Even King Farady, who throws a punch at Batman over his betrayal, does it for show, as he also catches the hand signals, and even though he doesn't know what they mean, he understands this is a ruse.

So surely Batman, the world's greatest detective, must realize that no one believes him. Yet for whatever reason, everybody plays along... until they decided they're finished. For al Ghul, it happens when Talia escorts Batman into a room containing the Lazarus Pit. He decides at this point to go beat Batman up and turn him into a mutate. For Robin, Faraday, and Catwoman, it happens after they've been escorted back to the slave mines. Robin randomly decides that Batman needs them, so the group breaks free -- again -- and returns to the dome -- again -- to help Batman. From a story perspective, none of this seems to make any sense. We could've jumped straight from the opening page to al Ghul knocking Batman out and his friends fighting on his behalf -- but Wolfman needs to squeeze in some exposition, so he uses Batman's transparent ploy to work it in.

Monday, December 2, 2019

BATMAN #333 & #334

Writer: Marv Wolfman | Artists: Irv Novick & Frank McLaughlin
Colorist: Adrienne Roy | Letterer: Ben Oda | Editor: Paul Levitz

As with the previous issue in the "Lazarus Affair" saga, BATMAN 333 begins with a one-page prologue -- this time it's a mysterious white-haired man in Nepal, listening for a signal from somewhere. And, for the first time in ten years, he receives it.

We then jump to Switzerland, where Batman is impersonating Gregorian Falstaff's right-hand man, Karlyle Krugerrand, in an attempt to gain access to Falstaff's safety deposit box. But the disguise is penetrated, and the Caped Crusader finds himself on the run from several agents of Falstaff's mysterious master. It becomes immediately clear in the subsequent pages that "The Lazarus Affair" is, at least in part, Marv Wolfman's tribute to the classic James Bond movies. Because if Bond winds up in Switzerland (or really, any exotic, snowy locale), it's pretty much guaranteed that he'll get involved in a high-speed ski chase -- which is exactly what happens here to Batman.

The Darknight Detective is shot in the arm, but nonetheless manages to elude his pursuers and meet up with Talia at their shared hotel suite. But when he changes to Bruce Wayne and attempts a romantic dinner with his traveling companion, he's attacked again -- suggesting that his enemies know his secret identity. So with dinner ruined, Bruce and Talia instead return to their room to knock boots before departing the next morning in a small plane for Hong Kong to meet with another contact, Feng-Wei. But after sneaking to the island through China, Bruce leaves Talia behind for this new rendezvous -- and is immediately captured by a sinister sea captain.