Monday, April 27, 2020


Written by: Jeff Parker & Jesse Hamm | Drawn by: Jesse Hamm
Colored by: Grace Allison | Lettered by: Simon Bowland
Packaged & Edited by: Nate Cosby

I don't really follow Dynamite much. I peruse their Comixology sales now and then, but I don't pay a lot of attention with what they're doing with their various licenses -- I just buy stuff that looks interesting. And FLASH GORDON: KINGS CROSS looked like something I might enjoy. Starring some of King Features' most popular comic strip heroes and drawn in a really clean, cartoony style, it looked like a lot of fun. So I picked it up and let it sit for a while, finally reading it recently.

...And boy was I confused! At first I thought we were jumping into some new epic en media res, with the characters having already met at various points in the past and lots of references to things that had already happened, but had never actually been published. Sort of like George Lucas's concept for the original STAR WARS: joining the saga as if it were the middle of an ongoing movie serial. So I figured things like the presence of a black Phantom and a Phantom-in-training named Jen would be explained as we went along, and the oblique references to unseen past events would be fleshed out.

This was my impression, at least, until partway through the second issue when a footnote appeared. "Check KINGS QUEST 1 - 5 for that epic tale!", it said.

KINGS... QUEST? Wow, they're really going all-in on pretending there were stories that preceded this one! A fake footnote! Clever, I thought. But still... I figured maybe I should just Google this to be sure.

Monday, April 20, 2020


Writer: Roy Thomas | Artists: Esteban Maroto & Santi Casas
Letterer: Tom Napolitano

Did you know that Esteban Maroto created Red Sonja's iconic "chainmail bikini" look? I had no idea! I knew that John Buscema was the first to draw it in the monthly CONAN THE BARBARIAN comic, but I'm pretty sure I read someplace years ago that it was Neal Adams who came up with the famous metal two-piece. Turns out, according to the foreword to this volume, Adams inked the outfit's debut, but Maroto penciled it at the request of writer/editor Roy Thomas.

Now I'm sure this little tidbit has been known in general for quite some time, but it was news to me, so I thought I'd share it before we move along into THE BALLAD OF THE RED GODDESS, an original graphic novel created first for the Spanish market and eventually translated into English by Dynamite. This story reunites Thomas, Maroto, and Sonja several decades on, and teams them with another artist, Santi Casas, for good measure.

Again per the forewords (there are three; one by each creator -- plus an afterword by Maroto as well), the story was created in the "Marvel method" -- and that means the purest form of that method, from the dawn of the Marvel age. It was plotted by the artists, Maroto and Casas, and then scripted by Thomas. But the overall package is pretty seamless, and it's nigh-impossible to tell the collaboration was done this way.

Friday, April 17, 2020


I may be under state-mandated quarantine due to COVID-19, but The Unboxing recognizes no authority! Here's what we have this month:

From DC, it's TALES OF THE BATMAN: MARV WOLFMAN (inexplicably labeled as "Volume 1" even though I'm pretty sure this contains every Batman story Wolfman ever wrote). As we saw when I looked a ton of Batman in the Seventies comics last year, Wolfman's run on BATMAN continued directly from Len Wein's, wrapping up several loose ends, so the main reason I grabbed this volume was to site beside TALES OF THE BATMAN: LEN WEIN on my shelf for just that reason. It also contains a number of other Wolfman-penned Batman stories, though, which I'm sure I'll check out someday.

And from Marvel, we have the CAPTAIN AMERICA EPIC COLLECTION: BLOOD AND GLORY, another installment in Marvel's collection of Mark Gruenwald's dedace-long run on Cap. When I started buying a lot of digital collections a couple years ago, I gradually tapered off my purchases of most trade paperbacks, figuring that Marvel seems to publish everything in hardcover sooner or later, and the digital versions would be my reading copies of most paperbacks (and of things I never really needed to own physically in the first place) until the inevitable Omnibus, oversized hardcover, etc. came around. But these Gruenwald Cap collections are pretty much the only paperbacks I "grandfathered in", since I had several already.

For those keeping count, this book follows from the previously released Epic Collections SOCIETY OF SERPENTS, JUSTICE IS SERVED, THE BLOODSTONE HUNT, STREETS OF POISON, and THE SUPERIA STRATAGEM -- plus the out-of-print Epic-in-all-but-name THE CAPTAIN -- and all of them together collect CAPTAIN AMERICA # 307 - 410. Gruenwald's CAP run ended with issue 443, so that's only thirty-three issues to go, which will comprise a total of three more Epic Collections (which we know since BLOOD AND GLORY is volume 18, while MAN WITHOUT A COUNTRY, the book beginning the Mark Waid/Ron Garney run that immediately followed Gruenwald, is vol. 22.

I grabbed a few digital items this month as well. Amazon/Comixology had a BOGO sale when the Coronvirus situation really started heating up, so I picked up the following:
Not too shabby, considering I haven't been allowed to leave the house for nearly a month! But now, with distribution on hold from some publishers due to the ongoing quarantine situation, we can only wonder what May will bring...!

Monday, April 13, 2020


I grabbed this digital volume in a sale when Dark Horse's Conan license ended a couple years ago. It contains a number of stories of varying length, which were originally published between 2004 and 2012. So without further ado, let's dive in!

Script by Tim & Ben Truman | Art by Marian Churchland
Letters by Brandon Graham

This eight-page tale is a short, light-hearted opening to the volume, but it's a nice showcase of what Conan is all about, hitting all the major marks. Conan, lugging a sack with him, wanders into a desert village and stops at a fancy inn for some refreshment. He regales the patrons with stories of how he acquired the various treasures in his bag, getting them drunker and drunker until they all pass out -- at which point he purloins their valuables and departs for the next inn on the road.

Like I said, it hits all the marks: Conan the wanderer, coming out of the desert to civilization. Conan the barbarian, as we see, through his stories, scenes in which he kills various powerful warriors through increasingly creative and violent means. Conan the carouser, drinking heavily and enthralling a roomful of revelers with his tales. And Conan the thief, making off with their belongings after his stories are done. If somebody knew nothing about Conan, this would be a nice little primer for the character -- which is possibly why it was placed first in this collection!

Monday, April 6, 2020


Writer: Gail Simone | Penciler: Aaron Lopresti | Inker: Matt Ryan
Colorists: Wendy Broome with Tony Avina | Letterer: Saida Temofonte
Editor: Kristy Quinn | Group Editor: Jim Chadwick

I bought the digital collection of this series on a lark during a Wonder Woman sale at Comixology a while back. I like Gail Simone (though I've honestly read very little of her work outside of her brief DEADPOOL/AGENT X run of a couple decades ago), I like Aaron Lopresti, and I like Conan and Wonder Woman -- so why not give it a try?

The story, in my opinion, is more like a Conan adventure guest-starring Wonder Woman than a true team-up of co-headliners. I have no problem with that, but it seems worth mentioning. It follows Conan as he makes his way into a city of slavers, where he watches a woman battle in a gladiatorial arena. Conan believes he recognizes her as his first love, a girl from a tribe of women who he once knew as Yanna. Leaping to her aid, Conan is captured and imprisoned with the woman.

Of course this is actually Wonder Woman -- it's not a mystery and so the story makes no attempt to hide it. However she has no memory of her true self, and the real puzzle for readers is -- what's the deal here? Is this what we used to call an "Elseworlds" story? I.e., is this just sort of a case of "What If Wonder Woman existed in the Hyborean Age"? As the issues progress, Conan trickles out his history with the girl, Yanna, who he believed killed when they were both teens. But, come issue 5, it becomes clear that this really is Wonder Woman. She's been lost to time, and her fellow Amazons, sent back to the past by Queen Hippolyte, find her and bring her home to present-day Themyscira.