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Monday, September 13, 2021

GIANT-SIZE INVADERS #1

"THE COMING OF THE INVADERS!"
Writer/Editor: Roy Thomas | Artist: Frank Robbins | Inker: Vince Colletta
Colorist: Petra Goldberg | Letterer: John Costanza
With Special Thanks to John Romita
This issue dedicated to the "Real McCoys"--
Stan Lee * Joe Simon * Jack Kirby

The Plot: After breaking up a Nazi sabotage operation, Captain America and Bucky are approached by FBI agents who bring them to see Doctor Anderson, the man who oversaw Steve Rogers' transformation into Captain America, and who is now dying at Walter Reed Hospital. Anderson explains that he was recently kidnapped by a Nazi agent named Krieghund, who probed his memory for the super-soldier secrets, and used those secrets to create a new Nazi super-agent, Master Man. But the Human Torch and his sidekick, Toro, arrived to rescue Anderson, while Krieghund and Master Man escaped from their secret Virginia base.

Suddenly realizing what Krieghund is up to, Anderson asks the FBI to rush Cap, Bucky, the Human Torch, and Toro to Chesapeake Bay, Virginia. The heroes arrive time to see a British battleship come under attack by a German submarine. Master Man leaps from the sub to the ship, but finds Namor the Sub-Mariner, in disguise, waiting for him. Master Man gains the upper hand on Namor, but Cap, Bucky, and the Torches arrive to lend a hand. Master Man retreats to shore, followed by Cap and Bucky, while Namor, the Torch, and Toro save the British ship and sink the sub. On shore, Master Man's super-soldier formula wears off and Cap and Bucky easily defeat him.

In the aftermath, the heroes learn that Winston Churchill was aboard the ship, coming to Washington for a meeting with President Roosevelt. He implores the group to remain together and upon their agreement, christens them the Invaders.

Monday, September 6, 2021

THE INVADERS

CAPTAIN AMERICA AND BUCKY! THE SUB-MARINER! THE ORIGINAL HUMAN TORCH & TORO! During the darkest hours of World War Two, these five heroes have banded together as THE INVADERS--to battle the Axis Powers to the death, in the name of freedom!

Having just wrapped up one Marvel run from the seventies, I think I'd like to stay in that decade a bit longer, to examine a series that's been on my radar for some time: THE INVADERS, by Roy Thomas, Frank Robbins, and more.

The Invaders is one of those groups where, at least for me, the legend is greater than any actual knowledge. I know the basics: a team of World War II era characters, banded together for a team book in the seventies to tell retroactive stories set during "the Big One". I've seen many Invaders flashbacks and reunions over the decades, but I've never read so much as a single issue of the original series.*

But I've always had an interest in it. Though I tend to be a little trepidatious about jumping into any series written by Roy Thomas, who I love as an idea guy/plotter but whose overblown purple prose I often can't handle as a scripter, I still want to give this series a try. The fact that it's drawn by Frank Robbins doesn't hurt, either -- as I mentioned when I looked at Batman in the Seventies a couple years ago, I really like Robbins' quirky, cartoony style.

So, armed with INVADERS CLASSIC: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION Volume 1 and Volume 2 (which I unboxed here years ago, in July and December of 2014 (!), I'm about to go through the saga of the Invaders on issue at a time, beginning right here next Monday.


*Okay, that's not entirely true. I owned one single, solitary issue of INVADERS as a child -- but I never read it! I think I got it before I could read, and just didn't pay it any mind in my collection over the subsequent years. Honestly, I have no idea how, at that age, I wound up with a comic that had been published a few years before I was born. It couldn't have been a hand-me-down, because there was no one to hand it down to me! Anyway, at some point, I lost it. I do remember which issue it was though, so I'll call it out when we get to it.

Monday, August 30, 2021

SONS OF THE TIGER PART 16

As presented in POWER MAN AND IRON FIST Nos. 81 & 82.

"THE ROAD TO HALWAN" | "SECRET OF THE BLACK TIGER"
Writer: Mary Jo Duffy | Penciler: Denys Cowan
Inkers: Ricardo Villamonte (issue 81) & Carl Potts (issue 82)
Letterers: Jim Novak (issue 81) & Janice Chiang (issue 82) | Colorist: Christie Scheele
Editor: Denny O'Neil | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: (Issue 81) Power Man and Iron Fist are approached by Abe Brown, who tells them that the nation of Halwan wants to extridite him for crimes he cannot remember. Power Man, Iron Fist, and their business partner, Jeryn Hogarth, head to Halwan, after surviving an attack by a pair of would-be assassins at the airport. Aboard their plane, the heroes are observed by Brillalae. Immediately upon landing in Halwan, Jeryn is arrested. The Heroes for Hire fight their way to safety and then infiltrate the Halwani capital castle to free Jeryn. There, they bump into undercover Russian spies Ninotchka and Boris, and eventually find themselves cornered by the king's guards.

(Issue 82) Iron Fist escapes while Power Man allows himself to be captured. Power Man is brought before Princess Azir, who also has Abe captive. Meanwhile, Iron Fist explores the castle and meets a pair of young people form neighboring Murkatesh, who are trying to get to the king. Power Man and Abe escape from Azir and race outside, where they find the Black Tiger leading a group of men to attack a recently arrived Russian diplomat. Meanwhile, Iron Fist fights Ninotchka inside the castle. Abe's memories of his time as the Black Tiger return, while Power Man and Boris find themselves reluctant allies against the Tiger's men. Iron Fist defeats Ninotchka while Power Man and Boris beat the insurgents. All parties converge on the king's throne room except Abe, who unmasks the new Black Tiger as Brillalae. Inside the palace, Power Man and Iron Fist are stunned to find that Jeryn, the king, the Russians, and an envoy from Murkatesh have negotiated a resolution to the impending war between Halwan and Murkatesh. The Heroes for Hire and their friends then head home.

Monday, August 23, 2021

SONS OF THE TIGER PART 15 - MEANWHILE...

And now we wrap up the saga of the White Tiger with a couple of "reruns" from the earlier days of this blog. Way back in 2014, I looked at one of my all-time favorite Marvel runs -- Roger Stern's tenure on SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN and AMAZING SPIDER-MAN from the early eighties. As part of his work on the former title, Stern decided to revisit Hector Ayala and, at least at the time, give his story a conclusion. Stern did a story about a hero-killing vigilante called Gideon Mace, and I suppose he needed to show that Mace was serious business, so he decided to have him cripple Spidey's pal from SPECTACULAR's earlier days.

When I read this at the time (and previously, in my younger days), I didn't think much of it since the Tiger was a curiosity and not a character with whom I was terribly familiar. But now, with the benefit of having seen his earliest appearances in DEADLY HANDS and some of his struggles in SPECTACULAR, Stern's callous treatment of the Tiger and his family, characters into whom Bill Mantlo clearly had invested a great deal of his energies and interest (and into whom George Pérez had injected biographical tidbits from his own life and family), reads differently, and is perhaps a blemish on his otherwise wonderful run.

But I'll let you decide! Following are my looks at the White Tiger backup serial Stern used to set up his Gideon Mace tale, and then Spider-Man's battle against Mace himself, originally posted here way back in the summer of '14:

PETER PARKER, THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN: THE WHITE TIGER SERIAL
PETER PARKER, THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #52

But if, after reading these stories, you think Roger Stern was rough on the Tiger, just remember that a couple decades later, in the pages of DAREDEVIL, Brian Bendis had him framed for a crime he didn't commit, after which he was gunned down and killed by cops while trying to clear his name.

So that's it for the White Tiger, but we're not quite finished with this saga yet. There's still one last big dangling plot left over from the final days of DEADLY HANDS OF KUNG FU, so I broke out the Comicraft fonts and prepared a little "primer" to get you ready for it:

Monday, August 16, 2021

SONS OF THE TIGER PART 14

As presented in PETER PARKER, THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN Nos. 19 & 20.

"AGAIN, THE ENFORCERS!"
Writer: Bill Mantlo | Artists: Sal Buscema & Mike Esposito
Letters: Jim Novak | Colors: Mary Titus | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

"WHERE WERE YOU WHEN THE LIGHTS WENT OUT?"
Story: Bill Mantlo | Art: Sal Buscema & Mike Esposito
Letterer: Irving Watanabe | Colorist: Don Warfield | Editor: Jim Shooter

The Plot: (Issue 19) In the hideout of their new boss, Lightmaster, the original Enforcers, Fancy Dan and Montana, practice beating on a Spider-Man dummy. Lightmaster appears and introduces the men to the new third member of their trio, a lumbering brute named Ox, to replace the original Ox who died in battle with Daredevil. Lightmaster sends the enforcers to the Coffee Bean near Empire State University, where they take the customers and staff hostage, demanding Spider-Man come to face them. Peter Parker, in the area, changes to the web-slinger and confronts the Enforcers, while the hostages escape. But one hostage, Hector Ayala, remains inside to watch the fight. After Spider-Man easily defeats the Enforcers and departs, Hector emerges from the Coffee Bean, leading Lightmaster to believe that Hector is actually Spider-Man.

(Issue 20) The police interrogate the Enforcers (while Spider-Man secretly listens in), but are unable to learn who their boss is. The web-slinger heads home for rest, while Lightmaster prepares to move against Hector. The next morning at Empire State University, Lightmaster appears and abducts Hector in front of Peter and others. Peter manages to tag Hector with a spider-tracer and tracks him to Lightmaster's hideout on Long Island. There, Lightmaster has activated TV cameras to broadcast his unmasking of Spider-Man. Spidey delivers to Hector the tiger amulets, which he dropped during the abduction, and Hector changes to White Tiger as Lightmaster's cameras roll. Spider-Man and White Tiger then defeat Lightmaster together.

Monday, August 9, 2021

SONS OF THE TIGER PART 13

As presented in PETER PARKER, THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN Nos. 9 & 10.

Though DEADLY HANDS OF KUNG FU ended with the February 1977 installment, Bill Mantlo was by no means finished with his co-creaton, Hector Ayala, a.k.a. the White Tiger. Also the writer of PETER PARKER, THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN, Mantlo brought Hector in as a supporting character on that series in very short order. Hector and/or the White Tiger appeared in several issues of Mantlo's run, but I don't intend to look at all of them here. I will, however, examine issues 9 and 10, the Tiger's first encounter with Spider-Man, and next week we'll look at issues 19 and 20, as they feature a major event in Hector's life.

"...LIKE A TIGER IN THE NIGHT!"
Writer: Bill Mantlo | Artists: Sal Buscema & Mike Esposito
Letters: John Costanza | Colors: Phil Rache | Editor: Archie Goodwin

"TIGER IN A WEB!"
Writer: Bill Mantlo | Artists: Sal Buscema, Mike Esposito, & Frank Giacoia
Letterer: Irving Watanabe | Colorist: Sam Kato | Editor: Archie Goodwin

The Plot: (Issue 9) Peter Parker arrives at Empire State University to find students up in arms over the school president's cancellation of night classes due to budget issues. But when ethnic studies professor Ramon Vasquez reveals that the school recently turned down a multi-million dollar bid for its prized Erskine Manuscripts, and that the money could've been used to keep the night classes running, the students become more riled up. One student present is recent enrollee Hector Ayala.

That night, the White Tiger arrives at ESU to steal the Erskine papers, and finds Peter Parker in the science library for a project. The Tiger and Peter have a scuffle and the Tiger gets away with the papers. Peter chases him into the hallway to find the Tiger fighting a group of armed, costumed men. The Tiger beats these men into retreat, and then departs. ESU's President Dwyer then arrives and announces the school is under a state of emergency. Spider-Man does some research on White Tiger, chatting briefly with Blackbyrd in the process, and then returns to ESU. Meanwhile, White Tiger has done the same, entering Professor Vasquez's office to find the professor looking at the Erskine Manuscripts. A moment later Spider-Man arrives as well.

Monday, August 2, 2021

SONS OF THE TIGER PART 12

As presented in DEADLY HANDS OF KUNG FU Nos. 31 & 32.

"DARK WATERS OF DEATH!" | "THE TIGER-SONS MUST DIE!"
Story: Bill Mantlo | Art: Joe Staton & Sonny Trinidad
Tones: Michele Brand (issue 33)

The Plot: (DEADLY HANDS #32) White Tiger and his brother, Filippo, arrive at the waterfront, where the Tiger boards the freighter El Tigre. Filippo soon follows him aboard, just as Jack of Hearts arrives. Jack and Filippo are confronted by a group of costumed men, while White Tiger prowls the ship. Elsewhere, Danny Rand and Shang-Chi arrive at Misty Knight's private detective office, where Misty is speaking with Blackbyrd, who wants help in finding White Tiger. Danny and Shang-Chi agree to join in as well.

Back on the freighter, White Tiger fights his way to a sinister executive named Wender. Meanwhile, Blackbyrd, Iron Fist, and Shang-Chi approach the ship via helicopter. The two heroes disembark to join Jack of Hearts' battle on deck, but Blackbyrd is shot down. The chopper crashes, sending El Tigre drifting down the river, but Blackbyrd survives. White Tiger fights off Wender's men, while Shang-Chi and Iron Fist help rout Jack of Hearts' opponents. Filippo is injured and makes his way into the ship, where he finds Wender babbling about White Tiger. Further into the ship, Filippo meets up with his brother to find the drug-runners in their board room, all dead of self-inflicted gunshots.

White Tiger confronts Filippo, realizing that his brother is actually the leader of the drug-runners and that he was never a junkie. Filippo pulls a gun on the Tiger, who is joined by Jack, Shang-Chi, and Iron Fist. Filippo reveals his plans to join Fu Manchu's organization, but is shocked when he views a recording from Manchu stating that Filippo's operation is beneath him. Realizing he has no way out, Filippo arms the bomb attached to his chest. White Tiger and the others escape, but the ship blows up with Filippo, his men, and his drugs aboard.

Monday, July 26, 2021

SONS OF THE TIGER PART 11

As presented in DEADLY HANDS OF KUNG FU Nos. 29 and 30.

"FLESH OF MY FLESH!"
Story: Bill Mantlo | Art: Ron Wilson, Sonny Trinidad, Rudy Mesina & Pete Lijauco

"THREADS OF EVIL... WEB OF HATE!"
Story: Bill Mantlo | Art: George Pérez & Sonny Trinidad

The Plot: (DEADLY HANDS #29) On the handball court where the girl, Cheeky, was killed, a riot breaks out as the neighborhood citizens blame White Tiger for her death. With the help of Blackbyrd, D'Angelo, and the police, White Tiger fights the mob off, but is consumed in his fury until Blackbyrd punches him. Meanwhile, Jack of Hearts leaves the hospital to find White Tiger, while at the Ayala apartment, young brother Filippo reveals to Awilda that he was running drugs for Maris, the man killed trying to abduct Jack of Hearts at the hospital, and only Maris can deactivate a bomb attached to Filippo. Elsewhere, Lin and Lotus receive a call from Bob's agent regarding his estate, while Bob himself struggles to survive in the snowy Canadian wilderness. And in Africa, Brillalae tells Abe it is his destiny to wear the costume he carried in his suitcase, and to become... the Black Tiger.

(DEADLY HANDS #30) Jack of Hearts finds D'Angelo and Blackbyrd and learns that White Tiger has left them to continue his quest for "El Tigre". Jack next visits Daily Globe publisher Barney Bushkin to gather facts about his father's murder, and learns that El Tigre is a ship from Chile which the drug-runner, Maris, was going to meet before he died. Meanwhile, White Tiger sees hallucinations of those who have died since he became a hero -- but the moment is interrupted when he hears Awilda below, being accosted by a gang after Filippo. White Tiger saves his brother and sister, and Filippo reveals the bomb wired to his body. Elsewhere, Bob struggles through the wilderness and runs into a polar bear, while in New York, Lin and Lotus visit Bob's agent and refuse to take their friend's money. In Africa, Abe, wearing the black costume, leads the bedouins in an assault on a military convoy.

Monday, July 19, 2021

SONS OF THE TIGER PART 10

As presented in DEADLY HANDS OF KUNG FU Nos. 24, 26, & 27.

"TIGER, TIGER... BURNING BRIGHT--"
Story: Bill Mantlo | Art: Keith Giffen & The Tribe

"WHITE TIGER"
Story: Bill Mantlo | Art: Jim Sherman & The Tribe

"...DEATH IS A GAME CALLED HANDBALL!"
Story: Bill Mantlo | Art: Ron Wilson & The Tribe

The Plot: (DEADLY HANDS #24) White Tiger, Detective D'Angelo, Blackbyrd, and Awilda rush the injured Jack of Hearts to the hospital. While the doctors examine Jack, White Tiger reveals his true identity as Hector Ayala to the others. Meanwhile, Abe Brown awakens in a bedouin camp, to find Brillalae, the woman who switched suitcases with him in New York, tending to him. The bedouins also have the hijacker, Mole, captive, and they want Abe and Mole to fight over the costume inside the case. From a dune above, Mole's compatriots, Scratch and Table-Top, watch. Back in New York, Lin Sun and Lotus have been unable to reach Bob Diamond by phone, so they send him a telegram. But up in Canada, Bob has been buried by an avalanche during the filming of his movie. At the hospital, Jack of Hearts' power goes out of control until White Tiger calms him down -- but moments later, costumed men arrive, demanding that Jack be turned over to them.

(DEADLY HANDS #26) At the hospital, the White Tiger, Blackbyrd, and D'Angelo fight the newcomers, eventually defeating them. In Africa, Abe fights Mole, somehow catching a bullet from the criminal's gun. Mole falls into a pit of snakes and dies as Brillalae crowns Abe winner of the duel. In New York, Lin and Lotus recieve word that Bob was lost in an avalanche, while in Canada, Bob emerges from beneath the snow to find the film crew has departed, and he is alone in the wilderness.

(DEADLY HANDS #27) Searching the South Bronx for the mysterious "Tigre", White Tiger, D'Angelo, and Blackbyrd meet a girl named "Cheeky" playing handball at the local junior high school. The group then heads on to a bar, where they question the patrons and get into a fight that leaves nearly everyone dead, save our heroes and the bartender, Whitewash. While Blackbyrd and D'Angelo question Whitewash, White Tiger leaves the bar and bumps into Cheeky. She has a handball someone asked her to get autographed by the Tiger, but it explodes in her hands, killing her.

Monday, July 12, 2021

SONS OF THE TIGER PART 9

As presented in DEADLY HANDS OF KUNG FU Nos. 21, 22, & 23.

"TO CLAW THE EYES OF NIGHT!"
Story: Bill Mantlo | Art: George Pérez & Jack Abel

"WHO IS THE WHITE TIGER?"
Story: Bill Mantlo | Art: Keith Giffen & Rico Rival

"REVENGE IS THE JACK OF HEARTS"
Story: Bill Mantlo | Art: Gil Kane & Rico Rival

The Plot: (DEADLY HANDS #21) The police attempt to arrest Hector, but when he feels the tiger amulets beginning to change him into White Tiger, he runs and transforms in an alleyway outside his family apartment. Meanwhile, Abe Brown is aboard his flight to Morocco when a group of men attack him for the suitfcase that was swapped for his own at the airport. Abe fights the men off, but only after they kill the pilots and all flight attendants. As Abe opens the case and finds a black costume inside, the plane begins plummeting toward Earth. In New York, Bob Diamond decides to go do a movie in Canada, while the White Tiger eludes the police only to find himself up against the Prowler. Prowler and the Tiger fight to a standstill and the police arrive, informing the Tiger that both he and Hector have been cleared in connection with the death of young Manny Lopez. The vigilantes part ways and the Tiger changes back into Hector, who has once again blacked out and has no memory of his name being cleared.

(DEADLY HANDS #22) While Hector's mother and sister wonder where he is, Hector finally realizes that he is the White Tiger when he sees a newspaper photo of the Tiger wearing his amulets. Meanwhile, Detective D'Angelo and his boss discuss the Tiger when Blackbyrd interrupts them, looking for information about the vigilante as well. Elsewhere, Abe manages to land the plummeting airliner in the Sahara desert, while in New York, Lotus and Lin Sun look for jobs. Meanwhile, the White Tiger approaches Hector's father, Nestor, and tells him that Hector is okay. But as soon as he leaves, the Tiger is attacked by the costumed Jack of Hearts.

(DEADLY HANDS #23) Jack of Hearts fights White Tiger, claiming that the Tiger is behind his father's recent murder. Meanwhile, Abe leaves the crashed plane in pursuit of one of the men who attacked him -- Mole, who has taken the mystery suitcase. Abe and Mole are found and taken by a group of bedouins, while aboard the plane, two of Mole's compatriots, Table-Top and Scratch, come around and head out after the others. In New York, Lin and Lotus see a news report about the plane crash. Knowing Abe was aboard, they call Bob, up in Canada shooting his movie, for help. Meanwhile, White Tiger convinces Jack of Hearts that he didn't kill anyone, just as Jack passes out due to their battle. Detective D'Angelo, Blackbyrd, and Hector's sister, Awilda, then show up.

Monday, July 5, 2021

SONS OF THE TIGER PART 8

As presented in DEADLY HANDS OF KUNG FU Nos. 19 & 20.

"AN ENDING!" | "THE BEGINNING"
Story: Bill Mantlo | Art: George Pérez & Jack Abel
Additional Dialogue: Yvette O. Pérez

The Plot: (DEADLY HANDS #19) The Sons of the Tiger meet at their dojo, where Bob Diamond attacks Lin Sun over Lin's love for Lotus. Abe attempts to intervene and is knocked aside by Bob, leading Abe to remove his amulet and storm off. Lotus tells Bob that she and Lin are in love, then she, too, departs. Bob and Lin fight, with Lin ultimately gaining the upper hand and savagely beating his friend. Lin stops himself from hurting Bob further, and the men finally come to a sort of peace, leaving the dojo together. Lin discards all three tiger amulets in a trash can as they go. Soon after, the amulets are found by a young man named Hector Ayala, who dons them and transforms into the White Tiger.

(DEADLY HANDS #20) At a train yard in the South Bronx, White Tiger attempts to stop a street gang from murdering a night watchman, but in the ensuing chaos, the watchman winds up killing a young child running with the gang. White Tiger then departs and returns to the Ayala family apartment, where he reverts to Hector, with no memory of his nocturnal exploits. The next morning, Bob and Lotus say their goodbyes and Lotus leaves the Sons' brownstone with Lin Sun -- while elsewhere, Abe is leaving for a vacation when he bumps into a beautiful woman at the airport who distracts him and switches his suitcase for her own. The next morning at the Ayala apartment, a police detective arrives to arrest Hector in connection with the previous night's killing.

Monday, June 28, 2021

SONS OF THE TIGER PART 7

As presented in MARVEL TEAM-UP nos. 39 & 40 and DEADLY HANDS OF KUNG FU no. 18.

"ANY NUMBER CAN SLAY!" | "MURDER'S BETTER THE SECOND TIME AROUND!"
Writer: Bill Mantlo | Artists: Sal Buscema & Mike Esposito
Letterer: Karen Mantlo | Colorists: Don Warfield (issue 39) & Janice Cohen (issue 40)
Editor: Marv Wolfman

The Plot: (MTU #39) On a New York City rooftop, Spider-Man evades an assassination attempt, while elsewhere in Manhattan, the Human Torch is captured by the Enforcers and their leader, the Big Man. That night, Spidey runs across the villains attempting to auction off the Torch at an abandoned warehouse, and intervenes to free him. The Torch and the Web-Slinger defeat the bad guys, but are surprised when Sandman and the Crime Master enter the fray.

(MTU #40) The villains decide to team up and capture the Human Torch, forcing Spider-Man to surrender. But next door to the warehouse, the Sons of the Tiger are practicing in their dojo. They leave to investigate the sounds of battle from the warehouse, and free Spider-Man and the Torch. The villains escape, and the Torch departs for a date, leaving Spider-Man to search for the bad guys -- and he finds them, but only after they've captured the Sons of the Tiger. Spidey breaks in to save his new friends, and Crime Master shoots the Big Man during a scuffle. Eventually the heroes win the day and Spidey unmasks both crime lords, revealing Crime Master to be the son of the original, deceased Crime Master, and the now-dead Big "Man" to be the daugther of the original, deceased Big Man.

"FISTS OF DARKNESS, FISTS OF DEATH!"
Story: Bill Mantlo | Art: Pat Broderick & Terry Austin

The Plot: At a subway station, the Sons of the Tiger and Blackbyrd team up with Danny "Iron Fist" Rand to save a woman's life and stop a hitman from escaping New York. The group goes to a bar afterward, where Blackbyrd follows a hunch and is attacked by a gangster named Snake Eyes and his men, the Black Hand, in an alleyway outside. The Sons and Iron Fist come to Blackbyrd's rescue, and during the fight, Snake Eyes reveals he is a cyborg. Iron Fist kills him in battle, and the group heads back into the bar.

Monday, June 21, 2021

SONS OF THE TIGER PART 6

As presented in DEADLY HANDS OF KUNG FU Nos. 16 & 17.

"CHAPTER I: THE RITES OF EVERY CITIZEN!"
Story: Bill Mantlo | Art: George Pérez & Stan Gan

"CHAPTER TWO: POLITICS OF DEATH!"
Story: Bill Mantlo | Art: George Pérez & Jack Abel

The Plot: (DEADLY HANDS #16) Blackbyrd recruits the Sons of the Tiger to assist a prisoners' rights watchdog group in investigating an upstate prison rife with corruption. The Sons go to the jail under cover of performing a martial arts exhibition for the inmates, with Blackbyrd as their "manager". It quickly becomes apparent that the entire prison staff is corrupt, and a fight breaks out between the Sons, Blackbyrd, and the prisoners on one side and the guards on the other -- resulting in the warden calling in the National Guard.

(DEADLY HANDS #17) The National Guard fires tear gas into the prison, leading the Sons to separate, taking prisoners to the infirmary for treatment while also going after the guards. When an elderly inmate is killed saving Lin Sun's life, Lotus kills his murderer with a machine gun. Abe tries to call the governor, while the National Guard enters the prison and meets up with the guards' leader, Ryder. Ryder leads the soldiers into battle, resulting in a bloodbath that kills several inmates and some of his own men. When Ryder snaps and kills the soldiers' colonel for ordering a ceasefire, Blackbyrd kills Ryder. The governor calls off the National Guard, and everyone leaves the prison.

Monday, June 14, 2021

SONS OF THE TIGER PART 5

As presented in DEADLY HANDS OF KUNG FU Nos. 12 - 14.

"THE CRACK OF THE WHIP"
Story: Bill Mantlo | Art: George Pérez & The Tribe

"DEATH IS MY CO-STAR!"
Story: Bill Mantlo | Art: George Pérez & Jack Abel

"THE VALLEY OF ANCESTORS"
Story: Bill Mantlo | Art: George Pérez & Dan Adkins

The Plot: (DEADLY HANDS #12) Abe Brown witnesses the murder of a woman while walking through Times Square, and soon finds himself teamed up with the man who had been hired to protect her, a private detective named Nathaniel "Blackbyrd" Byrd. Blackbyrd explains that the woman worked at a nuclear site in New Mexico, where she was contaminated. She turned whisteblower, so the company killed her to keep her quiet. Abe and Blackbyrd eventually avenge the girl, bringing the corrupt company's misdeeds to light.

(DEADLY HANDS #13) Bob Diamond, working on a movie in New York's Chinatown, comes aross a murdered man on-set -- the second death since production began. Bob and Lotus Shinchuko investigate the killings, antagonized at every turn by NYPD officer D'Angelo. Eventually, Bob find that the killer is Mr. Curtis, who wrote, directed, and starred in the original version of the movie from 1925, and who wants to stop production on this remake because it might bring to light the fact that the original film was created as a cover-up for Chinatown's illicit black market. In the end, Curtis dies trying to escape from Bob and D'Angelo.

(DEADLY HANDS #14) While meditating, Lun Sun finds himself in the astral plane, wandering alongside a samurai. Lin helps the samurai fight off a group of bandits, then follows him to a village which has been razed by the forces of Death. Death confronts Lin and the samurai, but Lin takes Death's life and then leaves the astral plane, returning to Earth with a physical gift from the samurai: his sword.

Monday, June 7, 2021

SONS OF THE TIGER PART 4

As presented in DEADLY HANDS OF KUNG FU Nos. 9 - 11.

"SLAUGHTER IN CENTRAL PARK!"
Writer: Bill Mantlo | Artists: George Pérez & Mike Esposito

"THEY WHO DWELL WITHIN!"
Plot: Bill Mantlo & George Pérez
Writer: Bill Mantlo | Art: George Pérez & Mike Esposito

"GLADIATORS IN THE CRYPT OF TOMORROW
Story: Bill Mantlo | Art: George Pérez & Tony DeZuniga

The Plot: (DEADLY HANDS #9) The Sons of the Tiger escape from the collapsing 59th Street Bridge with the mystery woman who triggered the explosion in tow. Bob Diamond rents space in a brownstone for the group, and they head there to recuperate. Bob and the woman, Lotus, head into Central Park for a walk, and some time later, Bob returns, badly beaten. Abe Brown runs into the park to find Lotus waiting in ambush. She nearly kills him, but Lin Sun comes to his rescue, defeating Lotus and vowing an end to the Sons' feud with the Silent Ones.

(DEADLY HANDS #10) Lin removes the device which the Silent Ones have used to control Lotus. The group returns to their brownstone, where Lotus goes to stay with the landlady while Lin, Bob, and Abe use the tiger amulets to enter another plane of existence. There, they battle aspects of themselves and eventually arrive at the stronghold of the Silent Ones.

(DEADLY HANDS #11) The Silent Ones reveal their plan to inhabit the Sons' bodies and return to Earth with intentions to conquer it. The Sons fight back, and ultimately defeat the Silent Ones, then return to Earth.

Monday, May 31, 2021

SONS OF THE TIGER PART 3

As presented in DEADLY HANDS OF KUNG FU Nos. 6 - 8.

"THE WAY OF THE JACKAL!"
Story: Jim Dennis | Art: George Pérez & Frank Springer

"TIGERS IN A MIND-CAGE!"
Writer: Bill Mantlo | Artists: George Pérez & Bob McLeod

"STORM OF VENGEANCE!
Story: Bill Mantlo | Art: George Pérez & Al Milgrom

The Plot: (DEADLY HANDS #6) The Sons of the Tiger enter a New York martial arts tournament in order to draw attention to themselves as bait for the Seven Silent Ones. During the Tournament, Lin Sun humiliates a student of a large man named Paan. Later, Paan lures Bob Diamond into a trap and captures him, then uses Bob to bring Lin and Abe Brown into his clutches. Paan forces Lin to fight several of his students at once, while Bob and Abe watch. But eventually the Sons of the Tiger unite to defeat the villains.

(DEADLY HANDS #7) In their hotel room, the Sons are visited by a man named Harrison Budge, who gases and abducts them. In an undisclosed location, Budge sends the Sons separately into three chambers where they face their inner demons. After overcoming these fears, the Sons reunite to confront Budge. He sets robots against them, but the Sons defeat the mechanoids and capture Budge.

(DEADLY HANDS #8) Back at their hotel once more, the Sons attempt to interrogate Budge -- but their efforts are interrupted by a gang of ninjas. Budge escapes during the fight and the Sons pursue, finding a clue that leads them to Welfare Island beneath the Queensboro Bridge. There, they fight and defeat Budge again, and then are attacked by a massive sumo warrior. The Sons claim victory over this new foe as well, and a mystery woman appears, triggering a bomb that blows up one of the bridge's supports.

Monday, May 24, 2021

SONS OF THE TIGER PART 2 - THE MASTER PLAN OF FU MANCHU

As presented in DEADLY HANDS OF KUNG FU SPECIAL No. 1.

"TITLE PAGE" & "EPILOG"
Script: Tony Isabella | Art: John Buscema
Featuring supporting characters created by Sax Rohmer.

"CHAPTER 1: IRON FIST"
Script: Doug Moench | Art: Frank McLaughlin & the Crusty Bunkers

"CHAPTER 2: THE SONS OF THE TIGER!"
Script: Chris Claremont | Art: Herb Trimpe

"CHAPTER 3: THE HANDS OF SHANG-CHI, MASTER OF KUNG FU
Script: Doug Moench | Art: Mike Vosburg & Dan Adkins

For its first "Summer Special", DEADLY HANDS OF KUNG FU presents a serial starring all of of Marvel's 1970s martial arts characters in a "non" team-up, pitting them against the insidious Doctor Fu Manchu, archenemy and father of Shang-Chi. The story begins with a one-page prologue, a pin-up showing the Sons of the Tiger, Iron Fist, and Shang-Chi, with Fu Manchu's face hovering above them, as narration briefly explains who all our our protagonists are. From there, we move into the serial proper, starting with Iron Fist:

The Plot: Iron Fist is wandering the back alleys of New York when he comes across a Chinese U.N. delegate on the verge of death. Befor the man expires, he tells Iron Fist that his five compatriots were abducted. Iron Fist battles two of the kidnappers, who show up in search of the now-deceased delegate. One of the villains escapes, and Iron Fist pursues him to a warehouse, where he battles the kidnappers' master, a sumo warrior named Tsu-Gamo. Iron Fist defeats Tsu-Gamo and his men, but finds that the delegates have been spirited away.

Subsequently, Abe Brown, Lin Sun, and Bob Diamond arrive in New York for a martial arts tournament, but find themselves attacked at the airport by agents of Lo Chin and the Seven Silent Ones. The Sons defeat the men and escape, and the next morning see a news report about the missing Chinese delegates. When China's deputy foreign minister appears onscreen from the United Nations, Lin's tiger amulet tingles. He leads Bob and Abe to the U.N. to investigate, where they attempt to stop Chinese agents from kidnapping the American delegation. But the Sons fail, and the Americans are taken, leading the president to demand their return, lest China face the consequences. And unknown to all, the "Chinese" are actually agents of Fu Manchu's Si-Fan organization.

Monday, May 17, 2021

SONS OF THE TIGER PART 1

As presented in DEADLY HANDS OF KUNG FU Nos. 1, 3, and 4.

"THE SONS OF THE TIGER!" | "THE TRAIL OF THE NINJA!"
"NIGHT OF THE DEATH-DREAM!"
Author: Gerry Conway | Editor & Advisor: Roy Thomas
Artists: Dick Giordano & Frank McLaughlin (pts. 1 & 2) | Don Perlin & Dan Adkins (pt. 3)

The Plot: (DEADLY HANDS #1) One night in San Francisco's Chinatown, on his way home from a martial arts tournament, a young man named Lin Sun is attacked by a group of ninjas. He fights them off, but upon entering the dojo where he trains, finds his Master Kee dying thanks to the ninjas. Kee tells Lin to take the three jade tiger amulets that he keeps in the dojo, and to go seek out the school's two other best students, Abe Brown and Bob Diamond -- then Kee dies in Lin's arms. Lin takes the amulets and locates Abe first, helping him to fight off a group of drug dealers. The two move along to the penthouse apartment of Bob, a movie star, and save him from a ninja attack as well.

Bob and Abe each take one amulet and the trio sets out for the only ninjutsu school in San Francisco, where they fight its master, Sui Tu Kama. Using the mystical amulets to triple their individual fighting skills, the "Sons of the Tiger" defeat Kama and his ninja followers, and discover a hidden opium den in the dojo as well. Abe believes Master Kee has been avenged, but Lin states that Kama had a master, and vows to find him.

(DEADLY HANDS #3) Following a lead, Lin Sun arrives at Janto Imports on the San Francisco waterfront. He is attacked by ninjas and holds his own, but is eventually defeated. Meanwhile, Abe and Bob, who abandoned Lin to continue his mission alone after they felt they had sufficiently avenged Master Kee, have a change of heart and go after their friend. They find Lin about to be killed by an old man named Lo Chin and his minions. Abe and Bob rescue Lin and the group fights together once more, defeating Lo Chin's men and destroying his stolen sonic cannon -- but in the aftermath of the fight, Lo Chin has vanished.

(DEADLY HANDS #4) Following yet another lead, the Sons arrive at the airport, where they try to stop Lo Chin from boarding a plane. But the craft takes off with Lin having chased Lo Chin aboard. Bob and Abe hitch a ride as it rises into the air, leading to a battle aboard the plane. Eventually it crashes, apparently with Lo Chin aboard, but the Sons bail out to watch the wreckage burn.

Monday, May 10, 2021

THE SONS OF THE TIGER

Okay, this is something I've wanted to read for decades. Back when I was a kid, Marvel used to cram every year's annuals with backup stories. In Spider-Man's case, that usually meant short tales starring characters in his orbit. Not necessarily always members of his supporting cast, but sometimes other heroes he ran into, but who didn't have their own series. One of these was the Prowler, who featured in two or three annual backups in the late eighties/early nineties. And one of the Prowler backups, "Jaded Perceptions" from 1993's SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN ANNUAL #13, featured the Prowler's brother, Abe Brown, who co-owned a martial arts dojo with his friend Lin Sun -- and who, it turned out, had been a hero-type himself years earlier, alongside a group of his fellow martial artists.*
See, the Prowler's real name, long establsihed since Stan Lee and John Romita introduced him in the sixties, was Hobie Brown. And in the seventies, Marvel published a serial in their DEADLY HANDS OF KUNG FU magazine called "The Sons of the Tiger". (Bear with me here; this will all make sense in the end. I hope.) That serial starred a trio of martial artists: Abe Brown, Lin Sun, and Bob Diamond. So eventually, circa 1989, somebody at Marvel realized that they had this character named Hobie Brown and they had this character named Abe Brown. Both were black men. They had the same last name. Why not make them brothers?

Yeah, it seems weird on its face. Brown isn't exactly an uncommon last name that would make you think two characters of the same ethnicity sharing it simply had to be related. But if that hadn't happened, I never would've learned about the Sons of the Tiger. That story I mentioned, "Jaded Perceptions", features Abe and Lin explaining their backstory from DEADLY HANDS OF KUNG FU. And I don't know why, but twelve-year-old me just thought the Sons sounded really cool. Three martial artists with magical jade amulets doing kung-fu on the mean streets of San Francsico and New York (among other places) -- what's not to love? (It should be noted that I have long been a fan of "exploitation" cinema, but apparently I was a fan of it in comic book form before I even knew what it was!)

Monday, May 3, 2021

BOB MORANE RESURRECTION VOLUMES 1 & 2

"RARE EARTH" | "THE VILLAGE THAT DIDN'T EXIST"
Writers: Luc Brunschwig & Aurélien Ducoudray
Artist: Dimitri Armand | Colorist: Hugo Facio
Based on the novels of Henri Vernes


As I discovered (and mentioned) while looking at the third RIC HOCHET book a few weeks ago, this Bob Morane character was a contemporary of Ric's, having been created around the same time -- albeit in a series of novels rather than comics. But Morane eventually branched out into graphic novels as well (plus a TV show and other media adaptations over the decades). However, unlike Ric, who appeared to remain forever set in the 1960s (at least in the recent books I looked at), Morane's adventures seem to always be set in the modern day (again, at least per these two new volumes).

And as it happened, I had picked up two BOB MORANE books -- the only two available in English, so far as I can tell -- in some Comixology sale or another a while back. The stories were originally published in 2017 and 2018, respectively, and comprise one single story arc which, while somewhat resolved by the end of book two, ends on a bit of a cliffhanger.

Book one opens with our hero, French soldier Bob Morane, standing trial over an event that occurred in the recent past, when he was part of a U.N. peacekeeping detail in Nigeria. We quickly learn that Morane defied orders to save the life of a Nigerian presidential candidate, which landed him in hot water with his superiors. But when that candidate, Oussman, is elected, he negotiates Morane's pardon and invites the ex-soldier to come work with him as an advisor. The story then skips ahead six years, as we find that a French tech company, Belfon, is working to provide aid to Nigeria, under Morane's auspices.

Monday, April 26, 2021

MISS OCTOBER VOLUME 4

"A COP AND A GENTLEMAN"
Writer: Stephen Desberg | Artist: Alain Queireix | Colorist: Kattrin


You may recall that when I looked at MISS OCTOBER book one a few weeks back, I noted that the opening scene was set at UCLA in 1963, as Viktor attempted to steal some artwork but triggered an alarm and was cornered outside by Detective Clegg Jordan. The action then jumped back two years to 1961, which is where we spent the bulk of book one, as well as all of books two and three. Well, book four opens on that night in 1963 once more, as Clegg lets Viktor go just before Ariel and several officers show up. Clegg then places Ariel under arrest for... the murder of Clegg's own wife, Margeaux! And with that, we're off and running into the final MISS OCTOBER installment.

We learn, in short order via flashbacks and exposition, that four months ago, Margeaux called Ariel, begging to see him again. They met and got it on, and then a photographer burst into the room and snapped several photos of the pair in coitus. Margeaux didn't really want Ariel back; she wanted to humuliate and blackmail him for the way he had treated her. It is based on this that Clegg arrests Ariel, but the LAPD chief knows the evidence is flimsy -- but, hating Ariel nearly as much as Clegg does, he gives Clegg one week to find concrete proof.

Meanwhile, during the four months since Margeaux's murder, Viktor and Clegg have been carrying on an affair. Clegg wants to marry her, but Juanita, who has carried a torch for Clegg for a long time, finds out that Clegg is in love with Viktor. Knowing about Viktor's secret life as a thief, Juanita makes plans to frame her -- but Clegg finds out. And this is where the story, which seemed more-or-less neatly wrapped up in the previous volume, takes some very dramatic turns as it careens toward its conclusion.

Monday, April 19, 2021

MISS OCTOBER VOLUME 3

"VERY BAD MEMORIES"
Writer: Stephen Desberg | Artist: Alain Queireix | Colorist: Kattrin


Puzzle pieces finally fall into place in this third MISS OCTOBER volume. It opens with the serial killer striking again, this time taking the life of Miss April. Meanwhile, Detective Clegg overhears some officers discussing Ariel's affair with his wife. Clegg confronts her at home, but before he can bring up her indiscretions, she mentions his dalliances with the hooker-turned-detective, Juanita Jones. She then tells Clegg that she either wants a divorce, or wants to leave Los Angeles.

Elsewhere, Viktor's father withholds new of Maddie's murder from her, and Viktor soon receives a note from the letter-writer/killer, informing her she has been selected as Miss October. At UCLA, Juanita questions a young man named Laurel Finch, who used to have a thing for Viktor, while Viktor sneaks into her father's office and finds photos of a girl named Audrey (who the letter-writer reminded her in the previous book to 'remember.'" The pictures trigger some memories in Viktor, and she begins to recall the night of her assault. She went to a party with her friends, and Laurel was there as well. Viktor chose the occasion to tell him to stay away from her, leading to an altercation.

Following a lead from Laurel, Juanita visits Jill and Mason Corton, the hosts of the party, while Viktor leaves the photos of Audrey out to let her father know she's figuring things out, then she leaves her house to go meet her friend Lana, who was also in attendance at the party, at a café. After a brief chat, Viktor leaves to find her tires slashed and a note on her car informing her that the "issues from May to September have been canceled." She's then attacked by the killer, but escapes with the aid of a taxi driver.

Monday, April 12, 2021

MISS OCTOBER VOLUME 2

"MURDER OF THE MONTH"
Writer: Stephen Desberg | Artist: Alain Queireix | Colorist: Kattrin

The second installment of MISS OCTOBER opens with our heroine, Viktor, having received a second note from the mystery person who claims to know about the night she was assaulted and rendered deaf. The letter-writer wants one hundred thousand dollars in order to reveal the secret. So naturally our ameteur cat burglar concocts a scheme to extort the cash from a friend of her father's, Hogan Harley. At the same time, Inspector Clegg's investigation finds the car he's been seaching for, abandoned in a parking lot -- and registration reveals it to be owned by Hogan as well.

So Viktor steals Hogan's "little black book" -- containing information on all the young women with whom the respected Christian music producer has carried on affairs -- and sends him a note demanding money in exchange for the book's return. The same day Hogan reads the letter, Clegg stops by to tell him his car has bene located. Hogan claims his daughter, Maddie, had the car when it was taken, and Maddie tells Clegg that she was with Viktor in order to get him off her scent. She then goes to visit the serial killer, who murders her (and who has also added Viktor to his list of upcoming victims as Miss October).

The weird thing is, Maddie doesn't seem to know the guy she's visiting is the killer; she's just there to tell him the police are on to them over the stolen car. It's only later, after he's stabbed her and taken some nude photos of her, that she realized the truth... just before he finishes her off.

Monday, April 5, 2021

MISS OCTOBER VOLUME 1

"PLAYMATES, 1961"
Writer: Stephen Desberg | Artist: Alain Queireix | Colorist: Kattrin

Set in the early sixties, MISS OCTOBER is an entry into the "hard-boiled crime noir" genre -- but unlike many such stories, its main protagonist is a beautiful young woman named Viktor Scott, the deaf daughter of a wealthy couple in mid-century Los Angeles. The story opens in 1963, as Viktor breaks into a UCLA museum to steal a priceless artifact. The police, led by one Lt. Ariel Samson arrive, alerted by an alarm, and Viktor is caught by an Inspector Clegg Jordan -- but he and Viktor share some past, and Clegg lets her go.

The story then jumps back two years, as the L.A. police struggle to solve a series of murders. Beautiful women are being raped and stabbed, with the killer labeling each victim as if she were a Playmate -- "Miss January" and "Miss February" have already died, and Inspector Jordan is on the case to prevent further such killings. Meanwhile, Lt. Ariel Samson, Clegg's rival, has been assigned to investigate a string of art thefts in the area -- which, of course, are being perpetrated by Viktor for reasons unknown.

In short order, we learn that Viktor was recently assaulted in her parents' home while they were away, and that she suffers partial amnesiam of the event, which is also what caused her deafness. Meanwhile, there's a sordid soap opera going on in the LAPD, where Ariel is having a secret affair with a female officer, but is also getting it on with Clegg's wife, Margeaux -- while Clegg spends his time banging hookers when he's not on a case or at home with Margeaux and their young daughter. It's like MAD MEN if they were all detectives instead of advertising executives!

(Oh, Ariel is also Clegg's superior, and while early on we see them nearly get into a fistfight at the office, later, Ariel says he would take a bullet for Clegg -- and he feels really guilty about all that sex he's having with Clegg's wife.)

Friday, April 2, 2021

RIC HOCHET VOLUME 3

"HOW TO COMMIT THE PERFECT MURDER"
Writer: Zidrou | Artist: Van Liemt | Colorist: Cerminaro

There are revelations galore in the opening pages of our latest RIC HOCHET installment! First off, the book opens with Ric and Nadine, who I had previously believed to be his platonic friend, in bed together. Not long after, we learn that the couple is engaged! Now, their relationship was not in any way a factor in either of the previous two stories, but still -- this seems like something that might have been mentioned once or twice.

But Commissioner Bourdon is apparently unaware of the fact that Ric and his niece are sleeping together (or possibly even unaware that they're engaged; it's hard to tell), because when he shows up to speak with Ric about a case, Nadine goes out her way to hide from him. The case, a recent string of murders rocking Paris, leads to our second unexpected revelation, as Ric goes to seek help from his father, Richard Hochet -- a "gentleman burglar" who hands out at a burlesque club with his cronies. Ric mentions that his dad showed up in ton "a few months ago," and that up until that point, he had believed himself an orphan. Not even Nadine knows about Ric's father until he tells her.

Again, this had no bearing on either of the prior adventures, and unlike the relationship between Ric and Nadine, is not something I would've expected to be commented upon in those tales. The only thing that confuses me here is -- when did this happen? As noted when I looked at volume one a couple weeks ago, that book was packed with footnotes referring readers to older RIC HOCHET stories. The second book had no such notes, but it also didn't make many (or any) references to past adventures, so I figured that was why. But if our protagonist learned at some point that his father was alive and he was not, as he had always believed, an orphan, you would think that might rate a note here!

Monday, March 29, 2021

AVENGERS: EARTH'S MIGHTIEST HEROES S1x026

"A DAY UNLIKE ANY OTHER"
Written by Christopher Yost | Directed by Sebastian Montes

The Plot: Around the Nine Realms, the Avengers prepare for battle agaisnt Loki's forces with their various new allies -- while in Asgard, Loki is crowned king. Hulk and the Warriors Three battle the frost giants at the entrance to the Rainbow Bridge, and are joined by Giant-Man, Wasp, and Sif and the valkyries. Hawkeye, Black Panther, and Faradei arrive to assist, and the giants (as well as Loki's loyal Asgardian warriors) are defeated.
Meanwhile, in Niffelheim, Hela continues her attempt on Captain America's soul. But Cap refuses, so Hela begins to bargain with him. Elsewhere, Loki sees the Avengers advancing on his palace and summons Hoarfen, a gigantic ice wolf, to attack them. When it appears Hoarfen has the upper hand, Captain America appears and barks out orders that let the Avengers turn the tide. The Avengers and their allies march into Loki's throne room, but Loki, empowered by the Odinforce, proves more than they can handle. He destroys Captain America's shield and is about to finish the group, when Iron Man bursts in, wearing a new suit crafted in the Dwarven forge.

The Avengers free Thor, who reclaims his hammer and joins his teammates in battle against Loki. Meanwhile, Black Panther, Ant-Man, and Hawkeye go to Yggdrasil, the Tree of Life, to attempt to cut off Loki's power -- while Loki himself begins to lose control of the Odinforce. Giant-Man uproots the tree and its energy surges out, awakening Odin. Odin reclaims his power from Loki and confronts the villain. He banishes Loki and then honors Thor and the Avengers as heroes of Asgard.

Friday, March 26, 2021

RIC HOCHET VOLUME 2

"MURDER IN THE GARDENS"
Writer: Zidrou | Artist: Van Liemt | Colorist: Cerminaro

Our next Ric Hochet adventure finds the intrepid reporter investigating a government blackmail scheme (called the "High Ground" by Ric and his editor). While attempting to meet an informant, he is instead attacked by a hit man calling himself the Nyctalope (because he suffers from the confition of Nyctalopia, allowing him to see in the dark). Ric's arm is sprained and he spends the rest of the story in a cast and sling, with Commissoner Bourdon's niece, Nadine, driving him around.

Ric's investigation is interrupted when he gets involved in a new story -- three men, one a senator, have recently died in the Luxembourg Gardens park, and all the deaths occurred immediately after the men were seen kissing a mystery woman in red. When a fourth such incident happens while Ric, Bourdon, and Nadine at at the park investigating, Ric gives chase -- but the woman in red escapes when she shouts out that Ric is a pervert trying to force himself on her.

Ric is subseqently removed from the High Ground case and told to cover the assassinations instead. He has another run-in with the Nyctalope which results in him obtaining the file he was originally after when the story started -- but that file is soon stolen from the new reporter on the case, Bob Drummond.

Monday, March 22, 2021

AVENGERS: EARTH'S MIGHTIEST HEROES S1x025

"THE FALL OF ASGARD"
Written by Christopher Yost | Directed by Vinton Heuck

The Plot: Hawkeye awakens in Asgard, where he is attacked by a pack of wolves. In Odin's palace, Loki brags to Thor about having conquered Asgard. In snowy Jotunheim, Giant-Man and the unconscious Wasp are attacked by frost giants. In Niffelheim, the realm of the dead, Captain America comes face to face with the long-dead Howling Commandos. The same holds true for the remaining Avengers, all awakening across the Nine Realms and coming face to face with various threats.
Tony Stark, armorless ave for one gauntlet, comes to in Nidavellir, realm of the dwarves, and learns from its people that Loki is behind the Norn Stone attack on Earth. Ulik the Troll appears and attacks, but Iron Man dispatches him. Meanwhile, Hawkeye struggles against the wolves until an elf rescues him. While Hulk battles trolls, Hela tries to take Captain America's soul, and Loki continues to gloat over Thor. In Jotunheim, Giant-Man is saved from the frost giants by Sif and a group of valkyries.

Black Panther fights undead spirits, while the Hulk overcomes his trollish foes. The Warriors Three and other Asgardians appear to recruit Hulk to their team. Meanwhile, Captain America overcomes Hela's ploy and then finds himself facing her directly. Meanwhile, Black Panther appears to rescue Hawkeye and his elf ally, Faraday, from the wolves. But in Nidavellir, Ulik renews his attack and defeats the dwarves, leaving Stark to defeat him by supercharging his arc reactor. And back in Asgard, Loki prepares to execute Thor.

Friday, March 19, 2021

RIC HOCHET VOLUME 1

"R.I.P., RIC!"
Writer: Zidrou | Artist: Van Liemt | Colorist: Cerminaro

As mentioned briefly last week, this seems to be a three-volume revival of a long running Franco-Belgian series that originated in 1955, and was serialized in the wildly popular TINTIN magazine (and these new stories are set in 1968). The protagonist is a rough-and-tumble investigative reporter, Ric Hochet, who writes for a Parisian newspaper called La Rafale. But in an interesting twist, we don't really see much of Ric in this volume. Instead, the story revolves around one of his old enemies, "The Chameleon" -- a master of impersonation and disguise, recently released from prison (where Ric sent him), who has undergone plastic surgery and devoted a ton of training toward his goal of becoming Ric Hochet.

The Chameleon breaks into Ric's apartment, puts on his clothes, and waits for him to return home from his latest assignent. After a brief confrontation, a shot rings out -- and then we cut to the next day, as the Chameleon shows up to La Rafale impersonating Ric. We later learn that Ric is alive, being held for an unknown purpose by the Chameleon, but that the villain killed Ric's poor cat when he fired his gun. (Which is super lame; as noted here many times before, I hate when pets are killed in stories.)

The Chameleon then sets about an elaborate plan for revenge on both Ric, who sent him to prison, and on Ric's friend, Police Commissioner Bourdon, who is about to get (re-)married. Ric tells his boss that he's taking some time off, then leaves with the commissioner's niece, Nadine, to buy some clothes for the wedding and drive up to the commissioner's island estate. On the way (and then later again at the estate), the Chameleon hooks up with Nadine, something Ric apparently never did. Oh, and he takes a moment before leaving to kill one loose end remaining from Ric's last case when the guy threatens him.

Monday, March 15, 2021

AVENGERS: EARTH'S MIGHTIEST HEROES S1x024

"THIS HOSTAGE EARTH"
Written by Michael Ryan | Directed by Sebastian Montes

The Plot: An anothe realm, Karnilla, queen of the Norns, is transformed to stone by the Grey Gargoyle at the Enchantress's order. Meanwhile, Baron Zemo has formed a larger Masters of Evil team. Enchantress and Executioner return to Earth and provide Zemo with a Norn Stone taken from Karnilla. Meanwhile, Iron Man reveals schematics for a device he beleives can create a wormhole between Earth and Asgard. Captain America reveals that he's seen such a device before, during World War II. Elsewhere, Hank Pym packs his belongings and leaves the mansion, despite the Wasp's pleas that he stay.
Iron Man assembles the Avengers to discuss the wormhole device, which Cap explains was used by the Red Skull during the war. As they talk, Iron Man reveals that he has found ley lines around Earth, which seem to link it with the nine realms of Asgard. Detecting energy surges on the various ley lines, the Avengers split up to investigate -- one Avenger for each of the seven lines. In the arctic, Wasp finds a Norn Stone, but it is guarded by the Abomiation. Meanwhile, Iron Man finds a Norn Stone as well in the jungle, but is attacked by the Living Laser. At a castle somewhere, Captain America encounters the Crimson Dynamo near his Norn Stone. And in another jungle, Hawkeye finds himself up against Chemistro, while in a graveyard, Black Panther finds Wonder Man -- also both guarding Norn Stones. Finally, the Hulk engages Executioner over a Stone in a wooded area, while Thor the Red Skull's old castle to find the Enchantress and Zemo.

The Avengers proceed with their battles, while Enchantress activates the Norn Stones, mystically linking the Nine Realms. Wasp finds herself about to be killed by Abomination when Giant-Man shows up to save her, defeating the monster. But thanks to the Norn Stones, frost gaints show up a moment later. Around the world, at the other Norn Stones' locations, additional Asgardian creatures and beings appear, challenging Avengers and Masters of Evil alike. At the Red Skull's castle, Zemo uses a mind control device to take over the Enchantress's mind, ordering to place the armies of Asgard under his control. He then prepares to finish Thor, but the Thunder God reclaims his hammer and knocks out both Zemo and the Enchantress.

At Thor's oder, the Avengers simultaneously destroy the Norn Stones at every location, but are all transported away from Earth in the process. Thor appears in Asgard to find Loki seated on Odin's throne.

Friday, March 12, 2021

RIC HOCHET & MISS OCTOBER

I've delved into the realm of various European comics once in a while over the past couple years, starting with MUSE in 2016, then BARBARELLA in 2017, then GYPSY and RAPTORS in late 2018/early 2019, and finally LADY S. in 2020. (All of these can be found at the bottom of my MISCELLANEOUS REVIEWS page under "European Comics".)

I'm keeping the tradition alive this year with two shortish series (at least as far as English translations go; I can't find whether either of these goes beyond the volumes Comixology carries in my native language): three volumes of the Franco-Belgian RIC HOCHET (or, more properly, RIC HOCHET'S LATEST INVESTIGATIONS, as I've learned this is a twenty-first century revival of a series that ran for many years beginning in 1955), and the French MISS OCTOBER, a four-volume set. Both series are set in the 1960s, and I love period pieces from around that era (basically anything from, say the '30s to the '60s is right up my alley) -- so I'm pretty excited to check them out.

I'll do one volume a week beginning next Friday, so this should take us up through the end of April. After that, I'm considering something "Marvel"ous, but we'll see if that's still my mindset in seven weeks!

For those who wish to follow along, all volumes of both series are available digitally on Amazon: RIC HOCHET's LATEST INVESTIGATIONS | MISS OCTOBER

(And hey, if you can read French, you'll find digital editions of a bunch of the original RIC HOCHET stories on Amazon as well! It'd be cool if some company were to translate those as well...)

Monday, March 8, 2021

AVENGERS: EARTH'S MIGHTIEST HEROES S1x023

"THE ULTRON IMPERATIVE"
Written by Brandon Auman | Directed by Vinton Heuck

The Plot: Around the world, systems belonging to various world powers are taken over by Ultron. Meanwhile the Avengers mourn Thor. But elsewhere, the Enchantress hold Thor, enthralled, in another realm. Tony Stark and Hank Pym realize that Ultron has transferred his consciousness into another body, and Ultron takes control of various Iron Man armors to attack the Avengers, while the real Ultron boards the SHIELD helicarrier.
Meanwhile, Thor regains his senses and demands the Enchantress send him back to Earth. The Avengers, battling Iron Man's armors, are joined by Iron Man himself. Iron Man, Hulk, and Wasp head out to defend the helicarrier, while Hawkeye and Black Panther stay behind to battle the Iron Man suits. Aboard the helicarrier, Ultron extracts SHIELD's nuclear missile codes from Maria Hill just as the Avengers arrive to save her. But they're too late, and Ultron launches missiles from the various systems he has commandeered around the world, in order to wipe out humanity.

At Avengers Mansion, Thor appears to save Hawkeye and Black Panther, then travels with them to the helicarrier and engages Ultron. The robot remains a match for the full Avengers team, however, even transforming the Hulk back into Bruce Banner. While most of the group battles Ultron, Ant-Man arrives and goes inside his creation, where he uses a device he created to deactivate Ultron. Meanwhile, Stark manages to disengage the missiles, saving the world from nuclear annihilation. But the victory is bitter for Ant-Man, who stalks off sullenly in the battle's aftermath.

Friday, March 5, 2021

XENOZOIC TALES PART 3

"LOST LINK IN THE CHAIN" | "LORDS OF THE EARTH" | "PRIMEVAL"
"TWO CITIES" | "DANGEROUS GROUNDS" | "ANOTHER SWARM"
By Mark Schultz

Following from the previous chapter's journey into the spiritual realm, our next installment moves back to a more relatable realm, straight action/adventure with just a hint of intrigue. The main story is concerned with Jack, having just dealt with some poachers in the jungle, struggling to elude a very determined velociraptor. He survives in the end, of course, with the aid of a larger predator who pops up at just the right moment to devour the raptor -- but he realizes he wouldn't have found himself in this predicament in the first place were someone not trying to kill him.

This revelation has its seed in the prior chapter, when one of the Governors, Dahlgren, visited Jack to tell him that the other Governrors were beginning to question his usefulness and that he should watch his back. Now, Jack finds that his car and rifle were both sabotaged before he headed out on patrol, confirming Dahlgren's warning that someone may be trying to get rid of him.

The story ramps up big time in the next chapter, as Hannah and Jack's chief mechanic, Kirgo, pick up Jack in the jungle and return home with him. Along the way, we get some backstory on the Xenozoic world, namely that Jack is a direct descendant of the "Old Blood Mechanics", the people who kept Cataclysm regugees alive while they spent hundreds of years in shelter as the nuclear fallout subsided. During this time, the Old Bloods formed a doctrine called the Machinatio Vitae, the laws of balance between man and nature which people have lived by ever since emerging from shelter.

Monday, March 1, 2021

AVENGERS: EARTH'S MIGHTIEST HEROES S1x022

"ULTRON-5"
Written by Brandon Auman | Directed by Sebastian Montes

The Plot: In the subway, the Avengers battle the Serpent Society, despite Ant-Man's entreaties for a peaceful resolution. The Society manages to escape, and Ant-Man quits the Avengers when the group chastizes him for not joining in thier slugfest. Later, at his lab in Avengers Mansion, Hank Pym works on Ultron. At Avengers Mansion, Hulk and Black Panther arrive, having captured the Red Ghost and his Super Apes, who were captured with schematics for the Baxter Building on their person, which they received in a coded message. Recalling that the Serpent Society also claimed to have received a message from Madame Hydra, Iron Man does some digging and finds that the messages were sent from the mansion.
In Pym's lab, Ultron zaps him and then the Wasp as well, when she comes to check on him. Then, as Black Panther and Hulk load the Red Ghost and his apes into a Quinjet, both of the Avengers' jets activate and turn on them. In the mansion's training room, the systems turn on Captain America, Hawkeye, and a visiting Jane Foster as well. Iron Man's armor begins to attack Thor also, with Tony Stark unable to communicate. Elsewhere, Ultron learns taht his programming prevents him from harming the imprisoned Wasp.

Cap, Hawkeye, Jane, and Black Panther escape their traps and regroup, while Stark manages to speak to Thor, telling him to overload his armor. Thor does so, and Iron Man realizes that the override signal sent to his armor originated from Ultron. The Avengers burst into the mansion and attack, and Thor is seemingly disintegrated by Ultron. While Cap, Hawkeye, and Black Panther continue their battle, Stark revives Hank. When Ultron gains the upper hand on the Avengers, Wasp uses her power to grow and break free of her bonds. She tries to appeal to Ultron, but he continues to fight back.

Hulk, who was rocketed into the outer atomsphere aboard a Quinjet, breaks free of the craft and plummets back to Earth. Meanwhile, Ant-Man appears and attempts to shut down Ultron, but the robot reveals it can no longer be controlled by Pym's commands. Iron Man bursts in next, wearing his original bulky armor, free of computers for Ultron to override. Hulk appears a moment later, tearing Ultron in half and allowing Ant-Man to remove and destroy his power core. Pym then destroys all the other Ultrons' cores and memory units as well, but Ultron has already completed uploading of his consciousness to another old Ultron head.

Friday, February 26, 2021

XENOZOIC TALES PART 2

"BENEFACTOR" | "HISTORY LESSON" | "EXCURSION"
"FOUNDLING" | "GREEN AIR" | "THE GROWING POOL" | "IN THE DREAMTIME"
By Mark Schultz

With several vignettes setting up the world and characters of the Xeonzoic era now behind him, Mark Schultz begins to craft a bit of a serial in this week's first chapter -- which is also the longest story we've looked at this far, clocking in at a brisk twenty pages. In this one, we learn Hannah's purpose in the City on the Sea -- she is to open trade relations between its tribes and those of her native Wassoon. The City's Governors' Council is on board with this, believing they need some of the Wassoons' fishing and farmind techniques in order to better survive.

But the offer is not without conditions, and it seems the Wassoon are concerned about the number of poachers that have recently appeared in their territory. It turns out this is the work of Jack, who, as was revealed in previous chapters, has no tolerance for such hunters and forces them out into the wilds to survive on their own when he catches them in the act. And it seems that some of these poachers actually have survived and made their way to Wassoon.

Jack refuses to go along with the deal and leaves in a huff, prompting a governor named Gorgostamos to enlist Hannah to go after him. But Gorostamos actually plans to kill Jack after Hannah helps track him down. Hannah, however, is separated from Gorgostamos and captured by a tribe of lizard-men called the Grith. The Grith are friends of Jack's, and no one knows of their existence except for him -- and now Hannah as well, because the Grith trust her and want her to work with them.

Monday, February 22, 2021

AVENGERS: EARTH'S MIGHTIEST HEROES S1x021

"HAIL, HYDRA!"
Written by Kevin Burke & Chris Wyatt | Directed by Vinton Heuck

The Plot: Manhattan is hit by an electromagnetic pulse. When the Avengers head out to investigate, they find Black Widow standing on their doorstep. She reveals that she was sent to infiltrate Hydra by Nick Fury, and then explains that Hydra is attacking AIM in search of the Cosmic Cube. Black Widow goes with the team to find Hydra and AIM, battling in airships over the city. Captain America and Hulk go after Hydra while Hakweye, Ant-Man, and Black Widow battle AIM. Meanwhile, Iron Man and the Wasp are conftonted by SHIELD, under the command of Maria Hill.
Strucker shoots down MODOK's ship and confronts him in a burning warehouse, sending a trio of Dreadnoughts to destroy him. Strucker reaches for the Cosmic Cube, but Ant-Man appears to stop him. Elsewhere, SHIELD shoots down Iron Man and are about to take out Wasp when Thor and Black Panther arrive. Hill orders SHIELD to attack the Avengers, but Hydra assaults the Helicarrier. In the warehouse, while Giant-Man is occupied with the Dradnought, Captain America bursts in and attacks Strucker. As the old enemies duel, Hawkeye, Black Widow, and Hulk show up.

Strucker is defeated, and he and MODOK are arrested. Hill promises Iron Man that she will see the Avengers brought to heel under SHIELD, while elsewhere, Black Widow bids farewell to Hawkeye and heads out to saerch for Nick Fury.

Friday, February 19, 2021

XENOZOIC TALES PART 1

"AN ARCHIPELAGO OF STONE" | "THE OPPORTUNISTS" | "LAW OF THE LAND"
"ROGUE" | "XENOZOIC!" | "MAMMOTH PITFALL!" | "THE RULES OF THE GAME"
By Mark Schultz

As I mentioned briefly last week, I picked up XENOZOIC BY MARK SCHULTZ a few years back, around the time I was jumping into newspaper adventure strips. But unlike a lot of the strips that I've read since then, XENOZOIC sat on my bookshelf until just recently. But as I read it, I'm kind of sorry I waited!

Set in the far-flung future of the thirtieth century, XENOZOIC is clearly influenced by old pulp stories, movie serials, and so forth. Our main characters are Jack "Cadillac" Tenrec, a rough-and-tumble mechanic/transporter/guide/anything else he needs to be, and Hannah Dundee, a beautiful ambassador from a far-off land. The setting is the City in the Sea -- what's left of Manhattan in this world where man has been decimated and dinosaurs once more walk the Earth. Hannah arrives in the first story, from her state of Wasoon, to open relations with the the City in the Sea, and soon decides to stick around for a while. This leads to her getting involved in Jack's frequent adventures.

The stories, at least early on, are all fairly short, running ten to fifteen pages or so for the most part. The very first ones present small snippets of life in this world. The first chapter sees Jack rescue Hannah from an assassination attempt before he's even met her. The second focuses on Hannah as she helps the Governor of the City in the Sea with a fishing problem.

Monday, February 15, 2021

AVENGERS: EARTH'S MIGHTIEST HEROES S1x020

"THE CASKET OF ANCIENT WINTERS"
Written by Paul Giacoppo | Directed by Sebastian Montes

The Plot: Somewhere in Norway, Malektih the Dark Elf finds a small Asgardian casket. In New York, Radioactive Man attacks Stark Tower, where Iron Man, Thor, and Black Panther fight back. When Radioactive Man tries to absorb the power from Stark's arc reactor, Iron Man attempts to trigger a meltdown to overload him -- but Thor steps in and defeats the villain instead. Meanwhile, Enchantress and Executioner visit Malekith, who opens the casket, releasing a worlwide winter.
Thor realizes the Casket of Ancient Winters is behind the weather changes and Black Panther pinpoints its location, while elsewhere in Manhattan, Captain America and the rest of the Avengers battle ice monsters. Iron Man, Thor, and Black Panther head out to confront Malekith, while the ice creatures gain the upper hand on the other Avengers in New York. In Norway, Thor and Iron Man team up to supercharge Iron Man's armor with Asgardian magic, and Malekith is defeated.

Thor closes the casket, and the world returns to normal, but Enchantress and Executioner are unfrozen in the process. They subdue the Avengers and teleport away with the Casket, and Thor attempts to follow them to Asgard, but finds himself locked out.

Friday, February 12, 2021

XENOZOIC

So I've had this on my bookshelf for probably four or five years now, always intending to get to it, but never quite managing to crack it open. It was something I found when I was really getting into newspaper adventure strips. Though not a strip itself, it does have that "adventure strip feel", being drawn in a realistic style, and in black-and-white. From what I've gathered, XENOZOIC TALES was an independant comic that begin in 1987 and ran up until 1996, releasing a whopping fourteen issues in that timeframe. This seems to have been the thing for indies back then; at least I recall from my look at THE ROCKETEER a few years back that Dave Stevens released an even smaller amount of material over a longer period of time!

But in any case, it was the artwork of creator Mark Schultz that first attracted me to XENOZOIC TALES, then when I learned a bit about the premise, I was totally sold. The funny thing is, in restrospect I realize that I was tangentially familiar with this series going back many years. Back in 1993, CBS aired a Saturday morning cartoon called CADILLACS AND DINOSAURS, and Marvel published an adaptation of same -- and as it turns out, CADILLACS was itself an adaptation of Schultz's world (if not his exact stories) to small-screen animation!

Now, I admit that I never actually watched the series or read the comic, but I was at least aware of them. And now I plan to take a look at the source material! Over the next few weeks, we'll cover the entirety of XENOZOIC TALES, all collected in a nice, sturdy paperback volume by Flesk Publications a number of years ago . So be here next Friday as we journey to the post-apocalyptic thirtieth century for the adventures of Jack "Cadillac" Tenrec and Hannah Dundee as they make their way through the savage world of tomorrow!

(This is where I'd normally drop in an Amazon link for anyone interested in checking the book out, but unfortunately, it appears to be out of print and quite pricey at this point. However it looks like a new printing is forthcoming in March and is available for pre-order directly from the publisher, so if my upcoming posts tickle your fancy, you can at least pick it up afterward!)