Friday, May 25, 2018

The History of the Skrulls

Secret Invasion Saga (Marvel, April 2008, free)
This freebie context setter would have been useful while reading New Avengers: Illuminati and Incredible Hercules #120—and will be useful to anyone exploring or revisiting the Secret Invasion event from a decade ago. Written by John Rhett Thomas based on research done by Jeph York, the 32-page synopsis incorporates exposition in the form of a briefing compiled by SHIELD's Maria Hill for Iron Man, combined with reproduced art from the original comics.

The text is laid out in pretty horrible computer typography, but it's still interesting reading. The issue covers most of the history of the Skrulls, at least in terms of how it relates to the Secret Invasion storyline. The artwork, a mix of new and old—with some original work for the framing introduction—has been edited and recolored, so it's not entirely true to the original publications. Artists range from John Byrne to Jim Cheung, with plenty of creators in between.

Similar in style to Marvel Saga, this kind of approach to a forthcoming event is an interesting idea, akin to best-of books like Wolverine Vs. the Marvel Universe.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Accosted by Aliens

Pitt #1 (Image, January 1993, $1.95)
"Fight and Flight!" Pencils and inks: Dale Keown, Writer: Brian Hotton, Letterer: Chance Wolf, Colorist: Joe Chiodo.

The Detroit chapter of the Vipers motorcycle gang are "makin' the rounds" when they encounter a broad-shouldered mysterious figure who ends up having glowing red eyes, claws—and the ability to toss around motorcycles and take a blast from a shotgun. This, it seems, is Pitt.

Meanwhile, a young boy in Connecticut wakes from a nightmare. Police officers are investigating a superhuman they think might be a "Youngblood," examining a train car damaged in a fight—when they are accosted by aliens.

Having just come off working on The Incredible Hulk with Peter David before joining Image, Keown's book is a little heavy on the Hulk-style character design and action, but the alien assassin plot line seems promising, if underdeveloped in this first issue. (Who is the Seer? What are the Creed?)

Hotton's writing works well with Keown's art, and the issue is capped by a couple of pinups, including one by Sam Kieth.

Read Also: Youngblood #4.

Availability: This issue was collected in Correspondence of William Pitt Volume 1. You can check out Keown's start on the Hulk in Incredible Hulk Visionaries - Peter David, Vol. 5.

This issue comes from the Henry's Green Cape collection of comics. Thank you for your donation!

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

A Trained Bird

Hawkman #17 (DC, December 1966, 12 cents)
"Ruse of the Robbing Raven!" Story: Gardner Fox, Art: Murphy Anderson.

The first of two stories in this issue, this 12-page piece riffs off of Edgar Allen Poe's "The Raven," featuring a Poe scholar named Eddie Powe and a silly villain called, well, the Raven. For 16 years, Joey Makk has nursed a grudge against Powe for showing "me up before my gang" and not letting him steal his family's rent money using a trained bird. Makk, now a costumed villain—"Now to put on this raven outfit I use to conceal my identify rom the gang I've gathered around me—so they can never betray me."—has given Powe a trained bird as a gift... and to eavesdrop on his activities.

Once Makk learns that Powe possesses a heretofore undiscovered Poe manuscript, he plans to steal it. Hawkman intervenes, and Makk embarrasses Powe on television, discrediting him as a scholar. Makk tries to sell the manuscript to a fence, but Hawkman—with the help of Makk's trained bird, oddly—intervenes again. The Poe theme is slightly off putting, but if it turned on at least one reader to check out Poe in 1966, more power to Fox. Anderson's artwork is able and workmanlike.

"Enigma of the Escape-Happy Jewel Thieves" Story: Gardner Fox, Art: Murphy Anderson.
Another 12 pager, this story features Hawkman and Hawkgirl's encounter with four thieves who seem particularly adept at eluding capture. In the end, it's as simple as hired decoys: "We're members of the City Cycle Club. Some man paid us ten bucks each to race to the Mumford Art Gallery—go in the doorway—then after a while race out and speed off in four different directions!"

The gang plans to kill Hawkman and Hawkgirl, but a jeweled pistol dropped by our heroes—and picked up by the villains—on p. 2 leads our crimefighters to the criminals. This series of crimes seems a little down market for a prince of Thanagar, but who can say. The issue also features a one-page letter column including four letters of comment.

Availability: Both stories were collected in Showcase Presents Hawkman TP Vol 02.

This issue comes from the Henry's Green Cape collection of comics. Thank you for your donation!

Tuesday, May 22, 2018


Deadpool #19-21 (Marvel, April-May 2010, $2.99)
"Whatever a Spider Can" Writer: Daniel Way, Penciler: Carlo Barberi, Inkers: Juan Vlasco and Sandu Florea, Colorist: Marte Gracia, Cover artist: Jason Pearson, Letterer: VC's Joe Sabino.

I'm not the biggest fan of Deadpool. I don't find the idea behind the character compelling, I don't often need Impossible Man or Ambush Bug-like comic book slapstick as a reader (although I like both those characters!), and I've avoided much of the character's publication history. Regardless, I sometimes dip into the comic to reaffirm whether my take remains the same. This three-issue Spider-Man crossover is actually worth reading.

It helps that Spider-Man is in the book. It also helps that... Hit-Monkey is in the book. Yes, Hit-Monkey. First appearing in an online comic that was later published in print—and then appearing in these three issues, as well as three-issue miniseries—Hit-Monkey is a little used character that could have longer legs. I hope we see more of him.

The cover to #20 is particularly fun, as is p. 14, and pp. 19-22 of that issue. In #21, p. 13 is wonderful. Way's writing is fun and light throughout, focusing primarily on gastrointestinal humor. "Why are you so sad?"

Read Also: Amazing Spider-Man #611 and Deadpool #10.

Availability: These issues were collected in Deadpool, Vol. 4: Monkey Business. We also recommend Hit-Monkey.

This issue comes from the Henry's Green Cape collection of comics. Thank you for your donation!

Monday, May 21, 2018

Puritan Pistolier

Solomon Kane: Red Shadows #1-2 (Dark Horse, April-May 2011, $3.50)
"Skulls in the Stars" Script: Bruce Jones, Artist: Rahsan Ekedal, Color artist: Dan Jackson, Letterer: Richard Starkings and Comicraft, Cover artist: Guy Davis, Cover colors: Dave Stewart.

Based on the work of Robert E. Howard, these comics—whole numbers 10-11 in a series, and the first two parts of "Red Shadows"—adapt the short story "Skulls in the Stars," which was originally published in Weird Tales in January 1929. In #1, Solomon Kane is on his way to Torkertown, when he comes to a fork in the road. One path leads through the moors, and the other meanders along a longer route.

Locals avoid the shorter, more direct path because of "certain death by night" and "something unspeakable." Of course, the Puritan pistolier Kane takes the less-traveled route, encountering "some hellish figure" that flees when provoked by mentions of God and heaven—and presented with the shadow of a cross. A young boy helps Kane to the hut of a miserly hermit named Ezra, who conspires to steal his gold necklace.

In #2, Kane vows to track down Le Loup, a bandit and rapist. This issue is based on the story "Red Shadows," first published in Weird Tales in August 1928—the first Solomon Kane story. Le Loup almost escapes.

Truth be told, these comics are worth getting for the Guy Davis covers alone—wonderful images, and suggestive that he'd be a good fit as penciler generally. As it is, Ekedal's artwork is fine, with #1 including several solid pictures of the three-skulled wraith in the moor and a wonderful p. 20. #2's p. 5 and 19 also resonate, but the artwork is a little too cartoony-realistic for what could be a darkly dense and brooding noir fantasy... closer to Howard's original writing.

Availability: These two issues were collected in Solomon Kane Volume 3: Red Shadows. We also recommend The Savage Tales of Solomon Kane, which highlights Howard's original short stories.

This issue comes from the Henry's Green Cape collection of comics. Thank you for your donation!

Friday, May 18, 2018

A Multi-Team X-Book?

Cyberforce #2 (Image, March 1993, $1.95)
"The Tin Men of War, Part Two": Pencils/inks: Marc Silvestri, Script: Eric Serge Silvestri, Colors: Joe Chiodo, Letters: Mike Heisler, Color Separator: Olyoptics, Editor: Cynthia Sullivan.

Bounty hunters (including Ballistic and Killjoy) threaten Velocity's wellbeing just before Cyberforce arrives to rescue her, and the two groups clash. During the combat, Stryker finds two lost children, Chip and Timmie. There are a couple of false endings to the battle—Stryker getting the drop on Ballistic, then Megawatt on Stryker, and then Heatwave snatching Velocity—but in the end, Cyberforce is not defeated.

They decide to relocate Cyber-Tek's Advanced Robotics Division given the attack, and readers—who perhaps haven't read #1—learn that Timmie is an android. "A truly intelligent machine like Timmie couldn't function without [feelings]." Meanwhile, having obtained two small computer disks, Splitzkrieg, Wyldfyre, and Slam pretty much bump into Velocity and Timmie at the grocery store—deciding to kidnap them. "You never know when we might need some hostages."

Not having read #1, this issue is mostly an exercise in learning the characters for me. Who are these people? What the heck are they doing? Having come off of Wolverine to join Image, Silvestri's art is very similar to what one might expect from an X-Men book, and the series largely feels like a multi-team X-book. At least so far. Silvestri's art does please with several one- to three-panel pages and two-page spreads, and it's neat to see so many large-scale panels.

Notable and worth reading because of Image's history and evolution over time. There's also a four-page letter column that features fan art. They even offer fan art guidelines to encourage submissions: "We can only consider Cyberforce characters in black and white for publication. Please do not send originals unless you do not want them back! Good photocopies are OK!"

Availability: This issue was collected in Cyberforce: The Tin Men of War.

This issue comes from the Henry's Green Cape collection of comics. Thank you for your donation!

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Demonic Dimensions

The Darkness: First Look (Top Cow, November 2007, 99 cents)
"Empire, Part One: Nightfall" Writer: Phil Hester, Penciler: Michael Broussard, Inker: Ryan Winn, Colorist: Matt Milla, Letters: Troy Peteri, Design: Chaz Riggs, Editor: Rob Levin.

This 16-page inexpensive comic is a preview of the 2008 Top Cow/Image series featuring the character created by Marc Silvestri, Garth Ennis, and David Wohl. Mafia hitman Jackie Estacado becomes possessed by the Darkness, an elemental force that can bridge to demonic dimensions. Dating back to the Christian creation story, the Darkness has existed since there was light, resenting it and "looking for purchase in the hearts of men" throughout history.

Estacado finds himself in Sierra Munoz, entertaining "a little friendly company"—though reluctant—over dinner before his waiter explodes and the Darkness is yet again called on. Broussard's artwork is standard early Image fare even 15 years in, reminding me of Rob Liefeld and Marc Silvestri. There's a fun Solomon Kane-like character in pp. 2-3's spread, and the hand holding on p. 8 reminds me a little of Tim Vigil. But I don't really find the character concept compelling.

I find characters like this strange. The title must have sold because it lasted for awhile, and artists and writers other than the creators took on the work for subsequent series. But did the Darkness really warrant so many Marvel and DC crossovers, and a video game? I don't get it.

Availability: This one shot is collected in The Darkness Accursed Volume 1. The character debuted about a decade prior, now collected in The Darkness: Coming of Age, Vol. 1.

This issue comes from the Henry's Green Cape collection of comics. Thank you for your donation!

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Trial By Fire

Daredevil #511 (Marvel, December 2010, $2.99)
Writer: Andy Diggle, Art: Roberto De La Torre, Colors: Matt Hollingsworth, Letters: VC's Joe Caramagna, Cover Art: John Cassaday and Laura Martin.

Published during the fourth month of the Shadowland storyline, the story arc was already well underway, so this issue is kind of a trial by fire. In Hell's Kitchen, the Hand has withdrawn to their castle, and citizens are rioting. Mayor Jonah Jameson sends in the riot police as Dakota North, private investigator ("One side, jackholes!"), looks for Foggy Nelson in the crowd. She meets up with NYPD Detective Alex Kurtz, and they discuss what's been happening in the city—helpful exposition—before North remembers a friend needing help.

Wheelchair-bound Becky tries to get out of a building filling with gas fumes while Nelson bravely scales the walls and roof of the castle to save his friend Matt Murdock. North rescues Becky, but Nelson encounters the White Tiger (p. 19, last panel, meow!), who takes him before what seems to be a possessed Daredevil.

Despite its island in the stream nature as a standalone read, the issue is a fun read. De La Torre's art is grittily realistic and adequately dark for the subject matter, and the action passable without the longer story arc.

According to a U.S. Postal Service Statement of Ownership, Management, and Circulation in this issue, Marvel printed about 46,000 copies of each monthly issue of Daredevil in the 12 months leading up to Sept. 30, 2010.

Availability: This issue has been collected in Daredevil: Shadowland Omnibus and the trade paperback Daredevil: Shadowland. We also recommend the original Dakota North: Design for Dying miniseries.

This issue comes from the Henry's Green Cape collection of comics. Thank you for your donation!

Friday, March 16, 2018

Slices of Daily Life

You Don't Get There from Here #31-33, #35-36 (November 2013 to July 2014 and October 2014 to March 2015, self-published, $3)
This is one of my favorite minicomics. Written and drawn by Los Angeles-area artist, hiker, and cat lover Carrie McNinch, these digest-sized comics collect her daily one- to five-panel diary comics. We ordered these from John Porcellino at Spit and a Half, and after I read them—as did my wife and son—my wife ordered even more. Since then, I've ordered still more and subscribed directly from Carrie. It's been awhile since I've kept up with her work, having let a previous subscription lapse.

Drawn daily, dated, and indicating part of her daily soundtrack (from Kanye West's "Monster" to Broken Bells's "Holding on to Life" in #31 alone), the comics are pleasant slices of Carrie's life. Like many autobiographical and semi-autobiographical minicomics, it's not always clear where the line between artful narrator and actual person is drawn, but Carrie comes across as very kind and personable in her comics. She is also very open about what concerns her.

Consistent themes running throughout her work include anxiety over her living situation; running, hiking, and walking dogs in the mountains north of LA; hanging out with friends and babysitting; aging, approaching menopause, and health insurance; occasional depression; her father; food and restaurants she frequents; drinking too much; the beauty of nature; the LA Zine Fest; her cats Milo and Chu; acupuncture; Disneyland; and travels to Mexico and Japan.

Her drawing style is simply detailed—at times similar to Porcellino's work—and some of her most impressive panel work depicts either landscapes or cityscapes; or more metaphorical imagery such as disembodied or drunk uncertainty (for example, 12/11/13), the specter of anxiety (2/3/14), and loneliness and the need for physical contact (4/3/14).

Her daily diary comics are occasionally joined by longer-form journalistic pieces about her travels to Mexico and her father, who had Alzheimer's; showing that her comics storytelling isn't limited to several-panel slices of daily life.

Regardless of whether you like minicomics, personal comics, Los Angeles, cats, or any of the other topics mentioned above, check out Carrie's comics. Reading one issue is rewarding, but reading more shares a broader perspective on her life and personal development over that time. Personally, I want to go hiking with her!

Availability: You can order copies from Carrie McNinch, P.O. Box 49403, Los Angeles, CA 90049 or online. Her graphic novel I Want Everything To Be Okay is also available.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Without His Powers

The Flash #40 (DC, April 2018, $2.99)
The issue opens with a bang, as Grodd and Raijin try to control the Flash—Grodd dying of the Silence and seeking to "draw forth the Speed Force and save my life." Meanwhile, Central City is trapped in an energy field, its own speed also being drained. The Flash attempts to persuade Grodd to stop. "I promise we'll find you a cure." Kid Flash disarms Raijin, and Avery grabs the lightning wand.

Grodd probes the Flash's mind further, believing that without his powers, the Flash would be nothing. Grodd's helpers, including Meena—Negative Flash—strap the Flash to a machine, transferring the power to Grodd, leaving our speedy hero powerless as Barry Allen—and leading Grodd to realize that even his Speed Force isn't enough.

Wally West saves Allen from a major fall and—with little upset or self-pity—is named by Allen the new Flash of Central City by Allen.

To a reader who hasn't been keeping up with Joshua Williamson's current storyline, this issue feels a little hellbent and linear, and the loss of Allen's powers underemphasized... or at least causing little reaction or concern. Losing the Speed Force should be a bigger deal, perhaps. Regardless, my son loves this comic—and I do enjoy Grodd—so it was an interesting read. We'll have to see what came before... and what happens next!

Read Also: The Flash Annual #1.

Availability: You can buy this issue online. #28-32 have been collected in The Flash Vol. 5: Negative.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Drawn from the Cosmic Log

Secrets of Haunted House #31 (DC, December 1980, 50 cents)
Mr. E serves on the faculty of Mystik U, and I had never read about the character before, so I pulled out some back issues of this horror anthology title. It's an interesting read. For one, 1980 is pretty late for a horror comic published by one of the majors. And two, Mr. E might—or might not—be an interesting character. (I'm not sure yet whether he was worth reviving.)

The comic opens with a one-page bookend featuring a host of sorts, Destiny, who suggests that the stories within are drawn from the Cosmic Log, which documents the fates and destinies of mankind.

"The Short-Road to Damnation" Story: Arnold Drake, Art: Tenny Henson.

In this seven-page story—opened and closed by the cloaked Destiny—a diminutive French businessman makes off with boots worn by Napoleon from a museum. Wearing the boots gives him new bravery and daring, allowing him to succeed more in work and life. They also drive him to madness and violence, resulting in a couple of deaths. A police inspector suspects him.

Henson's art is stylish, reminding me of fashion advertising clip art, which lends an interesting formality to the story.

"The Wish"

A one-page gag by Dave Manak, this suggests that you should be careful what you wish for, especially if you're a fisherman.

"The Morbidity Factor!" Story: George Kashdan, Pencils: J.J. Brozowski, Inks: Kim DeMulder, Letters: Shel Leferman, Editor: Jack C. Harris.

Sam Harker is in flight from the law, when he comes upon a hiding place, an occupied house—and perhaps a hostage. Dr. Walter Trent, professor of biochemistry, has developed an antidote to the Death Factor, a unique chemical catalyst that can prolong a living being's life. Despite a warning from Destiny itself, Harker downs the doctor and drinks the antidote... before being arrested.

Now immortal, Harker doesn't fall to gunshots. He doesn't die, electrocuted. In fact, he lives into "the far-distant future," suggesting that immortality might not be all it's cracked up to be.

"The Twice-Cursed Man!" Writer/Creator: Bon Rozakis, Artist: Dan Spiegle, Letterer: Ben Oda, Colorist: Bob LeRose, Editor/Co-Creator: Jack C. Harris.

Irish immigrant Kelly O'Toole bumps into Destiny upon arriving in Boston before meeting an injured or ill man, Judge Kobold, who soon hires her as a housekeeper. Mr. E—in his first appearance—is investigating a series of bizarre murders, taking him to Kobold's home. Though blind, Mr. E is about to drive a wooden stake into Kobold's chest when O'Toole hits him in the head with a gavel.

Turns out Kobold is a vampire. She succeeds in stopping Kobold from killing Mr. E, but despite the vampire's injuries, he escapes. O'Toole tends to Mr. E.

Unfortunately, we don't learn a lot about Mr. E in this first appearance. Why is he blind? How does he know so much? How did he track Kobold to his home? Perhaps future issues will tell. For now, he remains a mystery.

The issue closes with a one-page letter column, "The Haunted Mailbox."

Availability: This issue has not been reprinted. We recommend Haunted Horror: The Screaming Skulls! and Much More and The Weird World of Eerie Publications: Comic Gore That Warped Millions of Young Minds.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

The Thick of the Action

John Carter, Warlord of Mars #1 (Marvel, June 1977, 30 cents)
"The Air-Pirates of Mars Chapter 1" Writer/Editor: Marv Wolfman, Artists: Gil Kane and Dave Cockrum, Letterer: Joe Rosen, Colorist: Glynis Wein.

This is not a mere adaptation of a novel by Edgar Rice Burroughs, also creator of Tarzan. Instead, according to the two-page text piece "Welcome Back, Carter," the creators found an empty spot in the existing narrative—a nine-year gap between paragraphs three and four in chapter 27 of A Princess of Mars (!!!)—and proceeded to fill it with their own stories. That is so very cool. Wolfman also writes about how he first became a fan of the character, how the licensed series came to be, and how he connected with Kane during his "halcyon days as a far-out fanzine editor."

While I haven't read A Princess of Mars, I look forward to seeing how this 28-issue series fits in. This issue, the first, starts in the thick of the action, as Carter hunts for Dejah Thoris, kidnaped from her castle in Helium. While fighting several Warhoon desperately using radium bullets, Carter recalls his origin—and how he came to Barsoom. He also remembers how he first met—and fell in love with Thoris—before defeating the Warhoon and reaching the heart of Zodanga, where she is held prisoner.

John Carter, Warlord of Mars #2 (Marvel, July 1977, 30 cents)
"From the Shadows... Stara-Kan!" Writer/Editor: Marv Wolfman, Pencils: Gil Kane, Inks: Rudy Nebres, Letters: John Costanza, Colors: Janice Cohen.

After rescuing Dejah Thoris and his friend Tars Tarkas, Carter sets out to investigate the city of Zodanga. He soon encounters a red man equipped with an equilibri-motor and brings him to ground, then taking him to Helium. The prisoner remains silent on the Pedestal of Truth in the Temple of Reward and soon handily escapes from his cell. "The replacement of my arm with this mechanical one was well worth it." Carter and Tars Tharkas go in search of the escapee but are accosted by the White Apes, who snag Thoris and down our heroes.

This is an excellent adventure series, well written and drawn, and drawn on some of the best source material possible. Well worth exploring!

Availability: These issues were collected in John Carter, Warlord of Mars Omnibus. We also recommend John Carter: Barsoom Series, which compiles all seven John Carter novels.