Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Even Monsters Need Lawyers

Wolff & Byrd, Counselors of the Macabre #3, 5, 8-10, 12-13, 16-17 (Exhibit A; September 1994, February, September, and November 1995, February, August, and October 1996, July and October 1997; $2.50)
Batton Lash is a self-publishing self-made man. Drawing Wolff & Byrd, Counselors of the Macabre since 1979—first for The Brooklyn Paper and then The National Law Journal, Lash has produced a weekly comic strip, comic book, or webcomic (as Supernatural Law) for about four decades. A former student of Will Eisner and Harvey Kurtzman, Lash worked as an assistant to Howard Chaykin, and worked in a studio housed in the former offices of EC Comics. The man is steeped in comics history, and his style shows it.

To whit: "Even monsters need lawyers. And the law firm that specializes in this unique clientele consists of Alanna Wolff and Jeff Byrd, Counselors of the Macabre." Lash's black and white comics are cleanly drawn, humorously written stories about the cases taken by Wolff & Byrd.

The issues in this writeup address topics such as Sodd, the Thing Called It, a Swamp Thing- (or Man-Thing-, or Heap-) like creature—a recurring figure over this run of issues—zombies and unfair labor practices, levitation, body image and fat shaming, leprechauns, lawyer conferences and conventions, Cthulhu, lawyers in love, The X-Files (in a loving sendup titled The * Files), UFO abductions, repressed memories, lawyers in love, romance comics, Rosemary's Baby and selling your soul to the devil, guardian angels, vampires, triskaidekaphobia, TV news, environmentalism, sovereignty and land law, and Dr. Frankenstein's assistant Igor.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Not Fallen Far from the Fan

Big Bang Comics Vol. 2 #30 (Image, February/March 2000, $3.99)
"Knight Watchman Meets the Verdict" Writer: Mike W. Barr, Artist and Letters: David C. Zimmerman, Inks: Jeff Austin.

Gary Carlson and Chris Ecker have been hawking their Big Bang wares since the early '80s. This issue comes from their self-titled series for Image, which ran from 1996 to 2001. Rather than rehash public domain heroes or applying a postmodern take on modern-day heroes, they and their friends—and fellow fans—have created a shared universe of sorts drawing on the best of each comics era. The result are new comics that feel like old comics but remain as fresh and energetic as anything currently in print.

I can't quite peg this issue. The main story is a 21-page black-and-white Knight Watchman (created by Tom King, of all people!) piece featuring the Verdict, a team made up of Hot Wire, Kuttar, Psi-Mage, and Quintessence. It feels like it could sit in the '70s or '80s, and I quite like that it's not entirely obvious. Knight Watchman tracks a woman embodied by Psi-Mage to a penthouse foyer hosting a gathering of the brethren. He and the Verdict team up to rescue Quintessence, held prisoner by Dr. Smight.

"Spa Fun!" Writer/Creator: Mike W. Barr, Penciler/Letterer: John Watkins-Chow, Inker: Tim Stiles, Editor: Gary Carlson.

This solo backup story, an eight-page story done in the manner of the '70s or '80s (again, hard to peg!) that highlights Psi-Mage. The title is a pun on the EC Comics-style phrase "spa fon"—which was also invoked in F. Paul Wilson's novel The Tomb, which I recently finished. After the happenings in the lead story, Psi-Mage needs to take a break, so she goes to a day spa. Her time there is far from restful, yet she emerges a new woman.

The issue also includes a back issue listing and a Barr-penned column, "Rendering the Verdict," which details how his involvement in Big Bang came to be. Reportedly, he met with Carlson and Ecker while they were in LA for an event at Golden Apple Comics. He describes the trio as "three comics pros who hadn't fallen far from the fan" and calls mainstream comics a "no fan's land."

Availability: Big Bang's golden age Knight Watchman stories have been collected in Knight Watchman: The Golden Age.

Monday, November 12, 2018

An Audition Tape for Image

Pyrite (Samson, 1996)
"Blood on Water" Pencils: Philip Xavier, Inks: Kaleb AKA "Cabin Boy," Writer and Letters: Chad Michael Ward, Cover Artist: Brandon Peterson, Colors: J.D. Smith, Gaunt Sneak Preview: Mark Kidwell, Editor: Peter Caravette.

Featuring a cover by the artist and creator of the 1997 Image comic Arcanum, this comic has "audition tape" written all over it. In the editor's note, Caravette mentions that Xavier and the "mysterious inker" Kaleb have joined Wildstorm, Jim Lee's studio for Image and, later, DC. So this unnumbered, unpriced one shot might be of interest to mid-'90s Image fans.

The main 20-page Pyrite story, while not my cup of tea entirely, is very well done—in the Image style. A tactical team of three blow up a skyscraper before being shot by gunmen in a helicopter. One might have survived. Readers are then introduced to the main character, Major Dawson, who seems to have lost his memory. He finds himself at a nightclub, where he ogles a dancer.

Professor Doyle expounds some on Dawson's background: "severe neuro damage caused by the reanimation process... our walking corpse is losing his mind." Dawson is brought back in a healing tank, teamed up again with Angel, or Major Atkins, and given a mission.

The artwork reminds me of Rob Liefeld and Jim Lee, so there's a lot of muscular men and buxom women. But Xavier can draw. For every fight scene or dramatic pose, there's a lovely surprise: p. 8's cityscape and street signage; p. 12's wordless, five-panel city- and nature-scapes that serve as pacing and punctuation while Dawson's unconscious; p. 13 and 15's moon through the window imagery; p. 20's final panel featuring the moon again. He can do much more than he does in this comic—beautiful art.

The flip side of the book, "Raisin' Holy Hell," is an 11-page preview of The Gaunt, by Mark Kidwell, who is more in the Todd McFarlane and early Sam Keith wheelhouse. His pages and panels are much more dense and angular than Xavier's, which makes the book fun to look at, if not read. The hero is another back-from-the-dead type, a compatriot of Major Velocity, Lycanthra, and the Wunderkind—all murdered by a fellow superhero who betrayed them, Mantas. The demon Samhain brings him back 10 years later to hunt Mantas down.

Had the title character continued past this preview, I would have liked the backstory of the group of superheroes to have been explored. Seems like rich fodder in the vein of Alan Moore's America's Best Comics and Gary Carlson's Big Bang Comics.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

The True Story of the Nez Perce War

Relentless Pursuit #2 (Slave Labor, May 1989, $1.75)
"The Battle of White Bird Canyon" Writer and Artist: Jeff Kear, Letters: Kevin Cunningham, Publisher and Editor in Chief: Dan Vado, Art Director: Scott Saavedra.

What a strange little comic! It's especially strange that this was published by Slave Labor, which usually trafficked in cartoony humor books a la It's Science with Dr. Radium and Samurai Penguin. But it's an excellent experiment, and a stretch for Vado—"different from anything else I had ever published." It'd make a good companion read to William Messner-Loebs's Journey and Chester Brown's Louis Riel.

The miniseries told the "true story of the Nez Perce War of 1877," and this 24-page issue focuses on the battle of White Bird Canyon in Idaho Territory, which catalyzed the war on June 17, 1877. The comic vacillates between prose and illustration, and cartooning, and Kear's artwork is aptly realistic, wonderful for black and white.

The Nez Perce initially held the line, causing Captain Perry and his men to suffer losses—and to fall back to Mount Idaho. The Native Americans then moved to the far shore of the Salmon River, and one-armed General Howard returned with 400 soldiers and 100 volunteers. The soldiers took an entire day to cross the river, and Captain Whipple led a force to Looking Glass Village, which they destroyed.

The war is not a bright spot in American history. The Native Americans were fighting a forced removal that violated the 1855 Treaty of Walla Walla. Kear's comic treats the subject with respect and seriousness, and it's wonderful that this was published in serial form; today it'd be a graphic novel.

Letterer Cunningham is not actually credited in the comic. But the copy I have was signed by Cunningham, who also penned in a lettering credit on the inside front cover. The illustrated prose portions are typeset, and the cartoon sections are lettered well. Kudos, Cunningham.

Availability: This series has not been collected. That should be remedied. We recommend William Messner-Loeb's Journey, available in two volumes, and Chester Brown's Louis Riel: A Comic-Strip Biography.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

An Extremely Silly Comic

Samurai Penguin #1 (Slave Labor, 1986, $1.50)
Writer and creator: Dan Vado, Artist and creator: Mark Buck.

I'm not sure if this is a parody of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or of the already cartoony and masterful Usagi Yojimbo, both of which were contemporaries, but thanks to the editorial, readers know there's no relation to the Samurai Penguin characters in Antarctic Press's Extremely Silly Comics.

Regardless, this comic book is extremely silly. Because the penguins in it are silly, except for the samurai. The penguins tumble into each other like dominoes, dive into cold water, provoke a shark, pester the seals, duel with the predatory skua, and otherwise attract the ire of Artimus Walrus—who plans to "eliminate the Samurai Penguin... and to enslave the entire penguin colony."

Heavy drama, indeed. Vado's writing goes for quick gags, visual and verbal, and Buck's artwork is cleanly cartoony, featuring some excellent use of Zip-A-Tone. The samurai is necessarily larger and more human-like than the standard penguins, and he looks like a bird in some panels.

The issue includes a couple house ads and "True Penguin Facts," which educates readers a little about the penguin and includes a caveat from Vado: "I will pull out my creative license. Settings will differ from what they are in nature; predators will do some unnatural things." A fun, throwaway read. The series lasted eight issues and was reportedly an early success for Slave Labor.

Availability: Samurai Penguin has not been collected. Stan Sakai's Usagi Yojimbo and Eastman and Laird's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have.

Friday, November 09, 2018

Capitalizing on Ninja

Amazing Comics Premieres #1 (Amazing, 1987, $1.95)
"Ninja*Bots" Created, Written, and Illustrated by: Roger McKenzie and Kevin VanHook, Lettered by: Lee Harmon.

Offered by the publisher of Ex-Mutants and New Humans, this is Amazing's showcase book, intended to be a tryout book explicitly similar to DC's Showcase and New Talent Showcase, Pacific's Vanguard Illustrated, and Comico's Primer. What began as a joke on a car trip to the Chicago Con capitalized on the mid-'80s love affair with ninjas and giant robots—and the result is quite impressive.

The 32-page black-and-white comic seems a lark on VanHook's well-drawn cover, but the interiors are anything but silly or dismissive. Instead, writer McKenzie weaves the tale of centuries-old ninja caretakers, tenku (supernatural beings), and warriors. Tao-Sun, the ancient one, encounters wayward student Ratu after defeating a group of ninja, remembering their time together serving as "sworn guardians of the sleeper from the stars."

Power hungry, Ratu slayed their mentor Sin before confronting Tao-Sun, who, as tengu, exacts justice. Now, Tao-Sun returns to the hidden shrine of the sleeper from the stars, where he realizes Ratu has taken control of the sleepers, alien shells in the form of enormous Ninja*Bots, seemingly biomechanical battle bots. Tao-Sun transforms into a tengu demon, the star-lizard, who fights Ratu's Ninja*Bots.

Personally, I could do without the giant robot, but McKenzie's scripting is excellent, and VanHook's artwork is sublime. His style reminds me slightly of Gene Day's work on Master of Kung Fu, and the inking—while brilliantly black and white—isn't heavy handed or muddy. The issue features "The Premiere of Amazing Comics Premieres;" Kevin VanHook's "The Creation of a Comic Book," which further describes the ideas behind the comic; and a couple house ads. Pied Piper later published a Ninja*Bots Super Special.

Thursday, November 08, 2018

One of 20 Black-and-White Titles

Edge #1 (Silver Wolf, February 1987, $1.50)
Published by Kristoffer A. Silver, owner of the now-defunct Alexander's Comics in Sacramento, California, this title was one of Silver Wolf's 20 black-and-white titles—as well as 10 additional color comics—that self-admittedly contributed to the B&W "glut in the market" in the mid-'80s. The 24-page issue was written by Silver and drawn by Gary Shipman, who was slated to later also write the title. The comic was carried by no fewer than 15 comics distributors. Remember those days?

Shipman's artwork is pretty decent for such a book (Silver Wolf also published early work by Sacto locals Ron Lim and Tim Vigil). His characters are stronger than his backgrounds despite some anatomy challenges, and the heavy inks occasionally distract from the lack of panel backgrounds, but on the whole, the art is solid. The story, then is about Edge, costumed vigilante Jason Holden, adept at martial arts and making a living as a "thief of thieves."

In this issue, Edge dispatches a "band of punks" that accosts him in an alleyway, remembers acquiring a wealth of gems, gets flustered talking to a pretty neighbor who drops off a UPS package, dresses in the just-received suit he "designed and ordered," and sells the gems to a reluctant fence in downtown Sacto before encountering "Lance of the Eradicators." The Eradicators was another Silver Wolf title.

This book is a fascinating example of the mid-'80s comics boom, and the title is quite good given the sizable ambitions of the publisher. The issue also includes a publisher's note, two pages of back issue listings—including portfolios and roleplaying games (spun out of The Eradicators!) from the company—and a column in place of the lettercol.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Altered to Meet the Code

Baffling Mysteries #25 (Ace, July 1955, 10 cents)
The four stories included in this Golden Age reprint book are all seven pages long, apparently a standard page count. The first piece, "Riddle of Pete Dunn's Last Fight," was drawn by Jim McLaughlin and originally appeared in The Beyond #6 four years prior. Following the death of his wife, the ghost of a boxer returns from the grave to win a championship bout.

"Mark of the Cat" first appeared three years earlier as "Mark of the Sinister Cat" in Web of Mystery #7, drawn by Lou Cameron and Rocco "Rocke" Mastroserio. It was slightly redrawn to meet the terms of the Comics Code Authority.

The third story, "Flee the Other Self" was drawn by Ken Rice for The Hand of Fate #9. It's a cautionary tale warning against taking advantage of the people you're closest to—and trying to escape your fate. This story, too, was redrawn to better meet the Code. The character Fate was replaced with another figure drawn by Louis Zansky, and word balloons originally typeset in Leroy were hand lettered.

Rounding out the issue, "Night of Strangeness" was drawn by Gene Colan for Baffling Mysteries #5 four years prior. Also altered to meet the Code, the piece highlights a productive mine vein discovered with the help of the victims of a cave in 10 years earlier. Talk about ghostly prospects! Colan's art is occasionally goofily cartoony, reminding me of Jack Cole in some panels. A highlight of the issue.

There's also a one-page "Baffling Mysteries #4" about a ghostly bird, as well as a three-page text piece, "Secrets Behind the Bloodstains." The issue also includes a statement of ownership that indicates no print run or circulation data. Frustrating!

Availability: The original Baffling Mysteries series has been collected in two volumes: Baffling Mysteries - Volume 1 and Baffling Mysteries - Volume 2. The Beyond has also been collected. So has Web of Mystery and The Hand of Fate.

Cutting Corners

Crime Must Pay the Penalty #17 (Ace, December 1950, 10 cents)
This coverless comic includes several seven- and eight-page crime stories. The first piece, "Crimson Blades of Doom," is uncredited and details "an actual case" about Al Lewis, who "always collected his cut!" Deserting his friends, he sells bookies protection, to fund his own gambling losses. Eventually, his deceitful ways catch up with him.

"Crime—and the Country Cousins," perhaps drawn by Mike Sekowsky and Vince Alascia, is another "actual case." Two rural relatives begin running moonshine, interfering with the "booze racket" in "a large eastern city." Their entrepreneurialism doesn't go well for them, and they both die in a fire caused by "vats of inflammable liquid."

The third story, "Oscar Riddle—Scrooge of the Underworld," might have been drawn by Bill Walton. One of the more interesting stories in the issue, this piece proposes that if you lead a criminal organization, cutting corners as a businessman won't pay off. So don't ration your heavies' ammo, dig?

And "Thrill-Crazed Triggerman," perhaps drawn by Louis Zansky, involves the highjack of a tank, the robbery of a bank, and a singing criminal mastermind who—you guessed it—dies in the end. A two-page text piece, "Flowers for a Grave," is an inventive little mystery that features some flowers planted graveside that can detect the cause of death.

Availability: The first six issues of this series have been collected in Crime Must Pay The Penalty: Volume 1. This issue is included in Crime Must Pay The Penalty: Volume 3.

His Robot Brainchild

The Beverly Hillbillies #10 (Dell, July-September 1965, 10 cents)
Supposedly sporting a Gene Colan cover, this television tie-in comic features a three-part, issue-length story, as well as a one-page strip, a text piece, and a Farm Boy back-up story. The main piece, comprising the seven- to 10-page sections "My Son, the Monster," "The Rufus Rumpus," and "Raising the Rufus," was written by D.J. Arneson and drawn by Henry Scarpelli.

The sequence details the story of the Clampett family taking in a lodger while their parent goes on a trip. Professor Dyno leaves his robot brainchild with the family because "I can't leave him in my workshop. He gets so lonely!" Rufus proves quite helpful, retrieving a football from some electrical wires for Elly and Jethro before falling into the pool and seizing up. The Clampetts try to revive the bot using oil and "good old mountain tonic," which does the trick.

Rufus dances with some appliances and frightens the locals when he goes to the supermarket with Granny. He accidentally hits Granny with a football and wanders off, alarming a neighboring family—the Drysdales—at the dinner table. When the police arrive, they accidentally hit Rufus with their patrol car, destroying him. The family does their best to repair him before Professor Dyno returns.

Not having watched a lot of The Beverly Hillbillies, I'm not sure how true the tone or pacing of the comic is to the TV program. I tend to be skeptical of tie-in books. This issue in particular seems focused on accomplishing something the producers might not have been able to do on TV—feature a robot—but I can actually see most of this done with rudimentary practical effects like cardboard and paint. And I can hear the laugh track in response to some of the gags.

The one-page gag opening the issue—in black and white rather than color—features a monkey named Skipper making breakfast. The one-page text piece, "The New Friend," tells the tale of a "ten-year-old with  chauffeured limousine" who finds the true meaning of friendship after getting a black eye from a new friend. And the Farm Boy back up, "How Now, Brown Sow," looks at potential prize sow Sarah and the ruckus raised at a rodeo. Farm Boy was a regular back up in this series in 1965-66.

Availability: The first four issues of this series have been collected in TV Classics: Classic Comics Library #37. The first season of the TV show (as well as subsequent seasons) is available on DVD.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Hope for Hunting

Beep Beep the Road Runner #22 (Gold Key, February 1971, 15 cents)
"The Conked Condor" In this six-page uncredited story, Wile E. Coyote is trying to "bop" himself a road runner by launching boulders at them. Instead, he hits a condor, which lands in a cactus before meeting Road Runner and his three children. The condor "can't get started from flat ground," so he can't fly away from Wile E., who catches him. The road runners, however, free him.

"Lost and Frown'd" On a very windy day, Road Runner and his children find a wallet belonging to R.J. Jaye of 123 June St. They go to town to return it to him, byt Wile E. Coyote ambushes them. Jaye discovers Wile E. picking his wallet up off the stoop. "Did you say a wallet-stealing coyote?" "The worst kind!"

"Slippery Target" This four-page Cool Cat story features a hunter who slips in the morning dew, spiked shoes from the "Hope for Hunting" chest, a foot chase, and a gun that needs loading. In the end, Cool Cat escapes slipping and sliding around in the hunter's old shoes.

Friday, August 24, 2018

The Apocalypse War

2000 AD #266 (IPC; May 29, 1982; 16p)
There's not much better than reading Judge Dredd on newsprint. Before British comics like Eagle and this title moved to thinner glossy paper, this was standard comics format in England. The paper has aged pretty well, which makes for a wonderful color printing palette 36 years on. Most of the issue, though, is black and white, and in heavier-inked stories, that can get a little muddled on newsprint (especially in the Dredd installment). Regardless, the aesthetics of reading this is a grand experience.

Sam Slade: Robo Hunter—five pages, Script Robot: Alan Grant, Art Robot: Ian Gibson, Lettering Robot: Steve Potter. "The Filby Case, Part 1" After stalling his landlord behind on rent payments, Slade is accosted by three burly robots who warn him off the Filby case. Only thing is, Slade isn't working on a case involving anyone named Filby. Then two droids from Special Branch question him about the Filby case, of which he knows nothing. A mobster named East-End Ernie also threatens Slade, asking him to pass information related to the case to him and his organization. And in the fourth to the last panel, Slade meets Filby! The story is clever and quick-paced, and the end result is similar to a Boy Scout skit such as "JC Penney" or "Biker Gang." Gibson's futuristic cityscapes and robot character designs are excellent. Quote of note: "Robo Goonie! Goonie Robo! Robo Robo! Goonie Goonie!"

Monday, August 20, 2018

Dennis the (British) Menace

Beano #3560 (DC Thomson; Nov. 13, 2010; £1.35)
When I was much younger, thanks to two generous pen pals, I became intrigued by British comic books. Other than the British Marvel reprints I could sometimes come across, purely British titles such as Beano and Eagle—and later, 2000 AD—reminded me more of Japanese manga than American comics. Though much thinner each issue than the Japanese news-pulp phone books, the British titles were anthology titles, featuring multiple shorter stories, often in serial form, and featuring different artists and writers. They were weekly. And you could subscribe by giving your newsagent a cut-out coupon that basically said, "Save me a copy every week." (This was before the direct market in the States, and before pull service, so it kind of blew my mind.)

Beano, the presumably most popular title mostly targeting younger boys, was doubly intriguing because it featured a character named Dennis the Menace. But not... our Dennis the Menace. While the American Dennis the Menace created by Hank Ketcham in the early '50s is a portly overalls-wearing all-American boy with a slingshot and nuclear family complete with working father and stay-at-home mother, later appearing on television—the British Dennis the Menace, with rugby shirt and mussed hair, is more along the lines of Donald Rooum's Wildcat comic strips appearing in the anarchist paper Freedom since 1980.

Friday, June 08, 2018

Esoteric Time

The Shell of the Self of the Senses #26-27 (self-published, March-April 2018, $10)
Limited to a print run of 80, Ron Rege, Jr.'s monthly minicomic experiments with the form in terms of size and shape, and content—artwork, as well as storytelling and narrative. #26 is a very small, 40-page mini collecting a series of glyphs drawn in 2012 and featuring notes from a lecture Dr. Stephen Hoeller gave about the Krotona Theosophical community active in the Hollywood Hills in the early 20th century. "There is time, and then there is esoteric time." The glyphs are just slightly more than doodles and remind me a little of Almine's timemaps and sigils.

#27 is a little closer to a standard minicomic. The eight-page digest is a sampler of sorts featuring playful pixies, interstellar energetic angels, folk dancing, family life, and holistically extensive hair. I just love Rege's artwork—even when it's experiment and sketchbook rather than comic narrative and story. This is a monthly experiment worth supporting.

Availability: You can subscribe to Rege's monthly minicomic for $10/month. Last year, Fantagraphics published two Rege books: The Cartoon Utopia and What Parsifal Saw. The Weaver Festival Phenomenon was also recently published.

Thursday, June 07, 2018

Patchwork Anime

Robotech #9 (Titan, June 2018, $3.99)
Following an initial run written by Brian Wood, the new Robotech adaptation published by Titan is now written by Simon Furman. The comic is still drawn by Marco Turini, whose near-realistic portrayal of the characters helps make this modern retelling of the patchwork anime quite compelling. In this issue, Azonia and Breetai discuss the escape of the Micronians while, on the SDF-1, Thomas Riley Edwards is in custody and under suspicion.

Bron, Rico, and Konda have infiltrated the batlefortress posing as Micronians, and Breetai lets off some steam while Lisa Hayes and her crew receive an SOS. Rick Hunter and several other Veritech pilots go to Mars to see what's what and are attacked. Breetai viciously pummels Max with a piece torn from his own battloid, in the end again capturing a handful of Micronians—including a blinded Hunter.

It's a little disorienting coming back to the series midstream, having read the first few issues—and having seen the anime up to this point—before taking a break, so I recommend reading it as a run from the beginning. Regardless, the series continues to be an intriguing and worthwhile update and adaptation of the classic anime.

Availability: Issues #1-4 have been collected, as have #5-8Robotech: The Macross Saga is also available on DVD.

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

A New Number Six

The Prisoner: The Uncertainty Machine #1-2 (Titan, June 2018, $3.99)
When I first learned about this comic, published in part to help celebrate the TV show's 50th anniversary, I was excited—but expected it to be a straightforward tie-in comic or adaptation of the show. Imagine my surprise when I read the first two issues and realized it was not an adaptation, but an all-new story occurring in the Village—and in the present day! This comic is much better than I was expecting, and that's a pleasant surprise.

Written by Peter Milligan and drawn by Colin Lorimer, with #1's cover by Mike Allred, the series focuses on a new Number Six, an MI5 agent named Breen who is framed as a traitor and forced to go on the lam after a mission gone wrong in the Middle East. His partner Carey captured, Breen returns home to a new assignment: Go to the Village and "liquidate" Carey.

It's not entirely clear whether Breen's arrival at the Village is planned or otherwise, but there we find him, wearing the characteristic black jacket with white piping. #2 opens with another hallucinatory flashback—a Milligan hallmark—this time to childhood, as the Village's proprietors try to get to Breen's memories. He evades his escorts and finds Carey's cabin before attempting an escape. Rovers take on a double decker bus, and the issue ends with a bang after Breen eats some cheese with a strange texture.

I look forward to #3, and reading the comic inspired me to watch the first episode of the series again—TV at its finest.

Availability: A collection of this comic series will be published in October. An unpublished comic by Jack Kirby and Gil Kane (!!!) will be published next month. DC published a graphic novel titled Shattered Visage in 1991. You can also get the show on DVD.

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

Mysterious Black Box

Green Lantern: The Animated Series #0 (DC, January 2012, $2.99)
"True Colors" Written by: Art Baltazar and Franco, Illustrated by: Dario Brizuela, Colored by: Gabe Eltaeb, Lettered by Saida Temofonte, Edited by: Kristy Quinn.

Drawn in the style of the 2012-2013 cartoon aired on the Cartoon Network, this comic book is a TV tie-in and erstwhile gateway for younger readers. Hal Jordan and Kilowog find a ring, but it's a red ring—and draws the attention of Red Lantern enemies.

Kilowog captured, Jordan finds the energy source, a quantum refractor. He then finds Kilowog, in chains. He rescues his friend and opens the mysterious black box to find that it holds a creature that feeds on ions and atoms. The creature released, all is well in the end.

The issue's story is about as long as a cartoon episode, and the pace is similar—but the comic doesn't totally read like TV. Of special interest is the "Draw Your Own Hal Jordan, Green Lantern!" page—which goes from shape-based character design to overly 3-D rendered animation. Fans of the cartoon might see it in the comic—and fans of the comic might turn to the cartoon, which aired weekly. Personally, I'd rather watch the Justice League cartoons.

Availability: This issue was collected in Green Lantern: The Animated Series. The cartoon is available on Blu-Ray: Green Lantern: The Animated Series.

Monday, June 04, 2018

Hal Jordan Is Not Your Enemy

Green Lantern #2 (DC, December 2011, $2.99)
"Sinestro, Part Two" Writer: Geoff Johns, Pencils: Doug Mahnke, Inks: Christian Alamy and Keith Champagne, Colors: David Baron, Letters: Sal Cipriano.

Hal Jordan is understandably upset because his ring has chosen Sinestro as its next wearer. Sinestro suggests that Jordan, while given the opportunity to change the world for the better, has squandered his chances. Regardless, he grants Jordan another ring—a ring slaved to his own. After demonstrating how Lanterns can use their rings to save the many rather than the few (p. 15 is very cool), Sinestro is attacked by Gorgor of Korugar, there to kill Sinestro and "win the right to control the Corps!"

Sinestro slays the would-be leader and asks Jordan for help: "The army I build has enslaved my homeworld, Jordan. And you're going to help me destroy them." The issue ends with a five-page "special sneak preview" of Batman: Noel.

Friday, June 01, 2018

Yalan Gur Interferes

Green Lantern #19 (DC, December 1991, $1.75)
"Lantern's Light" Written by: Gerard Jones, Lettered by: Albert De Guzman, Colored by: Anthony Tollin, Edited by: Kevin Dooley.

Chapter One—Pencils by: M.D. Bright, Inks by: Romeo Tanghal.
This 38-page issue is a special 50th anniversary issue in which Alan Scott, the original Green Lantern, returns. In this five-page chapter, former architect John Stewart questions why the Guardians selected him as a Lantern, mourns the loss of his wife—and fellow Lantern—Katma, and considers his place among other Lanterns such as Hal Jordan and Guy Gardner. He sees a vision of Scott and decides it's time for him to return to Earth in search of answers.

Chapter Two—Art by: Pat Broderick.
This is an amazing chapter in the book, nine pages of art by Broderick, excellent in its own right and very well suited to portraying Jordan's visit to Myrg, where he finds that Scott's cab-driver buddy Doiby Dickles has become king. The result is a recreated Brooklyn, complete with Ebbets Field and Kishke King, as well as "40,000 feudal alien warriors watching a ball game!" I need to learn more about Broderick. His art seems like it'd be at home in an underground or independent comic, and has more going on than much of mainstream superhero work.

Chapter Three—Pencils by: Joe Staton, Inks by: Art Nichols.
I also didn't know Staton drew Green Lantern! In his chapter, Gardner is also visited by Scott—and goes to find Scott's children, who suggests that the Harlequin or Thorn might know where he is. Stewart and Gardner pair up, joining up with Jordan and Dickles to visit Harlequin. Scott has left a message for her, too, as well as his lantern.

Chapter Four—Pencils by: Mart Nodell, Inks by: Romeo Tanghal.
I didn't know who Mart Nodell was, but I was struck by his comic art, which—like Broderick's—seemed equal parts underground and mainstream. Imagine my surprise when I learned that he... created the Green Lantern during the Golden Age of the '40s! His nine pages are absolutely wonderful, detailing the gathered Lanterns's trip to China, where Yalan Gur interferes with local politics in an attempt to mold the development of the human race on Earth. The Guardians intervene, eventually trapping him in a lantern that was to become Scott's. Gur's abuse of his position on Earth led to the very origin of the first human Lantern!

Chapter Five—Art by M.D. Bright and Romeo Tanghal.
Bookending the issue, this five-page chapter telegraphs the ongoing search for Scott. On the whole, this is a very fun read, even if you're not a standing reader of the series. The connection to the history of the comic is solid, and there are several strong artists present: Broderick, Staton, and Nodell. Very cool. The issue ends with a two-page piece by Mark Waid, "Strange Schwartz Stories: A History of Green Lantern." That is also very much worth reading.

Read Also: Green Lantern #45, Green Lantern #18, JLA #55, and Justice League Quarterly #5.

Availability: This issue hasn't been collected. You can read more of Nodell's work—including Dickles!—in The Golden Age Green Lantern - Archives, Volume 1. Some of Staton's run on the book is included in Green Lantern: Sector 2814 Vol. 3.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Fandom at Its Finest

Marvel Tales #146 (Marvel, December 1982, 60 cents)
"The Man Called Electro" Written by: Stan Lee, Illustrated by: Steve Ditko, Lettered by: Art Simek, Colored by: Andy Yanchus.

Yep, this is the same comic as Spider-Man Classics #10, reprinted 12 years prior. I actually prefer the Marvel Tales reprints because of the color and paper combination—the palette is closer to that of the original comics. Also, later reprints are often reprints of earlier reprints—rather than the original comic. (For example, check p. 1 of this issue and of Spider-Man Classics #10, and look for the reprint notice caption box. In the latter comic, they kept the box but nixed the text!)

The letter column is awesome... people commenting on 1960s comics based on the '80s reprints. This is fandom at its finest.

Read Also: Marvel Tales #145.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

As Perfect as Comics Can Be

Spider-Man Classics #5 (Marvel, August 1993, $1.25)
"Nothing Can Stop the Sandman!" By: Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, Coloring: Andy Yanchus.

This comic reprints Amazing Spider-Man #4, a 29-page story that introduces the Sandman. After being frustrated by a handful of hoodlums who've "got larceny written all over you" but don't actually commit a crime, Spider-Man approaches a man climbing up a fire escape ladder—only to meet the Sandman. His mask torn in the scuffle, Peter Parker has to get away so he isn't recognized.

The Sandman robs a bank, and a news announcer recounts his origin on the TV news. On the run from the police, the villain hides in a nearby high school, where he again meets Spider-Man, who tricks and traps the criminal.

Lee and Ditko's early Spider-Man issues are about as perfect as comics can be. They've been reprinted widely over the years, and this series—while worth reading—is no better than the Marvel Tales reprints. Chris Marrinan contributed a new cover for the newsstand, and the original cover is reproduced after the story. The new cover doesn't make the comic any better, and the color-paper combination is not as strong as Marvel Tales.

Regardless, what a comic!

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Early Adventures

Spider-Man Saga #1 (Marvel, November 1991, $2.95)
Written: Glenn Herdling, Colored: Renee Witterstaetter, Cover: Steve Lightle.

Herdling's the guy to write this summary comic, for sure. Even though he was more of a Hulk fan than a Spider-Man reader, he first encountered Spidey in Marvel Team-Up #27—and later served as Jim Salicrup's assistant on the Spider-Man books. As such, he researched all of the character's early adventures in Marvel Tales and Marvel Masterworks, as well as via the Official Marvel Index to the Amazing Spider-Man.

This issue, the first of four, covers the history of the comic up to #100. More similar to The Marvel Saga series' design and layout than Secret Invasion Saga, the comic combines summary text and exposition with panel reproductions. The art draws on work done by Steve Ditko, John Romita, John Buscema, Don Heck, Fred Hembeck, and others.

Overall, it's an easy read. While slow and patchy in parts—not all years of a comic's run will be important or interesting years, and not all runs have key issues—the panel reproductions are particularly worthwhile. My one recommendation for future Saga projects is that panel art be credited with issue number references. Comics like this could inspire back issue sales, as well as digital comic sales.

I don't think a comic like this would work today, however; such information is more freely available. But as a way to catch up on a character's history, as a way to dive right in, this is a wonderful resource. Regardless, I'd rather read the actual comics.

Availability: This comic has not been collected. We recommend Amazing Spider-Man: Official Index to the Marvel Universe.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Nanotech Warsuits

The Shield #1 (DC, November 2009, $3.99)
"Kicking Down the Door, Part 1" Script: Eric Trautmann, Pencils: Marco Rudy, Inks: Nick Gray, Colors: Art Lyon, Letters: Sam Cipriano.

While I was aware of DC's 1991-1992 Impact Comics line of MLJ comics licensed from Archie, I missed the late 2000's license, which revived the Shield—now named Joe Higgins—and another hero, the Web. In this first issue, the Shield skydives into the Al-Hadidiyah Mountains on the border between Bialya and Kahndaq. He tries to approach a village undetected, but is ambushed by a young soldier.

The soldier takes the Shield to the mullah, who directs him to the stronghold of the insurgents—and asks him to leave the village alone. "Our culture is in ruins... but at least the Americans have brought us comic books." The Shield encounters a small team of Americans who've gone missing, and they fire on him—just before Magog shows up.

The comic addresses some interesting ideas: Superheroes as threats and killers rather than saviors, nanotech warsuits, and the use value—or lack thereof—of cultural propaganda. This issue also includes a 10-page backup story featuring Inferno (interesting!), written by Brandon Jerwa and drawn by Greg Scott; as well as a six-page preview of REBELS Annual: Starro the Conqueror #1.

Availability: This issue was collected in The Shield Vol. 1: Kicking Down the Door.

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.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

A Nostalgic Journey

Fantasy Masterpieces #1 (Marvel, February 1966, 12 cents)
"Beware!! The Ghosts Surround Me!!" Plot: Stan Lee, Script: Larry Lieber, Pencils and inks: Don Heck, Letters: Artie Simek.

Originally published in Strange Tales #76, this six-page story tells the tale of an escaping thief in Transylvania who runs into aliens. They meet "at certain points along the dimensional barrier, [where] our would and yours meet!" The criminal takes cover in an old house and is captured by the police—or is he?

"I Found the Things from Nowhere" Plot: Stan Lee, Script Larry Lieber, Pencils and inks: Jack Kirby, Letters: Artie Simek.

This five-page piece originally appeared in Journey Into Mystery #60. A man watching baseball on TV experiences a technical glitch that accidentally tunes into not a science-fiction program but "something that's really happening!": some kind of alien battle. However, the scene he sees unfolding is not on another planet, but much closer to home than he realizes. Kirby's artwork is excellent, especially the first page and the first panel on p. 4.

"I Became a Human Robot!" Pencils and inks: Joe Sinnott.

A five pager that originally ran in Suspense #5, this story details the risks of implanting your alien brain in a robot's metallic frame. Sure, you'd enjoy the ability to "think and move and use its mechanical abilities" at first. But once you'd avoided "impending disaster," "saved the Earthling," and been deactivated for installation in a museum, what then?

"I Saw the Other World!" Script: Stan Lee, Pencils and inks: Dick Ayers, Letters: Dick Ayers.

Originally from Tales to Astonish #7, this four-page story—the shortest in the issue—focuses on a camera that seems to take pictures of "another dimension that exists side by side with ours!!" The photographer tries to make his case to passersby outside his home, but nobody believes him. Ayers artwork, while not depicting superheroes or action per se is still quite lively and dynamic. P. 3 is particularly strong.

"Those Who Change" Script: Stan Lee, Pencils and inks: Steve Ditko, Letters: Artie Simek.

This five-page story from Amazing Fantasy #10 is a compelling cautionary tale about the danger of time travel. To whit: Don't mess. Ditko's art is stellar, with too many highlights to list, and the punchline at the end is a laugh. A fun piece.

This is a beauty of a reprint book, "taking you on a nostalgic journey to yesterday's fantasy wonderland." The text-heavy introduction featuring Stan Lee on the inside front cover, while "cornball," draws straight lines between the older fantasy stories and then-current Marvel titles such as the Avengers, Fantastic Four, Captain America, Spider-Man, and Dr. Strange.

Availability: "I Found the Things from Nowhere" was reprinted in Monsters Vol. 1: The Marvel Monsterbus. "I Became a Human Robot" appeared in Marvel Masterworks: Atlas Era Tales of Suspense Volume 1. "I Saw the Other World!" was collected in Atlas Era Tales To Astonish Masterworks Vol. 1. "Those Who Change" ended up in Amazing Fantasy Omnibus.